When Good heard about East, an innovative new vegetarian restaurant in the heart of Auckland, we had to check it out!
Seventy-five percent of the dishes on offer are vegan and 70 per cent are gluten-free. The modern-Asian eatery is also one of few restaurants in New Zealand to have an extensive, 100 per cent organic and vegan wine list featuring New Zealand and Italian vintages.
East’s menu is a concise edit of inventive dishes all designed to share: Peking jackfruit pancakes, tapioca chips and plum sauce; caramelised black pepper tofu, shallots, garlic and gai laan; East gado gado, long bean, chioggia beetroot, spinach, tempeh and soft egg; and Typhoon shelter fried rice with corn, asparagus and burnt garlic.
On our visit we couldn’t go past the dumplings, and caramelised black pepper tofu served with shallots, garlic and gai laan; and chocolate spring rolls with vanilla bean ice cream.
The East team of chefs, who represent culinary traditions from Japan, Hong Kong, China, Thailand, India and Sri Lanka, is led by Harmeet Singh who was head chef at Bamboo, one of Mumbai, India’s leading Asian restaurants.
He’s excited to not only be cooking regional Asian flavours, but to be applying them to plant-focussed, vegetarian and vegan cooking.
“We have been experimenting, developing and embracing techniques, including fermentation. We’ve created our own sauces, including prik nam pla, nahm jim, chili oil and a vegan ‘XO’ sauce (featuring shitake mushrooms and using a special process to achieve texture and flavour) inhouse,” says Singh. “The result is a menu that has depth without relying on meat and that celebrates the piquant, sour, sweet and umami of the Asian flavour profile.”
East is a passion project for its vegetarian owners, the Jhunjhnuwala family. The restaurant is on the ground floor of the new Sudima Hotel in Nelson Street.
“We love the vegetarian palate in Asia, where flavours are bold and vibrant, and we are committed vegetarians,” says Kanika Jhunjhnuwala, who oversees sustainability for the business. “The ethos behind East is high impact on taste and low impact on the environment, so we’ve created a menu and a space that focuses on sustainable, health-conscious dining, while providing a stylish and delicious dining experience.”
The restaurant’s architectural interior has been created by Luchetti Krelle, an award-winning architecture and interior design firm that specialises in hospitality and created Longrain in Tokyo and Acme in Sydney.
And it’s big! East has a cover capacity of 100 and is open for lunch and dinner daily.
We didn’t try the cocktails but East offers a bespoke range of pan-Asian drinks, including an Omo Sake — jasmine-infused tengumai junmai sake, campari, sweet vermouth, tea pearl; a Shochu Sesame Sour — Hombo shuzo shochu, lemon juice, honey syrup, sesame, grapefruit and hops bitters; and a non-alcoholic Nang Pimm — Seedlip spice, lemonade, lemon juice, angostura bitters, strawberries, Thai basil, blackberry and balsamic bitters.
The wines on the menu are outstanding and the staff bring wonderful knowledge to the table when quizzed about the wines or menu. We left feeling super impressed as well as satisfied with plans to return with more friends.