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.


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


XO re-run 

Just like Santa, I’m going through my list and checking it twice, although mine is probably less of a list and more of a menu, more specifically XO‘s menu. After patting my belly at the end my second visit, I checked the menu and there are only four items that I haven’t had the pleasure of tasting yet. Soon, my pretties. Soon you’ll be mine.

Don’t mind me and my random sense of humoursoonmyprettiesyouwillbemineSince I had eaten most of the menu the first time around I spent most of my second trip talking to friends and enjoying the food all over again, I did eat more than two things (best you don’t know how much more) and I’ll only write about the dishes I hadn’t tried before.

Steamed dumping  minced prawn and pork with spicy soy vinaigrette ($16.00). These reminded me of the dumplings you can get at Din Tai Fung, and that is fine by me. Unbeknownst to me, my chilli tolerance must be gradually getting better because I didn’t think the soy sauce was too spicy but according to some, it was.
Barramundi fillet steamed in sesame soy with cherry tomatoes and pickled mustard leaves ($32.00). Most of my life, I remember my family patiently sitting there and waiting for me to finish eating at restaurants and what I am usually ‘pecking’ at is the last of the steamed fish with soy sauce that I love drowning in my bowl of rice. I don’t often have this dish anymore as A) I’m more aware of how much a steamed fish costs at a restaurant (lots of thanks for all the meals Mummy paid for) and B) I can’t eat a whole one to myself and need people to share it with. Anyway, back to this dish, It reminds me exactly of that dish (minus the tomatoes), it makes my heart flutter and takes me back to my childhood. The fish itself was really delicate and almost melts in your mouth, which is not usually a term you would use to describe fish! I was keen to try this after reading Gary’s review of XO and I’m so glad that I got the opportunity.
I’m still dreaming about the Asian bolognese and xiu mai… YUMMMMMMMMMMMM



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).
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 Artisan – Surprise party

I’ve always been a fan of The Artisan in Narrabundah so this is more of a food porn post. I recently attended a surprise 30th birthday party all cleverly organised by the wife, she organised that there be a set menu for three courses with three options for each course. I tried to surround myself with fabulous company and of course ‘encouraged’ everyone to order different things to make my photos/post more interesting. 

Three course $65.00. Let the munching and the catch ups begin!



Pan seared scallops with black pudding crumble, corn puree and frisee. I was going to order this although the idea of the black pudding crumble put me off, people who were brave enough to try it couldn’t really taste the black pudding aspect and really enjoyed it.


Gnocchi Artisan crafted jerusalem artichoke gnocchi with butternut pumpkin filled zucchini flower and balsamic. I’ve never seen gnocchi prepared like this, looked amazing but not filling. 


Pork belly chipotle braised pork belly with avocado mousse, apple slaw and crackling. Who could resist order pork belly? The crackle was perfect, the pork had layers of fat through it and the mousse was rather interesting.



Beef pure black eye fillet with smoked potato souffle, roast garlic puree, port jus and horseradish mustard. I am a big big fan of steak but I mainly ordered this for the smoked potato souffle and boy it didn’t disappoint! You could really taste the smokey flavour despite the delicate nature of the souffle. The steak was cooked perfectly and I was intrigued by the garlic puree.


Spatchcock Harissa spiced breast and crisp leg with cucumber yoghurt, pomegranate, quinoa and baby coriander.


Duck seared Grimaud duck breast with celeriac ribbons, raisins, watercress and cep jus.



Wagon wheel layers of biscuit, marshmallow, raspberry jam and peanut praline with dark chocolate ganache.

Not complete without being covered in chocolate.

Panna cotta Elderflower panna cotta with honeycomb, yoghurt sortbet and popping candy.

Tarte tatin  banoffee tarte tatin with caramelised banana and dulce de leche ice cream. Everyone else ordered the other desserts so I sucked it up and ordered this even though I don’t usually eat bananas. I gave away my caramelised bananas but closely guarded my tarte tatin- flaky buttery tasty pastry mmmm, I wish the ice-cream wasn’t pooled on the top though.


Having great company with marvelous food really makes a meal more enjoyable. Wonderful choice Cheryl!