Dining reviewer WENDY JOHNSON reveals her list of Canberra’s top five restaurants for 2017.
THERE’S a new kid in town on the dining scene. Otis Dining Hall, across from Green Square, Kingston, is set to be a gem.
It’s a blend of fine dining food, but in a relaxed, approachable and welcoming atmosphere.
Otis (where the Belgian Beer Café used to be) is still refining its approach and isn’t hiding that fact. Owner/chef Damian Brabender (formerly Sage) is smart enough to know that he can tailor based on feedback, and should tailor based on feedback.
The menu at Otis is intriguing but not out of reach for those who aren’t super adventurous. The dishes are meant to be simple but with flavours that certainly command attention. The plating is pleasing but not pretentious. Indeed, there is nothing pretentious about Otis, not even the staff “uniforms”.
Entrees range from $16 to $18 and the line-up has some star dishes such as sweet corn, parmesan, horseradish and watercress. The three of us shared the chicken liver pate, all the more beautiful with armagnac ($16) – smooth, creamy, decadent. The beef tartare was intriguing and we agreed the smoked eel was a genius move ($16).
Five mains are on the Otis menu. The baked ocean trout, with butternut squash puree and spring vegetables ($30) scored 10 out of 10. It was cooked to perfection.
The pepper steak was melt-in-the-mouth. Before you think that pepper steak is, well, so old fashioned, think again. This dish comes with to-die-for silk-wood brandy jus – amazing ($42). The chips were great. Our only suggestion is to pour less jus on the dish and present the remainder in a small jug so diners can choose just how much suits.
The garden pea risotto was a super generous serve. I couldn’t finish it but did give it a go. I loved that it came with creamy goat’s cheese and a poached egg perched in the middle ($26).
We shared a garden leaves salad with a stunning tarragon dressing ($8). It’s so lovely to be able to order a simple but tasty salad with a meal. Why don’t all restaurants do this? Some just don’t bother and others create side salads that are too complex.
Otis has made refinements to the décor and setup but the bones of the Belgian Beer Café remain (it was a super-expensive fitout). There’s a lot of wood that adds to the warmth and the long bar remains a major feature. The mirrors make the place feel even bigger than it is.
Otis has an amazing wine list and we thoroughly enjoyed the 2016 Unico Zelo Jade and Jasper Fiano from Riverland, SA ($48). We’d order it again in a flash.
Otis Dining Hall, 29 Jardine Street, Kingston. Open for lunch and dinner. Call 6260 6066.