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January 28, 2011

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Cantonese fare you can count on

CRAMMED into a small two-story house and containing only 30 seats, Eason Restaurant on Yongkang Road is well-known among gourmands for its authentic Cantonese fare.

The restaurant has been open in this small house for 12 years, says the owner, a young Shanghainese couple in their 30s. "All the regular customers are like family members," says the owner who only identifies himself as Xu.

The decor reflects this homeliness and even features a bookshelf full of the owners' favorite novels which customers are welcome to read.

It's crowded almost every meal time and especially at weekends so reservations are essential.

The restaurant originally served Shanghainese food, but in 2009 the owner decided to introduce Cantonese cuisine to the menu.

"What's very interesting is many of our customers during the 12 years have been the same. We changed the cuisine style especially for them," says Xu.

Shanghainese cuisine uses a lot of soy sauce and sugar, so dishes tend to taste sweet.

"We found that people now care more about their health, so we decided to serve more healthy food. Less oily, less sweet, more delicate, but still delicious," he say.

Eason has invited four chefs from Guangdong Province to prepare authentic Cantonese food.

Slow-cooked soups are a specialty of Cantonese cuisine, and the quality of the soups here reflect the authenticity of Eason's menu.

The soup of the day costs 6 yuan (90 US cents) per cup or 18 yuan per pot, and some regular choices include boiled snakes soup, Xihu beef soup, fish head tofu soup, mushroom soup and Guangdong luffa meat soup.

Eason strongly recommends the fish head and fish ball pot which is prepared using a whole fresh fish. The balls are made from the fish meat and then cooked with the fish head in the soup.

Fried potato cake is one of the most popular dishes at Eason, and almost all diners will order one.

The raw potato cake is made by combining mashed potato, onion and minced meat. It is then deep fried to create a great-smelling cake that is crispy on the outside and has a rich flavor inside.

Other star dishes on the menu, which is in both English and Chinese, include Da Hong Pao (a well-known Oolong tea from Fujian Province) prawns, pineapple sweet and sour pork, fried lap mei (dried meat) with kale, braised rice with lap mei in a Chinese pot, kale with shrimp paste in clay pot and stir-fried rice noodles with beef.

The restaurant still has some traditional Shanghainese cuisine such as drunken shrimp (shrimps marinated in alcohol), and the hand-made Shanghai won ton soup (15 yuan), which is a favorite with regular customers.

The fillings made of pork and vegetable are typical Shanghainese style, and the wrapping is particularly thin and smooth.

A small blackboard lists daily specials and seasonal dishes. At present, popular winter dishes include mutton hot pot (68 yuan), soy sauce jellyfish (48 yuan), Japanese cold beef (38 yuan) and red chilli chicken and potato (38 yuan).

Regular customers can also order in advance special dishes for them.

In March, Eason will launch a new restaurant across the road from the current location that specializes in barbecued beef offal, which is a big gamble considering offal is not to all tastes, especially Western diners' palates.

However, for those who don't mind eating an animal's internal organs, the menu will offer delights such as fried pickled pig stomach, Guangdong luffa fried chicken innards and mustard beef Thermidor.

Open: 11am-9:30pm

Address: 132 Yongkang Rd (close to Xiangyang Rd S.)

Tel: 6473-5602


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