Dining / The critic’s top five Canberra eateries of the year

Wendy Johnson.

FOR 14 years I’ve been munching my way through Canberra’s food scene. It’s just as well I don’t suffer from indigestion. Now, as 2018 draws to a close, it’s time to dish up my top five picks for the year.

Two take us out of town, two are newbies and one has been around for a bit. Here they are, in no special order. Remember, menus may have changed since my visit.

Momoda’s Mongolian kangaroo spring rolls… stuffed with meat, veggies, herbs and spices. Photo by Wendy Johnson

MOMODA, Northbourne Avenue, hit the dining scene with a bang this year. A sister establishment to fine-dining Wild Duck, Kingston, Momoda serves casual Chinese street food served with affection (Momoda means “kiss-kiss”). Start with a liquid-adventure cocktail and then share dishes for the full Momoda experience. The Mongolian kangaroo spring rolls were sensational and the crunchy Taiwanese chicken wings with salty egg yolk and hundred-spice salt addicting.

Baby Su’s beef short rib rice. Photo by Wendy Johnson

ANOTHER place that burst on to the scene is Baby Su, No Name Lane precinct, Civic. This is also a sister restaurant to Braddon’s Lazy Su. The baby version offers great gins and whiskeys and the service is uber quick. Chow down on the Korean fried chicken burger with spicy gochujang glaze, cheese, lettuce, ssa?m mayo, and Japanese barbecue sauce. The waffle-cut fries are a must and you can’t go wrong with the slow-cooked beef short rib rice bowl.

Lolo and Lola’s pork bagnet… the pork belly was super crispy on the outside and the meat beautifully tender. Photo by Ana Stuart

WHEN in Watson, dine at Lolo and Lola, a Filipino eatery. Lolo means “grandfather” in Filipino and lola “grandmother”. The food celebrates family, tradition and the unique flavours and colours that showcase Filipino cuisine, including purple chiffon yam cake. The beef curry is fragrant and loaded with meat, capsicum, peas and secret spices. Our tastebuds boogied over the pork bagnet, super crispy outside and beautifully tender inside.

Baked.

BRADDON’S Baked is a sister restaurant to Les Bistronomes (lots of families grew on the restaurant scene this year). Bragels, a food invention created and trademarked in Canberra are on the menu, a cross between a bagel and a brioche. Baked isn’t a full-on bakery or full-on bistro but it’s fun and relaxed with amazing food. The pork rillettes are to die for, the parfait super creamy, the Atlantic salmon with ponzu, soy and sesame a melt-in-the-mouth dish. Don’t forget the pork terrine and duck French crepes with an Asian twist.

The Sandbar’s moonlight oyster with cuttlefish. Photo by Wendy Johnson

IF you’re at the south coast, book in to The Sandbar, an award-winning French-Japanese inspired restaurant owned by local David Tinker and his Japanese wife, Tomoyo. It’s on top of the renovated Quay Hotel across from the Marina, Batemans Bay. They serve a sensational six-course degustation. Every dish is artfully plated and truly inspirational. Think courses such as the octopus course, which featured daikon, ginger wine fermented strawberry, fresh peas, spring asparagus and lemon thyme. Dessert was divine with a tofu parfait with rhubarb and crystallised black olive, featuring liquorice tones.

My reviews begin again mid-February. You’d think eating out every single week, all year round, would see me taking a break from the food scene. Nope. Shall continue to enjoy. Merry feasting everyone.

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Wendy Johnson
Wendy Johnson: Food reviewer for Canberra CityNews magazine since 2004, covering stories for true foodies to digest.

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