Follow the colourful koi up the stairs into this Haymarket stalwart, East Ocean 禧市, and you’re in for a big surprise.
This Sussex Street restaurant has had a recent change in ownership, management and a fancy décor update, starting with a beautiful tank aquarium where you can get acquainted with their live seafood selection.
For anyone who doesn’t want to meet their meal before they devour it, there’s another entrance to this restaurant on Dixon Street that takes you straight into the well-appointed dining room.
It’s probably worth making the point though, that live seafood is the main attraction here.
In the tanks you’ll see morwong, parrot fish, coral trout and silver perch, live prawns and a host of other crustaceans including lobsters and multiple types of crab (snow crab, king crab and mud crab).
After taking them in, we wave down a host in the mostly empty space and get settled in a quirky private dining room for two, with fishnet curtains to separate us from the restaurant’s main floor.
The strong visual impact of the room comes from the extensive use of International Klein Blue (IKB) – a deep blue hue that was first created by French artist, Yves Klein.
It pops as under-bar lighting and continues onto the dining chairs, accentuated with the same dancing koi motif as the entrance stairwell.
Sumptuous gold highlights are put to good effect along the bar, walls, menu accents, and in golden fish chopstick rests that cleverly cater for your soup spoon, too.
It feels expensive.
Inspired by our tour of the tanks, we kick off with my favourite crustacean, scampi, presented in the part shell as Scampi Shrimp Sashimi ($22/2). It’s actually the perfect way to consume this delicate shellfish, which has a surprisingly creamy character to its flesh when devoured raw, so go easy on the soy sauce if you happen to apply it.
As we’d actually asked for a Sashimi Platter ($38) that proved unavailable, the chef was kind enough to throw in some raw fish slices, but they’re delivered without sufficient explanation for me to know exactly what I was eating.
Staying with hot weather eats, we back it up with a Sichuan-style cold appetiser of Mouth-watering Chicken ($15). This chilled, poached, skin-on chicken dish is big on nutty, fermented soybeans with peanuts and crisp cucumber batons for juicy, wet, textural contrast. It's easy to enjoy if you're down with cold chicken.
Our waiter stops by to show us our live seafood selections – 400 grams of Live Prawns ($MP) and 450 grams of Pipis ($MP) before taking them back to the kitchen for preparation.
The pipis are served with a gentle XO sauce, and a real pleasure to eat, with plump, briny bivalve really cutting through in the flavour department.
We take the prawns as poached in the shell, with home-made soy sauce, which our waiter explains is the best way to experience their freshness. They are delicate and impressive, though probably best for those who don’t baulk at eating the whole, head-to-tail crustacean. For anyone who insists upon peeling, a finger-washing bowl is quick to arrive.
East Ocean 禧市 is a full-service restaurant, which can be a bit of a surprise if you happen to reach for your East Ocean Signature Fried Rice ($26.80) and have someone rush in to serve it for you. Their impatience is likely with themselves for not anticipating your need, rather than with you doing the wrong thing, but it’s easy to feel judged. Sit back, relax, and let it all happen for you; focus on the tiny orange jewels of salmon roe and tiny scallops that are scattered through your well-separated rice.
Eat some greens – the Stir-Fried Water Spinach ($18) presented with big red loops of mild red chilli is nice – but avoid listening to the music. For my visit it was the same three songs played in a loop. Now, I like Doris Day as much as the next person, but Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps an expanded play list is required?
I contemplate this over fresh fruit and creamy mango pudding, smiling as I bite into an orange segment that reminds me of visiting Australian Chinese restaurants as a kid.
East Ocean Seafood Restaurant 禧市
Level 1, 421-429 Sussex Street, Haymarket
Ph: (02) 9212 1989