Friday, 13 March 2009

Five Easy Pieces

I've eaten out quite a few times in the last month, and not written about it at all. It's probably time I did, so here you go.

Italo-Australian Club
The Italo-Australian Club is in Forrest, not far from Manuka, on Franklin St between Dominion and National Circuits. It's a club, with pokies. You walk in past a bank of them facing a row of Michaelangelo posters on the opposite wall. We were there for a Shortis & Simpson gig at the Folkus room, for which I got comped by Culturazi in exchange for a review. We ate at the Italian bistro, which the Folkus room largely takes over for their evenings.

It was a wonderful night because of the show, but our food was not so great. The bistro was overwhelmed with numbers, and had stopped taking pizza orders. This was a pity, since the couple sharing our table had got in early enough, and they declared the pizzas to be very good. The Bloke ordered a canneloni ($15), and I gamely tried the veal parmigiana ($20). Well. It took a long time, as we were warned, and when it finally arrived, his canneloni was unaccompanied by anything. No veg, no salad. A moderate serving size: just add a salad and it would be a decent meal. I offered him some of my veg to make up for it, but they weren't exactly appetising, being rather soggy and overdone. Possibly they were responsible for the fact that the crumbs on my veal were not crisp, but totally soggy and horrible. I scraped them off, and then the meat was quite OK, as was the eggplant, tomato and cheese topping. The Bloke's canneloni was actually pretty good and tasty.

I expect we'll be back, whenever some good music turns up. But the lesson learned is to order pizza, pasta and salad. They all looked rather good.

Read on for the other four...


Rubicon is in Griffith and it's lovely. Fine dining, with cleverly crafted dishes and and a good long wine list. We went with friends, and I picked a vegetarian main just because it sounded so good. And it was.

I had an entree of seared scallops wrapped in pancetta, with plum vinaigrette, lemon and fennel salad ($19.90). I love that scallop/salt pork combo - it's ubiquitous for a reason. My main was the chargrilled balsamic marinated field mushroom, port and red currant glaze, caramelised garlic, eschallots and creamy rosemary polenta chips ($28.90). Amazingly good: rich, tender and soft, with all the flavours matching perfectly. I was less thrilled with my dessert: Angostura bitters meringue with passionfruit, pomegranate syrup, clotted cream and pistachio praline cigar ($14.90), because I felt it was texturally unbalanced. The flavours were great, but the quantity of meringue was too much for the small amount of cream, so it came out a bit dry in texture. I'd hoped for more of an Eton mess kind of thing.

This is not an everyday sort of place, but I do recommend it for a flash night out. I especially like the covered courtyard out the back, with the fairy lights overhead like stars.

Blu Ginger
This one is in town, across from the new Griffin Centre and adjacent to the new Tongue & Groove bar. We were there on their second night, and I swear the staff were all auditioning for the role of Manuel in Fawlty Towers. "¿QuĂ©?" The acoustics didn't help matters, and their unfamiliarity with the menu and ordering system was almost comical. They did seem to be very nice and eager to please, so hopefully the glitches will get worked out soon.

The food was pretty good Indian fare. Naan breads were fresh and hot out of the oven. The vindaloo was nicely hot and with more wine than vinegar in the sauce. The unusual pumpkin & almond lamb was gentle and tasty, and there was a good range of vegetarian dishes. They did a mattar paneer variant with mushrooms, which I particularly enjoyed, and the coconut veggie curry was also very good.

I didn't make note of the prices at the time. They seemed pretty standard Indian restaurant rates, but there were a couple of sour notes. The raita serve was tiny, in a little chutney pot. The pappadams were undercooked, and really, $8 for those 3 small baskets? 6 pappadams? Seriously? And they charged us $27 for rice, and all we had was two medium sized bowls between five of us. The first serve was really not enough. This is probably a marketing error. You really shouldn't charge for extra rice, it looks mean and stingy. Add a dollar or two to the mains, and it looks much better and everyone feels happier.

This one will be worth revisiting when it's had a chance to settle in.

The Oaks Brasserie & Gallery
This cafe is set in a stunning English garden adjacent to the Yarralumla Nursery near Weston Park. The gallery is in the adjoining cottage, where the kitchen and cash register is. The seating is outside: huge oaks, white beeches, outdoor tables on the grass beneath the trees; it's gorgeous. Sadly, though it's also slow and expensive. Last Saturday lunch, with a largish group, we waited half an hour for our drinks, and a full hour for our meals. Luckily I ordered an iced coffee, so I had a substantial drink with icecream and cream. Otherwise I would have been starving.

The Bloke and I both had focaccias, and for $12.50 what you get is exactly what's on the menu. Turkey, cheese and cranberry sauce. One parsley sprig. No salads in or beside the thin toasted focaccia. That would have been $6 extra.

While we were waiting we had plenty of time to peruse the menu. They have a section for dogs, which is nice. But I was startled by some of the breakfast prices: mushrooms & tomato on toast $23! Eggs Benny for $20. No, not in a deal with coffee and juice, just as is. I've been there before, on a weekday afternoon, and enjoyed it more. Coffee and cake, or Devonshire tea is more reasonable value for money, and the service is better out of rush hours. The scones are good, though the jam was a cheap Kraft packet and the cream a substanceless whip.

Yes, this is a cheat to fill it out to five. Sorry. I have eaten Subway once in the last month, when we went to see the Burlesque Hour at the Street Theatre. We were very short of time for some reason, and just grabbed a sandwich en route for fill-up purposes. What can I say? It's better than Maccas. Their olives are those Californian ones that always remind me of rubber-tire fragments, but otherwise it's edible. The breads are too sweet and soft for my taste, but it'll do in a pinch.


RHONDA said...

You really should try the Malaysian
Chinese restaurant upstairs at the club - great food. The Wo Mei Chicken,and the Ma Po Tofu are fabulous! And they can really cook vegies - try the Buddhists Feast. I have to have a meal there at least once every time I come to Canberra.

Cath said...

Thanks, Rhonda.

Unknown said...

ooo... i am a tofu super fan! sigh. i want the mapo tofu soooooo badly right now. with rice.

Here I bought a sauce pack so as to skip all the seasonings! and i will try this friday after work.