Dusk Masthead

Review: Natural 9

Beatrice Smith

“Chad’s main aim for Natural 9 is “to be able to give people a unique dining experience that they wouldn’t normally have in Canberra.”

Ten years ago, ‘casino dining’ would have been more of an insult than an industry. But these days, the upper echelons of the fine dining world are housed in casinos, from Vegas to Macau and now, Canberra.

When Heston Blumenthal decided to transplant his Fat Duck from its heritage-listed, thatched roof birthplace, he chose the ultra modern Crown in a move that made headlines around the world. Meanwhile Sydney’s Star is the only location outside the United States to boast a Momofuku Seiōbo and its Marquee nightclub is one of Australia’s only superclubs.

So we must accept now that while older generations might associate ‘casino food’ with chips and cheap beer, everyone else has moved on to bigger, better, more delicious things. Casino dining now means a fresh, curated selection of fusion elements, and after a $14 million dollar refurbishment Casino Canberra’s new fine dining restaurant, Natural 9, is no exception.

“The vision is to combine Asian cuisine with a modern Australian touch,” explains Chad Ogden, Casino Canberra’s new Food and Beverage Director.

Chad’s main aim for Natural 9 is “to be able to give people a unique dining experience that they wouldn’t normally have in Canberra.”

Chad’s time spent cooking in China and Japan motivated him to create an authentic Asian inspired menu for Natural 9, named after a perfect first hand in Baccarat. Chad himself is a giant of the industry, having made the remarkable journey from the Culinary Institute of American in Hyde Park, New York to Chef de Cuisine at the MGM Macau and Executive Chef at Sands Macau, two of Asia’s biggest casinos.

Bringing a local flavour to Natural 9 is Executive Chef David Black. I was lucky enough to eat lots of David’s food when he was at The Artisan in Narrabundah so I was excited to see what sort of Modern Australian these two would create. I was not disappointed.

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Natural 9 nestles behind the grand chandelier bar in the main Casino Canberra gaming room, discreetly set behind a screen that mirrors the dove grey geometric style of the Casino’s new aesthetic.

After being seated at the beautiful marble tables and introduced to Chefs Chad and David, we were served a warm bread roll with some delicious cured butter.

The amuse bouche came a moment later – a salty and rich tasting shitake mushroom broth with micro herbs. The perfect way to start a five course meal.

Next, we were brought three beautifully presented Coffin Bay Oysters from Sydney, selected especially by Chad. The oysters were served with a yuzu granita that was deliciously cool going down with an amazing salty sweet aftertaste.

The seafood theme continued into the next course, which was a sake-cured salmon with rose jelly and elements of lime and cucumber.

Apart from looking absolutely beautiful on the plate, it was quite a substantial entrée and my friend and I took our time eating it. The sake had infused the salmon with a rich savoury flavour while the rose jelly added a sweet note to every mouthful.

Also on the plate were two thin slices of charred bread with crème fraiché, topped with the same salmon and cucumber elements. Being able to taste two forms of one dish was really interesting and added to the ‘moreish’ nature of the course.

The next course was olive oil poached kingfish, with parsnip puree and jalapeño salsa verde. This dish had an amazing array of textural elements – the fish was tender and juicy, the salsa verde crunchy with a hint of spice, the parsnip puree buttery and rich and the strip of crispy fish skin a wafer thin crunch, seasoned to perfection.

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The final savoury dish was a bright arrangement of Jerusalem artichoke, pickled cabbage and venison and jus.

The venison was rich and succulent while the cabbage was crunchy and deliciously sour. The Jerusalem artichoke provided an earthy base note for the dish and was amazing with the remaining jus.

The final dish was a dessert unlike anything I’d tasted before.

A custard apple anglaise, topped with hazelnuts and matcha powder – the ideal dessert for those who can’t deal with sugary sweetness as the hazelnuts added a natural bitter element to the sweet jelly and creamy anglaise.

The way the elements were layered (the hazelnuts sprinkled with matcha appear like the textured green outside of a custard apple) was a cute nod to the hero ingredient and the combination of the creamy jelly and the crunch of the hazelnuts was something else.

HerCanberra has reviewed ‘unique’ dining experiences before, but Natural 9’s location and cuisine are unlike anything I’ve experienced in Canberra so far.

Once Natural 9 is more established, Chad and David intend to change the menu daily, giving diners the opportunity to taste a variety of dishes, like Chad’s favourite dish – Kung Pow Bungalow Pork.

“The pork belly is like eating butter and the Sichuan spices are fantastic,” he explains.

Aside from the singularity of the décor and location, the chance to sample food made by chefs of calibre this high should not be ignored.

the essentials

What: Natural 9
When: Open for Lunch 12pm until 2.30 and Dinner 5.30-9.30pm, seven days a week
Where: Inside Casino Canberra, 21 Binara Street, Canberra City
Bookings: Call 6257 7074 or email [email protected]
Web: natural9.com.au

The author dined courtesy of Natural 9, however their opinion remain their own. This is a sponsored post, for 

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Beatrice Smith

Bea loves that her job as HerCanberra’s Editorial Coordinator involves eating, drinking and interviewing people – sometimes simultaneously. The master of HerCanberra’s publishing schedule, she’s usually found hunched over a huge calendar muttering to herself about content balance. Otherwise you’ll find her at the movies, ordering a cheese board or ordering a cheese board at the movies.

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