While I was in the city recently I noticed that Raku restaurant was open. It’s an old favourite and we’d looked at takeaway from there in the midst of the first lockdown, when everyone was ordering from their favourite locals to help keep them afloat. However, we hadn’t been to the restaurant since the pandemic struck. Since we needed to grab some lunch, we thought why not go there and support one of our local businesses while the coast is clear since the hospitality sector has been the only one to be harder hit by the pandemic shutdown than the creative sector. A stream of Japanese dishes seemed a suitable way to enjoy the charm of a local restaurant that serves up seafood with style.
Several months back, before Victoria exploded, we asked the doctor who looks after my 93 year old mother in law if it would be okay to take her out of her retirement village for a meal. The doctor replied that it was the right time to do it, when there had been no new cases of COVID-19 in Canberra for more than a month, rather than wait until the situation might potentially be worse.
|Beef wagyu gyoza dumplings with truffle oil, white ponzu, pickled mustard and sesame.|
While I was in the city I noticed that Raku restaurant was open. It’s an old favourite and we’d looked at takeaway from there in the midst of the first lockdown, when everyone was ordering from their favourite locals to help keep them afloat. However, we hadn’t been to the restaurant since the pandemic struck. Since we needed to grab some lunch, we thought why not go there and support one of our local businesses? There was plenty of light, airy space and it was so good to relax for a while in the city. Even in these troubled times, when the future is unclear, trying to remember what everyday life can be like is worth an effort.
To aknowledge that we were back at Raku after all this time we decided to lash out a bit. My fellow traveller started with a glass of Zardetto Molin Prosecco Extra Dry from Conegliano in Italy and I had a glass of the Unico Zelo ‘River Sand’ Fiano from the Adelaide Hills, to remind me of all the time we spent cruising those hills in March this year, before the first pandemic lockdown arrived.
|Crispy tofu with barley miso and avocado salsa with dried chilli julienne.|
The first dish was beef wagyu gyoza dumplings with truffle oil, white ponzu, pickled mustard and sesame, which was superb. Sometimes I think that gyoza possibly might be my favourite dish. This was quickly followed by crispy tofu with barley miso and avocado salsa with dried chilli julienne on top.
|Moreton Bay bugs with yuzu kosho mayonaisse and chilli ponzu sauce.|
‘The first dish was beef wagyu gyoza dumplings with truffle oil, white
ponzu, pickled mustard and sesame, which was superb. Sometimes I think
that gyoza possibly might be my favourite dish.’
Then the main game arrived – Moreton Bay bugs with yuzu kosho mayonaisse and chilli ponzu sauce, accompanied by broccolini with moromi miso and giant Mooloolaba king prawns with XO butter and seasonal pickles. The pickles had a tart, clean vinegary taste, which complemented the richness of the prawns and the Moreton Bay bugs made good use of the light tempura batter which only the Japanese can deliver.
Layers of dessert
After all this, we decided that we would have dessert after all, which was a very fortuitous decision. Who knew the Japanese could do desserts this good – yuzu and matcha pannacotta, sake jelly, cookie crumbs, lychee sorbet and mango pearls, all carefully layered and arranged. All in all it was a terrific return to a familiar place.
|Yuzu and matcha pannacotta, sake jelly, cookie crumbs, lychee sorbet and mango pearls.|
‘tableland’ on Facebook – life on the land and at the table
‘Life on the land and at the table, the companion Facebook site to this blog, for brief and topical snippets and vignettes about land to table – the daily routine of living in the high country, on the edge of the vast Pacific, just up from Sydney, just down from Mount Kosciuszko’, 'tableland' on Facebook.
Flour and eggs and happiness
‘The Easter holiday was fast approaching and due to the pandemic lockdown, no-one could go away. For years I'd been saying about Easter that it's a great time to go away, but it's also a great time to stay home. What better way to enjoy it than by marking a return to a habit from decades past – making my own pasta’, Flour and eggs and happiness.
Unexpected surprises in unusual places – Bar Rochford ticks many boxes
‘One of the pleasures of living in a city is the unexpected surprises in unusual places. Tucked up at the top of a stairway in the Melbourne Building in the heart of Canberra is a terrific bar that ticks many boxes. Whenever I go to Bar Rochford I feel happy. It has interesting wine and thoughtful food, so I’ve been there quite a few times – and I’m likely to go many more times’, Unexpected surprises in unusual places – Bar Rochford ticks many boxes.
Better and better – a cold night in at Pulp Kitchen
Travelling overseas in your own country – Austrian winter lunches in the high country
‘The pay off for cold Canberra mornings is that with no cloud during the night the days are clear and blue and brilliant. That’s when Canberra comes into its own. That’s the time to enjoy a long luxurious lunch with friends. The ACT is so tiny that is doesn’t take long before you have to cross the border in your quest for food and drink and spectacular landscapes. These outings are the slices of life in between the restaurants and bars where you go out in public. This is where the farmers markets and the home-grown produce and the local vintages come together in the privacy of your own home. With moments like this, even winter starts to look attractive’, Travelling overseas in your own country – Austrian winter lunches in the high country.
Eating out in the cold country – Grazing at Gundaroo
‘In winter your mind turns to food - well, it turns there anytime, but perhaps more so in winter. I can’t remember how many years I have been coming to Grazing restaurant, in the tiny historic town of Gundaroo, just outside Canberra – it seems like forever. In the time I’ve been coming here Prime Ministers have risen and fallen, Governments have teetered, illusions have shattered. On a Sunday recently, I ventured out from the cold of approaching winter on a clear, blue day and went there one more time for food, wine and firewood. I wasn’t disappointed’, Eating out in the cold country – Grazing at Gundaroo.
Mezzalira Ristorante – the Italian empire strikes back
‘I seem to spend a lot of time in the small Italian and Sons restaurant in hipster heaven in downtown Braddon, with its equally small bar annexe, Bacaro, at the rear. It’s so good and so pleasant that it’s easy to forget the other parts of the Italian empire. The flagship restaurant, Mezzalira, is across the the city, near the National University. It’s in the fabulous but somewhat neglected though stately Melbourne Building, with its Italianate arches and colonnades. I sometimes think that if suddenly the world was about to end (a bit like contemporary times) and I was offered the choice of only one cuisine until the crunch, I’d have to choose Italian. That way I could die happy,’ Mezzalira Ristorante – the Italian empire strikes back.
Ester – the sweet smell of success
‘Because the high country is adjacent to the low country, it takes only three hours to drive from the nation’s capital to the nation’s financial capital. In the early to mid 1990s Chippendale in Sydney was a suburb you travelled through to get somewhere else. All that is changing in a big way, with plenty there to explore. A sure sign of these times is eatery Ester, a restaurant that reflects the focus of its name on the science of food with some intrepid experiments in the culinary arts’, Ester – the sweet smell of success.
In a corner with a cake (or two) – the hidden attraction of local hangouts
‘Tucked away in a corner at the Ainslie shops where it’s easy to miss entirely – in the heart of the suburb know as the Red Centre for it’s exceptionally high Labor vote – is an unexpected delight. The location has hosted a series of less than successful ventures but this most recent has been an unqualified success. Who would have thought that a cafe hailing from Brittany could attract such a crowd. The secret of success is that it focuses on what it does and it does it well. You can park yourself inside the small venue or outside if the weather is fine and pick from some unexpected sweet pastries, throw down the odd glass of French wine or eat buckwheat pancakes or baguettes. The cafe also runs to daily specials that can be very unexpected. Long may it reign over us – Rule Brittany rather than Rule Britannia’, In a corner with a cake (or two) – the hidden attraction of local hangouts.
We all scream for icecream – cooling down in a cold climate with Frugii
‘I realise I may have just become a statistic. I have a suspicion that I have eaten more sorbet, gelato and icecream since local Canberra icecream outlet Frugii opened in Canberra’s Braddon perimeter than I have eaten in my whole previous life. Tucked away in hipster heaven, it keeps churning out flavours, in an ever changing smorgasbord of coldness’, We all scream for icecream – cooling down in a cold climate with Frugii.
A bustling Friday night in hipster heaven
Vitello Tonnato for a life well lived in hipster heaven
‘It had been quite a week and I had been crushed by too many encounters with the crazy world of Centrelink as I fulfilled my long list of aged care responsibilities. I needed cheering up so last night ate out at the venerable Italian and Sons, the very first of the many funky venues which now enliven Braddon. My attention was drawn to the rare appearance of vitello tonnato. My imagination had been captured decades ago when I was a young boy by seeing the recipe for the dish in Margaret Fulton’s classic cookbook. I finally tried it in a tiny restaurant in Florence, during my first visit overseas, after a stint at the massive Frankfurt Book Fair in 1989. This most recent one was the best I have ever eaten outside my own home – well, perhaps the best anywhere. This is a favourite place, probably my most favourite in Canberra. Coming here always makes me feel happy and what more can you ask?’, Vitello Tonnato for a life well lived in hipster heaven.
Eating out in a cold, funky city – Canberra comes of age in the Asian Century
‘On a day and night which was bitterly cold – as cold as Canberra has been this year, with the hint of snow clouds overhead – I was reminded why I live here. As we wandered along after a full day of cultural institutions and design events, looking for somewhere to eat we impetuously popped into Restaurant Eightysix and even more impetuously were able to get a table. I had forgotten reading somewhere that famed long-former Adelaide chef, Christine Manfield was here for the month, cooking up an Asian-inspired menu. How much better could it get?’, Eating out in a cold, funky city – Canberra comes of age in the Asian Century.
Provenance - knowing where good things come from
‘It took me only five years but I finally found my way to Provenance, the legendary regional restaurant established by chef Michael Ryan in Beechworth in 2010. Provenance is widely considered one of the best restaurants in regional Victoria, in a tiny state that contains many good regional restaurants. I had been meaning to eat there since it was established and given how regularly we travel to Beechworth and its surrounds I was amazed I hadn’t been earlier. It took some time but it was worth it’, Provenance - knowing where good things come from
In praise of the Berra
‘When I first moved to Canberra, almost as an accidental intersection of geography and employment after the Sydney Olympics, I used to say “if you had lived in Sydney and one day you woke up and discovered you were in Canberra, you would think you had died.” Then I changed my mind. It took ten years but it was inevitable. Berrans are a hardy bunch – they can withstand the hot winds of summer and of Australia’s Parliament, the chill flurries from the Snowy Mountains and the chilling news of budget cuts. The Berra is half-way between everywhere’, In praise of the Berra.