Dining / The critic’s call: Canberra’s top restaurants 2017

Dining reviewer WENDY JOHNSON reveals her list of Canberra’s top five restaurants for 2017.

THIS is my thirteenth year munching my way through food to write stories for “CityNews. It’s hard to digest. What are my top five picks for 2017? Here they are, in no special order.

Trecento, Manuka Terrace, is a winner. It makes clever use of its small space and is home to authentic Neapolitan pizza (it’s a member of the prestigious international Academy of Pizza). You can’t go wrong with the super tender calamari, melt-in-your mouth beef carpaccio and amazing burrata. The wine list is impressive and staff knowledgeable.

A new kid on the block is Raku with its passion for Japanese cuisine. Sharing is the name of the game. The Civic restaurant features a traditional robata grill and sushi bar. Don’t go past the Canadian scallops, with jalapeno for a bit of bite, green apple for freshness and a dollop of garlic mayo for some creaminess. The most tantalising dish was the braised 400-day grain fed Wagyu cheeks. Wash it down with sake, Japanese whiskey, beer or wine.

Lilo Tang Food Review – Top left: Roast Umami Vegetables w Orange Miso in Orange Pot, top middle: Lamb Cutlet w Spicy Wasabi vinaigrette, top right: Chargrilled Cold Eggplant w Creamy Sesame Sauce, bottom left: Pork Belly , Yuzu Kosho Miso (Skewer), bottom middle: Chargrilled Baby Octopus and Rocket w Karashi Su Miso, bottom right: Chicken Thigh, Inherited Homemade Yakitori Sauce (Skewer). Photo: HOLLY TREADAWAY

Lilo Tang, in Barton, guarantees an exciting culinary journey. A star is the tuna sashimi with avo and wasabi soy. It sits beautifully in a crispy potato nest and is a feast for the eyes. Another delectable dish is the poached ocean trout with tangy grapefruit, bitter radicchio and sweet pepper soy and wasabi mascarpone. Lilo Tang is expert at combining unusual flavours for unique taste sensations.

Further afield is Contentious Character (formerly Lambert’s Estate) in the beautiful surrounds of Wamboin. The views are picture perfect, especially from the large exterior deck. Enjoy a wine tasting and buy from the cellar door. The food celebrates locally sourced produce and share plates are a treat. If you’re a fan of duck, the terrine is to die for. Desserts are also to die for. We dream of salted caramel panna cotta with peanut praline.

One restaurant that remains in my top five is multiple-award winning Les Bistronomes, in Braddon. The French cuisine is exquisite, the atmosphere relaxed (the interior recently refined) and the wine out of this world. The five-course chef’s degustation – Saturday lunch only – is the best deal in town at $50. Chef Clement Chauvin is creative with his tartare and don’t miss his signature garlic snails.

Although not a restaurant, I wanted to pop in a cool little operation called The Pop Inn. The 6.5-metre, custom-built trailer travels around Canberra, sets up and invites you to pop in for a drink and cheese/meat platter if you’re peckish. It’s self-contained and looks like a bar when fully open. The Pop Inn sets up about 30 chairs and tables at each venue and offers picnic rugs. Dogs welcome. Kids welcome. Check the website for where to next. BTW, The Pop Inn is card only.

So there you have it, the top picks from 2017. Wonder what 2018 has in store for my tastebuds?

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