WILMA or The Pearl? The Pearl or Wilma? In the end, we experienced both sides of this massive venue in the heart of Civic, dining on Wilma’s menu but sitting in The Pearl’s outdoor area; perfect for what we were looking for on a bright Saturday afternoon.
Wilma bills itself as a progressive Asian barbeque restaurant and The Pearl an Asian-inspired cocktail and “snax” bar. The sisters – one formal and one casual – entered the Canberra dining scene in December.
The chef behind the food is James Viles, who helped make Biota Dining in Bowral a two-hatted restaurant (many remain heartbroken over its permanent closure). Wilma’s menu is divided into raw, snacks, salads, wok, barbecue and desserts. The base banquet is $75 a person and the Baller Banquet $95.
Our first selection was the scallop and prawn tartare with soy sesame sauce ($22). It sounded playful and we are always up for raw food. Staff recommended we mix the tartare to combine the flavours nicely, spoon some into a large leaf, wrap and enjoy. The three of us agreed that the tartare, once mixed, looked bland and uninviting. On taste, we all found the sauce overpowering (unusual for three out of three adventurous eaters to not like the same dish).
We left the tartare to the side and got stuck into the roast duck pancakes, which were delicious, and we loved the crunchy shallots and cucumber. The hoi sin sauce was divine and the duck succulent ($32).
Always in for a bit of mouth-tingling Szechuan, we selected the fried chicken with sesame and garlic chives ($20). The chicken was moist, and the dish celebrated the spicy, sweet and savoury flavour that Szechuan is famous for. It was a colourful dish with plenty of heat and an intense presence.
From the wok section of the menu, we selected the Balmain bug dish ($32) with egg noodle, chilli, coriander, sesame and perky herbs dancing on top. We squeezed the half lime over the dish and indulged. The flavour profile was intriguing although we found the dish a bit soupy (meant to be the style?).
The crab and snake bean salad caught our eye, and it was a visual statement of a dish ($26). It was loaded with the freshness that ingredients such as mint, basil and papaya consistently bring to dishes. The colourful ingredients were stacked quite high in the large, round bowl and we were surprised at the amount of liquid at the bottom of the salad (a style?).
We didn’t venture into desserts, but Wilma offers a custard puff and a peach rice pudding (both $14).
The wine list is impressive, and we enjoyed the Brindabella Hills 2020 Pinot Grigio.
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