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Friday, January 15, 2010

Eaton Chinese Restaurant, Ashfield

"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.

View Larger Map
Eaton Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Eaton Chinese Restaurant
313 Liverpool Road Ashfield, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9798 2332

Opening hours:
Open 7 days 3pm - 2am

Related Grab Your Fork posts:
Ashfield - Ashfield Hotel
Ashfield - Crocodile Farm Hotel
Ashfield - New Shanghai
Ashfield - Polish Club
Ashfield - Shanghai Night (Jul08) and (Mar06)
22 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 1/15/2010 01:23:00 am


  • At 1/15/2010 7:36 am, Blogger joey@forkingaroundsydney said…

    Why do I keep staring at the salt and pepper pork fillets?

  • At 1/15/2010 8:42 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Pigeon head for a five years old!!! I have seen my nephews fighting for curry fish eye balls.

  • At 1/15/2010 8:49 am, Blogger Stephcookie said…

    Ooh I did a little happy jig when I saw this post! I love deep fried pigeon, it's so fabulously crunchy. I remember having it in Malaysia and the next time I went back to have it they had stopped selling it because they had been importing the pigeons from China and they had since been banned. How dodgy is that?

  • At 1/15/2010 9:08 am, Blogger arista said…

    Thanks for a glimpse into one of my local restaurants! The front of the shop is uninviting, but now I know it might be worth giving it a go.

    I think I would be seriously disturbed by a young child relishing a pigeon head though - I'm a bit of a wimp that way!

  • At 1/15/2010 9:41 am, Anonymous Hannah said…

    You may not have crunched down on bird brains (yet), but you're still a spectacularly adventurous eater in my book :)

  • At 1/15/2010 10:49 am, Blogger Gastronomy Gal said…

    Oh my goodness, I could not stomach the head! But glad to know master 5 did it with such enthusiasm.

  • At 1/15/2010 10:50 am, Anonymous shez said…

    Super props for Master Five. What an adventurous eater! I love that picture of the pigeon too - it's looking right at me :)

  • At 1/15/2010 10:52 am, Anonymous Simon said…

    Don't know if I'd go so far as to munch down onto a pigeon head to get at its goodness. It beter be some damn fine goodness for me to want to do it.

    It's good to know that Eaton does have some good dishes. My personal experience thusfar has not been a positive one, especially considering the calibre of Chinese food that can be had in other restaurants in the area.

  • At 1/15/2010 12:55 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Hi Helen,
    I visit your blog religiously and was so excited to see a post on Eaton. We have feasted there many a times and always have the crab with mince which is excellent! I was very disappointed to see no pics of their bitter melon with coconut cream dessert??(complementary with their fruit platter)

  • At 1/15/2010 4:29 pm, Anonymous Tina said…

    I adore necks, but head? Err.. no thanks :)

  • At 1/15/2010 8:00 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Hee hee I usually use the head to scare my cousin mmm

  • At 1/16/2010 8:59 pm, Anonymous The Ninja said…

    I could do with a good oyster omelette right now...sounds like the Chinese dishes were better than the Malaysian fare. Pork looks good in my opinion, but I have a warped aesthetic sense.

  • At 1/17/2010 9:21 am, Blogger SnacksGiving said…

    Head/Brains! No I can't!

  • At 1/17/2010 1:45 pm, Blogger Mei Ning Lin said…

    Aren't they quails not pigeon. Pigeon is alot bigger.

  • At 1/17/2010 2:22 pm, Anonymous ladyironchef said…

    pigeon head? uh, haha. i nv tried roast pigeon yet though, will love to taste it one day!

  • At 1/18/2010 3:18 am, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Joey - lol. They were pretty tasty :)

    Hi Ellie - I very proud. I also got him onto fish eyes too. My work is almost complete!

    Hi Stephcookie - That story doesn't instil much confidence! lol. I quite enjoy pigeon too and yes, deep-fried makes everything good :)

    Hi Arista - It's funny how shop fronts often influence your decision to dine, but yes, I'd give it a go. Pigeon head entirely optional of course!

    Hi Hannah - lol, thanks. Next time I'll have to attack a piegon head with similar gusto :)

    Hi Gastronomy Gal - Yes he's quite inspiring. It just goes to show that even little ones can teach us a thing or two...

    Hi Shez - He is a very good eater indeed and the pigeon was mesmerising :)

    Hi Simon - I've been curious about Eaton for a while. Shame your experiences haven't been as successful.

    Hi Anon - Oh I did take a photo of the melon jelly but it wasn't particularly good - just a bowl with cream on top. Thanks for the tip about the crab with mince - will have to remember it for next time!

    Hi Tina - lol. I do like necks too but will have to work on eating the heads.

    Hi FFichiban - You're terrible! lol.

    Hi The Ninja - I love oyster omelettes too. Will have to track down a tastier version though, and hmmm I have a secret appreciation for all things fried too.

    Hi SnacksGiving - I say always give things a go at least once :)

    Hi Mei Ning Lin - No they were definitely pigeons. Perhaps the picture is a bit deceptive but much bigger than quails.

    Hi Ladyironchef - I'm sure there's plenty of pigeon in Singapore? Hope you try some soon.

  • At 1/18/2010 7:22 pm, Blogger Yas @ hungry.digital.elf. said…

    Ahhhhh pigeon head!!
    As long as it's animal, I'd eat anything. nom nom nom. And they are in Ashfield? damn I've got to try and see!

  • At 1/18/2010 10:04 pm, Anonymous billy@ATFT said…

    haahaha I need to get u guys up here again! Dawn keeps telling me how master 5 still remember everything and my drawings on table LOL

  • At 1/19/2010 4:46 pm, Anonymous Rob @ Stickysteps.com said…

    Heya Helen,

    mmmm I love yakitori bars and I really enjoy this place. Id go more often if it werent for the $50 minimum order!

    You know of any other authentic yakitori bars around sydney?

  • At 1/19/2010 5:19 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Yas - All animals and no insects, right? lol. You're so close to so much food, but hmm I can understand why it's so hard to go past Shanghai Night and their pan-fried pork buns!

    Hi Billy - Always happy to visit, and yes, you have a magic way with children. Better hurry cos he'll be a kid no longer soon!

    Hi Rob - I think you've commented on this post instead of Toriciya but I know what you mean. I suppose the $50 minimum is easy to reach, but it doesn't make for an everyday-kinda-hangout (at least not on my salary!).

    I don't know of any other authentic yakitori bars around Sydney but will keep an ear to the ground and interrogate those in the know!

  • At 4/26/2010 3:37 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Wow!! That Pigeon is amazing!
    You inspired me to want to have some pigeon.
    So when my partner and I were down in Canberra recently I saw it on a menu board.
    It wasn't on the main menu....yet I did end up having it and it was really interesting. My partner couldn't believe I was eating a bird that we saw flying down in Canberra earlier that day.

  • At 5/25/2010 1:53 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Anon - So lovely to hear this post inspired you to have pigeon. It's a lovely bird and whilst people do seem to be strangely squeamish about it, I do think the flavour is incredible. Glad you enjoyed it!


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