It has been way too hot to cook lately, so I met a friend at Betti Bravo’s for dinner to let them do the cooking. I started with a Mojito mocktail, which was refreshing with mint, soda and lime and, more importantly, a lot of ice. Our first plate was the Salted Cod Croquetas ($11, 3 to a serve) – these were beautifully fluffy on the inside, although the cod flavour was rather subtle for my expectations. I loved the spicy dipping sauce too – more please! Next was the Mexican Street Corn ($15, 4 to a serve), topped with chipotle aioli (seriously good), iberico cheese and lime. The lime really made this dish – there was heaps of cheese and the flavours worked in perfect tandem. For the main, we ordered the Paella with King Prawns ($33) and a Mixed Leaf Salad ($12) to lighten the load. The prawns were amazingly good, as were the mussels and pieces of fish and calamari (the latter two both plentiful) in the dish, and I loved the soft-but-not-gluggy texture they achieved. My friend, however, pointed out that there were no beautiful crispy bits of rice on the bottom, meaning it wasn’t served in the pan it was cooked in (a no-no for paella, apparently). The salad was simple and refreshing, and we were both glad of not having to do any dishes in this heat!
Betti Bravo’s, 6/2 Trevillian Quay, Kingston ACT, http://bettibravos.com.au/
I hadn’t really noticed the lack of Greek food in Canberra until my friend and I were perusing the menu at Zeus. Newly opened, Zeus offers classic pita and souvla, plus a selection of sweets. I ordered the Spartan Box with lamb ($16.5 + $2 for lamb), which is essentially 140g of lamb served on top of a delicate mixed rice pilaf, with sides of tzatziki and coleslaw. We also ordered a side of fetta & oregano chips to share ($9.5) – these weren’t strictly necessary, but they were tasty! The fetta fell off easily, so we learned to skewer them with our forks, and I thought the chips could have used a tad longer in the frier, but I’d happily chow on these again. The lamb in the Spartan Box was tender and tasty, with a reasonable amount of fat and a fairly magical rub on the outer pieces (give me more of those bits please, especially drizzled with fresh lemon!). The ‘slaw had beautifully fresh walnuts inside, and the tzatziki matched the lamb well. We were also offered a complimentary plate of loukoumades (usually $8) for dessert. I’d eaten way too much already, but these Greek doughnuts are drizzled in a super tasty cinnamon-dusted honey and walnuts, so I forced myself to have one. Yum, yum, yum. Can’t wait to come back and try the pitas!
Zeus Street Greek, Shop 7/21 Genge Street, Canberra City, ACT, http://zeusstreetgreek.com.au/
As you may be aware, XO is one of my favourite restaurants in Canberra, and I made it my first stop for dinner after coming back from holidays. My friend and I decided to only order dishes we hadn’t tried before, and so started with the KFC wings, marinated in buttermilk and served with kewpie mayonnaise ($10). It was a very good place to start. The wings had a perfectly crisp coating on the outside, but were beautifully tender and underneath. Kewpie was a perfect match and we didn’t speak much while devouring the portion. Next up was the sexy squid with sweet chilli salt ($16). This was another winner, and with a drizzle of lime on top, the combination of flavours really packed a punch. Finally, we had the Lo Bak Gou as our large plate, which is a radish gnocchi served in prawn chilli butter, with dehydrated scallop, prawn, lap cheong and dusted with umami ash ($30). This was probably the pick of the bunch. The gnocchi parcels were delightfully fluffy, and didn’t sit heavily in the stomach the way traditional gnocchi does. The seafood toppings were a punch of flavour, and the umami ash added to the mix. Maybe not the healthiest choices, but certainly tasty ones!
XO, 16 Iluka Street, Narrabundah ACT, http://www.xo-restaurant.com.au
Lunch with my Mum at Urban Pantry was a treat for the tastebuds. We sat out on the breezy deck, and decided to share two lighter dishes – the kingfish ceviche ($18) and the chargrilled octopus ($24), and I treated myself to a house lychee soad ($7). The soda was refreshing, although the lychee flavour had to be mixed in, which was tricky given the glass was packed with ice! But the flavour was lovely, with a sprig of fresh mint. We ate the octopus salad first, devouring the plump, tender pieces doused in a tangy vinagrette. I would have liked a more smokey flavour from a chargrill, but that was my only complaint. The salad had a magic pesto hidden inside – magic, because it was one of the best pestos I’ve ever tried, and it was fun to discover it amid the chickpeas, green beans, kipfler potatoes, roasted capsicum strips and salad leaves. The ceviche was a strong finish, with caviar balanced on top of a radish slice balanced on top of a pile of kingfish, avocado and fresh tomato, accompanied by slices of a luscious lavosh. A mouthful with a bit of everything was heavenly, and we hardly spoke a word while eating. Definitely coming back for both dishes.
Urban Pantry, 5 Bougainville Street, Griffith ACT, http://www.urbanpantrymanuka.com.au/
You know that feeling when your food comes out and you think, yes, I have ordered exactly what I feel like? That’s what happened when I saw my giant Korean Fried Chicken burger ($16.90) at Space Kitchen. The burger comes with bacon (chicken and bacon are meant to be together), the eponymous fried chicken, Asian slaw, Sriracha and a smokey soy aioli. I also ordered a side of chips for $3 (not necessary). The chips were the only let down – a bit undercooked, they lacked freshness and crispness, although were well seasoned. The burger was hard to eat – knife and fork required – but worth the effort. The chicken isn’t super fried, just the skin, so within are tender pieces of breast meat that just melt in your mouth. The bacon was also a little less crisp than I prefer, but added so much flavour with a good streak of fat. The slaw was made by the great combo of Sriracha and the smokey aioli – together, they weren’t too much, and stopped the slaw from being dry. I couldn’t finish the burger, let alone the chips, so maybe a good one to share.
Space Kitchen, Skypark, corner of Furzer and Worgan Streets, Phillip ACT, http://space-kitchen.com.au/
I usually find myself at Local Press for breakfast, but on my last day before going back to work, I treated myself to a late lunch on a whim. The lunch menu has great seasonal options, and given the heat of the day, I opted for something on the refreshing side – Seared Tuna with furikake rice, house kimchi, pickled vegetables, miso bok choy, edamame puree and togarashi ($24). Phew. Luckily, eating it wasn’t as exhausting as typing it. This is definitely one of the food highlights of 2017 so far – the tuna was beautifully cooked (although one of the three portions was a bit cool by the time it got to the table), and the togarashi seasoning added a nice kick of spice. The accompaniments were well-considered, each adding great flavour and texture, and making the dish easy to eat slowly and savour. The bok choy was crisp and salty, and matched nicely with the heat of the kimchi (soooo good). The rice, well-seasoned, also helped to cool the kimchi heat and helped the dish become filling. The pickled vegetables were a highlight – the cucumber stole the show, although the beetroot and carrot were also tasty. This one is definitely a keeper please Local Press! Can’t wait to order it again!
Local Press, 128 Trevellian Quay, Kingston ACT http://www.localpresscafe.com.au/
Dear Mocan & Green Grout, I love your baked eggs. I have been a fan for a long time, and you never, ever let me down. Seriously, I’m not even being sarcastic. This visit was no exception, and I couldn’t be tempted to part from your beautiful, runny yolks, or your spicy tang of harissa paste, no matter how exciting your menu. I always take a moment to appreciate the top quality of the local bread you use for dipping, lightly toasted. I don’t want to be critical, but a little knob of butter could improve its potential exponentially, should you be so inclined. Oh, I can’t write without telling you how much I adore the charred eggplant lying at the bottom of this pan of deliciousness. I can’t cook eggplant to save my life, so having it dished up with such delightful creaminess is wonderful. With a squeeze of lemon, your Meredith chevre becomes sprightly and fun, joining the flavour party with the sort of gusto this dish warrants. Of course your restaurant space is welcoming and elegant, to match your quality food. Please keep doing what you’re doing. Thanks, Sharon
Mocan & Green Grout, 1/19 Marcus Clarke Street, New Acton, ACT http://mocanandgreengrout.com/