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

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Eightysix

I know this is a big call to make because we aren’t even close to the end of the year but my meal at Eightysix last week was definitely in the top 3 best meals I’ve had in Canberra this year. What was even better was that it was only $86pp and I say ‘only’ because for this price, it was all we could eat… And so we did.

Duck bun with hoisin and hot sauce. This was a nice soft bun that had a nice meaty filling but I think the pickles overpowered everything. Whoever was running this station was very efficient as every time we ordered them they came out super fast. Gnocco fritto. This is like a deep-fried pastry topped with prosciutto but I found the pastry a bit too oily for me.Heirloom carrot, hummus, mint and almonds. Who knew I could enjoy carrots so much? This was a perfect pairing of flavours and with all the pasta and meat, it was good to have a salad somewhere in there. I love the sweetness from the cranberries, apples and carrots.Four cheese risotto with radicchio and balsamic. Man I love a cheesy good risotto, it was a shame I had to share.

Don’t be fooled by the camera angle, this was a really small serve. Order three!Pappardelle with parmesan and local black truffle. I felt that the truffle didn’t have as much of an effect because it wasn’t infused in anything. It was a nice simple pasta and the perfectly cooked egg yolk bursts to make a rich sauce.Pumpkin and mascarpone tortellini with hazelnuts. This ladies and gentleman, was exquisite. I really do love things that involve a pumpkin parcel pasta with burnt butter sage combo and this has to be the BEST rendition I’ve ever had. Hands down! Before they change the menu you HAVE to try this. The filling is silky smooth, the pasta thickness is perfect and the sage is super crispy.Rag pasta with lamb and rosemary ragu. I loved the sauce, the pasta, the whole thing. This was a very close second pasta choice for the table. Ghetto beef with rocket and salsa verde. I had tried this before where the beef was really dry and the rocket leaves were limp, I couldn’t tell if this time was much better or I was just really hungry. Be aware that the beef is rather quite pink, one of my friends didn’t eat it which meant more for us!Whole lamb shoulder with sides. Wow! This was incredible! A wonderful lamb roast served with chimichurri sauce and a really smooth mash potato and jus. This was apparently a 1kg roast and we almost finished the whole thing.One of the downsides of being in a busy restaurant is the wait. Sometimes there was a 15-20 minute wait between dishes, which left us a little frustrated and hungry and in turn we ordered more food hoping that something would come to the table soon. Despite ordering so many things, we had very little wastage. I knew we were testing the time constraints of our sitting (2 hours) but we asked if we could have dessert with a hopeful look in our eye. The waiter checked to see if there was someone waiting for our table but he came back happy to report we could squeeze in our dessert first.

There was a little pause in the conversation when the waiter asked us what we wanted for dessert and without hesitation while not joking I replied ‘all of them’.Strawberry cheesecake. I loved the soft creamy textures with strawberries. I didn’t realise that there was granola at the bottom for the ‘base’ until I dug a little deeper but there was a strong saltiness to it that I didn’t enjoy.

It might not look like much but I promise you there is a lot going on under that snow.Choc mint fudge sundae. If you love the choc mint combo then this is definitely for you, it was like an after dinner mint on the palette. There was a really good brownie somewhere in all that.Caramel popcorn sundae. I felt that the signature dish of the restaurant was superseded by the other desserts. It is a nice combination but this wasn’t our favourite this time.Banoffee pie. That caramel wasn’t too sweet which meant that this wasn’t OTT. A great way to finish the meal.Frozen margarita. The description didn’t give much away but this tasted like lemon meringue. It was very delicate and was the pick of the desserts. You have to try this!Even though there was a wait from the kitchen, the front of house service was fantastic, efficient and attentive. I keep telling everyone about my experience and it excited me so much I pushed it up my backlog of posts to write about because I wanted you all to know about it too.

Venue: Eightysix

Address: Elouera St, Mode 3 Building, Braddon,ACT

Phone: (02) 6161 8686
Eightysix Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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

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. 😉

 

Three eateries in 3.5 hrs – Monster

Well this is a first! I’m writing a blog post the night of going to the restaurant. This is probably partly due to eating at three eateries in 3.5 hours like my heading suggests and I’m still digesting and also partly because of my excitement of serendipitously finding a new food venue without looking for one.

We start the night off at Monster. I had been here before when it was still just serving salads and simple sandwiches but now they have officially opened the bar and restaurant under the new name with awesome opening hours that sees the kitchen serving food til 1am, so now you have an option of a meal/snack/drink after a late check in at Hotel Hotel or after a movie at Palace Electric. Upon reading the menu, the aspect of the dishes did remind me of Mocan and Green Grout but that’s because the chef Sean McConnell used to work there.

Quick picture of the busy kitchen.20140626-223339-81219154.jpg

20140626-223333-81213880.jpgI love that big fire-place!20140626-223335-81215235.jpgUnique light fittings, a big fireplace, colourful tables and the cement urban jungle surroundings give lots of different atmospheres at Monster depending on whether you sit at the bar, the middle of the restaurant, cosied up near the fire-place or in the casual dimly lit perimeter.20140626-223337-81217864.jpgFunky Goodspeed bikes for Hotel hotel guests to borrow free of charge.20140626-223336-81216565.jpgThe salt bowl reminded me of broken pottery, the water glasses looked like glass bottles with the top cut off and the water jugs were unusual too. All this adds to the funky setting which is Monster.20140626-223340-81220447.jpgOrganic cola ($5.00). Hipster places don’t sell mass produced big corporation soft drinks but organic cola. It tasted like gummy cola lollies.20140626-223612-81372440.jpgLemon and lime bitters (back) and a Rose and orange drink (front) $5.00 each. The rose and orange drink had a strong rosewater aftertaste. A bit too overwhelming for me.20140626-223610-81370972.jpgBar menu~ 12pm to 1am

Yabby jaffle, creme fraiche, horseradish ($16.00). The humble jaffle is transformed into a culinary delight with lemony creamy flavours in the filling. It probably could have done with a smidgen of salt somewhere to help bring out the flavours of the yabby.20140626-223613-81373845.jpgA close up of that yummy filling.20140626-223615-81375255.jpg38 hour pork neck bao, cucumber kimchi ($18.00 for 2). The bun isn’t as soft and smooth as Ippudo but it is a good attempt with the bun having a slight sweet taste with a fluffy chewy texture. The pork next was extremely tender with a perfect crispy exterior. I’m not a fan of kimchi but I did like their cucumber kimchi which provided a bit of sauce that gave it a slight hint of chilli. I would order this again, even with the steep price tag.20140626-223616-81376607.jpgNot as white, soft and smooth as other pork buns that I’ve eaten.20140626-223717-81437947.jpgIt fits nicely in the hand.20140626-223716-81436427.jpgA close up of the tender pork neck filling.20140626-223719-81439678.jpgHand cut chips, house made ketchup ($10.00). I was impressed that it was just like the description had said, hand cut with the skin left on for a more homemade feel. I like my chips on the crunchier side so for me these chips were too potato-y with their thick cut nature. My friend and I weren’t particularly fond of the homemade ketchup, it was like a really strong pasta sauce but the boys really enjoyed it.20140626-224104-81664278.jpg20140626-224102-81662919.jpgShared plates~ 12pm to 10pm

Eggplant, smoked goat’s curd, katsuobushi and sesame ($18.00). My mouth was confused by this dish. The Asian elements of nori, katsuobushi and the Thai herb didn’t seem to fit in with the goat’s curd. I’m not usually a fan of goat dairy products but this was mild enough to eat on its own without the strong aftertaste.20140626-224027-81627230.jpg

20140626-224025-81625814.jpgWagyu flank, baby leek, soubise, ash ($29.00). All the elements of this dish took a back seat to the soubise. The sauce had an almost chunky puree texture and tasted like caramelised eshallots with a hint of garlic. The Wagyu itself was a bit disappointing having no real taste but was slightly better when dipped into the jus that had pooled to the side of the plate.20140626-224154-81714610.jpgSlow cooked pork cheek, caramelized onion, kale and kohlrabi ($26 .00). I preferred the pork over the beef because of the amount of flavour that they pork had. My piece of pork was 50% fat, 35% crispy skin and 15% meat. It was very flavoursome but I had to cut some of the fat off because it was just too much (that never happens!). The crispy kale, what looked like crackle and kohlrabi all contrasted against the soft caramelised onion and tender pork.20140626-224413-81853231.jpg

20140626-224429-81869203.jpg The funky sleeve that the bill comes in.20140626-224432-81872002.jpgIt ended up being $150.00 for four people without dessert. Nothing particularly caught our eye on the dessert menu and we had plans of trying out Dessert Castle anyway so we paid the bill and went to our next destination down the road.

The waiters were friendly and always wanted to know how our meal was going, while the food came out consistently allowing time to eat each share plate. No particular dish was ‘OMG outstanding’ but I would be happy enough to come back here to take advantage of their location and convenient opening hours.

 

Venue:  Monster kitchen and bar

Address: Nishi building, 25 Edinburgh Ave Canberra, ACT 

Phone: (02) 6287 6287

Monster Kitchen and Bar on Urbanspoon