XO Restaurant Narrabundah is brand shiny new. The space used to be The Artisan which has since closed. There have been a few good write ups and blog posts on XO Restaurant already. You can check them out at the bottom of this post.
So for something unusual I’m writing a post without any food photography. I want to focus on the describing the dishes and the sensations I experienced as I enjoyed each of them.
XO’s menu is southeast Asian with elements of cuisines from all around the region. I read in one of the reviews that one of the owners has a family connection with Griffith Vietnamese which is a stalwart of the Canberra eating scene.
The menu is divided into starters, small plates, larger plates, sides and desserts. There is also a separate drinks menu with a range of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages including sake.
We started with a Shantung bao each. These are made slider style and different to the one-piece ‘wrap’ style I recently enjoyed at Fish Can in the Westside Acton shipping container village. The bao is held together with a bamboo pin and is very easy to eat with one hand (after removing the pin). The pork was melt in the mouth soft but retained its texture so you could savour the flavour and enjoy the crunch and bite of the daikon pickle. Like all good bao, a little of the sweet dough stuck to the front of my teeth for a few minutes which meant numerous attempts to dislodge it with my tongue until there was a need for a discrete scrape with a finger under the cover of a napkin.
Next to us there was a young couple who also had the bao and the woman had the biggest smile on her face as she bit in and chewed on each mouthful. It was obvious how good these little parcels of joy are.
From the smaller plate range we couldn’t resist the idea of Asian bolognese. What a great name. Given Marco Polo took so many ideas from the far east back to his homeland, it’s nice to see an improvement and reinvention on an Italian classic. The 60 °C egg sits centrally with the shiny udon noodles arranged around it with lovely bits of minced chicken (ragout) and its sauce coating the noodles. I loved the way the noodles held together and slid down my throat. I’m thinking why would I ever bother with boring Italian spag bog ever again now that I know this Asian masterpiece exists. With a small starter like the bao, one serve of the Asian bolognese is a perfect entrée to share.
From the large plate selection we chose the steamed barramundi and the crispy lamb ribs.
The barramundi was perfectly cooked. It was moist throughout and flaked nicely. As a generous serve, it was accompanied by cherry tomatoes and greens. Adding some of the sweet and salty sesame soy sauce to my bowl of steamed rice added a lovely dimension to the dish.
The crispy lamb ribs were amazing and I can understand why it is the favourite of so many guests. Perfectly sized, if you’re good with chopsticks you can pick one rib up and enjoy. The skin is sweet and crispy from the plum sauce. The meat is perfectly cooked, and with the right amount of effort, the meat comes away from the rib bone in bite sized chunks. If you’re not that good with chopsticks, use your fingers to pick up a rib and use your lips to strip the meat from the bone. The aromatic Asian greens make a refreshing accompaniment. On our plate we had five ribs.
I’m really partial to Asian style steamed fish. I thought the barramundi was superb. It took me home to Mum’s kitchen and family time. As much as I loved the lamb for its unctuousness, the barra was a winner for me for the happiness it brought to my heart. The barra made me think of Mum and how one day I’d love to be good enough to cook something like this for my kids.
To end the meal we went with the chrysanthemum tea soft serve ice cream in a cup. This dessert was sweet but not too sweet. The serve was generous enough to ensure brain freeze and brought a refreshing finale to the meal. I’d happily buy a tub and bring it home to eat while watching Netflix.
The new decor is bright and vibrant. The hard surfaces make it a little noisy and the music volume went up and down throughout the evening. If you’re partially deaf and have tinnitus like me it will be difficult to have a conversation at a table of four or more I reckon. I liked that the chopsticks had XO branded into them and the spoons had a cool shape and feel. The china is also Australian made.
The service staff were all friendly and helpful. They knew about each dish and even with a packed restaurant we weren’t left waiting too long for anything. It was nice to meet the wait staff and I’m guessing some of the owners who came and asked how we were enjoying our meal.
I’d happily recommend dinner at XO Restaurant to anyone from Canberra or anyone visiting and wanting a special evening to remember. I know that I’ll be back even if it means eating the same things again.
You can find XO Restaurant here
XO Restaurant also has a Facebook page and a website If you have a dimmi account you can book a table online. This is how I did it and it is dead easy. You’ll also receive a telephone call from the restaurant a couple of days out from the booking just to confirm your reservation. The great thing about dimmi is you also get an iCal or Google Calendar alert if you choose to use it.
Reviews from local bloggers and The Canberra Times