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Table: East is East (dine out 2014)

For our last planned dine out session, Anata and I plus another friend headed out to East is East. They've got multiple locations, but the one we went to was the one along Broadway by Trutch in Kitsilano.

We had a bit of rearranging to do with the reservations with adding people and changing the time, but each time I called in to the restaurant, they were very friendly and made the changes very easily.

Upon entering the restaurant, I paused a little at first because it really looked like the entrance was for a coffee bar type of setting. But looking further into the restaurant it looked more typical with seats and rug decorations. The front "desk" had samples there that we were encouraged to take. The boulani was offered on a plate and it was arranged very attractively.

They served free chai samples in tiny cups that was freshly served. It was very richly spiced, and the cardamon and some other spice came through for a very "spicy" aftertaste. Anata didn't really like it, and our friend said it cleared his nose, haha. It was sweetened but I think it would have been too much to order as a larger size, but I did enjoy the taste I got. I think it really goes well for a cold night to help warm the body :)

The interior of the restaurant is well lit and very ethnic with the persian rugs and the wood theme. I have to comment that the tables and benches are a little awkward in that the wooden bench sits a little lower than the bench with the back to the wall, so it might be weird to be sitting taller than your friend/vice versa.

Candle in frosted container - check of approval! Water is served in metal cups with lemon wedges.

They separate the back/washroom areas with sheer curtains. It all fits pretty well with their kind of mid-eastern afghani/indian/asian theme. There was also music playing and there was the typical sounds of the sitar strings plucking away. It really felt like they were playing to the "silk road" theme of the restaurant!

The dine out menu is pretty straightforward. Because there were three of us we got to pick everything on the menu except for the afghan eggplant, which made for a really nice variety for the table :) It's nice that you get to pick 2 mains! I noticed that their feast menu for $35 seems to insinuate that you can actually eventually (you start with 2) everything on their menu, haha. But of course, it's the question of if you can actually eat all of the food since it's quite filling.

We ordered a large sized Bhutan's Secret to share. When it arrived we were a little disappointed with the size considering the price of $7.50, but it was very thick and tasted strongly of mango. The Bhutan's Secret features mango, orange, peach, and mint, but mostly I only got the mango and didn't get the other fruity flavours or the mint.

The Tibetan Mantu arrived in a bowl. There were three sizeable dumplings and plenty of chickpeas and sauce. The sauce had a mild taste almost like blue cheese, but it's supposed to be dehydrated yoghurt. Inside the dumplings kind of tasted like they were stuffed with mushrooms, among other things. Overall it was quite yummy. There was also a bit of spice to this dish that started off non-existent and built to about a... 6, which puts it at the spicy level for most people, or a pleasant burn for those who are very experienced. However, the creamy sauce and the sour cream that came with the boulani are excellent ways of defusing the spiciness if it is too much.

The boulani arrived with three sauces - the house pickled sauce, chickpeas, and sour cream. It was the same stuff we got to sample so we knew it would taste good. The pieces are thin but flavourful, kind of like a stuffed paratha veggie filling. I really liked it with the tangy dipping sauce and thought they complemented very well.

The prawns were served in a small dish with a curry that I found reminiscent of some Northern Thai-style flavours. It was a tangy curry due to the mango, but full of flavour and quite delicious :)

Our mains arrived on large metal platters in metal bowls. There was the normal basmati rice and afghan rice which was lightly flavoured with some raisins/fruits and nuts. The unleavened bread on the side was very much like a paratha and kind of dry, but it went really well with the curries and the dhal because it would absorb the flavour and liquids.

The palak paneer was very reminiscent of my mom's friend's recipe that I've had. My mom's friend uses tomato but otherwise the taste was very similar. It was very nice and thick and not entirely like a purée so it still had some good texture. The paneer was nice and the typical slightly squishy/almost like squeaky cheese.

The butternut squash was full of the squash flavour and was on the sweet side. It had the buttery richness and great depth with all the spices.

The chicken was pretty soft and almost overcooked mushy. It had texture and you could pick up pieces, but once in your mouth the chicken would practically disintegrate. The curry itself was very flavourful and really yummy.

The lamb was also delicious and came with lots of chickpeas. The flavour was fairly typical of lamb curries, and the meat was tender enough and not gamey at all.

The fish curry was really like the thai sour fish curry. It had elements that almost tasted like green curry, but combined with the sour papaya soup kind of taste. The fish was really tender, not overcooked, and still "juicy" without being watery. We were really impressed with the way the fish was cooked in this dish.

The peas and paneer was quite straightforward. It was creamy and milder compared to the other curries, and a bit more bland but it was still tasty.

We thought all the curries were well done and presented traditional flavours quite well. Though it probably wasn't entirely authentic, I thought that they used the flavours and ingredients in ways that complimented each other and highlighted the flavours of the regions in a delicious manner.

Our desserts arrived in metal goblets. The rice pudding was sprinkled liberally with pistachio on top. It was light, creamy, just a bit of rice texture, and was very well done. We enjoyed it very much. I'm more used to the Indian rice puddings that have raisins and nuts in them, but I think this version was very yummy and was a good end to such a filling meal. The rosewater really lifted and elevated the dessert so it wasn't too rich or heavy.

The gulab jamun were doughyish balls that had been soaked in rosewater and a kind of sugary caramel, and served with pistachio sprinkled on top. I really like that these kinds of sweets have a wonderful depth and richness in the sugar sweetness. It's like the difference between a caramel and a icing sugar, in that the icing sugar is a very shallow kind of sweetness and tends to be very sharp, whereas the other sweetness is kind of deeper and has more layers to it. It's still sweet, but very enjoyably so. They serve two balls but due to the decadence of it it's a good serving!

The chocolate pudding was very rich and indulgent. If I had to compare it I'd say it's similar to the vegan chocolate mousse from Whole Foods, but lighter and less dense. The berry sauce complimented the dish well and helped cut through the chocolate and temper the richness.

Overall we had a wonderful evening and really liked the food! I actually can't wait to go again with other friends and family that I know like this kind of food. Definitely a winner :)

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