Wednesday, February 3, 2010

East is East

Restaurant: East is East

Cuisine: Middle Eastern/Indian/Persian/South East Asian/Fusion

Last visited: January 23, 2010
Area: Vancouver, BC (Kitsilano)

3243 West Broadway

1: Poor 2: OK 3: Good 4: Very good 5: Excellent 6: Tres Excellent!!

Food: 3.5

Service: 3.5

Ambiance: 6

Overall: 4.5

Additional comments:

  • Serves a variety of Middle Eastern/South East Asian cuisine
  • Very authentic atmosphere – Persian rugs, wooden benches
  • Upstairs is way nicer – sunroom and “lay down” seats
  • Atmosphere better and more authentic than food
  • Great drinks, “Eastern Shakes” – very unique
  • Affordable
  • Busy during lunch and packed during dinner
  • Line-ups
  • Popular for lunch time take-out
  • Middle Eastern 101 food – very mild
  • Chefs trained in mainly Afghan cooking
  • Popular for Middle Eastern themed event nights
  • Attracts locals, especially neighbourhood locals
  • Live Middle Eastern music
  • Complimentary ginger Chai tea
  • Vegan/Vegetarian options
  • Dairy free options
  • Organic options

**Recommendation: Nutty Gypsy Eastern Shake, Dhaalcha soup, Eastern Plate – specifically the Afghan eggplant, minced beef kebab

I’ve been to East is East on a few occasions before I started reviewing, so this is actually my 3rd visit. To be honest, I’m more attracted to the atmosphere and ambiance than I am to the food. Really bluntly, East is East is jack of all trades but master at none. It's not bad though! The food is on the whole good, but also quite “meh”. It’s hard to say it specializes in anything, because it doesn’t really. They serve Middle Eastern food: Persian and Afghan, and then South East Asian: Thai and Tibetan, and last but not least, Indian food. Everything tastes like the watered down version of the real thing. It’s quite Westernized, like “Martha Stewart’s” version of Thai food or “Uncle Ben’s” idea of fried rice. They cater to a Western market so it is Middle Eastern food for “white people”.

I’d categorize the cuisine as “Middle Eastern Fusion” and so does the restaurant. Nothing every reached its full potential and everything seemed bland, especially if you’re familiar with that particular cuisine and how it’s authentically served. I would come back because I love the atmosphere and for the price you pay it’s really reasonable. It’s a great place for “beginners” because everything is mild and it’s also a great introduction to Middle Eastern cuisine if you’ve never tried it.

I’ve been to one of East is East’s event nights and I will 100% vouge for it being a great experience! I felt like a hippie in some Middle Eastern country. There’s fantastic entertainment and it’s one of the most culturally satisfying events I’ve been to at a restaurant.

On the table:

Complimentary Ginger Chai

  • I love how they give little shots of Chai as you wait and even when you’re seated. It's quite spicy and very ginger-y. I've never had ginger in my Chai even when made by Indian people. It was good though!

Rangoon Rain Yogurt Lassi 5/6

  • Peach, lychee, pineapple, banana, coconut Single: $4.50 Double: $5.50
  • This was like a pina colada and almost a dessert. It was sweet, but not too sweet and I really liked it!
  • I could taste the banana, coconut, and pineapple the most.
  • I didn’t notice the peach and I could only taste the lychee if I looked for it.

Peshawari Bazaar 1.5/6

  • Cucumber, mint, salt, cumin Single: $4.50 Double: $5.50
  • I wasn’t a fan of this and I like trying exotic/“different” things. The ingredients are definitely a unique combination, but I just didn’t like the flavour as much.
  • The main taste is cucumber and it tasted like tzatziki in drink form. It is refreshing though.

**Nutty Gypsy Eastern Shake 6/6

  • Mixed nuts, cardamom, cinnamon, chocolate Single: $4.50 Double: $5.50
  • Made with ice cream & organic 1% or frozen yogurt & soymilk.
  • I don’t have a photo of this one but it was the best one of the 3! I would come back for this drink. It tasted like a nutty Middle Eastern version of an Oreo milkshake! I loved it!
  • I want to try and reinvent this at home. This was like a dessert too!

Khichri 2/6

  • Brown dill rice with ground beef, spinach and mushrooms topped with dehydrated yogurt, tomato and onions $13.50 This isn't listed on their online menu.
  • It tasted like basmati rice pilaf with mildly Afghan spiced minced meat. It kind of tasted like spaghetti bolognaise with very subtle Afghan spices like cumin seeds.
  • The dehydrated yogurt is just a yogurt they buy from a grocery store and it tastes like goat's yogurt. I don't like it because it's very gamey and makes the minced beef taste like gamey minced lamb.
  • It was ok, but nothing too special. I would think it was good if they used plain yogurt. I would get bored eating the whole thing because it was big enough to be a main.

Tibetan Mantu 1.5/6

  • Dumplings stuffed with chives, green onions & herbs. Topped with dehydrated yogurt, chick peas and sprouts $13.50. This isn’t listed on their online menu either.
  • This can easily be a main as well. It’s one of their most popular appetizers.
  • The “dumplings” are actually more like ravioli. I think there are 5 of them. The filling tastes like frozen spinach and parsley. Besides a strong parsley taste, the filling was so cooked down they lost their texture and flavour and became quite bland.
  • The ravioli and the dish overall was too soft and soupy for me. The dumpling skin seemed overcooked so it didn't help the mushiness.
  • The dish looks great but I actually didn’t like it because of the dehydrated yogurt again. It tasted like goat’s yogurt. The menu states “vegetarian” so I was not expecting to taste meat – the gaminess from the yogurt was just overpowering.
  • It was served in a tomato based butter chicken-like sauce so it was savoury, tangy and then just very gamey.

Eastern Roti Roll 3.5/6

  • Our roti rolls are made with organic vegetables and meats. Each roll comes with baby green salad, lentil soup, yogurt-mint sauce, and your choice of lentil rice or Afghan rice (with carrots and raisins). Single: $11.50 Double: $14.50
  • They have a lot of varieties for their Eastern rolls and this item is popular for lunch or take-out because they’re easy to eat. It’s like a Middle Eastern burrito.
  • It’s more worth it to order the Eastern Plate because it’s pretty much an item from the Eastern plate rolled up in a roti.
  • I find the roti really dry and thin, it tastes like a whole wheat tortilla rather than a traditional homemade roti.

**Eastern Plate

  • Eastern plate is served with dhal soup, salad, roti, Afghan and coconut rice. Chose any 2 of the following items to complete the plate $19
  • This is totally worth it and hands down what you should order if you want to try everything. They used to only let you chose 2 and you could keep getting refills of those 2. However now you can order ANY 2 options and keep getting refills as long as it’s 2 at a time. (Prevents wastage, which is good).
  • It’s pretty much a buffet, but an Eastern Plate is meant for one person.
  • The dishes are relatively small, so for one person you would be pretty full after trying 4 things. I tried everything!
  • Miso Salmon 3.5/6
    • New item. A baked Miso salmon in coconut milk, lime leaves, and red and green Thai curry. It's the bowl on the very left.
    • It’s very creamy and I couldn’t taste the Miso at all. I think they were going for a Japanese/Thai/Indian fusion? I couldn't even taste the coconut milk and I though it was more Indian tasting.It was almost like a sweeter butter chicken sauce.
    • I don't feel like the salmon was baked or had a baked flavour. It seemed like it was just stewed. It was chunks of salmon and there were bones throughout all the chunks. You could eat them, but they were distracting enough for me to pull out.
  • Minced Beef Kebab 4/6
    • Minced organic beef with mushroom, tomato, green pepper and herbs. (No picture, but it looks like meatballs in tomato spaghetti sauce with veggies)
    • This was really good, but also not Indian/Middle Eastern at all. It tasted Italian. It was basically meatballs in a tomato bolognaise type sauce. I wanted to eat it with pasta…but the rice worked. It tasted like the Khichri appetizer.
    • I think this was supposed to be Persian/Afghan?
  • Organic Lamb Kebab 1/6
    • Organic lamb roasted in ginger, onion, garlic, and mint and tomato with a 5 spiced curry. It's the the bowl in the middle. (Miso salmon on the left)
    • I didn't try this one becuase there was a general consensus around the table that it was gamey. So I just didn't bother becuase I really hate gamey.
  • Saag Paneer 1/6
    • Whipped spinach and paneer (Indian cheese) with mushrooms.
    • Vegetarian. The bowl on the very right.
    • This was very bland and almost tasted like defrosted frozen spinach. I have never seen saag look like this. It was not good. There were no flavours at all. It seems like canned saag with shredded packaged paneer on top.
    • Saag at almost ANY Indian restaurant would have been better than this.
  • Chicken Marsala 3/6
    • Organic chicken in creamy marsala and herbs. It's the smaller bowl in the middle.
    • This was good and probably the closest to authentic for me. It used to be a "light" marsala, but they changed it to a "creamy" one.
    • They used dark chicken meat with the skin which I didn’t like. At least there were no bones, but still the skin should be removed. I wish they used chicken breast.
    • This tasted like a less rich version of butter chicken and was quite tangy. The spices were there although it wasn’t very spicy. Everything is relatively mild here.
  • Afghan Eggplant 5/6
    • Baked eggplant sautéed with herbs, onions, garlic and sundried tomatoes.
    • Vegetarian. It's the bowl on the right.
    • This was the best one! It stood out because everything else was just good and this one was better than good.
    • The eggplants were very sautéed, tender, and stringy - didn't seem baked.
    • This one didn’t really taste Middle Eastern either…it was like more like Italian again! It was eggplant stewed in a tomato marinara sauce with very subtle spices.
    • The eggplant comes up in a lot of pictures because we kept reordering it. They also serve it with raita which is basically yogurt. So the dish is quite tangy.
  • Peas and Cheese 3/6
    • Peas, paneer cheese and potato mixed and spiced.
    • Vegetarian. It’s the bowl on the right. (Eggplant on the left)
    • The fact that it’s called “Peas and Cheese” and not “Paneer” highlights the western take on the menu and recipe.
    • It was a very westernized version of a typical Indian dish. It was good though! It was basically a very creamy and rich butter chicken type sauce but it has no meat.
    • The peas are frozen Green Giant peas and I like them better than the canned mushy peas most Indian restaurants will use. Although traditional, using those, I like Green Giant ones better. There were lots too!
    • The cheese is like cottage cheese, there’s chunks of it and it’s very light and mild tasting. It's bought and not made in house though.
  • Thai Tofu 2.5/6
    • New item. Tofu, red peppers, lime leaves, and ginger in a sweet and sour mango green curry. I don’t have the exact description because it’s not on the menu online. It's the bowl in the front.
    • This was another very Westernized take, but this time with Thai food. It was quite mild and the curry sauce was packaged and a bit too watery. I actually found it quite bland although it was obvious it was Thai…just a tame Thai. The sauce was actually quite sweet because of the mango. I actually didn't find it sour.
  • Alu Gobi 4/6
    • Cauliflower and potato in a tangy tomato coconut sauce. Vegetarian.
    • I don't have a photo but it looked just like the Miso Salmon, but instead of salmon it was cauliflower. They sauces tastes almost the same, but the Alu Gobi is sweeter.
    • This was a good one. The cauliflower is nice and tender and the sauce is again that butter chicken sauce, which seems like their standard sauce.
  • Mango Butternut Squash 1/6
    • Butternut squash and mango cooked with coconut milk. ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon and curry leaves. Vegetarian.(no photo)
    • If you have a baby you can feed it this. It was seriously pureed canned mango and butternut squash. It was really sweet especially with the added coconut milk and tasted like baby food.
    • I love both ingredients so it was a very disappointing dish.
    • I could barely taste the curry leaves or spices. It wasn't spicy at all.
    • It would be good in a trifle or used as a spread or condiment.
  • Chickpeas 2/6
    • Chick peas, onions, tomato, herbs & spices. Vegetarian.
    • This was a very Western take on Channa Masala – another classic Indian dish.
    • It was creamy, but again very mild in spices and was that same butter chicken sauce but not as sweet. It was creamier than the chicken marsala. The chicken marsala had more spices and flavour though.
  • Dhal soup
    • This is pretty much a lentil soup with vegetables and Indian spices. It's the top left bowl.
    • For a more authentic version you can get it at Mayuri South Indian Cuisine.
    • This one is good too though although it is very westernized. It’s very mild, but there are lots of ingredients and it’s hearty and thicker than the real deal.
    • It was almost like Campbell’s version of dhal soup…but I did like it!
  • Afghan rice, coconut rice, roti, stuffed naan
    • Afghan rice: this was good, but again light on the spices. There were carrots and raisins in it too.
    • Coconut rice: I couldn’t taste the coconut at all. Tastes like plain basmati.
    • Roti: Again it was like a whole wheat tortilla shell. It was almost stale and not fresh.
    • Boulani: I liked these! This was an Afghan "pita" stuffed with a thin layer of potatoes, onions and herbs. Very aromatic and tasty.

This dinner was a Vancouver Food Bloggers dinner. It was great meeting you all!

Melody (GourmetFury)
Jonathan (Food and Tell)
Jessica and Mark (Yum-O-Rama)
Sherman (Sherman’s Food Adventures) - Thanks for organizing!
Kim (I’m Only Here for the Food!) - Thanks for sharing your photos!
Joyce & Frank (Van Foodies)
TS (eating_club Vancouver)
Jenny (My Secret Eden)
Kevin (604Foodtography)
Anita (La Petite Foodie)
Jennifer & Ricky (My Secret Eden)
Victoria (Victoria's Food Secrets)
Darina (Gratinee)

East Is East on Urbanspoon


  1. Girl, I love mango and butternut squash as well, so I was pretty disappointed by that as well. boo! Funny that we picked up on the "baby-friendly options" and "shots of chai" as well. Great, thorough post as usual!

  2. Thanks Jessica! Oh and omg I know!! So disappointing!! I wanted chunks of squash...even if it wasn't fresh mango I didn't want it pureed!