Chez Frederic has been getting a lot of my business lately – I’d forgotten how amazing it is, and this is no more evident than in my new favourite dish – the Aglio e olio ($12), one of the simplest, but most delicious, pasta dishes I’ve had in Canberra. There’s not too much to write here – this dish is authentic in its simplicity, with extra virgin olive oil, parsley, garlic and chilli, plus your choice of pasta, but somehow these ingredients come together in an explosion of flavour that takes me back to Italy. The pasta was cooked al dente, and the portion was huge – although I was greedy and ate most of it! There is a lot of oil, which makes the pasta nice and glossy, and the kick of chilli is lovely at the back of the throat. I can’t believe that so much flavour is extracted simply from parsley and olive oil, but there’s nothing else there to do it. Magic. I also treated myself to a side of garlic bread ($3.5), which was super garlicky and very, very yummy (useful to balance the chilli too). I’ll be back for this again soon.
Chez Frederic: 4/14 Lonsdale St, Braddon ACT, http://www.chezfrederic.com.au/
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/
Adelaide has some really rocking modern Asian fusion restaurants, and Fish Head joins the ranks with gusto. Offering Indonesia, Malay and Indian cuisine, the menu is exciting and fresh, just like the food. We went for dinner on a stinking hot weeknight, and ordered a bunch of dishes to share. First up, the tempura soft shell crab with a herb salad ($15.50) was utterly delicious – the crabmeat was tender, the shell crisp and the salad had a good amount of kick to it. The crispy pork belly ($12.50) paled a bit in comparison, and the staff didn’t explain there were only 3 pieces (4 of us were sharing), which was disappointing. But the mains were all excellent, starting with the gado gado ($17.50), drenched in peanut sauce with firm tofu and plenty of fresh vegetables, it was perfect and refreshing on a hot night. The highlight was definitely the butter chicken ($20), which we had with rice ($3.50 pp) and garlic naan ($3.50 pp). The chicken was super tender, and the curry had such depth of flavour I could have sat with a bowl all night. Highly recommended. We finished with a whole crispy barramundi ($35.50), which was very tasty but didn’t have a huge amount of meat, and a perfectly matched raw mango salad. Highly recommended.
Fish Head, 270 Morphett Street, Adelaide, SA, http://www.fishhead.net.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
Attempting a Godi la Vita cheese wheel dish has been on my to do list for a while, so we headed in for a family dinner. To start, Mum and I shared half a dozen natural oysters ($15), served with a range of condiments, including a particularly good salsa verde and chilli sauce. Yum! For my main, I ordered the Tuscan pecorino cheese wheel special, with walnut, pear and balsamic glaze, and added Italian sausage on top. You’re invited to the counter to watch the chef tossing your pasta in the cheese wheel, which they set alight to soften before adding the pasta. It’s great restaurant theatre, and heightens anticipation of the meal. The dish itself was to die for – the pecorino was slathered in a rich coating across the al dente pasta, and the balsamic glaze added a great tang to the overall flavours. The walnuts were fresh and the pear was a nice touch of sweetness – just enough for balance. Adding the sausage is recommended for carnivores, as the meat is high quality and abundantly served. The only downside was a bit of confusion over Dad’s dessert order, which the staff sorted out quickly. Delicious food and a fun atmosphere.
Godi la Vita, 162B King Willliam Road, Hyde Park SA, http://godilavita.com.au/
Last month I was lucky enough to travel to Germany for the first time, and spent an evening staying with friends in Berlin. I had a terrible cold, but was determined to try some authentic German cuisine, so they took me out to their local pub. This isn’t a trendy, on the foodie-map venue (there are no English menus), but it was exactly what I wanted to try. Seated in the nautical-themed space, I ordered the Berliner Haxenpfanne (EUR 12.99) – hello pork knuckle. The plate was huge, and packed with both meat and sides. The pork had been stripped off the bone, and whilst a bit tough and dry on the outside, was beautifully tender and tasty on the inside. I was particularly excited by the large portion of saurkraut (one of my favourite things), and found it pretty much the same as the sort you get in Australia. The small amount of lettuce and tomato in the middle was a nice relief from the heavy dish, because the next thing on the plate was semmelknoel, a kind of bread dumpling that, in this case, resembled roast potatoes. The dumplings had a fun, spongey texture and were nicely seasoned on the outside. Perfect for a freezing Berlin night.
Marinehaus, Märkisches Ufer 48-50, 10179 Berlin, Germany, https://www.marinehaus.de/