“Zi Char Rise in the Far East”
Not to be confused with the similar-sounding “House of Seafood” that also lies east (Joo Chiat) of Singapore, Eastern House of Seafood runs its independent zi char business, which boasts a highly extensive menu and strictly-controlled seafood, along a residential block at Chai Chee Drive.
If you were to first observe its fan-ventilated interior with tiled walls aggressively plastered with endless replicas of top sellers, you might reckon the restaurant only prides itself on a couple of dishes.
Upon seating, it is almost a certainty you’ll be recommended the ambarella juice drink coupled with sour plum, a drink we more commonly know (but increasingly covet due to rarity) as ba-long-long juice. Based on existing trends, that ought to be a good choice. If looking for a quick yet unique meal as opposed to the often lengthy process of zi char, there is word of a legendary Fried Bee Hoon with Pig Trotter that I unfortunately could not review this time round.
Dry Roast Sotong ($13 | $20 | $26). This finely-sliced piece of squid that undergoes an overnight marination is slow-cooked in oil to for a firm and aromatic bite, and comes alongside eviscerated celery and red chilli. While it may have seemed a tad dry in my opinion, but still soft, dousing it in the Eastern House of Seafood’s sambal resolved that quite nicely.
Red Grouper Steamboat ($30 | $37). I was most impressed with the continuously bubbling solution of fish, cabbage, yam sticks resting in a clear kampong chicken stock, served in a charcoal-powered rustic metal pot. It is baffling to me how the unadulterated chicken could possibly add so much flavour, but hearing how the deliciously fishy broth is prepared without thirst-inducing MSG was remarkable. Red grouper was no doubt fresh as well.
Dinosaur Pork Ribs ($16). Likely a play on the traditional Milo Dinosaur phrase, these honey-coated ribs are slowly steamed through the night then pan fried with onion, resulting in perfectly tender flesh that is effortlessly lifted from the rib. More like US ribs, the Dinosaur Pork Ribs is a lot more tender than the usual coffee or kyoto pork ribs.
If, like me, you enjoy munching on tendons, you will similarly enjoy these ribs, which are available in various marinades as well.
Salted Egg Crab ($25 for 2). As with all flavoured crabs, there are proponents of the seasoning-infused flesh, and on the other hand, purists who like their flesh relatively unblemished by the noise. The version here would be more suited to the former. Nonetheless, the thick and potent salted egg coating on the pre-cracked crustaceans will be enough to leave you wanting more of this steal.
The price point is really affordable, but you get what you pay for with these smaller mud crabs.
French Bean Prawn Ball Tempura Style ($15 | 20 | $25). The brand name of a particular mix of crackers suddenly eludes me, but eating the deep fried long beans was definitely reminiscent of that experience with green savoury crackers likely to entice even the veggie-averse. Together with the freshly battered shrimp, the dish epitomizes zi char innovation at its best.
The extremely crispy French Beans stayed crispy even after being out so long, serving as a nice snack with beer. I would have preferred some salad mayonnaise with the fried tempuras though for a bit of wet texture mixed with crisp.
From the taste of its top dishes, Eastern House of Seafood appears to be meticulous with the quality of its food and is a strong candidate for affordable zi char in the east. Before its prices someday skyrockets in line with more posh renovations (like No Signboard), you are encouraged to grab a bite at this up-and-coming restaurant.
Expected damage: $20 – $40 per pax