Going out for a nice dinner every now and then with some friends is one of the things that has been keeping me emotionally afloat lately! My strict diet from last year has relaxed simply due to being too tired to deal with it in the last few months (though I need to get back on it as with basically no physical activity, the weight is creeping back even while still eating healthy 90 per cent of the time… another frustration…), but at least taking a break from my calorie counting app means I don’t feel too bad about eating out every now and then! Before it would wrack me with pangs of guilt as I tried to estimate the calories in obscure menu items. Dinners are also manageable with my day-to-day fatigue, as long as I plan/rest in advance, and am not having an especially bad day. My friends must be commended for not only being awesome in so many ways, but also for acquiescing to ridiculously early dinners so that I don’t flake out before we get to dessert. You have a space at 6.15pm for dinner? Yes please, book us in! 8.30pm, sorry that’s far too late. Tragic!
Anyway, I’ve tried out two places lately that I would rave about — Akiba and Eighty Six.
Eighty Six in Braddon has been around for a while, but I went there for the first time last night. It is a great space, with the music adding to the buzzing atmosphere, and our server was really friendly and helpful. My ‘Jessica Rabbit’ cocktail was pretty great, great enough to order a second round! Though one of my friends tried a cocktail with mescal which was a bit overpoweringly smokey for all our likings — I’ve had mescal before, but I must have had a cheap and mild version that was way less smokey, as this was full on. All the food we ordered was fantastic — the duck buns, Asian-style steak tartare and pulled pork terrine. The blackened chicken with buttermilk slaw was the winner of the night though, so tasty! The chicken was beautifully cooked and the marinade was perfect– spicy but not overpowering. We also had the banoffie pie and caramel popcorn sundae for dessert — the banoffie pie was to die for, so good! The sundae was also great, but the pie was definitely the winner of the two desserts. The desserts were quite intense, definitely for sharing. As with basically every restaurant in Canberra these days, the whole set up was a share-plate type arrangement. I would definitely go back again, and I just saw on their Facebook page that they do Sunday brunches, which I didn’t know about but would be very keen to try! My one comment would be that there didn’t seem to be a lot of options for vegetarians.
Akiba in Civic opened towards the end of last year (pictured up top), and I’ve been twice in the last couple of months. It was great both times — very attentive service, a great cocktail, beer and cider list, and above all else, fantastic food! It is another buzzing, well designed space. It even impressed visiting Melbournian friends, so that’s always a good sign. There is lots of attention to detail in the cocktails, and also with the food, which has an Asian fusion bent (though predominantly Japanese influence). From the various things I have tried there, I would recommend everything, but especially: the kingfish sashimi with coconut, nam jim and coriander; shitakke and water chestnut dumplings; the beef short rib; the soy cured salmon belly; both the pork belly and soft shell crab buns; and the kimchi & angasi pancake. I’ve also had the fried rice and soba noodle salad, and they were both very good, just not highlights like those other dishes. I’ve also tasted or drank the Clover Club, Spiced Rum Sour and Fukushima Zombie cocktails and they are all thumbs up good. The $45 ‘feed me’ option is good for groups who can’t decide what to order. They are also doing yum cha on the weekends, which I’d be keen to try out.
(I also went to Monster in New Acton at the end of last year, which is in a similar price point/share plate/quality/hipsterness/design level — we really enjoyed it, but it was too long ago for me to write any kind of more detailed review–keen to go back sometime soon though!).
Now on to the other end of the hipster food spectrum, the food trucks….
I recently checked out the food truck hub on Lonsdale Street in Braddon called The Hamlet. It’s a cool concept (though as the weather gets cooler, tempting people outdoors might be a challenge–I think it is only going to be a temporary set up though before the block gets redeveloped for apartments, though it also doesn’t look tooooo temporary, so might be around for a while). All the food that our group tried was enjoyed — I had a hotdog from Broddog (the Broddog itself, though there are heaps of other options), which was very tasty though not a cheap snack (It made me think, I don’t think I have actually eaten a hot dog since I was living in the US nearly five years ago!), and an old school milkshake from April’s Caravan, which was also yum (my god though… $7-$9 for a milkshake, that right there is Canberra hipster pricing). There’s also a pizza shop in there, a place doing spit roast rolls, a Peruvian street food place, an Indian street food place, a place selling pies, a place selling coffee. And you can buy some beers at the bottlo across the road and bring them across to enjoy with your meal, which is great. So it’s a good place for very casual dining with friends. It also gives that food festival vibe the whole year around, which Canberrans love, though there are a lot of ‘meat on bread’ type foods so it would be good to see more of a mix.