East Eatery is one of chef Stefan Stiller’s recent establishments in Shanghai.
The restaurant is owned and run by his wife, Yoshi, located in the heart of Tian Zi Fang, one of the most popular tourist street in Shanghai.
The Shanghai Bite Club, of which I am a member of, were invited to an exclusive tasting of their menu, and here is my review of the experience.
EAST Eatery is located in Tian Zi Fang, a very popular tourist destination in downtown Shanghai.
I have strong feelings for Tian Zi Fang, because it was where I touched down in Shanghai 10 years ago, and subsequently worked there everyday for over a year. Those were the days when it was a quiet, quaint little art street with a few hipster cafes and eateries.
Fast-forward to 2016, Tian Zai Fang is almost like the Chatuchak of Shanghai.
East Eatery is located on a nice crossroad within Tian Zi Fang, and thankfully is easy to locate, simply by going straight in from Exit 3 all the way to the end, turn right, and you’re there.
The restaurant has multiple floors; The first floor is a grab and go model, serving fusion hipster gua baos, inspired by what chef David Chang made popular in the US, with his Momofuku empire.
The main dining area is on the 2F, while the 3rd floor houses a private room for intimate group bookings.
The decor is tastefully done, with nuances of Japanese Zen simplicity. The space, while small, did not feel claustrophobic at all, save for the notoriously steep Shanghainese stair-wells. 8.5/10
As this was an invited tasting, an unbiased score of 7.5 is given. We were housed in the private room, hence I could not observe service towards other guests. 7.5/10
The food at East Eatery is delicate and finely presented, courtesy of owner, Yoshi and her Michelin chef husband, Stefan Stiller.
Their cultural diversity was also represented in the cuisine served, a marriage of western, asian flavours and ingredients.
Our welcome amuse bouche came in the form of sashimi on spoons. Featuring king fish, salmon and tuna. The fish were fresh and dressed with a simple vinaigrette and soy based seasoning. 8/10
To further open up our palates, a bowl of the signature pickles at EAST eastery was served, with micro greens atop as garnish.
What was most interesting about the variety of pickles were the pickled shitake mushrooms and beets.
My favourite was the pickled shitake mushrooms; It was the first time that I have encountered pickled shitake mushrooms. These were, infact dried shitake mushrooms, rehydrated and then pickled. The resulting flavour was an intense umami explosion from the mushrooms, with a slight tang which offsetted the otherwise superbly strong flavours. It was a beautiful harmony, one that I simply wanted more. The beets had an nice balance of sweetness and acidity. The rest of the pickled vegetables were de rigeur. 8.5/10
Next up was the beef tartare, sandwiched between 2 pieces of rice wafers. These rice wafers usually come in the form of rectangular blocks, deep-fried and often had for breakfast in Shanghai. The texture of the original was crispy on the outside while glutinuous within.
The ones used for this beef tartare were very thin, and crispy like crackers.
However, I felt they were quite hard and dense to break apart; Many of us ended up flattening the ‘sandwich’ when we bit into it, causing the beef to escape their demise.
That said, the Australian beef was fresh and delicately seasoned. Note that they were topped with a bunch of micro greens as garnish. 7.5/10
Okra with Bonito shavings
The okra dish was light and refreshing. The okra was lightly cooked through and retained their crunch. The bonito flakes, together with the light soy dressing made the fresh okras quite addictive. 8/10
Our fish dish was a miso cod, pan seared, resting atop of shimeji mushrooms, and topped with more micro greens. The cod was of exceptional quality, and cooked to perfection. Lightly charred, moist yet flaky within. The buttery flavours of the fish melted away sublimely in the mouth.
The portion was just nice; Enough to taste and savour for more than a few bites. Any more, and the oily fish would have started to feel cloying. The shimeji mushrooms was a tasty pairing because I like mushrooms, although I wished a more imaginative garnish would have been used, considering this was the third time I’ve seen it on our dishes already. 8.5/10
Fish and Chips
EAST Eatery’s take on fish and chips came in the form of battered salmon chunks, paired with lotus root chips. A garlic-aioli sauce was provided for dipping, although I found it quite unnecessary.
The salmon was not over-cooked against the crisp batter, which was a delight. The lotus chips while nice and crispy, was offered a little too sparingly, especially when there seemed to have been more micro greens garnished than the lotus chips. 7.5/10
Teriyaki Beef Short Ribs
Next up was the teriyaki australian beef short ribs. Garnished with, wait for it …. micro greens, and some lotus root chips! The beef was cooked till fork tender, and had a lovely flavour paired with the sweet and savoury teriyaki sauce. I really liked the meat and the way it was prepared, but unfortunately I think the lazy garnish and pairing didn’t do it justice. 8/10
The roast chicken dish finally steered clear of the micro greens. It was a delectable whole spring chicken, roasted expertedly and chopped up for dining ease. The meat was tender and had a good amount of moisture between the muscle fibres. The skin, pleasantly seasoned and crispy on the edges.
While it was a good roast chicken, it was not fantastic. I wished the skin was more crispy. The shimeji mushrooms and french beans beneath were simply boiled but slowly braised by the roast chicken juices flowing from above. I felt the accompanying garlic sauce was a little oily for my tastes, and didn’t do much for the chicken. 7.5/10
Teriyaki Grilled Pork Belly
Next up, we see the return of the micro greens, now served as a side, to the teriyaki grilled pork belly. The pork belly slices were thick cut, and were super flavourful — a result of a good lengthy marinade. The quality of the pork belly was again, of exceptional quality, as you can tell from the even layering of the lean and fatty meat. The texture retained a bit of bite, while not being overly chewy. I felt that due to the saltiness and richness of the meat, a slightly sour sauce or pickles might have helped elevate the experience better than a bunch of micro greens. 8/10
Foie Gras Fried Rice
Our meal ended with a bowl of fried rice that had foie gras sneakily hidden in it. The grains were al dente and beautifully polished. I didn’t really get much of the foie gras, probably because it was broken up and stir fried, some of the flavour had been lost. That said, it was a nice and creative fried rice, and certainly a solid end to the meal. 8/10
Ginger Creme Brulee
Dessert came in the form of a beautiful creme brulee, paying homage to Chef Stiller’s western roots. The caramelized crust was perfectly done, crispy. After a light knock, the crust gave way to a creamy ginger infused custard. The simplicity, skilled craftsmanship and lack of micro greens, give this dessert a solid 9/10