Top 10 cheap eats in Eastwood, Sydney

One of the things that I like about dining in cosmopolitan Sydney is the array of choices available to food lovers. Even then, I often come across and read about the hoards of diners whinging about the state of Sydney’s dining scene.

Some of the boring and tiresome laments – “No good coffe in the city”, “Good, honest food not as good as Melbourne”, “Seafood not fresh” (Yes, you heard correctly!) and “Eating out is getting very expensive”.

“Expensive” is a relative term and with the rising cost of living in Sydney, I believe most price rises are merely keeping up with inflation. Sydney’s culinary landscape is as competitive as ever and I don’t doubt restaurants charging higher prices need to continuously justify value and service.

Things may not always be apparent at first glance but asserting difficulty in finding a good feed in Sydney’s melting pot of cuisine is pretty lame. Granted there are fussy eaters among us due to allergies, health reasons or religion. As a diner, I believe Sydney’s dining scene remains one of the most dynamic and exciting in the Asia Pacific region.

Multiculturalism has meant that eat streets and suburbs abound across the entire city and one is presented with choices. It is a matter of knowing where to go and finding the dishes that you like rather than walking aimlessly into any restaurant and later complain that it wasn’t up to scratch. Locales known for its ethnic cuisines are becoming increasing blurred. We can now find Italian, Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Thai food in most of the major business and suburban precincts across the city.

So today, I take you to Eastwood, a suburb approximately 16km northwest of Sydney to introduce you to some of my positive dining experiences.  Traditionally known for its strong and vibrant Korean community, Eastwood has a large number of Korean restaurants serving Korean barbeque, hotpots and traditional Korean fare. However, I have also found that Eastwood offers some of the best and most popular Chinese and Japanese dishes at such competitive prices, I would challenge you to try and cook these dishes at home and come up with their amazing flavours.

So here they are, in no particular order, my Top 10 cheap eat dishes  in Eastwood. These dishes also happen to come from 4 different restaurants:

  • Ginger & Shallots Chinese Cuisine (Chinese)
  • Zenya Noodle Bar (Japanese noodle bar)
  • Eastwood Garden Peking (Northern Chinese) – please see special note at end of this blog post.
  • Jonga Jip BBQ (Korean)
Ginger & Shallots Chinese Cuisine

No. 1: Stir-fried beef with ginger and shallots

Stir-fried beef with ginger and shallots $15

Stir-fried beef with ginger and shallots $15

This stir-fried beef with ginger and shallots at its namesake Ginger & Shallots Chinese Cuisine is probably one of the best stir-fried Chinese dishes in Sydney. The beef slices are tender whilst the fury of a hot wok is evident where the meat is almost sizzling with the aromas of shoa xing wine complemented by the crunch of shallots and ginger. I would rate this dish comparable to any leading chinese restaurant in the heart of Chinatown.

No. 2: Combination pork congee or tang jai jook

Combination pork congee or tang jai jook $10.50

Combination pork congee or tang jai jook $10.50

Congee is one of the ultimate confort foods not only in Chinese cuisine but in many other Asian cultures such as Korean, Japanese, Thai, Malaysian and Indonesian cuisine. The combination pork congee or tang jai jook arrives bubbling hot in a large claypot. Strips of lean pork meat is accompanied with crunchy peanuts, pork liver, cuttlefish and topped with diced shallots and deep fried crisps.

No. 3: Salt and pepper flounder 

Salt and pepper flounder $18

Salt and pepper flounder $18

By far the standout dish at Ginger & Shallots Chinese Cuisine is the salt and pepper flounder.

This classic and simple Chinese dish is taken to another level because the fish is so crispy outside, it breaks off easily and all of its smaller bones are crunchy with its salt and peppery flavours. The meat in the fish is white and tender and the sprinkling of fresh red chillies, shallots and deep-fried onions is the ideal topping.

Again, I have eaten far less superior versions of this dish in better-known Chinese restaurants all over Sydney.

Ginger & Shallots Chinese Cuisine, Eastwood, Sydney

Ginger & Shallots Chinese Cuisine, Eastwood, Sydney

Zenya Noodle Bar

No. 4: Japanese ramen with chicken katsu don

There are at least 3 – 4 Japanese restaurants located along the eat street in Eastwood offering a variety of fresh sushi, teppanyaki and  yakiniku style Japanese cuisine. Zenya is a casual noodle bar that is packed with locals – Chinese, Korean and Aussie diners chowing down bowls of Japanese ramen. How much more multicultural can we get?

Japanese ramen with chicken katsu don $12

Karaage-Chicken ramen $14.80

The Karaage-Chicken ramen comes in bowl of flavoursome miso and soy stock that is reputedly being boiling for many long hours. The chicken is crispy outside and becomes a little soggy as it soaks up all the soup. The noodles are fresh with bamboo shoots, beansprouts, nori paper, dried mushrooms and boiled egg. This is a hearty bowl of goodness on any given day.

No. 5: Grilled kingfish with french beans and salad leaves 

Grilled kingfish with french beans & salad leaves $16

Grilled kingfish with french beans & salad leaves $16.50

The grilled kingfish with french beans and salad leaves is on the specials board on the day we dined here. The generous piece of kingfish fillet is nicely seared on the outside and its delectable daikon and wasabi mash worked beautifully with the vegetables and remnant sauce from the pan.

No. 6: Wagyu sirlion steak 

Wagyu sirloin steak $22

Wagyu sirloin steak $22

I am a little suspicious when a wagyu sirloin steak appears on the menu for a mere $22.

When ordering steak in cheap Asian restaurants, I always wait to see if the wait person would ask how I like my steak done. If they don’t ask this question, it is a clue the steak is stock standard and I have in most cases been disappointed with the result. Tonight, our waitress does not even bother asking and I am very tempted to cancel my order. However, curiosity beckons me to try this dish seeing the restaurant is so crowded but I now considerably lower my expectations of a great steak.

As it turns out, the steak is quite average and I wonder if it is even wagyu as it is so-called on the menu. Neither the best nor the worst, it is nevertheless quite tasty if you ask for some salt and pepper (freshly cracked black pepper I am hoping).

Incidentally, it appears that I am the only diner requesting salt and pepper as the waitress gives me a bewildered look when confronted with my simple request. She comes back and plonks a bowl of salt and white pepper all mixed together then walks off without saying another word.

My philosophy for eating at certain cheap restaurants is best not to ask too many questions. In most cases, I have tried a particular dish and find it to be very good for what it’s worth and I know that will be the dish that I am going to order. I care less for service level in these cheap joints and basically revise my expectations to the lowest level – “I am here for this dish and this dish only”.

Eastwood Garden Peking

This Eastwood stalwart has been operating for many years and on any given day, especially weekends, you will have to queue to get in. Their speciality is the obvious Peking duck and many northern Chinese style of cuisine such as stir-fried noodles which are freshly made at the premises.

No. 7: Crispy aromatic duck 

Crispy aromatic duck $18

Crispy aromatic duck $18 (Half duck)

However, the standout dish that we always come for is the crispy aromatic duck. Available in either one or half a duck, this dish always arrives with the bird deep fried to a crispy golden brown on the outside. The waiter would then dislodge and unveil all the meat with a fork and spoon so that you can then wrap the meat with the accompanying pancakes.

Crispy aromatic duck with meat unveiled

Crispy aromatic duck with meat unveiled

This dish never fails to impress because it is so tasty. All of the small bones are brittle and crunchy and the skin is obviously the prized parts of the duck.

Crispy aromatic duck with pancake and hoisin sauce

Crispy aromatic duck with pancake and hoisin sauce

Six small pancakes are usually not sufficient to wrap the meat for half a duck but we usually come with a few friends who will happily devour the remaining duck morsels on its own.

No. 8: Fluffy eggwhite with seafood 

Fluffy eggwhite with seafood $16

Fluffy eggwhite with seafood $16

Another one of my all-time favourite comfort foods is fluffy eggwhite with seafood. The texture and taste of the eggwhite is supposed to resemble delicate crabmeat. Strips of fish are tucked in this large plate with a raw egg yolk in the centre. The waiter then breaks the egg yolk and mixes it all up with a drizzled with a little black Chinese vinegar. This is real comfort food at its best.

Jonga Jip BBQ restaurant 

Complimentary banchan - mixed kimchi and potato mash (background)

Complimentary banchan - mixed kimchi and potato mash (background)

One of the best things about dining in Korean restaurants is they usually provide diners with unlimited refills of the delicious appetisers and entrees.  We are presented with an array of complimentary banchan or Korean appetizers  which consist of garlic shoots, cucumber and mixed vegetable kimchi, beanspouts and potato mash.

No. 9: Marbled beef short rib 

Marbled beef short rib $23

Marbled beef short rib $23

Marbled beef short rib arrive in small, deep red slices with its intricate web of fat marbling.

No. 10: Beef tongue 

Beef tongue $13

Beef tongue $13

Beef tongue also arrives in thinly bite-size slices which are perfect for the hot grilling plate built into our dining table.

Barbequeing marbled short rib on hot plate

Barbequeing marbled short rib on hot plate

Dipping sauces were on hand but my recommendation would be to request for salt and pepper. As the beef tongue and short rib are not marinated, sprinkle a little salt on each piece when it hits the hot stove and flip once only when cooked on the underside.

The short rib is a beautiful steak by any measure.  Cooking it yourself ensures that you get exactly the medium rare desired that even some good steak restaurants may get it wrong.

It should also be noted that what is glaringly absent from most of these restaurants except for Zenya Noodle Bar are fancy websites showcasing beautiful picture of their food, menu and testimonies from customers singing their praises. They would care less if you even showed up at all.

Although the food is good at most of these cheaper restaurants, I believe we still need to stick with some of the tried and tested ones. I have also come across many other cheap restaurants where after one experience, I would vow never to return either because you pay for what you get but more importantly, I am concerned with what I don’t see. That is, kitchen eccentrics and what really goes on as far as health, hygiene, safety and quality controls are concerned.

(Special Note – Eastwood Garden Peking: The toilets are filthy with an awful stench and this must be a concern to customers).

On balance, Sydney is a great dining mecca where a large variety of cuisines are available at so many good quality restaurants. Being close to Asia, we are spoilt for choice especially when it comes to the great cuisines of South East Asia.

Eastwood is a case in point where the melding of cultures have led to a selection of  good food at very affordable prices. These restaurants continue to pack in their customers each week and for good reason too.

So dear readers, seek and you shall find, eat and you shall be merry.

Do you have a favourite cheap eat in your city to share with us?

Related posts:

Ginger & Shallots
Shop 25/1 Lakeside road
Eastwood, Sydney
New South Wales 2122
Tel: +61 2 9874 8066

Ginger&Shallots Chinese Cuisine on Urbanspoon

Eastwood Garden Peking
167 Rowe street
Eastwood, Sydney
New South Wales 2122
Tel: +61 2 9804 1289

Eastwood Garden Peking on Urbanspoon

Zenya Ramen Bar
217 Rowe street
Eastwood, Sydney
New South Wales 2122
Tel: +61 2 9874 2122

Zenya Noodle Bar on Urbanspoon

Jonga Jip Barbeque
87 Rowe street
Eastwood, Sydney
New South Wales 2122
Tel: + 61 2 9858 5180

Jonga Jip on Urbanspoon

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36 Responses to Top 10 cheap eats in Eastwood, Sydney

  1. Great list! I’ve been to some of these places and they’re pretty good! :D

  2. Thanks for this, I know nothing whatsoever about Eastwood but that food looks great!

    I agree, there is a lot of complaining about food in Sydney. I’m guilty of it to, but I tend the complain more about fads. I just try to avoid them, keeps me from getting cranky…

  3. I love the ramen with chicken karaage at Zenya too!

  4. Raymund says:

    I will take note of this so that the next time I visit Sydney I will be street smart

    • Chopinand says:

      Hi Raymund,

      These few dishes are just the tip of the cheap eats iceberg of Sydney so there are loads to explore and discover! :)

  5. I nearly die today by looking at all these dishes… so painful after midnight!!!! I agree with your philosophy for eating at cheap restaurants and I’d add one more “not to see a restroom and kitchen”. lol. I’ve never had ramen with chicken karaage on it. I can have that right now…

    • Chopinand says:

      Hi Nami,

      You are absolutely correct as the toilets in one of the restaurants are filthy. I hate to see what goes on in the kitchen. Then again the food of this restaurant has been exceptional so where do we draw the line?

  6. Kimby says:

    It’s a delight to see what you’ve been up to since your October challenge! I’m glad you got away for a bit and also let others cook for YOU during your restaurant visits. (Although I agree with you — I’d rather stay home and make it myself, lol — but it sounds like you found some gems.) Your chef interviews and write-ups were also fascinating — you are immersed in every aspect of food! Love it! Thanks, too, for the mention on your give-away blog. Take care.

    • Chopinand says:

      Hi Kimby,

      It’s great to catch up on some of the blog posts that we have been meaning to publish since October.

      I have always used specific dishes that I would like to eat as guidance for my dining escapades rather than the reputation of a certain restaurant although the latter is also important if they have proven to be good over time.

  7. Sissi says:

    Once more it seems Sydney is a gastronomic paradise! I think the quality, choice and prices of international restaurants depend much on the customers. The bigger the city, the more different nationalities live there, the more the customers are demanding, the better the restaurants’ offers are. I think customers in my city are not demanding enough quality alas. All the dishes you present look amazing!

    • Chopinand says:

      Hi Sissi,

      I think service levels in European cities are more formal whereas I believe Sydney has a relatively more casual approach to service although it is still very professional in general. Which city do you live in?

      I’m not sure if demanding quality will necessarily yield results. Sydney has a very respectable restaurant guide and scoring system which over the years have inspired better quality and commitment from hospitality businesses as a whole.

      • Sissi says:

        I live in Geneva where, I think, the restaurants’ customers are not very demanding in what comes to quality… When I think how much money I spent testing awful food served in always full and popular (and not so cheap) restaurants… Taking a short car trip to Lyon in France and going to a “standard” restaurant proves how big the gap is between the customers’ requirements… There are some “jewels”, but so few… I think the most neglected part is wine quality.

  8. Def need to get my butt to Eastwood! Thanks for the list :)

  9. Ann says:

    Wow – that’s some pretty delicious choices! I love white table cloth restaurants and I enjoy cheap eats. I’m happy with all of it! It’s amazing how many gems you can find in the unlikeliest of places! Thanks for sharing!

    • Chopinand says:

      Hi Ann,

      I believe being able to appreciate and being open to both fine dining and cheap eats are important for developing a well-rounded dining experience over time.

  10. You’ve got me craving Congee! Initially I hated it, but i’ve grown to love it! In my city? I love my Springvale Pho shop – no idea of the name but it’s a winner ;)
    Heidi xo

    • Chopinand says:

      Hi Heidi,

      I agree! I have been to Springvale during my trip to Melbourne and this suburb has some great pho and roast duck places although I never remember the names either!

  11. With soaring prices today it’s always nice to find those restaurants that serve quality food at affordable prices. The restaurants you share all appear to have nice food and your photos are superb.

    However, IMO I would never tolerate a rude waitress like the one you mentioned that tossed down the salt and pepper nor would I ever return to the restaurant with a filthy bathroom. If they can’t keep Clean what the public sees and uses then the kitchen I can only imagine could be worse.

    Are restaurants required to have health code ratings posted on their front windows?

    I’ve never been to Australia but we plan to go in the next few years. I look forward to visiting and having some of the wonderful food I’ve heard about. Thank you for sharing your culinary journey.

    • Chopinand says:

      Hi Vicki,

      The criteria of tolerating sub-standard service becomes a little more tricky as we go down the ladder for cheap eats. Having squatted on the side of the streets of Bangkok, Hanoi and a host of other Asian cities devouring delicious food, I am more open to tolerating bad service in cheaper joints as long as the food is exceptional for what it’s worth. But cleanliness and hygiene is a bit more serious as they have health consequences. Then again, some of the best food in Asia are served in atrociously dirty conditions. This is living proof that quality does not necessarily equal taste in general.

      I think the regulations about health code ratings vary from state to state. I don’t believe it is required to be displayed in New South Wales.

  12. Juji says:

    I didn’t make it to Eastwood on my recent trip to Sydney, but now I’m really wishing I did!

    All those places look amazing – I think I’ve developed a crush on the deep fried flounder, in particular.

    I don’t agree with the assertion that eating out in Sydney is expensive either, and I agree with you – there’s so much to try in Sydney!

    I loved being able to enjoy everything the city had to offer, from cheap street eats in divey Chinatown shops to fine dining with Opera House views.

    Have you been to Madang (off Pitt Street, Haymarket end)?
    Josh from Cafe Ish recommended it to us, and it was great, if you’re into Korean BBQ!

    • Chopinand says:

      Hi Juji

      I won’t blame you as the deep fried flounder can be quite addictive and it goes so well with beer or a chilled glass of sav blanc!

      And I agree that we have such a large spectrum of dining options here in Sydney.

      I have heard and read a fair bit about Madang but have never been and you are the first direct recommendation. I think a visit is due. Look forward to reading all about your reviews in Sydney

  13. jaded says:

    Been lurking on and off for a bit… but that congee… it looks so magnificently mouthwatering. That’s all I had to say. ;)

    • Chopinand says:

      Hi jaded

      The congee really hits the mark and it is great to know there are so many places in Sydney outside of Chinatown that offer great congee and sometimes at even more competitive prices!

  14. Celia says:

    Sigh…I would have loved a bowl of that jook for breakfast this morning! Have never explored Eastwood, thank you for the tour! :)

  15. msihua says:

    My sister loves going to Eastwood to do Asian grocery shopping! The last time I went, she took me to Zenya :) MMMm.. good, but not as good as Gumshara I feel.. but the Boy loved it more than Gumshara.. so to each it’s own!

  16. Hotly Spiced says:

    Thanks so much. That’s a great list. I had no idea there were so many and varied places to dine in Eastwood. I love the look of the duck.

  17. terri says:

    made tt aromatic duck b4, once, in the 90s lol. love it but it’s lots of work–steaming then drying then deep frying. but of all the dishes, the fluffy egg appeals to me. now tt’s a recipe i’d love to try.

  18. JasmyneTea says:

    Agreed, how can anyone say there’s nowhere to eat in Sydney? Completely invalid! I’ve never been to Eastwood, but it looks like if I ever get around to going I won’t be short of places to visit.

  19. Wow, these don’t look cheap at all! Especially the grilled kingfish and stir-fried beef would totally hit my taste! :D

  20. Carolyn Jung says:

    I am so jonesing for all of these good eats, particularly that ramen! ;)

  21. sophia says:

    YAY! I wanna give you a hug for including Korean food~ xD

  22. tigerfish says:

    What a smorgasbord of cuisines and food! The stir-fried beef dish may sound simple but it is not easy to do it well. Those I have tried in the restaurants here are often too greasy! The tang jai jook looks really good – at least I can see strips of lean meat (it means the real deal and not just miserable quantities of ingredients drowned in huge amount of congee). Also the fluffy egg white dish…and aromatic duck. Both dishes that test the skills and experiences of the chef (I believe) :D

  23. Winston says:

    Omg LOVE this entire list!! Everything looks absolutely yummy! Going to Sydney again in Dec hope I get to try out some of the food you recommended =]

  24. vivienne says:

    what a great list!!! the marbling and beef tongue is calling out to me..must make a trip to eastwood soon!

    “My philosophy for eating at certain cheap restaurants is best not to ask too many questions.” – hehehe totally agree!!!

  25. I live quite close yet I’ve never really eaten in the area other than at Sakae. Never seen Peking duck ripped into shreds before but I suppose that’s cause it’s not authentic and it’s crispy duck served Peking duck style? The eggwhite with seafood reminds me of brains ^^”

  26. Chopinand says:

    Hi Vivian,

    The dish is crispy aromatic duck that is deep fried and is totally different from Peking duck which is roasted.

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