Venues

The Great Eastern Food Bar

The Great Eastern Food Bar
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  • Phone Number 0114822910
  • Location Bamboo Centre, 53 Rustenburg Road, Melville, Johannesburg
  • Website URL https://www.facebook.com/gefoodbar?fref=ts
  • Opening Hours

    Mondays closed; Tuesday to Friday 12noon to 11pm; Saturdays 12noon to 11pm; Sundays 1pm to 3.30pm

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Cost
R80 avg main meal
Ambience
Authentic culture, Comfy & casual
Food
Asian, Chinese, Health food, Japanese, Tapas, Thai, Vegetarian
Payment
Amex, Mastercard, Visa

Critic's review

Ishay Govender-Ypma

Food
Hidden above the Bamboo Centre, surely one of Joburg’s teeniest malls, overlooking a street and the koppies in Melville, Great Eastern Food Bar serves a delightful mix of the Orient and the New World – think kimchi, dumplings and tacos with gentle crossovers – in an ever-popular venue. It remains one of the city’s most consistently outstanding eateries.

The open-plan bar-kitchen is in full view of the guests, and the kitchen produces made-from-scratch dishes in plain sight. Start with the delicate sashimi tacos with slivers of preserved lemon or the fresh banh mi rice paper rolls before moving to the pickled shiitake steamed buns with cucumber and hoisin sauce. Split a flavoursome bowl of ginger-and-scallion or spicy kimchi-and-ginger noodles – the ramen is thick and the broth fragrant.

The main delight, however, must surely be the Korean or the Bangkok fried chicken, served as a meal with sticky coconut rice. These are perfect for sharing, which is greatly encouraged here.

Instead of the dessert of chocolate mousse or mini pavlovas, share the crispy scallion pancakes served in triangles.

Drinks
It’s an excellent, well-curated wine list that you wouldn’t expect at a place of this size. Local and Asian beers, sake, soju, cocktails or wine – you’re covered. The lime-and-coriander cordial and the home-made drinking vinegars with flavours like lemongrass and tamarind are the showstoppers.

Service
Service is warm and efficient, but can be scattered when the restaurant is packed.

Ambience
Industrial exposed brick and high wooden benches keep this small space looking fresh. While families are welcome, it’s best for quick lunch dashes when it’s quieter, or catch-ups with friends.

And...
Nab a table at the window overlooking the street and don’t forget to order an extra bowl of superb kimchi.

(September 2016)

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  • Marie-Lais Emond

    Food
    This is adventure eating, probably best described as World Food, with lots of Eastern flavours and influences. It’s certainly one of the most unusual and valuable restaurants in Gauteng today. Carolina Rasenti is at the helm, and her food is a game changer. The food is perfect for sharing and tasting off your companion’s plates.

    Starters include a green papaya salad layered with tastes like coconut, tamarind and pickled pear. Another could be crispy taco folds filled with a local trout or shelled prawns, home-cured, with delicate pickled lemon. By all means order the fried cubes of fresh tofu in a hot agedashi sauce, with shavings of daikon. The dish will change your perception of tofu entirely.

    Mains include a veritable party of tastes, too. Opt for one of the mussel dishes, like the miso mussels, a lovely smoky and rich combo of miso and dashi. Double-fried, deboned chicken wings are coddled in unctuous coconut rice to balance the palate. People love the kimchi ginger noodles, so they are another must, with home-infused scallion and garlic oil, ginger and daikon flakes. But you also have to try ddokboki, which is homemade gnocchi with a thick sauce, red-hot in every way, but packed with flavour. Vegetarians will find plenty to get stuck into here, and vegans and banters will also feel at home.

    The desserts are glorious. Cinnamon-sugared churros are made from wonton wrappers and crisped, served with a warm salted caramel dipping sauce. A brûlée trio is served in little matching custard jars, one traditional, one with chocolate, chilli and roasted coconut, the other a granadilla flavour. But then the lemon and coconut rice pudding is worth weeping over, as well. The dishes aren’t expensive, unless you over order, which is not unheard of. The presentation is delicate and lovely; seemingly simple dishes are made up before your eyes in a wonderful form of food theatre.

    Drinks
    Drinks are a big thing here. Apart from the very interesting wine list with its rare wines, the drinking vinegar combinations are a highlight. They are delicate and homemade, and typical flavours include granadilla, pomegranate or tamarind combined with lemongrass. These can be drunk as is in tall glasses or with Soju, a Korean liquor. There’s also a changing range of cordials, with combinations like ginger and lemongrass or lime and coriander. The apple, cinnamon and blackberry version is served warm, mostly in winter. Finally, a few interesting imported and local beers, beautiful teas and magnificent coffee, always with a cube of deliciously fudgy palm sugar, round off the list.

    Service
    If you want zippy service, this is not the venue for you, because the combinations and fresh-frying are done to order. It’s a different way of eating and consuming. Watch the counter to see what goes into your food and you’ll understand.

    Ambience
    There’s a fun and adventurous atmosphere to things. High, design-y bench tables match the tone of the food. The view from the venue, through the Mellville koppies across to Silkaatsnek, is part of the charm. The balcony boasts a herb-wall, maintained by The Kitchen Gardener, and it just the place to take in the sun with friends. Lots of regulars collect here and Carolina, who has a child of her own, does not mind children.

    And…
    Take note of their fantastic pop-up breakfasts! Dishes include a mini nasi goreng, steamed Chinese buns with freshly scrambled egg, classic slow-poached eggs and even pickled eggs in a miso honey. They do not host parties here but Carolina is willing to bring the food to you: She will pre-prep, take it with her to do the final cooking and then serve it at your house.

    (August 2015)

  • Maire-Lais Emond

    Food
    This is a very special eatery, delivering groundbreaking food in a delightful, responsible manner. In no time at all, this has turned out to be one of the most exciting places to eat in Gauteng. Here, self-taught owner-chef Nick Scott invents and plays with ingredients, tastes and techniques, with the guidelines of healthiness and freshness guiding the way.

    The menu changes all the time and quality and super-freshness are key, with some of the herbs growing up the balcony wall and even beyond the railing. The produce, which is as organically produced as possible, is sourced from some favourite local farms.

    Essentially, the idea is a new-style ramen restaurant. It’s not Japanese or even necessarily oriental, though many of the freshest tastes do smack of an Eastern origin. You willl find no red meat here. Instead what features is an array of fresh, smoked or pickled vegetables and often trout, freshly brought in from unfarmed sources.

    A Kimchi Chilli Ramen, for instance, is a glorious taste experience of homemade dashi broth with freshly pulled beansprouts and a slow-poached farm egg, served with home-pickled kimchi. The noodles are made right there; many of them are wheat-based, others are the traditional rice, and Scott has been experimenting with chickpea, too.

    The menu changes according to what’s growing. People often order nori pieces or endamame beans as snacks while the starters arrive. When they do, they could be smoky green pepper dumplings (exceptionally good) or sashimi tacos. Scott’s partner has South American heritage, which accounts for the latter – very popular – dish’s presence on the menu. There might also be steamed buns with smoked trout and a homemade wasabi mayo, or fresh shiitake and homemade hoisin.

    The choices of the main ramen dishes change regularly but there have been Vietnamese mussel versions, a Tom Yum option and a really brilliant roasted sweetcorn ramen, with Scott’s own miso and a dusting of hard cheese, freshly harvested mushrooms and sprouts with that creamy, slow-poached egg. Often you will find Thai-braaied trout on the menu. The braai is right there on the balcony, and the dish can be enjoyed with ginger scallion noodles, or perhaps a delicious grapefruit and papaya salad.

    Desserts are of the unctuous sort, for example, the ever popular chilli-chocolate mousse and a quirky custard jar.

    Drinks 
    The wine list is short but very interesting, featuring boutique wineries that produce less than 5000 cases, like Vondeling, Anura and Tamboerskloof. All wines can be ordered by the glass and there are some trendy beers to be had. From there on, things get more interesting thanks to the homemade element. A not-too-sweet pomegranate and grapefruit juice is gorgeous and tremendously satisfying. Scott puts his own cordials together, too: for example, elderflower and coriander. He then uses these to concoct inventive cocktails. He even makes his own sake and sometimes serves a yummy ginger, sake and spritz combo. Coffees and teas are served super stylishly, with a perfect little cube of fudgy palm sugar.

    Service
    This is not meant to be a formal, white-cloth dining setup. Instead, Scott wants to share homemade food with people in a convivial atmosphere. He is happy and enthusiastic and it shines through in all his dishes. The service is bright and delightful, generally in the person of Scott’s partner, Carolina Rasenti.

    Ambience 
    Located on the roof of the trendy Bamboo Centre, the eatery offers a view north between the Melville Koppies. The restaurant makes full use of the balcony. Black and slick wooden touches are offset by pops of glitzy gold and an oriental feel. The atmosphere is fun, and there is the thrilling feeling of being caught up in new food experiences. Already the eatery has a bevy of regulars, whom Scott calls his 'community'.

    And… 
    Sign up for one of Scott’s cooking/science of food adventure classes on Mondays, or book for the tasting menu on Saturday evenings.

    (July 2014)

User reviews

  • The reviews above capture the details of why I love this spot so much. With not much more to add, The Great Eastern is most definitely one of my favourite spots in Johannesburg. The food is incredible with the most interesting and flavourful combinations. The menu offers a great variety and entices one to try new dishes - that turn out to be new favourites! Highly recommended!
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  • Tucked away in Melville, this is one of our absolute favourite Asian eateries. An intimate, little restaurant that is serving up some of the best Asian cuisine in Jo'burg. From steamed buns and salmon tacos to kimchi noodles & Korean fried chicken, the menu spans and draws influence from various parts of Eastern Asia. While a wine list is available, I'd suggest mixing things up a bit and trying one of their dangerously delicious infused sakis.
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  • Delicious Food, Fantastic Service, and Great Views!! Always a taste sensation!! Love visiting this trendy spot!!
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  • The GEFB is my favourite food spot in JHB, hands down! When I go, I love ordering an array of dishes for the table to share.. even if I'm the only one at the table :) I'm mostly blown away by the creative flavour combinations and the interesting ways in which the dishes use certain ingredients, like the green papaya salad, for example. For me, other stand-outs on the menu are the Korean fried chicken, the salmon tacos, the chicken sichuan, the coconut rice and the Asian miso coleslaw. As far as drinks go, the blueberry drinking vinegar (yes, vinegar) is absolutely amazing! You can't go wrong with any of the fragrant cocktails, and the eastern beer selection is a real treat. Side note: I've never been one for tofu, but the GEFB get it SO right! Aside from the food and drink, I love the relaxed and cheerful environment. I'm a huge fan of open kitchens, and being able to chat to the head chef and owner.
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  • The Great Eastern Food Bar is a little gem we wish we'd found sooner. We went there for an anniversary dinner and were blown away by the delicious, fragrant and textured dishes. We tried most of the starters and then only had space to share a dessert, but I had to go back the next day to try a main dish too (Bangkok Fried Chicken - finger licking salty-sour goodness). Everything was superb, but our favorites were the pickled shiitake, cucumber and hoisen steamed buns, the deep fried tofu served in a spicy broth and the trout ceviche sashimi tacos with pickled lemon and wasabi. Everything was washed down with our favorite variety from the extensive Babylonstoren selection on the wine-list, the Mourveder Rose. We were happy to hear from the owner that all of her staff have been trained in-house, with none of them having previous restaurant experience and everyone getting a shifts in different roles. It shows through the happy and effortless attentiveness throughout.
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  • I go to GE around once a month. The food is delicious and the dishes are different from other places. My favourites are the cucumber salad, Edamane and my absolute favourite- the crispy scallion pancakes. It is my go to place for a catch up lunch as the vibe is calm but vibrant. Everyone I have brought there has raved about the food. I had my birthday there last year and the staff easily handled a large table and are well trained as well as polite.
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  • I have been a customer at the Great Eastern Food Bar since before the initial opening. I am continually impressed by the staff and the hands on approach of the owner. The food is innovative and most certainly the best Asian cuisine in Jozi. The chicken wing starter is always a great choice! This restaurant could hold it's own in London or New York. I'd love to see it expand into a bigger space!
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  • I first went to this restaurant at the end of last year, and their delicious scallion pancakes have been a regular feature in my food dreams where all the best things I've ever eaten live. I was worried my memory had embellished the distinct, full flavourburst of deliciousness the various dishes had. We went again last night and my memory did not do me wrong. From the pomegranate vinegar to the steamed bun with shitake mushrooms and hoisin sauce, to the scallion pancakes (which are every bit as delicious as they were in my memory and dreams) to the korean fried chicken (crispy, saucy, tender all at once with a spicy kick), everything that passed our lips and ventured into our palates was like eating in high definition - the various tastes and flavours are so crisp, clear and distinct and utterly delicious. The service is a tad slow but extremely pleasant. The backless high chairs are not my favourite (not the most comfortable chairs), but I enjoy the food so much I would visit even if I had to sit on a concrete slab with metal spikes. I love you Great Eastern - thank you for my taste awakening!
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  • Great little eatery for a new take on Asian flavours. Quaint and a bit cramped but the friendly service makes up for this. No meat dishes on the menu besides a few chicken dishes. Flavours well balanced with a limited menu of mainly vegetarian options with things like agedoshi tofu, kimchi and ramen noodles to give you just enough Asian 'funkiness' as my dining partner put it. A bit overpriced, especially the drinks, but it's probably because of the speciality nature of it (R50 for green tea though?). We will be back to try out the rest of the menu,this time with a group of friends.
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  • By far the best food I've had in 2015. Service was amazing, great choices in wine, and the flavours in all the food were perfectly balanced. After we started with the dumplings and Sashimi Tacos, we decided to try and eat our way through the whole starter list. So do yourself a favour, go on a taste tour and order a couple of tapas and share. And to see an owner with her baby on the hip, attending to customers and closely watching every meal that's prepared, has won me over even more. Will definitely be back....tomorrow!
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  • Last night we had one of the best meals we've ever eaten at a restaurant! Wow fantastic food & awesome service! My husband who is a committed carnivore couldn't stop raving about the flavours! I highly highly recommend The Great Eastern Food Bar at the Bamboo Centre in Melville Johannesburg. Asian Fusion with a specialist focus on Umami. To die for Sashimi Taco's, Spring Rolls, Steamed buns, Whole Trout with Jasmine Rice and Bangkok Chicken wings with green papaya salad were seriously delIsh.
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  • Probably my favorite restaurant on Jozi, the food is incredible, sashimi tacos, steam buns .. Incredible! The Bangkok fried chicken is mind blowing! Great venue, amazing staff, passionate and involved owners.
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  • We are totally addicted and can't wait for the next date night...at GE!
    The ambience, ( great music!) seating and upmarket yet casual atmosphere is so relaxing,
    The service has never fallen short of GREAT, with both co owners/ chefs and at least 2 waitrons introducing and attending to our needs,
    The food, well, it's amazing!
    A " meze" of a few starters each with individual subtle yet WOW flavours sets the scene for a great meal accompanied by equally wonderful cocktails( no run of the mill there as well, try the Cucumber G& T and the Vodka Sour) .
    This is a true example of Food Passion in a trendy upmarket setting !
    Sundays are rooftop days with an extensive menu, outdoors with views over Johannesburgs " forest" towards the north.
    Total value for money if you appreciate lovingly presented " fusion" food in the Asian style.
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  • Ooh... where to begin amidst the unwavering mixed reviews. For one the tone of any restaurant is dictated by the staff and given the fact the great eastern has an open plan lay out, I found myself quite relaxed even much so that I walked up to the 'kitchen' to see what's cooking.

    I immediately fell in love with the place and left it up to the waitress to pick my meal. To my distain (at first), I had what seemed to be the whole menu before me resonating the last supper. The flavours, the fresh produce, the slap on the face wasabi from the steamed buns filled my heart with joy and oh the tea, lets not forget the tea.

    I had an overall pleasant experience and went in blindly thinking that I would get a typical ramen beef with egg tummy filler but instead I got treated to something different (cow "free" menu) which made me appreciate the place more.

    Opinions are sparse and the, " If I have to foot the bill then what I say goes" approach heeds the progress of great little gems such as the Great Eastern.

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  • A very unusual and extremely tasty meal. Everything was very carefully designed cooked and presented and the flavors were fantastic. Small and select menu and refreshing to have no meat on the menu. Service v friendly and fast. Quite pricy
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  • To add on Cindy and Anon's reviews, I had lunch there with my partner on the 4 of June. Food was indeed very good and tasty but portions rather small and we found it quite pricy considering the size of servings and nature of food. Yet, prices are clearly indicated, we knew what we were in for and agreed to this. The real disappointment came from the service we received, from Carolina. Rarely have I been given such an impression of being a disturbance. If her husband knows his subject, Carolina is clearly not cut for the hospitality business.
    This is a real pity as their concept and venue are rather pleasing. disappointment as well considering that a few days earlier I had stopped there to enquire and had experienced nice and proper service from the lady in the kitchen.

    Thomas

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  • Hi Cindy,
    I just thought to go through some reviews of the GE. So the same Friday you were there, I made a booking for 5 people. I said I would be there just after 8pm. All was confirmed. I was ready for great food and a good evening with my family. We got there at the agreed time and the restaurant was packed. We understand the place is popular, but do not put it on me. Carolina, the manager (and your waitress) told me, with a straight face, that I had not made a booking. This hurt, because 1. I had made a booking and 2. I recognized her voice from the phonecall when I made the booking. I did not feel like fighting, so I let it go. I called them again the following morning and someone else picked up. She told me my booking still reflecting on the system, with my name on it and the time it was made for. She mentioned other things that were disturbing too. But I will save that for another day. In short, it wasn’t my fault that volumes of customers were mismanaged, but I suffered some serious ill-treatment from Carolina Rasenti that evening.
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  • We were invited to The Great Eastern Food Bar for a friends birthday this past Friday (30/5/2014). Needless to say, we were looking forward to a good night out, with great friends and good food. Due to the fact that our friend booked a table of 20 people, the owner decided that it would be "easier" to limit us to a set menu (understandable because of the number of people) for R200 per person (which we thought to be a bit pricey, considering the menu, type of food and that this didn't include wine or a drink of sorts). Non the less, we looked forward to some good food, and naturally, good service.
    To begin with, our waitress; which I think was named Carolina (we were not formally welcomed or introduced); was, to cut a long story short, rude, very unhelpful and in my opinion should not be in the service industry. In fact she acted as if she was doing us a favour.
    Secondly, knowing that we had booked a table for 20 people for a birthday party, we were told, quite rudely, to keep the noise levels down because other diners wanted a quiet dinner. We understood this and asked if they could close the sliding door to cut us off from the rest of the restaurant and to block out some of the noise, to which we were rudely told NO! Simply that - NO!
    Thirdly, although I have no complaints about the taste of the food (the meals were tasty and nicely done), we were not served enough for the amount of people there were - for example six of us received 5 dumplings???? And this wasn't the only example. The food portions were far too small, and considering the price we payed we should have been more that filled up by the time we left. This was definitely not the case. Most of the dinner party commented that they were going to stop at Mac Donald's or the like on the way home.
    Lastly, and most shockingly, each couple/bill was charged an extra 15% gratuity. Believe me, I am a firm believer in giving credit/gratuity where due. And I will often give a 20/30% tip. But considering the bad service we received, and the tiny portions of food we received, paying what we did for our night out was shocking.
    The Great Eastern Food Bar has left a very bad taste in my mouth and we will certainly never return! Sadly - because if done right, it could be a great place!
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  • Lovely new discovery for both lunch and dinner at the top of the Bamboo centre in Melville with minimalist décor and sweeping views over the suburbs from the terrace seats. A few early "teething" pains with a lost booking which left us at a loss for dinner on a Friday night but hopefully new systems in place will prevent this from happening again. Oriental dim sum makes a flavour-filled light lunch or dinner. Must haves when you go are the edamame beans and seaweed crisps, vegetable dumplings with preserved lemons, mushroom rice cakes crispy, sublime morsels served with mushrooms and leeks, trout tacos and steamed buns. Both mushroom and trout fillings are good, but the trout steamed buns win hands down. We have not had the capacity to try the mains or desserts but they look good too. What a relief to find a good place to go to in Johannesburg with delicious food and interesting atmosphere.
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Facilities

  • Accepts credit cards
  • Booking required
  • Cocktails
  • Dinner
  • Food
  • Functions
  • Licensed
  • Lunch
  • Parking
  • Serves food
  • WiFi

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