Shiny black plates and intricately sculpted vegetables suggest a restaurant rooted so firmly in the 1980s that it’s tempting to imagine Mr T and the rest of the A-Team might be frequent customers.
But let’s dissect these traits at 100 Degrees East, a recently-opened pan-Asian restaurant a few doors down from Carters in Moseley.
The tableware, I suspect, was inherited from its long-established predecessor in the premises, The Jade, and has been retained by a restaurant not launched with the sort of multi-million pound budget splashed around by those high street chains that are doing so much to dumb down tastes and slaughter independents.
The sculped veg hint at a chef with well-honed knife skills but, more importantly, a drive to please punters.
And this desire to ensure a pleasurable experience for diners was obvious, too, in friendly, informative and efficient front-of-house service.
A midweek meal – beginning with the ubiquitous prawn crackers – left me with a warm regard for 100 Degrees East, a place that’s trying hard and is providing flavoursome food at very reasonable prices.
The space itself is plain, but bright and welcoming.
The menu is a mixture of Chinese, Thai, Malaysian and a few Japanese dishes.
My wife and I stuck to the Malaysian menu, a style of food not widely available in Birmingham.
Gado gado was a vibrant salad of bean sprouts, cucumber, carrots, tofu and egg in a crunchy satay sauce and was a pleasing combination of flavours and textures.
Butter prawns were plump and moist and came coated in a light batter, with a good whack of chilli.
There was a great balance of spice and sweetness in a main course dish of kung pau chicken – slices of tender poultry served with nicely al dente broccoli, bamboo shoot and peppers with a crunch peanuts and a sauce of great depth.
Stir-fried vegetables in satay sauce were also precisely cooked so that they retained their texture and taste.
Carbs were provided by a portion of nasi goring – a rice dish given oomph by shrimps, chicken, beans, shrimp paste and onions.
Like the other dishes we were served, great effort had been made to plate it up attractively.
The grains were nicely separate and retained some firmness.
We each drank a glass of fresh New Zealand sauvignon blanc and shared a bottle of Cotes du Rhone which, at £18, was a bargain.
A word here about the wine list: it’s short and well-priced but lacks interest.
There seemed to be no light-structured red wines that suit best the spicy flavours of many Far Eastern dishes.
A pinot noir or even frappato, for instance.
But this is carping for 100 Degrees East is trying hard and largely hitting the target.
Need to know
A meal for two with wine cost £67.
It’s open evenings Mondays to Saturdays and from midday on Sundays.
The Sunday menu includes soup noodles, such as chicken ramen.
Veggie options are available on the menu.
Takeaways are available.
100 Degrees East
88 St Mary’s Row, Moseley, Birmingham B13 9EF. 0121 449 7686.