The Commons Street Feast

Friday night was the opening night of The Commons Street Feast and where were you Canberra? Perhaps you were busy with Christmas parties or perhaps the other half of you was oblivious to the fact that these awesome food trucks have set up a home in Canberra for the next 7 days. Either way, I was taken by surprise about how quiet the event was, especially on opening night.

We arrived 30 minutes before our butler service started so we could scout the area, checking out all the food vendors. This is essential to see what’s on offer and knowing what to promise your stomach later on. I was surprised to see the set up was so spread out. A lot of the vendors had barricades to zig zag a long line in anticipation of large crowds, there is a large funky pyramid in the middle (with different artworks on each side) pumping out music to the crowd and lots of picnic tables set up all over.

The Butlers

TimmyC is not a fan of lining up (in fact, who is?) and it is hard to time food well when you have dispersed to take on different lines. So I had preemptively booked a butler for my party of three in anticipation of the usual large crowds that flock to foodie events like this.We met our friendly butler Ben who was to look after us for the next two hours. The butler service had reserved tables under the shade of trees just right of the entrance but I explained to Ben that that would be no good for photos, especially with the sun setting soon. We found ourselves on a table next to the pyramid, in the centre of all that is happening and Ben asked if we wanted to walk around and browse the area and he could recommend things, but we explained that we had scouted the area and we knew what we wanted already, so let’s begin.

We had ordered dishes from three different vendors on his tablet (if it was a little busier it would have been quicker to order from one vendor at a time), we tapped our card and paid right there on the spot on his device and off he went. While we casually sat there and took in the atmosphere, Ben raced back with dishes from one vendor at a time in quick succession. For people who just wanted to sit, eat and take photos, this butler service was really working out for us!

Handy little contraption took our orders, printed receipts and allowed us to pay there at our table.

Our butler was super friendly and enthusiastic the entire time and when I asked him questions about vendors that only a food blogger would, he would race off and find the answer for me. At first I thought maybe 1 hour of the butler service would have been enough, but I’m a slow eater so I was definitely not rushed with 2 hours. Ben mentioned a lot of tables who have booked one hour didn’t get to try as much as they wanted.

Bao Stop

The first thing I wanted to eat was the Peking Duck fries that I wanted to pair eventually with TimmyC’s Mary’s burger. With the butler service this was able to happen, if two people were to line up in each line, you might have ended up with cold fries and a hot burger.

Peking Duck fries ($15.00). This was loaded with sauce and duck on top of crispy shoe string fries. I really enjoyed the pairing of the hoisin sauce to the chips and even when all the duck was eaten, I still liked eating the chips with shallots (maybe it’s the Asian in me).

Thai in a Box

Chicken pad thai ($13.00). This was definitely not my choice but my Mum said she wanted noodles that this was the only choice on site. She found it too sweet and didn’t finish it although it was served very hot and fast.

Mary’s

This was an exciting highlight for me when I read the vendors who were coming. Not knowing what to try first, we just chose the classic cheeseburger.Mary’s cheeseburger ($14.00). Mary’s had the longest lines but our butler came back pretty quickly with our order. I really enjoyed their soft buns, delicious beef patty and cheese but TimmyC found their patty a little small and that they were a little heavy handed with their sauces. I agreed but I still really liked it. TimmyC also mentioned that it reminded him of Grease Monkey. I wonder what their fried chicken tastes like…

Smokin’ Grill

After being intoxicated by the smell from their smokers, I sent Ben off to get me beef short ribs with slaw and corn chips ($20.00). He came with a with a blackened, pepper encrusted tender beef rib served with undressed slaw that cut through the pepper and meatiness of the rib. The meat was really nice but I thought that it was a little steep for the tiny serve that we got.

The Grace caravan

Mumsy was freezing by this point when the sun had set and it was unusually cold for this time of year. I sent Ben off on a mission to find her some hot tea, even if it was just to hold and gather some warmth. He found an assortment of teas from Grace caravan and Mumsy chose a lemongrass and ginger tea ($4.00) and while he was there he may as well grab that caramel slice that she had been eyeing off for $5.

Happy as Larry

I was starting to wonder if our butler was judging the amount of food that we were eating but that didn’t really stop us from ordering more. I was impressed with Happy as Larry’s split level set up carrying one massing looking wood fired oven and had to try one.Margherita San Marzano tomatoes, basil, fior di latte, extra virgin olive oil ($16.00). The pizza smelt really good but this was so hard to eat because everything other than the crust had no stable structural integrity. As soon as you went to pick up a slice, the topping would slide right off. Definitely not a first date food. I really enjoyed their ingredients, maybe if they had slightly thicker bases it wouldn’t be so sloppy.

De Wafel

De Traditional speculoos + whipped cream ($9.50). TimmyC could not help himself and had to order waffles while we were there. They had an ever so slight crunch to the exterior while being fairly soft and pancakey in the centre. I really liked the combination of toppings and will definitely be trying  crumbled speculoos at home.

Messina

Now this was the big reason why TimmyC wanted to go to The Commons. Messina has cleverly done a novelty take on an International Soup Kitchen with cute homage to Campbell’s canned soup packing to match. What was also very smart of them was everything was pre-made and frozen. All the server had to do was pop the lid and give you a spoon. I imagine lines for this place to be long in the coming days but it should be a quick run through as you’re given your can and spoon.Faux Pho salted coconut sorbet, kaffir lime marshmallow, lychee meringue, chilli cashew crunch ($9.00). At first I was confused if they had forgotten to add anything other than the coconut sorbet in my can as that was all I could taste, but if you delve deep in the depths of the can, on the very bottom was all the other goodies. I loved the heat from the crunch which was off set by the cooling coconut and I loved the kaffir lime mixed through it all. I chose this because I loved all these flavours (again perhaps it is the Asian from within) but I don’t know if I came across any lychee meringue in my spoonfuls.

American chow down peanut butter gelato, cream cheese gelato, oreo cookie crumbs, pretzel crunch ($9.00). TimmyC’s stronger affinity to sweetness meant he enjoyed this tin a lot more than I did, I found it a little OTT. They definitely had American flavours in there, it tasted very peanut buttery and chocolatey with crunchy textures.

Other stalls

It may come as a surprise to you that I didn’t get around to eating from all the vendors, but here are some photos of the other places. You might have also noticed that there are stalls missing (Fritto + co, Urban pasta etc) but apparently there will be around  7 food trucks that will be swapping over from around Wednesday. Ribbies barbecue weren’t able to open on the first night but were hoping to be ready for the weekend.

Yalla Yalla!

Vutu

Pact beer – Canberra represent!

Capital Brewing co. – Canberra represent!Pialligo Estate – Canberra represent!Sakura on wheelz

MeetThe One – Canberra represent!

Rolling schnitzel

Kransky Brothers – Canberra represent!

A special mention to these guys, they let me try some of their kransky it is sooooooooo good and reasonably priced. I’m going to get this next time.

Mantooth’s place

Keep your eye out on their events calendar, there are plenty of things to do like random karaoke, table tennis and Christmas carols. Also check out my previous post to see the opening hours and what you need to know.

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returning to XO

It had been just over a year since I had last been to XO in Narrabundah and I was about eleven months overdue for a revisit. With a promise of fabulous company and new dishes on the menu, I booked for the next free day everyone was available.

Starters~

Shantung bao twice cooked pork belly with cucumber, pickled daicon and ginger ($8.00 each). It might seem steep to pay 8 bucks for a bao but it is worth every cent. The pork belly is a thick cut but very tender; the meatiness is balanced by the vegetables and the bao is super soft.

The baos are teeny tiny but mighty tasty.XO FC wings marinated in butter milk with kewpie mayo ($10.00). I love chicken wings and if you fry it, I will come! These were really crunchy while remaining succulent and I love mixing the mayo with their modified sriracha sauce.Steamed dumplings minced prawn and pork with spicy soy vinaigrette ($16.00). These were so delicious, we ordered another serve just before we started on desserts. A delicate steamed parcel in a beautiful spicy soy which made it very hard to share with other people.Small plates~

Vanella stracciatella dressed with tomato nam jim, granny smith apple, crushed peanuts and crispy shrimp ($18.00). This my friends….Was the dish of the night for me and that is a massive call since I also ordered Asian bolognese. To be honest, I didn’t pay attention to anything else on the menu once I confirmed that my old favourites were still there. TimmyC suggested we get this dish and I casually dismissed it aside allowing him this as his ‘one’ while I chose 5 other plates. It is difficult to describe this dish, it was a mix of stretchy cheese, different flavours and crunchy textures. You MUST order this!!! Asian bolognese stir fried udon in XO chicken ragout with a 60° egg ($18.00). This dish was the sole reason I came back to XO, I’ve been having dreams about this ever since I had it the first time. I think it is genius to use udon!Shallow fried tofu shallow fried tofu seasoned soy and candied ginger ($16.00). I can see how this was supposed to be a simple tasty dish with a ridiculously soft tofu but I found it underwhelming in comparison to the other dishes.Hiramasa Kingfish miso cured with pineapple relish, wasabi nori, spelt and freeze-dried raspberry. Kent was nice enough to treat us to one of their new dishes on the menu, this would have been $18.00. It was interesting to have the Kingfish served in cubes, the curing processing apparently makes the flesh ‘tighter’ and it gave the dish a very meaty feel. This is a dish where you have to eat all elements together; the wasabi nori had a kick but the pineapple made it very sweet and it seemed like we were eating a sushi without rice.Larger~

Prawn Kapitan spicy Nyonya style curry with wok fried king prawns ($34.00). The prawns were really fragrant and tasty but I was hoping for more of a sauce to mix into my rice.Crispy lamb ribs tossed in a sticky plum sauce ($28.00). A popular favourite amongst the table, it is a little messy to eat. Ditch the chopsticks and just use your hands.Sides~

Cauliflower nuggets fried with mixed spices and mint yoghurt ($12.00). I was hit with a strong taste of cumin which probably would have been offset by the yoghurt but the bowl got taken away before I could go back and smear some on.Desserts~

Chrysanthemum tea soft serve ($5.00). I knew when I made the restaurant booking that I wanted this for my dessert, I was just hoping that they still had it. Anyone that has had a chrysanthemum tea popper growing up, this is exactly that flavour in soft serve form. I encourage all those who have not tried chrysanthemum tea to order this, although I  don’t know if they still  have it on the menu because they have just released a watermelon szechuan and sumac soft serve yesterday.Black rice pudding coconut ice-cream, golden honeycomb  and lime meringue ($14.00). I love this dessert but I  was surprised to see that the desserts had not changed for a year. Chef AK explained for these popular desserts to be replaced, it would have to be just as good but he assures me that something is in the works.Pandan panna cotta gula melaka syrup and sesame tuile ($12.00). The panna cotta isn’t really sweet and all the sweetness comes from the intense syrup. The texture was super smooth which was a good contrast with the crunchy tuile.They might have turned down the volume dial on the music but they still play the music that I love. The staff was attentive and everything came out a timely manner.

One wonders why I’ve stayed away for so long but since the three days of not being there, they have already released a new soft serve flavour and there will be new dishes released in December. Looks like I’ll need to head back there ASAP.

XO Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Ryo’s noodles

I experience FOMO a LOT, especially when my cousin and sister are surrounded by ramen restaurants and I am not. So when I was last in Sydney, I headed straight to Ryo’s noodles where both of them had been recently.

We arrived around 1:10pm on a Sunday to be greeted by a short line, I started to panic as they shut at 2pm but the line only took 20 minutes to get through. img_9370Maybe I’ll bring someone who can read Japanese with me next time, I hope this is just the menu in Japanese and that I’m not missing out on something awesome.#1 Tonkotsu ramen in salt flavoured soup with roast pork, shallots and sesame seeds ($13.00). I don’t eat the egg and nori so I wanted the basic ramen; it was easy to order for our table, ‘we will have three number ones please’. In a matter of minutes our order arrived. The broth was magical, the noodles were perfect and so was the tender pork. I really enjoyed the broth because it wasn’t really fatty and thick.Gotta love a broth where you can’t see the bottom of the spoon.Home-made pork bun ($4.50). I couldn’t help but try one of their home-made buns, the bun came out fresh and hot with a soft fluffy texture. The pork filling surprised me because it had a pulled pork texture.  Excuse the mangled mess, I ripped it in half to share with my Mumsy.This place is TINY. I can see why there is a wait, the food is delicious but there also not a lot of space to put many tables and chairs.We were in and out in 22 minutes. We weren’t pressured to leave but it was a tight squeeze in the restaurant with people waiting to be seated right next to us. We came for delicious rich tonkotsu ramen and that’s what we got, this is not a place to sit down and catch up.

There is also another Ryo’s noodles located in Bondi Junction.

Venue: Ryo’s Noodles

Address: 125 Falcon St, Crows Nest NSW 2065

Phone: (02) 9955 0225

Ryo's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Yat Bun Tong re-run

I recently met up with a few fellow food bloggers (check out some of their awesome blogs here and here) for dinner at Yat Bun Tong (see my first post here). It is so nice to meet up with such like minded people and laugh about the same things we go through like- forever questioning ourselves of who is actually really ever reading our blog other than our number one fan (thanks for your support YummyLummy).

Serina from MsFrugralEars with her awesome mandarin skills took charge with ordering and conversing with the staff. It was refreshing not having to look at the menu or having the responsibility on deciding the whole table’s meal, which is the default mode that my friends usually put me in.

Shanghai steamed bun (10 pieces $13.80). It is still no Din Tai Fung, but I guess it is unfair to compare. The dumpling wrapper is the Goldilocks of thickness, not too thin and not too thick, it was just right. I’m still not completely sold on the soup interior but am still happy to have it there. They don’t always remember to give you a spoon but please do request one for easier eating.   Shallot pancake ($7.80). The pancake was crispy and flaky which reminded me of roti with flecks of shallot. I really enjoyed the texture but I think I would have liked more shallots and more salt throughout the pancake.Hot and sour soup ($5.80 per serve). My eyes widened when they lowered this bowl on the table. It was enormous! I asked Serina ‘I thought you only ordered two serves?’, she responded with ‘I did’. The waitress explained that the chef wanted to give us more but would only charge for two serves. I loved that the soup was full of lots of ingredients and most of us easily had two bowls. If it was a tad (chilli) hotter and you added a few drops of chinese vinegar like you’re supposed to, it would have been perfect.I took a photo of the serving bowl next to my bowl so you could see how big it was.Shanghai pan fried pork buns (10 pieces $14.80). This was the one dish I was determined to order after seeing photos from Michelle’s instagram who in turn saw it from Wita (#contagiousfood). The buns were light and fluffy with a good meat filling and a little bit of soup inside. It reminded me very much of Sydney food, which says a lot. I would happily return just to eat these.The filling inside the buns.BBQ duck spring rolls (2 pieces $6.80). We were told that this was a popular menu item and I can see why. A crispy hot spring roll filled exclusively with delicious duck meat complimented by the hoisin dipping sauce. These would make a good starter, maybe I’ll order these next time before I sit down and even look at the menu.Fried handmade noodles with black pepper beef ($15.80). People were starting to get full but insearchofgoldenpudding and I wanted to try their handmade noodles. I really like black pepper beef but usually with rice, it felt odd eating them with noodles especially when I’m used to eating my noodles with pork and vegetables. Some people might not like the fact that it came with no vegetables.

I really liked their handmade noodles, it wasn’t overly oily although it was a tad softer than I would usually have it.  I really like black pepper but even I  thought it was borderline overwhelming, next time I might try their handmade noodle with seafood in X.O sauce.I had a much better experience at Yat Bun Tong this time around because of the selection of food. I will definitely be back to eat more pork buns and eat more noodles.
Yat Bun Tong Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Wood and Coal – express lunch menu

After being met with disappointment with an unopened Pepper Lunch (they were supposed to be opened on the 15th April), my brain quickly scanned for a plan B. Hmmm what did I want to eat in Civic? ‘I had not had a baco before’ I thought to myself, so off we went to Wood and Coal.

I was surprised to see that during Sunday lunch the North Quarter of Canberra Centre area seemed a bit of a ghost town and I was even more surprised to see that we were the only patrons in Wood and Coal during our meal. I was hoping that meant we would get our meal faster because I was getting hungry fast!

 

Yoghurt flat bread BACO~ The B-A-C-O sandwich originated from a restaurant called Baco Mercat in Los Angeles. The Baco is a combination of bao + taco, essentially making it like a soft bread taco.

Slow cooked pork shoulder BACO sriracha mayo, parmesan cheese, quoinoa salad, chicharon ($13.00). I really liked everything in the filling but the bottom of my baco became soggy fast and it quickly turned into a knife and fork meal. I think this would have been nicer served in a bowl with the bread served on the side, albeit it wouldn’t be a baco but it sure would be easier to eat. Definitely not a first date food.Crispy fish BACO caper mayo, coleslaw, fried egg, scallion ($13.00). It wasn’t until I wrote this blog post did we realise that there was no fried egg in the baco. There was too much coleslaw which was over powering to the other ingredients and made the bottom of the baco very soggy.Golden brown spit chicken thigh BACO smoky aioli, parmesan cheese, green slaw ($12.00). I got food envy smelling my friend’s baco, the chicken looked really succulent. My friend really enjoyed his baco and finished it all (with a knife and fork of course).Spit roasted honey chicken wings house-made pickles, yoghurt flat bread ($16.00). We probably didn’t need more bread on the table but I really wanted to try their chicken wings. I am so glad that I ordered these because the chicken wings were meaty, juicy and I can’t believe their gave us 8 in a serve! The pickles were also really good and I would easily order this again.It was served with a whole jar of pickled vegetables! They pickles were tangy and gave a nice balance to all the meat and heavy bread.Sides~

Chips with garlic and feta ($9.00). It was suggested by our waiter that we order a serve of chips with garlic and feta rather than the plain chips you could get on the side with a baco ($2.00). I might have seemed like an up sell but it was well worth it! They were moreish and I think it went well with all the meat. They were served really hot and crispy.Dessert~

Snickers on a plate peanut butter parfait, burnt marshmallows, pecan praline, salted peanut caramel sauce, dark chocolate sauce, dark chocolate ice cream ($13.00). There were a lot of things going on on the plate but essentially it reminded me of a snickers crossed with a s’more because of all the marshmallows. I found the dessert a bit OTT and too sweet.Cookie Monster milk chocolate chip cookie, dark chocolate chip cookie, salted caramel, lemon vanilla and chocolate ice creams and dark chocolate sauce ($14.00). This was essentially a cookie stack and it was hard to eat all of them in one go because the cookies were hard. It was eventually dismantled and eaten separately. I can’t say that they do dessert well but I would definitely come back to Wood and Coal for their lunch specials. We found the service to be friendly and attentive but that might have been because we were the only people in the restaurant.

Sundays have a 10% surcharge.

Progressive walking dinner – Kingston foreshore

It is always wonderful to meet up with like minded people, so when fellow foodies and I met for dinner at Kingston foreshore and we weren’t sure what to eat, we strategically planned for a progressive walking dinner to get the most of our meal.

To start we made good use of C dine‘s ‘Buck a Shuck’ Friday’s in summer and we had a dozen oysters each for our entree.Venue:C dine bar

Address:17/19 East Lake Parade, Kingston Foreshore, Canberra

Phone: (02) 6239 5299
C Dine Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


7 by the Lake has only opened recently so we were excited to check it out. As we walked in, I was confused by the decor, it was supposed to be an Indian restaurant but it had African-eqsue statues around the room.

We ordered three curries: Goanese prawns ($29.90), murgh makhani (aka butter chicken $23.90) and palak paneer ($23.90). I really enjoyed their butter chicken, it isn’t your typical creamy and sweet version. I felt that the prawns and the paneer tasted slightly watery and didn’t absorb the flavours of the curry, maybe because it was added in later from a stock sauce.

 

We also ordered a serve of masala kulcha fermented plain flour bread stuffed with a mix of spiced potatoes and herbs, sprinkled with onion seeds, chopped coriander and mint, cooked in a tandoor ($5.00). It smelt divine and I would easily just eat this with butter chicken and be happy.
Our waitress did three odd things while we were there 1) she didn’t really know the name of the dish when she put down our palak paneer, she just stated it was our ‘cheese dish’ 2) she interrupted our conversation when she over heard us wanting to have dessert somewhere else 3) she opened the bill folder counted the money at the table, every last cent of it.

 

I found the prices of the curries a little steep but to be fair, everything along the Kingston foreshore seems to be over priced. I really enjoyed the bread and the chicken curry but I feel that isn’t enough to have me running back for more any time soon.

 

Venue: 7 by the lake (contemporary Indian cuisine)

Address: 143/41 East Lake Parade, Kingston Foreshore, Canberra

Phone(02) 6140 7040

Websitewww.sevenbythelake.com/
7 by the lake Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


To not be disappointed any more, we opted dessert an an old favourite, Morks. I had eaten their other desserts recently so I chose the Pikachu *I choose you* mango gelato ($3.00) for dessert with a side of BBQ pork bun ($8.00). It may not be conventional but I think a BBQ pork bun and mango gelato from @morksrestaurant was a wonderful way to end the nights meal. Venue: Morks

Address: 18-19 East Lake Parade, Kingston Foreshore, Canberra

Phone(02) 6295 0112
Morks Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

XO

If you haven’t heard about the latest restaurant opening in Canberra called XO you would have probably mistaken my subject as a post about dried scallops or something about Gossip girl. XO is a trendy new restaurant located in Narrabundah (where the Artisan used to be), which reminded me of a mash-up between AKIBA and 86 with the trendy decor, sharing style dining and Asian influence in the food (and maybe also the price range).
The huge beautiful mural at the front making XO easy to spot from the street.
Kent Nhan, one of the owners and running front of house (his Uncle owns Griffith Vietnamese) gave us a warm greeting and set us up with menus and drinks. We were seated on the big communal table which was an extension of the bar, it made it easy to get attention from the staff and order more drinks. I didn’t have problems with the seats but TimmyC had to get up several times throughout the meal as his bum was getting numb.

 

Not knowing how long the food was going to take, we ordered starters almost immediately as we knew we wanted a bao each and I desperately wanted chicken wings. A serve of chicken wings had 6 pieces but Kent was nice enough to make it for 7 so I didn’t have to gouge out someone’s eye for some wings (and readers would know I luuuuurve me some chicken wings). It didn’t take long for food to arrive and even though I ordered small plates and large plates not long after, Kent was happy to play it by ear to see how hungry we were and order as we went.

 

The big communal table is an extension of the bar made from cement.The wine list show cases a number of local wines; I love the way that they have displayed them.The chopsticks are handmade by a local design firm.

One of my friends ordered a hobo beer, complete with a paper bag! Doss Blockos pale lager Prahan VIC ($8.00).Lemonade ($5.00). Even the lemonade is fancy here.Starters~
Shangtung bao twice cooked pork belly with cucumber, pickled daicon and ginger ($8.00 each). I was surprised it looked more like a ‘slider’ but the bao texture was still there. I thought that the braised pork belly was a generous serve as it breached the perimeter of the bao but I also thought it was a tad salty until I realised all the sauce that was probably meant to balance out the salty flavours had smooshed out the other side of the bao. The pork itself was very tender and not too fatty.
  
XO FC (fried chicken) wings marinated in butter milk and kewpie mayo ($12.00 for 6 pieces). Every bit of the surface area of that chicken wing was super crispy and crunchy without being overly oily. I used this opportunity to use XO’s modified sriracha sauce (sriracha, dehydrated Vietnamese mint and vanilla extract) and mixed it in with the dollop of mayo for a winning combination to dip my chicken into.A handy condiment on every table.
Small plates~
Sexy squid fried baby squid with sweet chilli salt ($16.00). Squid needs to be either soft and tender or crispy and not oily and this was exactly the latter; so in my books it was extremely sexy. Delicious on its own or even better with either a squirt of lime or mixing it into that sauce that you just made from the chicken wings (mayo+modified sriracha). I would order this again in a heart beat (and perhaps not share).
Drunken chicken cold cut in aged rice wine with wood ear mushroom ($15.00). I felt that this dish really missed the strong Chinese wine taste that makes this dish earn its name. For me it was just some cold chicken with some wood ear mushrooms, very underwhelming and I wouldn’t try it again.
Asian bolognaise stir fried udon in XO chicken ragout with a 60C egg ($16.00). One of my classic comfort foods is a bowl of steamed rice with a sunny side up egg and some soy sauce; puncture the yolk and mix it through the rice with the soy sauce and I’m in heaven. This reminded me a lot of that with the perfectly cooked egg and the salty flavours and I think that is why I loved this dish so much. I really enjoyed the texture of the udon noodles, it was so chewy and thick, I might start using it as my ‘pasta’ too! My only gripe with this dish is that it was too small for my liking (and I had to share this with two other people).
Xui mai slow cooked Vietnamese meatballs in tomato sugo ($15.00 for 6). Oh my word! Pass me a crusty piece of bread and I could eat this every day for the rest of my life. Don’t imagine Chinese xui mai, think Italian meat ball with a rich thick sweetish tomato based sauce that would make any Italian Mum proud. I ended dumping some of this sauce with the Asian bolognese and it went together so well. It makes me smile when I think about it again.Larger~
Char sui roasted pork neck with pickled cucumber and ginger chilli relish ($28.00). Forget your Chinese char sui, this is something completely different; instead of a sticky glaze the meat had more of a dry rub with strong Asian marinade. I didn’t find this dish very interesting in comparison but I did like snacking on the pickled cucumber.
Beef rendang slow cooked black angus chuck reduced in coconut milk and spices ($29.00). The curry was really nice although the texture of the dish didn’t have much ‘sauce’ and what was stuck on the meat had the texture of something similar to desiccated coconut. Despite the curry being very nice, I found that there was no stand out component that made this dish unique to XO.
Vit Tiem confit duck leg with shitake herbal broth ($28.00). I must say we really hesitated ordering this dish because we all loved confit duck leg but none of us were sure about the ‘herbal broth’. The sauce wasn’t completely runny, there was some thickness to it and it didn’t taste ‘herbal’ at all. The duck was very tender and although there wasn’t too many intense flavours to this dish, it was probably good to order this amongst other dishes as more of a palette cleanser. I found the Asian greens as a refreshing refuge for my mouth as the all the meals so far were rather meat heavy without many vegetables (OMG I think I’m getting old).

Crispy lamb ribs tossed in a sticky plum sauce ($29.00). This also came as a serve of 6 but Kent made it for 7 so fights wouldn’t break out. I was the last to try the lamb rib and I was super surprised to hear that my friend who doesn’t even usually like lamb said that this was the best dish of the night. I thought that is a big call but in fact most of the table thought it was the best dish of the night. There isn’t a dainty way to eat this, just use your hands and let the plum marinade stain the side of your mouth. The lamb meat was rather tender and despite the heavy marinade you should still taste the lamb meat but it is quickly followed by a rush of sticky sweetness.Sides~

Chilli Kumara fried sweet potato with smoked paprika, garlic and chilli ($10.00). My friend said it perfectly when he said that this tasted better than it smells.
Steamed rice ($6.00 a bowl).
Dessert~ 
I was super excited to try XO’s desserts and because there were only three options, I was going to get all of them even if no one wanted to share with me.
Chrysanthemum tea soft serve (cone or cup $5.00). If you’ve ever had the chrysanthemum tea popper and loved it, then you’ll love this soft serve. TimmyC never grew up with these flavours and pulled a face when he tasted it. It is hard to describe the taste but it has a very subtle bitter after taste. My Asian foodie friend said he would come back for just this soft serve alone, when we asked Kent if we could do take away he said stop by any time just allow him to warm up the machine.
Pandan panna cotta gula melaka syrup and sesame tuile ($12.00). I really enjoyed the pandan flavours as it wasn’t too sweet if you limited your syrup intake. A nice light way to finish your meal.
Black rice pudding coconut ice cream, golden honey comb and lime meringue ($14.00). I found that all the flavours when eaten together really complimented each other and your mouth explores a whole range of textures. It was nice but still probably my least favourite out of the three desserts.
I love the contrast of colours on the pretty blue plate.
The atmosphere definitely appeals to the younger crowd; it was like they stole my playlists of 90s + RnB songs and turned it up a notch. It was borderline too loud and I found myself almost yelling to my dining companions during some parts of the night. I found the service to be prompt and friendly and the night flowed smoothly as food came out at a fast constant pace.
It is a fine line between over ordering and not getting to try enough of each dish with a table of 7, but I think we managed pretty well as everyone was full and it only came to around $60 pp and people had drinks while others had dessert; I was expecting the bill to be a lot higher.
I am so keen to try it again that I’ll be back there tonight!

Venue: XO
Address: 16 Iluka Street, Narrabundah ACT
Phone: (02) 6295 9696
Opening hours:
Lunch Tuesday – Saturday 12:00pm – 3:00 pm
Dinner Monday – Saturday 6:00pm – 11:00pm
XO Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

The Fish Can re-post

* I just saw a more recent photo of their menu board and prices went up a little but all individual baos are still under $5.00

I’m re-writing this post with a bit more detail after I rushed to blog the original post within the hour that The Fish Can finally opened their doors.
The Fish Can has only been opened for two weeks but have had many positive reviews from people in Canberra who have been craving a good bao at a decent price. The first thing you need to know is the menu so here it is:I love how there are a combination of things including sweet and savoury and everything is under 5 bucks! They had another menu on the other side which is more of a ‘fish and chip’ side but today I’m concentrating on the more important issue: BAOS! But here it is just in case you were curious.  *photo from a friend who doesn’t want to be named.

The thing you need to know before you start to wonder why I only tried three baos is that this is what I saw when I got to Westside that day (see photo below). My heart sank and I headed to Miss Van’s to drown my sorrows in a bowl of pho (and I also may or may not have had a banh mi). While I was slurping away, I looked up from my bowl and noticed that The Fish Can had just opened their doors (so to speak) and I almost immediately dropped my chop sticks. So this was my second lunch and yes I am now a Hobbit.
Porkster braised free-range Murray Valley gilt belly, served with crushed Szechuan peanuts, house relish and cilantro (left $4.10). I was a bit disappointed at the size of the filling to bun ratio but I’m hoping that it was because it one of the first few baos served and they improve with some feed back. The pork itself was tender but it needs some sort of sauce so it isn’t just some dry ingredients in a bun. I would love to see a sliced pork belly with kewpie mayo and some lettuce (like Ippudo).

Not so Crab tempura soft-shell crab, lemon, cabbage slaw, Szechuan aioli and crushed peanuts (right $4.60). More filling, more exciting and more colourful. This was definitely my preference out of the two, the crab was crispy and so was the slaw, there was a nice aioli in there and there was flavour in every bite.
A close up of the ‘porkster’: delicious layers of fat and meat but I didn’t like the pickle so I picked it off. The thick short cut means that you don’t get some meat with every bite and there isn’t much else in the bun, it needs a little extra something…Lots of contrasting crunchy textures with the soft bao.Mars bao handmade bao with Mars bar core ($2.90). I didn’t expect a closed bao but if you think about it, a melted chocolate bar had to stay contained somehow. It might not look appetising but it definitely hit the sweet spot. You could taste the caramel, chocolate and nougat despite it being all melted, I just wish the bao itself had a tad bit more sweetness to it. My first preference was the sweet bao fries but they weren’t available that day, they will definitely be popular with the Asian crowd having been served with condensed milk.My friend tried the Chican bao all natural fried chicken breast, Szechuan aioli, crushed peanuts and cilantro ($4.10). He really really enjoyed it and went back a few days after and ordered more. The chicken looked really moist and the fillings were more generous, I wish I ordered this one too. Next time! Look at that juicy chicken patty. *drool*The savoury baos themselves were soft but could have been served a little warmer than they were, but then again it could have been a ‘we just opened and sorting out the kinks’ situation. In any case I am still super keen to head back, eventually try one of everything and get my hands on some sweet bao fries! The people serving inside were super friendly and the wait wasn’t long at all.

Are you ready to get your bao on?

Venue: The Fish Can (Next to The One)

Address: Westside Acton Park, 3 Barrine Drive, Acton, ACT 2601

Opening hours: **updated apparently they are not opened Thursday any more?**

Friday – Saturday 11:30am- 9:00pm

Sunday 11:30am – 4:00pm
The Fish Can Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Tim Ho Wan – Chatswood

During my last fleeting visit to Sydney, Mum and her friends were sweet enough take me to Tim Ho Wan in Chatswood, the first of three locations in Sydney. I had just arrived in the CBD when my Mum’s friends had just started to line up, it was an estimated 40 minutes wait but the deal breaker was that all parties must be present to be seated in the world’s cheapest Michelin star restaurant. Conveniently for us, the restaurant is located right near the Chatswood train station and we joined the line long enough to quickly jot a few dishes on the menu before quickly getting seated.I could start to see why the line was so long besides the fact that it is new and the buzz around the brand name, the restaurant seating area itself wasn’t that big.I should have ordered that steamed egg cake! #foodregretsThe menu is limited to 25 menu items not including drinks. You write the quantity you want next to the item and hand in the order form like you would have Din Tai Fung.Vermicelli roll with shrimp ($7.80). I grabbed the top roll and thought they had forgotten to put anything inside if it wasn’t for the sad single prawn stuck somewhere in the lower half like a small rock trapped in a sock.Vermicelli roll with sesame sauce ($5.80). The sauce was really delicious and much better than the roll with shrimp.Pork dumpling with shrimp ($7.20). Not my preferred style of dumpling but it went really well with chilli sauce.Prawn dumpling ($7.80). These were nice, they didn’t stick to the paper, the wrapper was a good thickness and the prawn filling was delicious.Pork rib with black bean sauce ($6.80). The pork pieces were very small but that didn’t stop me from eating almost the whole thing to myself.Bean curd skin roll with pork and shrimp ($6.20). One of my favourite things to eat during yum cha, this version was a little on the skinny side but the sauce was really nice.Wasabi salad prawn dumpling ($7.80). I didn’t think I would like the deep fried dumpling but the wasabi and roe was subtle and complimented the prawn filling.Rice with beef and fried egg ($8.80). I was looking forward to this, albeit it wouldn’t be my first flavour choice out of the rice toppings. I found the beef cake layer too chewy and tough while the egg was cooked in an egg ring and didn’t look too appetising.Glutinous rice in lotus leaf ($8.80 one serve). It had lots of ingredients inside and the rice was really nice.Baked bun with BBQ pork ($6.80 for three). This was the star of the evening. It wasn’t as pretty and golden brown as the ones in HK, which made me sceptical but they had a wonderful crunch on the top like a pineapple bun. The pork and bun have a perfect balance of salty and sweetness.I had dragged TimmyC to one of the Tim Ho Wan locations scattered around Hong Kong and we had had our fill for around $12 AUD, although then we were eating 4-5 meals a day so it couldn’t be too big. The Sydney store is much more pricey comparatively but roughly consistent with neighbouring yum cha places.

The yum cha here is very mediocre and I prefer to go to Fook Yuen when I’m in the area but the baked buns with BBQ pork are a signature dish for Tim Ho Wan and it is worth lining up for (maybe not 2+ hours long but 15-20 minutes) if you have a craving.

There is a way to skip the queue but you need 8+ friends to do so like NQN did.

Venue: Tim Ho Wan

Address: The District, 436 Victoria Ave Chatswood, NSW

Phone02 9898 9888

Websitehttp://www.timhowan.com/

Tim Ho Wan on Urbanspoon

Wonder meals re-run 

There are three types of Chinese restaurants: 1) the Westernised Chinese restaurant that can be found in most suburbia shops 2) the more traditional Chinese restaurants with Asian delicacies and then there is Wonder Meals.

I have always found Wonder Meals very bizarre; everything from the name, the strange decor down to the menu, which had changed since I had last been. I can’t fully describe it. Menu items include poached tripe with duck blood curd, cold dressed pigs ears and pungent and chilli chicken gizzards just to name a few. I was trying to warn my food companion that things on the menu are a bit strange but we will stick to the ‘safe’ side of things which may or may not be to our detriment.

Set up with chair covers, linen napkins that you will never get to use and surrounded by fake flowers, just another day at Wonder Meals.Steamed and fried bread ($10.80). This was the first thing to arrive within minutes of ordering and I was pleasantly surprised to see it served with condensed milk but it meant that we were eating sweet first. Obviously the fried version tasted better than the steamed but the steamed buns make for good sauce moppers, so we left them for when the main dishes arrived.Fried beef fillets with abalone mushrooms ($20.80). This was very garlic-ky and salty which was balanced out by the boiled rice. It was a fairly big serve because it felt like we kept eating the same thing over and over again; I got a bit bored of it towards the end.Fried garlic shoots with shredded pork ($15.80). I had ordered this previously and it wasn’t as nice this time around. I thought the garlic shoots weren’t at their best which made the whole dish very mediocre.Pan fried dumplings (guotie) ($12.80). After getting fairly full from the previous dishes and being over an hour after we had initially ordered, I just assumed that they had forgotten about these but apparently they didn’t. I tasted the first one and it was very (temperature) hot but left a bitter vegetable taste in my mouth, I then asked for soy sauce and it made it much more tolerable.I was surprised that the restaurant was so busy on Friday night but I did sense the feeling that a lot of tables started to get frustrated with the service after being ignored several times and having to wait a long time between dishes. You really have to come here yourself and order some ‘out of the box’ items to decide if you like it or not. Maybe I’ll be more adventurous next time.

See my first post about Wonder meals here.

Goodgod – Belly baos

When it comes to eating Asian food in Sydney CBD, I foolishly thought I knew it all.

I keep tabs on whenever a new ramen place opens up, I keep an eye out for new dessert crazes and I’m all over dumplings like ants on a toffee apple. So when my friend wanted to take me to a place for bao, I was sceptical about this random bar but remained hopeful because I love a good bao. Goodgod is an underground bar located just past World Square towards China town and I would have walked past a million times without realising it and you may have too. Belly baos is the food side of things and they have a line which is separate from the Goodgod bar, which will mean you need to divide and conquer between you and your friends.

The Goodgod drinks menu.Cherry Melon Pop freshly juiced watermelon and green apple popped sweet with Fee Brothers Cherry Bitters ($9.00). Goodgod have an interesting list of alcoholic mixed drinks in jugs with funny quirky names but the non-drinkers don’t miss out because they also do several non-alcoholic quenchers both in jug and single cup sizes. This tasted like watermelon juice with a cherry aftertaste that was borderline medicinal.We get there insanely early but we are headed for Russell Peters later on at Olympic Park so we wanted somewhere close and fast. The place was quiet but that meant no lines and fast service. I looked at the menu and realised that I could easily eat everything if I didn’t squeeze in that delicious fried chicken snack, so I conservatively order only four baos to share between TimmyC and myself.

Belly Bao’s bao menu, what would you have chosen?Mmmm baos!Soft Shell crab watercress, chilli aioli and lemon vinaigrette ($7.50). We started off with the soft shell crab and in hindsight it was probably for the best as it was my least favourite. The flavours were nice but there was just a sad small piece of crab off to one side of the bun and I just didn’t think the filling to bun ratio was right.Panko crumbed chicken breast lettuce, pickled radish, secret sauce, coriander and chilli aioli ($6.50). I had a bite of my friend’s panko chicken and it was temperature hot, crispy and the chilli aioli gives in a nice chilli kick; definitely worth ordering!Slow braised pork belly pickled mustard greens, coriander, crushed peanut and kewpie mayo ($6.50). I had food envy while a friend was eating his bao; he enjoyed it so much that he ordered another and after he finished eating it, he had food regrets and probably didn’t need that extra bao.

Crackling roast pork belly crackling, pickled radish, coriander and kewpie mayo ($6.50). They have placed the crackling well so that almost every bite had some crackling, yum! I might be biased because I love pork, crackling, coriander and kewpie mayo but I really liked this bao!Slow braised beef short rib kimchi, spring onion and sesame mayo ($6.50). It would be hard for me to choose a favourite between the crackling roast pork and the beef short rib, so I won’t. The meat in this one was probably had more flavour on its own and didn’t rely on the sauces and condiments. It was so tender and tasty *licks lips*.I like how they have re-purposed old oyster sauce cans.Dessert bao (yes you read that right)~

Strawbelly bao golden fried bao with vanilla ice cream, fresh strawberry slices, drizzled with condensed milk ($6.50). How cute is the name? I was so caught up with the fact that there was dessert bao that I didn’t notice until friends pointed it out. This sounded good in theory but it was hard to eat without cutlery or a million wet wipes. TimmyC enjoyed the strawberries and ice-cream more while the Asian part of me really enjoyed the bao and condensed milk because it reminded me of fried mantou. There wasn’t that many strawberries and we probably should have gone with the ‘baonana split’ (golden fried bao with vanilla ice cream, fresh banana slices, salted peanuts, drizzled with Nutella) for a more decadent dessert.

The baos here might seem expensive by Sydney standards but for these Canberrans they were a steal (our bao prices are $9 each). The baos themselves were all soft, smooth and pat-a-licious (Michelle and Eileen know what I’m talking about).

Because we went while it was still quiet, we didn’t have any waiting troubles, issues with staff or seating limitations. In fact getting there before everyone else meant that we had clean bathrooms, fast food and we could hear ourselves think. I like the funky layout of the place and they also run interesting trivia nights; if I lived in the area, I would definitely come here more often.Venue: Goodgod bar (Belly Bao food)

Address53-55 Liverpool Street Sydney, NSW

Phone02 9267 3787

Opening hours:

Wednesday – Friday 5pm til late (Belly Bao is open until 10pm)

Saturday 6pm til late (Belly Bao is open until 10pm)

Belly Bao            Belly Bao on Urbanspoon

Goodgod bar    Goodgod Small Club on Urbanspoon

Akiba- good things come in threes

Yes, I did go back to AKIBA for the third time in a short time span but in my defense, it was my friends’ first time so really I went for their sake.

Despite having been so many times, I did notice several new things about the place and menu since their official launch last week: the outdoor seating is now completed, AKIBA now serves breakfast and to my dismay the steak tartare and smoked potato have both been taken off the menu.

Excuse the photo lighting, we were in the booth right underneath that fluorescent sign.

The new roomy outside area at AKIBA.IMG_8037.JPGWe all started off with an AKIPOP ($7.00) all without the ‘boom’, the flavours include: pineapple, coconut and chilli; sour cherry and vanilla and strawberry mint. They were all carbonated when I was expecting mixed fruit juices for some reason. The prominent taste in my AKIPOP was the pineapple, I couldn’t taste the coconut and the chilli was a nice burn at the back of the throat after every sip.IMG_8046.JPGThe new menu after AKIBA’s official launch. Why oh why did they take the potato and steak tartare off the menu?!IMG_8042.JPG

After having tried most of the menu, we of course were going to come across things that we have eaten before and recommend it to our friends, but there were still 6 menu items that we hadn’t tried but one of them wasn’t available that night.

The items we couldn’t resist ordering again included dumplings, sashimi, pancakes, baos and the beef short rib. We ordered the J.F.C again but for me it was still just fried chicken and nothing special.IMG_8146.JPGOyster, black vinegar, ginger wine (4 pieces $10.00). I warned my friend that you would have to set your oyster ‘free’ before trying to one shot it. I found this topping much nicer than the ume mignonette.IMG_8069.JPGShiitake and water chestnut dumplings, red vinegar, black pepper (4 pieces $10.00). I found the red vinegar over powering in comparison to the dumpling. Out of the three dumpling choices, this is my least favourite.IMG_8054.JPGRoast broccoli, miso blue cheese, sesame seeds ($9.00- we were given this as a complimentary dish). Having mentioned to Jed a waiter who sees us every time we dine, that there was only several items left to try, he said that he would let us try the broccoli free of charge. TimmyC looked sceptical, he DOES NOT like blue cheese, I mean I’m not a fan but I’m more tolerant than he is. TimmyC flat out did not like it so a friend and I ended up finishing it. The blue cheese itself is still a strong bold flavour but it is dulled out by the al dente broccoli. The flavours of this dish won’t be for everyone.IMG_8072.JPG I asked to see the breakfast menu because I was keen to see what was on offer.

The breakfast menu of AKIBA, not many options but hopefully they do this small selection well.IMG_8044.JPG

Food came out at a fast and steady pace, we didn’t book a table we just walked on in and as always the service was really helpful, attentive and friendly. Just in case you didn’t know their opening hours, I’ve attached their flyer underneath.IMG_8056.JPGI promise I won’t go again… For the rest of the year. 😉

 

Akiba re-run

I did intend on returning to Akiba but not this soon, this was all TimmyC’s doing, he was super keen! Despite the bad weather, we head in with enthusiasm and we giggle when we are seated in our previous seats with the same server from our first visit (see my previous blog post here).

Here is the menu, this time complete with prices.IMG_7690.JPGNatural oyster, ume mignonette (4 pieces $10.00). All of the oysters were still anchored down in the shell so when I tried to one shot my oyster, I ended up sucking all the mignonette and then having to go back and set my oyster free, which by then was then just an oyster. Bits of the shell did break off so I had to spit them out after eventually getting to the oysters. Instead of four quick shots of oysters, it ended up being a little bit more effort than I thought it would be and the flavours weren’t particularly amazing.IMG_7692.JPGKingfish sashimi, coconut, nam jim, coriander ($12.00). We loved this dish during our first visit but this time it was much hotter and it caught TimmyC off guard. I still really liked it but TimmyC couldn’t eat much more after his first bite.IMG_7693.JPGYellowfin tuna, organic Japanese soy, wasabi panna cotta ($14.00). I had forgotten that there was supposed to be a wasabi panna cotta until I re-read the menu just now. I didn’t notice this component and to me this was just a really nice sashimi.IMG_7699.JPG

IMG_7698.JPGSteamed prawn and chicken dumpling, chilli oil, black vinegar dressing (4 pieces $10.00). I thought this was a really nice dumpling and I really enjoyed the black vinegar, but I didn’t think there was anything special about this dish.IMG_7696.JPGPork belly bao, char sui, asian slaw ($8.00). Wow, what a turn around in almost every aspect. The cut of pork was much more suited to fill the bao, the bao itself was much nicer but still not perfect; they are now made in-house rather than brought in from Sydney. There was definitely a bit of everything within each bite which makes it easier to stomach the steep price attached (Ippudo buns are $4 a pop).IMG_7694.JPGThe bun is brimming with excitement and it can barely contain itself.IMG_7705.JPGIMG_7710.JPGSweet corn pancake, chilli caramel, togarashi ($4.00).

Kimchi and angasi pancake, kewpie mayo, sirracha, ittogaki (4.00). I liked how you can just order one pancake as this allowed us to explore more of the options. Both were really nice but I think we liked the kimchi and angasi pancake more comparatively because it had more bold flavours.IMG_7703.JPGIMG_7704.JPGSmokey roast potato, pecorino custard, smoked eel teriyaki ($5.00). “Here’s your one potato”, I giggled at the introduction of our dish. I’m surprised that TimmyC ate and liked this because he isn’t a big fan of cheese. The potato was super super crispy, the pecorino custard wasn’t over powering and a unique concept and the eel helped bring everything together. I really liked this and was very tempted to order another.IMG_7701.JPGWe had ordered 8 items that we requested not to be staggered out, I wanted to see how fast the service could be and TimmyC was very hungry. Between ordering and receiving our last dish it was definitely super fast; I’m going to guesstimate under 10 minutes, but my stomach, mouth and photography couldn’t keep up and I probably wouldn’t do this again unless there was a whole group of us and we were all really hungry.

Caribbean chicken bao,  charred pineapple, kewpie mayo ($8.00). We got greedy. We wanted to try a little bit more; TimmyC wanted another pork bao and I wanted something that we hadn’t tried before, so we compromised and chose this. Although the chicken was super moist and tender, I didn’t think that the pineapple was charred but more importantly I didn’t see how these flavours in the bao work together. I didn’t like it.IMG_7713.JPG

IMG_7711.JPGCharred asparagus, uni butter, seaweed powder ($14.00). The asparagus itself was nicely cooked and the butter tasted lemony and almost had a cheesey flavour. This was cooked in their very big fancy oven (which was very $$$) but I don’t see how it is any better than me cooking it at home in a pan with butter, salt and pepper.IMG_7714.JPGTea smoked duck ham, gruyere custard, umeboshi and rosemary ($7.00). This was almost unrecognisable as a duck flavour, it was more familiar in my mouth as a cured pork product that has a really nice smokey flavour. I’m not completely sold on all the flavours and compared to other menu items, I probably wouldn’t order this again but TimmyC liked it.IMG_7720.JPGTo give you a size comparison, I took a wider shot against my water glass.IMG_7722.JPGChocolate tart, pickled strawberry ($9.00). It wasn’t as great as the first time that we had it; I felt that the soft chocolate tart component had more coffee flavours with harsh bitter after taste.IMG_7724.JPG

IMG_7726.JPGHand crafted pottery is slowly coming in as the training wheels are coming off.IMG_7723.JPGAfter having eaten most of the menu, I still really enjoy Akiba but I definitely have ‘go to’ dishes and other ones that I probably won’t bother with. I cannot wait to see their breakfast menu!

Akiba

If you had asked me earlier in the day what I was doing on Saturday night, I would have told you that I was going to sleep off the food coma that I was about to be induced in after heading home from a 24hr interstate return trip.

I did not expect to drive back from Wollongong and immediately proceed to the doors of Akiba and line up for 45 minutes in the miserable weather, but that is exactly what TimmyC and I did after I had read the following Facebook post from HerCanberra:

I’m blaming HerCanberra and Eileen from The Food Avenue for enticing me to wanting to go to Akiba that night.

FB

What happened next was quite embarrassing, I hopefully will eventually learn to laugh at the situation, but for now I’m cringing every time I think about it. I accidentally stood at the front of the line thinking it was the back. The lovely people who were actually indeed in front of the line and had started waiting before 5pm, were very sweet not to swear at me as I innocently stood in front of them and started chatting to another 101localhuman as well as star food blogger Eileen (The Food Avenue). It wasn’t until I asked Eileen ‘how many people do you think are in front of you?’ did I realise my mistake. I proceeded to then squeeze in with Eileen and her partner who were second in line and I didn’t stop feeling guilty until I knew that everyone that was in line before the opening, was easily within the first 100 people *phew*. I think the weather put off a few people because 45 minutes after the opening, people that just came in were still within the first 100 people, which meant they got 6 dishes for free.IMG_7617.JPGWe could see the staff being briefed inside and as it rolled around to 6pm, the door was slowly opened and we were greeted with loud applause, lots of high energy and chants of ‘Akiba’ by the staff. It all felt a bit strange and surreal but it pumped me up before our meal.

There was some confusion with the menu about the portion sizes and prices. First of all there were no prices written on the menu and they had ‘special discounted prices’ on the night for the desserts so I couldn’t tell you if the dumplings were a bargain or if you were better off buying a packet of frozen ones at home. Secondly, some dishes come as a serve (regardless of how many are on the table) and some come as per person, so it might not have been advantageous for the very generous Eileen to allow me to sit at her table.  The food menu is divided into the following headings: raw, dumplings/bao/pancakes/buns, meat and fish, veg and dessert.

A look into the menu of Akiba.IMG_7531.JPGOne of the first to be seated with other patrons followed closely behind, the restaurant fills up fastIMG_7527.JPGA close up of the oyster bar.IMG_7612.JPGDrinks~

Snap, Crackle and Pop punch Ketel One vodka, Rice bubbles infused milk, pineapple and lemon Note: contains no milk ($20.00). This sounded like a really cute drink and I love how the rim of the glass was coated; everyone who tasted it thoroughly enjoyed it.IMG_7538.JPGFukushima Zombie Secret blend of Rums, triple citrus and ginger. For when you need to blow off steam! ($18.00 but we were charged $15.00). This was someone else’s drink but I think the alcohol was very strong in this cocktail.IMG_7540.JPGLychee cider ($10.00). I was surprised to see that this was a local product but I think TimmyC was expecting something a little sweeter.IMG_7539.JPGFood~ With only six dishes for free and no idea about portion sizes, we decided to choose our top 6 and then order again if need be afterwards.

Kingfish sashimi, coconut, nam jim, coriander (one serve 4 pieces). As soon as I took my mouthful, my palette went on a flavour journey, it was rather amazing really. There were so many flavours in the mouthful and I really liked the addition of the coconut cream. It’s a shame that it was the first dish to come because nothing much could compare; this was definitely one of my favourite dishes of the night.IMG_7544.JPGIMG_7545.JPGBeef tartare, pink peppercorn, pickled cucumber, fried egg puree, sweet potato crisp. I wouldn’t have chosen this one personally, but I’m really glad that someone did. The crispy sweet potato acted like a sandwich cover and made it much easier to eat in a few simple bites. You wouldn’t have thought that it was raw meat; dishes like this goes to show that you should try something new and you might be pleasantly surprised.IMG_7548.JPGIMG_7549.JPGIMG_7552.JPGBeef short rib dumpling, preserved lemon, shiitake mushroom, star anise broth (one serve 4 pieces). The filling was very tender and almost like a pulled beef. I was impressed with the size of the dumpling, how thin the wrapper was and the addition of the star anise broth gave it the sauce that it needed to not dry out.IMG_7555.JPGSpiced pork jowl, pan cake, pickled white peach, cucumber, negi. This was oily, potato-ey and salty but I loved every bite. The white peach gave it a sweetness and crunch that helped with the oilyness and it reminded me of my Mum’s potato scallop when I used to wedge it into my hamburger.IMG_7557.JPGIMG_7558.JPGPork belly bao, char sui, asian slaw (one bun per person). This was one of TimmyC’s favourite dishes but I didn’t like it as much. I thought that the filling should maybe have been more uniform across the bun (maybe a wide slice rather than little thick pieces) as there were some mouthfuls that had zero filling and the bun wasn’t as white and fluffy to what I’m used to. The sauce on the pork was salty but well balanced by the asian slaw.IMG_7561.JPGIMG_7563.JPGA closer look of the inside of the bao.IMG_7564.JPGUntil this point, food was coming thick and fast from the kitchen, but they finally must have hit a breaking point because it was a loooooooong time before our last dish arrived. We didn’t mind as we were happily conversing but eventually our chicken arrived.IMG_7543.JPGJ.F.C., lemon braised onions, parmesan (one serving 4 pieces). J.F.C stands for ‘Japanese Fried Chicken’ and as soon as we found that out, it definitely made it to our top 6 dishes. I found it a little disappointing that they didn’t take it to another level like the other dishes and it was actually in fact… Just fried chicken.IMG_7567.JPGHaving two keen bean foodies on the table, it was no surprise that we wanted to order more dishes outside of our 6 free ones; it was for multiple reasons: 1) we wanted to suss out the prices of the meals 2) we wanted to try more from the menu and 3) we weren’t really full from the food so far. We asked our designated waiter how much the dishes were before we ordered them and he came back with the answer of ‘keep it hush hush but if you order two more dishes we’ll also give them to you free’, which really didn’t help us with our first point but we were happy enough to order another two.

There was another long wait before we got our final two savoury dishes and our very kind waiter was profusely apologetic but we didn’t mind at all as we were still happily talking. They gave us an additional complimentary serving of beef short rib dumplings as an apology for the slow kitchen and not long after, our dishes arrived.

It was starting to get really busy inside Akiba.IMG_7569.JPGBeef short rib, tamarind caramel, thai basil (one serve). This was so tender that I’m pretty sure if I sneezed it would have fallen apart. A big chunk of meat that super tender with great savoury flavours.IMG_7611.JPGSoft shell crab bao, pickled baby gem, creamy ponzu (one bun per person). I think in their haste they forgot the creamy ponzu and it definitely needed it. I don’t think I’m in love with their bun because I’ve had better but the soft shell crab itself was crunchy, had a nice meaty component (not just all the crispy legs) and was seasoned well.IMG_7613.JPGThere wasn’t much on one side of my bun.IMG_7616.JPGDessert~ They were giving us a special discount price of $8.00 each but they were unable to tell us how much the desserts would be charged after the official opening.

Chocolate tart, pickled strawberry. There were two parts of the chocolate tart: the hard part which tasted like solid chocolate and a soft velvety part which had delicious caramel coffee notes that everyone wanted to end on.IMG_7621.JPGTofu cheese cake, anzac crumb, pandan jelly. Don’t be put off by the tofu in the cheesecake, it is more for the texture. As non picturesque as it is (comparatively), I really enjoyed it, it was light on the palette and you could really taste the pandan in the jelly; it was a very small serve though. Between the two desserts though, I would probably prefer the chocolate tart because of soft velvety component.IMG_7620.JPGI thought stomach wise, I was just on the borderline of being content but the longer I sat there afterwards, the ‘fuller’ I felt, but admittedly that was after sharing NINE savoury dishes and a dessert. Maybe if you don’t go from brunch straight to dinner (or eat like a normal person), you’ll require less food.

I would like to thank the lovely Eileen (The Food Avenue) so so so much for letting me hijack her table and allowing me to order more food than if it was TimmyC and I (he is useless).

The restaurant sits 152 patrons with outdoor seating eventually to come with another 60 person capacity.

I wouldn’t have minded to sit in a booth; my bum was feeling a little sore after sitting on stools for over two hours.IMG_7626.JPG

IMG_7628.JPGI really liked the food here, despite a few hiccups which is to be expected during the opening of a new restaurant. Akiba has an exciting menu with lots of variations; I will be returning very shortly and I will be keen to find out some prices.

Venue: Akiba

Address: 40 Bunda Street, Civic ACT 2600

Website: http://www.akiba.com.au/

Opening: The official opening is Monday (8th Dec) night. They envisage being open 7 days a week for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The kitchen will close around 10 ish and the place will transition into a bar serving interesting cocktails until early hours of the morning.
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