ZhangJi “Fish Barrel” Eastwood

Jackie McMillan
10th Apr 2023

The glass front of ZhangJi Eastwood is dominated by large white light-up sign saying “Fish Barrel”. And so it has come to be that the restaurant has lost its franchise moniker—ZhangJi—in favour of their specialty dish—wooden fish barrels—and become “Fish Barrel Eastwood” on Google maps. This now global Chinese chain is famous for serving fish-based hot pots poured into specially crafted wooden buckets full of hot rocks. It’s a steamy and potentially dangerous process, requiring everyone at the table to stand up when the broth and then fish slices are poured in. The buckets sit over induction heaters on the table to regulate the temperature across a 1.5 hour hot pot meal. 

Not arriving with the requisite amount of people to make hot pot economical we watched on as Chinese families plugged in their hygienically packaged wooden chopstick extenders and pulled market fish from their choice of seven broths. The restaurant is arranged in three columns: two seater booths, four seater tables, six seater tables. Light up menu boards decorate both sides of the long, narrow restaurant, with the kitchen hidden by a wall of live fish tanks in the rear. 

With longnecks of Tsing Tao ($9.80/640ml) from a keenly-priced booze list that should even please establishment wine drinkers we road-test the wider menu starting with signature sautéed shrimp balls with garlic butter ($18.80). The crisp battered prawns sit in a creamy garlic sauce that’s also excellent on the standout special fried rice ($13.80) that arrives with well-separated grains and so much proteins you won’t need to hunt for morsels of meat or prawn. Dried red chillies add a little zing rather than fierceness to the tasty signature typhoon shelter-style spare ribs ($16.80). Sautéed chicken slices with crispy rice and XO sauce ($14.80) were tasty with nicely crisp red and green capsicum, juicy onion and the textural rice crisps, but could have done with more chilli. Language difficulties saw us struggle to order a plate of the signature corn cakes ($13.80) flying out with every hot pot, so based on the success of this meal, I’ve earmarked this one for a return visit with friends.