Coming from a country like Singapore, I’ve been taught from a very early age to trust a queue. That is, if there’s a queue outside a restaurant, they MUST be good. Cause all these people can’t be wrong, right? Especially in an Asian-heavy suburb like Eastwood: if I’m hungry and there are people queueing out the door of 257 Home Kitchen, it should be a safe bet that we’ll have a good dinner.
Pan-seared pork dumpling, $10.80
Jellyfish with scallion oil, $13.80
Braised Pork Belly with Eggs, $22.80
Steamed Cod Fish with Preserved Vegetables, $18.80
Eggplants and Octopus with Soy Bean Paste, $18.80
After reading online that the food was authentic and that it was well worth the wait, I decided to put the menu to the test. Yes, we ordered this much food for the blog. Not that I was greedy, or anything.
The Pan-seared pork dumpling, $10.80, was okay, if a little doughy for my taste. The filling was appropriately juicy and well, porky, but the there was something vaguely chalky about the wrapping that reminded me of factory-made dumplings that I’ve tasted elsewhere before.
The Jellyfish with scallion oil, $13.80, was a little different from the Japanese style jellyfish salads that I’ve had at other restaurants. Rather than thin strips, this one used the thicker parts of the jelly fish, cut into shorter pieces that provided a similar mouth-feel to the tapioca balls that you find at the bottom of your bubble tea, except crunchy instead of chewy. It was also only very lightly seasoned, which does not bode well if you like a little more flavour to go with your jellyfish. A bit meh, and I much prefer the other versions.
I think the favourite at the table was the Braised Pork Belly with Eggs, $22.80. A classic Chinese dish, this involves cooking cubes of fatty pork belly in a soy based stock, with quail eggs added in for texture. The result is a tender, gelatinous pork, with lots of dark, rich sauce for you to spoon over a bowl of rice.
I ordered the Steamed Cod Fish with Preserved Vegetables, $18.80, mostly because I haven’t seen many restaurants give the option of Snow Cod (or halibut), and it’s one of my favourite fishes (fish?). Steaming it over a bed of preserved vegetables brought back memories of my mother’s cooking, and the gravy of soy, veg, and juices off the fish seasoned it just enough. A fair warning though: this is no boneless fillet. You’re meant to pick at the fish daintily with chopsticks, or risk a mouthful of prickly bones!
Sam and I ADORE eggplant, and coupled with my love for octopus, the Eggplant and Octopus with Soy Bean Paste, $18.80, seemed like an obvious dish to order for our veg component. This one was a bit of a let down for me. Most eggplant dishes I’ve had in Chinese restaurants are rich and thick, with punchy flavours that bring out the body of the eggplant. This particular one was a bit limp for me – the eggplant was a bad kind of mushy, and somehow the octopus took on nothing of the flavours around it. The rice cakes, though, I did thoroughly enjoy. Slices of chewy cakes litter the dish like pockets of treasure – it was the only reason that I ate this at all.
I’ve never had such a dichotomy of experiences in the same restaurant, on the same visit. We started out in “shockingly bad” territory, with the waitress skipping right past us to the next person in the queue, after a 15min wait. When we asked about it, she said she assumed that we were with the people behind us, even though we were standing fairly far apart from them, were the first people in the queue at this point, and had no contact with them at all. Thankfully, she redeemed herself by immediately offering us a table.
Then during the meal, the service was excellent, with our waters efficiently kept topped up, and our food arriving pretty quickly. It wasn’t hard at all to get their attention, and requests for chilli sauce were filled with no trouble at all. Things were looking up, and the hanger was passing. Well, except for the one bit of confusion where our dumplings took a little longer, and then all of a sudden we were presented with two orders, instead of one. ?
So I guess it’s a middle-of-the-road score for service, since the good and the bad evened out? Still fairly bizarre, though.
Value for money:
This is definitely NOT somewhere you’d go to dine alone. For one, the portions are quite a bit larger than a single person’s meal, but they also charge you for it.
The jelly fish, for example, was the one I could justify the least – $13.80 for a tiny salad? Not when I can get better just by walking down the street. The eggplant was also a bit on the pricey side for me. Even when you consider the super tiny pieces of octopus, I don’t think I can justify shelling out nearly $20 to order this dish a second time.
Even when you apply Asian metrics to this meal – because the menu is built for sharing, the cost per head gets cheaper if you dine in a larger group – it’s still a fairly expensive meal for the home style dishes that they serve.
And it’s not even in the CBD!
Value for money: 0/1
I do like the hipster deco of the restaurant (wood and tile surfaces) and the busyness of it all really does add to a modern Asian restaurant sort of feel. The crockery also matched the feel of the interior design, tying it all together in an elegance I appreciate.
The only thing that ruined the illusion for me (which I’m sure was just due to my bad luck on the night) was the super annoying group next to me. About 6 middle aged men and women (I think they were in their 50s) were yelling to each other over the noise of the restaurant…about my food. I kid you not. They were dissecting my choices, the amount of my order, and well, us, right next to our table! We were so close that I could have slapped the main culprit in her smug face if I lacked the control. Just because I’m speaking English doesn’t mean I don’t understand it when you judge me in Cantonese, lady!
But it’s not something the restaurant can really help, so I don’t blame them. Just my bad luck.
So I guess the reports that the food is authentic is fairly correct – it was authentic…to home style cooking. But I’m not sure that I want to pay those sort of prices to eat food that any of my friends’ mums could make at home. No, when I decide to treat myself to a meal out, I’d want to get something that is either labour intensive for a home cook to make, or requires a kind of finesse that only a chef can deliver.
I guess they weren’t lying when they called it “Home Kitchen” though, huh.
I’m not sure that I’ll be stepping back into 257 Home Kitchen any time soon, especially when there are so many more options to check out in Eastwood.
Bonus Points: 0/1