"Do you want to eat the pigeon head?"
Master Five looks at me and nods eagerly. I transfer the bird's head to his bowl where he picks it up, looks at it curiously, pauses, and then crunch goes the beak.
I look at him nervously.
Crunch goes the eyes. Crunch goes the top of its head.
"Look Helen, that's his brain".
I'm a little mortified but mostly pleased. Actually I'm mortified that he's eaten more than I would have. Sure I've eaten necks and nibbled on skin but the debris of bones in his bowl is more than impressive.
Is ignorance of socially-conditioned "normalcy" the key to gastronomic bliss?
Complimentary house soup
Our dinner at Eaton Chinese Restaurant had started easily enough. The shop front is nondescript, a glass wall with frosted panelling and stickered in English with the promise of "Noodles, Rice and Conge".
It's our first vist, and the inside is fancier than you'd think, with hovering staff, tablecloths and a tall but narrow fishtank near the front. We're ushered uptairs -- I didn't even realise there was an upstairs -- where we find a huge high-ceilinged room. It's roomier here, and ideal for restless kids, espeically with the mounted plasma TV screens offering docile distraction.
A tureen of complimentary house soup is a sweetened pork broth, a little cloudy but filled with thick discs of carrot and a jumble of bones worth sucking on to extract their final remnants of meat.
Deep-fried pigeon $37.60 (2 serves)
Deep-fried pigeon? It's odd how this delicacy is often viewed with displeasure. The bird, its skin glossy like varnish and fried to a thin crisp, protects the tender flesh beneath, only mildly gamey in flavour - somewhere between quail and duck. The wing is the best part, I think, fried so well you can crunch down most of the wing tip.
Mud crab $68.00 (2 serves)
with vermicelli $16 (2 serves)
We've barely finished the quail before our mud crab arrives. The mud crab, priced per crab rather than per kilo, is a telltale sign. Whilst the crab is moist, we find it a little lacking in flavour, and wish there'd been a little more ginger and shallot sauce for our e-fu noodles.
Pan-fried omelette with oyster $18.80
Pan-fried omelette with oyster is also disappointing. Having relished this dish in Singapore, I'm looking forward to its reacquaintance. Instead we find the omelette somewhat dry with a meager portion of oysters barely providing the briney creaminess I'd been wanting.
Pan-fried omelette with oyster
Fried turnip with minced fish $14.80
On the other hand, fried turnip with minced fish is much more satisfying. The slippery coolness of daikon goes well with the slightly springy panfried fishcake, scattered with slivers of earthy shiitake mushrooms and doused in a thick sauce that is sweet and salty.
Kang kong with belacan $13.80
Squeaky tubes of water spinach, or kang kong, are stir-fried until wilted. There's not a particularly strong presence of the salty belacan fish paste, but the green vegetables provide a welcome counterbalance to the richer dishes on the table.
Beef brisket with turnip hot pot $13.80
Beef brisket is a satisfying huddle of stew, the beef meltingly tender amidst a treasure trove of tendon, turnip and green onion stalks.
Fried pork ribs with salt and pepper $14.80
The fried pork ribs arrive last. Dipped in a thick batter, the nuggets of deep-fried pork are a honey-coloured brown, the meat inside soft against the bone. It's not a pretty dish, but it's delicious. Sometimes appearances can be deceiving.
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Eaton Chinese Restaurant
313 Liverpool Road Ashfield, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9798 2332
Open 7 days 3pm - 2am
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1/15/2010 01:23:00 a.m.