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

Fun filled weekend – The Big Smoque AAA BBQ festival

The Big Smoque AAA BBQ festival seemed like one of the most controversial Canberra events of the year. Even if you didn’t go, you would have heard by now the overwhelming bad reviews that drowned out the people who enjoyed themselves.

I didn’t experience a lot of the negativity that these people were angry about as I went to the earlier session but I think a lot of the anger stemmed from a multitude of things ranging from: 1) high expectations of the event because it was ticketed (i.e. “what does $12 get me?”) 2) the wait times for ordering and pickup 3) the limited amount of stalls that were selling food 4) prices 5) running out of food 6) and I also heard some complaints about the food.FNL-BBQ-logoI wonder how many times a year they bring out this giant cowboy boot.There wasn’t much clarity with how this event was going to run, I didn’t know if they were going to kick me out right on 3pm but they informed me I couldn’t leave the premises after 3pm without buying another time session to come back in, fair enough. I knew that there were going to be 12 competitors vying for ‘Grand Champion’ of the AAA BBQ festival but I didn’t know if they were going to be able to sell food while competing. It turns out that all the competitors were busy perfecting their BBQ before being judged by a panel and as a ticket holder I could only buy food from what looked like commercial vendors. I was a little saddened when I realised there were only 8 food stalls, 3 drinks stands and 1 selling hot sauce, but I only needed one good food stand to satisfy me.

I was excited to see so many tents until I realised less than half of them were selling food to ticket holders *sad face*We were given a wristbands and a bib and we were ready to eat.I grabbed my friend and we headed somewhere for ‘snacks’ straight away before we looked at all the stalls properly. First stop: Smoque stall, it was surprisingly the only stall selling chicken wings. Buffalo wings with blue cheese aioli (3 pieces for $5.00) and pountine ($10.00), not very ‘American BBQ’ but we were happy to try something new. I’ve always liked Smoque’s chicken wings and my friend who has never had them before also enjoyed them. I’m not the biggest fan of blue cheese but the sauce was a nice balance. The poutine was new to us both and we thought it was odd that there was no cutlery available to eat this, it isn’t a first date food but I liked how their left the potato skins on. It was messy to eat but pretty tasty for those who enjoy their chips drowned in gravy. After whetting our appetite and being able to think more clearly without becoming hangry, we decided a platter was the next thing we would purchase. My friend chose the $30.00 share platter from the Smoking Gun BBQ and we were disappointed to see the tiny portions with the most expensive menu item on site. It had bad potato salad, a bland slaw with some brisket, a sausage and a tiny helping of pulled pork but at least it had a tasty sweet pickle. After eating so much meat the crunchy slaw became a welcome palette cleanser and despite the small size the brisket and pulled pork was very moist and tasty. I still don’t understand what made this small portioned box so expensive.The heat was getting unbearable even though we had found a lovely spot under and umbrella so the next stop had to be a refreshing juice from Krave. Small juices were $5, my friend chose strawberry lemonade and I had pineapple lemonade, it was exactly what I needed and I couldn’t scull mine quick enough.We decided to eat one last thing before we headed to another food festival and I chose the Argentinian porky bites from Parrilla Argenchino, signs didn’t indicate how much they were but they ended up being $14.50 for a small portion. There was a line when we were first looking around but this time there was no one and we were served our food pretty much straight away. I liked how there were bones, fat and BBQed crispy edges, we had chosen a chimichurri sauce but it didn’t need anything because it was delicious on its own while it was hot. Definitely the favourite of the event for us.

No lines meant ordering straight away and being served straight away. You can judge from this photo how much pork was in one serve.I think the one thing I was disappointed with above all else was the lack of BBQed ribs, Rangers Texas BBQ might have had them but before 3pm they had sold out of everything with only pulled pork available after 6pm. Do not give me a rib bib if there are no ribs to eat people!

An overview of all the food vendors at the event, they had a mix of Argentinian, Vietnamese, Greek and Indian as well as those who specialise in American BBQ.There are many things they could learn from their inaugural event although I understand that it was their first year so I wasn’t too unhappy with the event overall but if I had come later with long wait times and more vendors running out of food, I would probably be singing a different tune. It did get expensive fast when between the both of us eating, drinking and buying some sauces we spent around $100.00!

 

Smoque Woden

For once, food wasn’t the forefront of my mind, winning was.

We had a Seinfeld trivia night that was held at the Hellenic club for charity but first we needed sustenance. We headed to Smoque in Woden for their convenient location and smoked meaty food.IMG_7230.JPGI didn’t envisage that my first meal here was going to be from the lunch/dinner menu because their American style breakfast was what intrigued me about this place but when the opportunity presented itself, I wanted to try a range of food. I made TimmyC share the BBQ trifecta with me even though he just wanted the pork ribs.

BBQ trifecta pulled pork, pork ribs, brisket and 1 side (serves 1-2 $39.00). The nicest thing on the platter hands down was the pork ribs. It was able to be eaten on its own without feeling that it was missing something like a coleslaw or bread unlike the pulled pork and brisket. We chose hand cut fries with house seasoning for our side but they were barely warm, dry and old. Were these left over some a previous order? :SIMG_7244.JPGThe brisket tasted almost sour with the amount of vinegar I could taste from the sauce/juices.IMG_7243.JPGThere wasn’t enough sauce in the world that could have helped the pulled pork or brisket.IMG_7237.JPGWhat everyone else ordered~

Boneless buffalo wings ($12.90)IMG_7246.JPGSmoque Signature Texas Beef Rib (1 kg $34.90).IMG_7250.JPGIMG_7249.JPG

Double BBQ Bacon cheeseburger 2x Angus beef patties, bacon BBQ sauce, cheese ($14.90). I think that is what she ordered, whatever it was, it looked really good and she ate it all.IMG_7240.JPGI found the staff pretty useless at the front counter and not particularly friendly. Needless to say I was pretty disappointed with my meal. I think I’ll just stick with the pork ribs and buffalo wings.

Venue: Smoque

Address10 Bowes St Phillip, ACT

Phone: (02) 6260 4621
Smoque Woden on Urbanspoon

Soul food re-run re-run

It has been a while since I’ve last come to Soul food, I have been craving their ribs and their delicious BBQ sauce. I’ve noticed on their website that they now do breakfast (started around a month ago), some of the breakfast menu items that caught my eye include:

  • Miss Selena’s Homemade Pancakes served with bacon & Maple Syrup with an optional Southern Fried Chicken
  • Miss Selena’s Southern Fried Chicken & Rice
  • Fried Green Tomatoes sliced green tomatoes fried to a golden brown and served with our homemade remoulade sauce (seasonal)
  • Eggs Theodore scrambled eggs served with a banana sautéed in butter, cinnamon and brown sugar

Anyway, back to dinner!
I went with a few friends who also had the same rib cravings, it is pretty much the same menu now with the addition of ‘burgers’ and kool aid.

Something old~

We of course started with buffalo wings ($16.00) to share.20140324-214516.jpgBest of both worlds ‘ribs and chicken combo ($38.00).20140324-215935.jpgNot messing around with extras, some of us just came for the delicious BBQ finger licking good pork ribs ($32.00).20140324-214539.jpg

20140324-214612.jpgThe Po’ boy sandwiches with pulled pork ($16.00). I’ve never been overly impressed with these.20140324-214718.jpgThere was one point during the evening that we had to ask that the TV be turned down, when it flicked onto the next video the volume was tremendously loud and almost unbearable. I’m surprised we had to alert them to turn it down and they didn’t do it instinctively.

Something new~

Soul man burger Brace yourself! This thick, meaty lunch-time burger is layered with sautéed onions, mushrooms and cheddar cheese is bursting with smoky flavour. The sauce combines the sweetness of real molasses with a sharp, spicy aftertaste your taste buds won’t soon forgot! ($16.00). The burger was insanely tall. I had to take its ‘hat’ off so I could fit it in my mouth. When I took my first bite, it was extremely extremely salty, I pin pointed it down to the sautéed mushrooms. Once I took them off, the burger was a decadent meaty beef patty with smoky flavours that was perfectly mixed with a melted cheddar cheese slice.20140324-214844.jpgI’m getting hungry just looking at the photos again.20140324-214645.jpgKool Aid ($4.00 a glass). I don’t know how people could drink this, it tastes very medicinal with a strong syrup flavour.20140324-223715.jpgIt might seem on the pricey side, but if you want one of the best pork ribs in Canberra and delicious comfort food, Soul food is the place to go. I am super keen to come try their breakfast menu!

Soul food will be celebrating their first birthday at the end of this month!!  

Read about my first and second visits.

Outback Jacks bar and grill

—–15 Dec 2013—–

I drag this one friend of mine along to all the steak and seafood places in Canberra because that’s what we both love, so when we were celebrating her belated birthday, it was a no brainer that I had to take her to Outback Jacks bar and grill in Belconnen so we could both try it out.

IMG_7406

If you don’t notice the big sign, I’m sure you’ll notice the very big crocodile that is situated on the ceiling at the entrance.

IMG_7407

A great selection of steaks all on display. I got very excited and hungry- fast!

IMG_7408I had booked several days ahead so that was one less thing I had to think about leading up to Christmas, she repeated my booking date, name and number and it was all correct and we were ready to go… Well so I thought. When we arrived, they seemed to a bit puzzled and couldn’t find my booking, when I insisted that I had booked they took me to a vacant table because the restaurant wasn’t too busy.
IMG_7410

A unique menu cover, I was excited to see what I could order that could incorporate everything I loved eating, steak and ribs!

IMG_7411

That’s not a knife, this is a knife!

IMG_7412

This place had a great family friendly atmosphere and the staff sing a unique ‘Happy Birthday’ song to those who are celebrating their birthday (seriously, I think someone should fake their birthday so you can hear the song).

IMG_7413

I wish I had this when I was growing up! A kids area with consoles, TV with the latest movies playing and toys. I could imagine it would be hard for kids to break away from playing to go and eat.

IMG_7414

Entrees~

Chook wingsmild. Seasoned chook wings, tossed in Jacks own firecracker sauce (serve of 5 $9.95). For those who know me, you would know I would push you over for a chicken wing so I couldn’t help myself but to order a serve despite knowing a lot of food was coming my way. The chicken wings were nothing special or particularly temperature hot, all the chilli heat comes from the sauce and you could definitely taste it even though we ordered mild.

IMG_7417

Mains~

Big Jacks RackOutback Jacks famous rack of full bone pork ribs served with chunky chips ($49.95). Ribs are generally expensive but I’ve never seen a $50 rack before. As they lowered the platter plate, I could see the shadow descending over TimmyC’s shocked face. We all stared at its enormity for a while, even neighbouring tables peered over. I assured TimmyC that it was mostly bones and he would be fine, we both took a chip (not that we needed any more food on the plate) but they were cold and soggy. Oh well, at least we know now not to bother with them. The ribs themselves were very tender and tasty and I loved the smokey BBQ sauce and I’m glad it came with extra (it tastes like the BBQ sauce from Soulfood). We definitely ate those bones clean. TimmyC struggled towards the end so I helped him out. 

IMG_7419

Tasty, tender and well marinated pork ribs.
IMG_7422

IMG_7428
My hand for a size comparison.

IMG_7423

The ribs were daunting when they were put down but you have to remember most of it is bone so it wasn’t too bad, but they are big long bones.

IMG_7434

Cattle Dogs True Blue T-bone (400g for $31.95) with an added ‘Topper’ Neptune topped with sliced avocado, grilled prawns and béarnaise sauce ($8.00). Meals sure do get expensive fast if you add anything to them.

IMG_7426

IMG_7425

Steak and ribs 100 day grain fed 300g rump and our meaty Jack Daniels basted pork ribs, served with a choice of chips or mash potato with salad ($39.95) with an extra Diane sauce($2.95) and BBQ corn on the cob ($4.50). After all the extras, this ended up being a $47.40 meal!

I love BBQ corn and it tastes amazing if it’s cooked right (you should definitely try this!) but these tasted like an almost water-logged corn that had been sitting in hot water, it wasn’t much better than a corn on the cob from KFC (do they still do those?). The steak didn’t have much of a taste to it, the only thing my mouth could distinguish was the charcoal lines that had been seared onto it, that is not a good sign of a decent steak, I had to smother it in the sauce. The ribs were delicious and tasted like what TimmyC had ordered but the ribs they serve on top of the steak are much shorter and meatier than those from the rack of ribs. I’m pretty sure the mash potato I had that was tucked underneath everything was instant mash potato. 

IMG_7429 IMG_7430 IMG_7431

Desserts~

The meal was already expensive so what a bit more for desserts, we were all tempted by the menu and the descriptions.

Outback Jacks sticky date pudding with butterscotch sauce hot pudding served in a ceramic dish with a generous serving of silky butterscotch sauce with ice cream. With compliments from us we will wash your ramekin and you may take it home as a souvenir of your experience at Outback Jacks ($12.95). As we were ordering this dessert, the waitress said it was the ‘best dessert in the world’, I call porkies on that, not because I’ve eaten a lot of desserts in my time and I might have had more exposure but because I wouldn’t even rate this dessert as ‘good’ let alone exaggerating it to be one of the best dessert that I’ve ever had. The ‘generous serving of silky butterscotch sauce’ they describe was no more than a small pool at the bottom of the ramekin that wasn’t enough to cover the whole pudding which made it very dry in some mouthfuls. The ice cream tasted cheap and watery and the ‘plate decoration’ of caramel and chocolate topping didn’t help either.IMG_7451

Where’s the sauce?

IMG_7454

Hot home style apple pie crispy sweet pastry encasing crunchy apple, infused with cinnamon served with caramel sauce, freshly whipped cream and ice cream ($10.95). This wasn’t even close to being even luke warm and the pastry wasn’t crispy, it tasted like a disappointing defrosted frozen apple pie. P.S. caramel sauce is not the same as caramel topping, I think they might have actually forgot to put on any caramel sauce and it was just happened to be placed on a ‘topping decorated’ plate.

IMG_7455

IMG_7456

Throughout the night I found it hard to get anyone’s attention despite having a lot of wait staff and not many people left in the restaurant. Ordering drinks, ordering mains, ordering desserts, all took a lot of effort to flag someone down. The older people were more attentive and the young girls seem to just stand around and talk. As I went to pay the bill, I asked the young waitress that I was waiting for the cleaned ramekin to come back from my dessert, she said that she could grab a clean one for me, ‘that would be great, thanks’ but after the few second it took me to put in my eftpos pin number, she gave me my receipt and gave me a blank look like she was waiting for me to leave. ‘The ramekin?” I asked, “oh yeah” she responded slowly. Seriously the service here is really lacking.

Their bathrooms are shared with Belconnen malls food court, as I was washing my hands I heard a loud bang. I walked back to the restaurant door and it was shut and locked. I banged and knocked loudly on the door several times before having to frustrating walk in a big circle to get back to the restaurant. Seriously if I had my bag (and friends) I would have considered not returning back to the restaurant.

So after my very expensive ($179.05 for three people) night out at a ‘casual family restaurant’ what did I think? I think the ribs were fantastic and tender, the sauce was rich and smokey but everything else was disappointing – the service, the steak and the desserts. Come here if you love ribs as much as me but just be aware that it could get pricey fast.

Venue: Outback Jacks Bar and Grill

Address: Shop 332, Westfield Shopping Centre, Belconnen Way, Belconnen, ACT 2617

Phone: (02) 6251 8381

Outback Jacks on Urbanspoon