Dining reviewer WENDY JOHNSON reveals her list of Canberra’s top five restaurants for 2017.
WE’RE a sister city to Beijing but how does that translate to the capital’s food scene?
Sanya Bar has the answer.
At the Civic end of Lonsdale Street, an area with new bars and eateries popping up daily it seems, Sanya Bar has attracted a crowd keen on Beijing food with flair. JJ Chen instinctively knew her formula for dishes with a twist and cocktails that make you twist would work.
How about the signature crispy banana chicken wings ($8, for three pieces)? While intriguing, we applauded other menu items more loudly, such as the Szechuan scallops and coconut flakes ($13, two pieces). Our lips tingled with the Szechuan and the coconut was a refreshing component.
We were as mesmerised by the Peking duck pancakes. They looked a bit pale on the plate but packed a punch with taste and who doesn’t love a delightful duck pancake? We’ll give the pork pancakes a go next time, with these flavours celebrating the famous dishes of the City of Nanjing.
Our tastebuds took a turn with the crispy fried beef and blue cheese toast ($10, two pieces), which JJ told us were wildly popular. We could see why.
We were talked into dessert and were thrilled with the sensational Blue cheese, pear and walnut wontons ($8, three pieces). These ingredients are always a winning combo, but when stuffed into wontons and then drizzled with honey you’re dealing with a serious treat. Our only “complaint” was that there was very little cheese in one wonton.
If you want to just sit back and “experience”, Sanya Bar dishes up an “I want it all” tapas platter ($45). On Tuesdays, indulge in free tapas tastings when you buy an alcoholic beverage.
While we settled on wine, the cocktails were rocking at the bar. I was attracted to the “Tini”, a lychee martini with Chinese Baijiu, Cointreau and a serious hit of chilli ($15). The “Double Happiness” sounds, well, happy, but you’ve gotta love a creamy drink – Nutella, Baileys, Frangelico, Kahlua, spiced rum, strawberries and creamy milk ($25). OMG!
The food at Sanya Bar is a blend of what JJ’s generation likes to chow down on and what Nancy, JJ’s mum, has created for years in the kitchen. When the family migrated here, Nancy found herself working in the Parliament House kitchens, where she cooked for big guns such as Bob Hawke and Paul Keating. She also worked at the Hyatt.
Sanya Bar has inside and outside dining. It’s worth visiting just for the art by the famous Australian-Chinese artist Guo Jian, who exhibits internationally and has his work in many private collections around the world.
Sanja Bar is open for lunch, dinner and through to late.