Oh dumplings, how I love you. There aren’t a huge number of restaurant offering dumplings in Canberra, but the CBD Dumpling House is (obviously) one of them. We went early on a weeknight and were seated in the window towards the back of the large, airy space. We started with a plate of prawn and pumpkin dumplings, which had a generous 14 dumplings in the serve. The prawns were whole and really tasty, with the tender pumpkin complementing the flavour nicely. The dumpling skins are a bit thick for my taste, but that was my only complaint. Dish number two was the steamed vegetables in a peanut sauce – I think this was actually the highlight of the meal, with perfectly crisp carrots, bok choy, mushrooms and broccoli that was so good it tasted creamy, doused in a heavenly peanut sauce. More please! We finished off with a plate of the shantung lamb, which is definitely not the sort of dish to have if you’re on a health kick. The pieces of spicy lamb are fried to crispy and sandwiched with fat – but gosh it tastes amazing! Reliably good food.
CBD Dumpling House, Scott’s Crossing, Canberra ACT, no website
This is a public service announcement – Smoque offers 50c wings (yes, you read that right, 50c wings) on Monday nights for dine-in customers. Cue marching band celebratory music here. Three of us headed down to the Woden store after work to indulge – we ordered 25 wings, sides of Mexican street corn and coleslaw, and a plate of poutine (chips with gravy and curd). It was a merry feast, although my friend picked the spicy (not suicidal) wings and as much as I wanted to eat more I couldn’t – clever tactic dude, clever. The wings were freshly cooked and had a nice amount of batter without being super oily. I avoided the blue cheese dipping sauce but apparently it was great, and there were some carrot and celery sticks served with it too. The chicken was tender and fell easily off the bone – so good. The corn was a highlight, fresh and covered in delicious cheese and sauce and a bit of lime, it was a nice break from all the meat. The poutine was my favourite though – the chips were really tasty (must be made from flavoursome potatoes), and whilst I would have liked more gravy, it filled me up after I couldn’t eat any more spicy wings. Next time I’ll be getting the non-spicy ones and smashing plenty more!
Smoque, 10 Bowes Street, Phillip ACT,
Lunch at Da Rosario has been on my ‘to do’ list for a while – the day we managed to go was blustry and cold, and the staff kindly offered us a seat inside at parent-restaurant Mezzalira to shelter from the weather. The menu is full of temptations, but on a work day we kept it simple – I ordered the spaghetti carbonara and my friend picked the pizza special – tomato and truffled mushroom. Both meals came out quickly and at the same time and looked like good Italian food should – simple. The food here is all about stepping back and letting the flavour combinations shine. The carbonara was delightfully creamy, but not sickeningly rich, and had cured pork cheek instead of bacon. It was fattier, but lighter too, and added just the right amount of saltiness. The dish used pecorino rather than parmesan, which meant that it complemented, rather than overpowered, the overall flavours. The portion size was generous and filling. My friend’s pizza had a thin, crispy base and minimal quantity/maximum flavour toppings. You could smell the truffled mushroom as it came out. Mmm. Perfect for satisfying an Italian food craving!
Da Rosario, 59 London Circuit, Canberra, ACT, no website
I know people rave about Ding Tai Fung, but to me, Lotus make the best dumplings in Sydney. Yep, I called it. This title was definitely reinforced on a recent visit. We started out with a Jade Forest cocktail – Citron Absolut, mint, lemon juice and soda blended into a perfectly integrated, light and refreshing drink that was dangerously delicious – be warned, you will probably want more than one. We had two dumpling courses, and as the serves normally include four dumplings (and there were three of us), the waitress asked if we wanted portions of six (yes) – great service. The jade prawn dumplings were the standout. With two-toned, thin, sticky skins, these are the closest thing I’ve found to the dumplings I had in Guangzhou. The filling had fabulous identifiable individual textures (i.e. it wasn’t a blended mush) – plus the prawns were super juicy. Oh yum. Next were the pork xiao long bao, which were as silky and lovely as I remember. We then had the black pepper beef, which was incredibly tender and slathered in a delicious marinade, served with perfectly steamed asparagus and baby corn, and the crispy eggplant, which was deep fried, crispy on the outside and pillowy soft inside. Mmm. Lotus, you are undoubtedly my favourite.
Lotus Dumpling Bar, 3/16 Hickson Road, Walsh Bay NSW, http://www.lotusrestaurant.com.au/
Sometimes the universe brings things together that are just meant to be. Apple and cinnamon, for example. Or banana and Nutella (can you see where I’m going with this?). On this fortuitous occasion, the magic things were ‘Golden Gaytime’ and ‘doughnut’. Yep. Not even kidding. This was only my second doughnut from Chasing Mr Morris, and I’d found the flavour last time to be a bit too subtle for me. No such trouble this time. The Golden Gaytime flavour was achieved by adding two of the best things ever onto the icing layer – peanuts and dulce de leche. Oh yeah! Whilst it didn’t scream Golden Gaytime, who even cares because it tasted so damn good?!! Dulce de leche is an Argentine treat basically made by cooking condensed milk, so it’s really rich, sweet and creamy. The slight saltiness from the peanuts was fabulous, as was the crunch they added. The doughnut itself just had to bring that lovely golden doughnutty flavour to the party, which it did, and voila, probably the best doughnut I’ve had in my life. So get on it people, this is top notch dessert material!
Chasing Mr Morris, The Hamlet, 16 Lonsdale Street, Braddon ACT, no website
This was my first visit to The Cupping Room for lunch – finally, I could try their famous burgers! The spring menu is full of delights, and I couldn’t go past the lure of a Korean fried chicken burger with kimchi ($20) – swoon. I started with the strawberry, apple and mint juice, which was beautifully presented in a large glass and was really refreshing – strawberry and mint belong together! The burger arrived shortly afterwards and was piled nice and high with white kimchi and the fried chicken. I was expecting the chicken skin to be really crispy, but instead it was more slightly chewy to get through to the succulent meat inside. There was some magical sauce drizzled on top that brought a bit of spice to the party, since the kimchi wasn’t overly hot (thank goodness, given how much there was!). Some fresh cabbage added a bit of crunch too. I loved the fries, which were lovely and crisp and served with a generous portion of aioli – no scrimping here. Overall this was an excellent, if slightly too filling, lunch and I’d definitely come back to have it again.
The Cupping Room, 1/13 University Avenue, Canberra ACT, http://www.onacoffee.com.au/
The egg added a richness to the utterly delicious ragout – Kent explained that this is one of his Mum’s dishes, which he knew he wanted to include on the menu here – I’d come back for this alone (once again, there I was scraping the sauce off the plate with my spoon!). We had two main plates – the crispy lamb ribs ($29) and the confit duck leg ($28). The ribs were a close second for my favourite dish – even my friend who doesn’t really like lamb loved them and has decided she can eat lamb if it’s cooked like this. The ribs are piled up in a tower, topped with corriander and Vietnamese mint, and coated in a gooey, sweet plum sauce, as well as XO’s housemade lemon oil, to cut through the richness. Whilst not elegant to eat, the ribs were tender and tasty – the herbs supercharged the flavours for me, elevating this into a really spectacular dish. Finally, we enjoyed the confit duck leg – this was a good last dish, given how spicy it was. The duck was perfectly cooked and tender, and I enjoyed the mushroom broth, but definitely needed some rice as a spice-balancer! XO ticks all the boxes, service included – absolutely worth a visit. Or two…
XO, 16 Iluka Street, Narrabundah ACT, http://www.xo-restaurant.com.au