First things first, my apologies to East - the Peterborough venue for this week’s Eating Out review.
How did I miss the transformation of a run-of-the-mill (my words)Thai restaurant to a Pan-Asian fine dining sensation?
It must be five or six years since I last dined at East- upstairs above Charters the pub-on-a-barge moored at Town Bridge on the River Nene. I really like Thai food but a couple of meals there had been satisfactory without setting the pulses racing.
Fair to say those visits had hardly been memorable...unlike my latest visit.
Fast forward to Sunday afternoon, and with tickets for an afternoon show at the Key Theatre, an ideal opportunity to take in a bit of lunch - a nice Thai buffet -just a few hundred yards further along the river.
It was busy when we arrived, a few minutes early for our booking, and we took a seat near the bar.
It looked a lot smarter than I remembered but the noticeable lean was still there.
Right on time we were shown to our table - a nice window view - with smart table settings and linen tablecloths and napkins.
We passed the buffet and what was on offer looked - and smelled - pretty good. Nevertheless we asked for the a la carte menu, at which point previous plans went out of the window.
Yes, it was primarily Thai, which is usually good enough for me, but times have changed and some fantastic sounding dishes from Vietnam, Laos, Malaysia, Indonesia, China, Korea, Singapore and - last but not least - Japan leapt out.
And so it was, lunch from the Land of the Rising Sun.
First up for Donna, absolutely stunning seafood gyoza (£5.35). Four moist, almost pancake-like, Japanese pastry wraps (dumplings), packed with tasty prawns and squid, flavoured with chives and served with a deliciously sweet sake vinegar sauce.
For me the delightful sounding (and tasting) seven spiced squid (£5.35) by far the best squid dish I have ever had.
Lightly fried, but not at all oily, soft as you like chunks of baby squid with a delicate Japanese seven spices flavouring and green chilli salt. The two dips that accompanied it - one a wasabi sauce and the other with the taste and appearance of wasabi salad cream were just divine - hot but not unnecessarily so.
The Japanese chicken hot pot (slow cooked thighs in shoyu, sake and mirin) sounded so appealing but I plumped for grilled wasabi beef (£8.95). Tender strips of beef, with that added taste you get from the chargrill, I just loved the Japanese chili, wasabi and lime topping, and the fresh coriander.
It all came on a bed of bean sprouts which I dismissed at first glance, but they did grow on me as the juices from the meat and sauces soaked through.
For Donna, the pan-seared teriyaki salmon (£12.95) was moist and tasty, even before she tucked into the sweet, sticky sauce with sesame seeds. It came on a nicely cooked bed of beansprouts, carrots and mangetout.
A Japanese cheesecake - very light with an unusual soft, chocolatey base and yummy raspberry sauce rounded things off nicely.
The presentation of the food was excellent, the service spot on - polite, efficient without being fussy, and friendly - and the prices reasonable (a child’s buffet at £5.50 was great value).
A more than pleasant surprise that made the weekend that bit special.
BRAD’S RATING: 9
FROM THE MENU:
Heavenly Beef... .£5.35
Succulent slices of beef marinated in palm sugar and coriander seeds, shallow fried, served with a cool cucumber and sharp chilli dip
Turmeric Chicken Wings.. £4.95
Chicken wings marinated in spices and turmeric, fried until crisp, served with crispy onion and chilli sauce
Wasabi Mushrooms.... £4.50
Mushrooms in panko flakes, deep-fried, drizzled with wasabi cream
Sai Oau Chilli.... £5.35
Northern Thai-style pork sausages, spicy and rich in herbs, served with fresh salad
Black Pepper Roast Duck.. £9.95
Wok-fried duck with chilli, onion and pepper in a black pepper sauce
Sambal Pork Belly .... £9.55
Deep-fried pork belly tossed in Malaysian Sambal with fine beans, chilli and kaffier lime leaves
Three Flavour Crispy Chicken .....£8.95
Crispy chicken topped with homemade spicy tamarind sauce with pineapple, peppers and onions
Pad Cha Seafood. ... £12.95
Red snapper, prawns, squid and mussels with wild ginger in a spicy sauce
Sake Scallops & King Prawns .....£13.95
Stir-fried scallops and king prawns with a medley of mushrooms in a light sake sauce