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The world on a plate: five cuisines to try now

Amanda Whitley

Canberra is home to people who hail from more than 170 countries across the globe, and each bring with them a unique culture.

One of the great things about this city is our multicultural makeup; with people from more than 170 countries around the globe, we’re tasting the benefits in the many cuisines found around the city. And while Chinese, Italian and Thai have been mainstays of the local restaurant scene for years, some less common cuisines are making their mark. We get a taste of five of them.

Japanese: Lilotang

It was a dish of Unagi Don (Sea Eel rice) eaten during his Hong Kong childhood that ignited Po Yang’s passion for Japanese food.

“I still remember the pattern of the rice box, the sweet soy and slightly torched skin,” he says. “I was most intrigued by the Umami flavors, Japanese called it ‘the good taste that we cannot pinpoint’.”

Umami-jime Snapper Sashimi, Josephine Pear, Heirloom Tomato w Chilli Tosazu.

Umami-jime Snapper Sashimi, Josephine Pear, Heirloom Tomato w Chilli Tosazu.

 

Years later, after spending time living and studying in Tokyo, the Lilotang Manager met Nobu sous chef, Shunsuke Ota, in Melbourne, and soon lured him to Canberra to head the kitchen at the newest restaurant in The Chairman Group.

“Japanese cuisine is all about respecting and understanding ingredients, appreciating seasons, nature,” says Chef Ota. “Our cuisine always reflects four seasons, and tries to make people enjoy the season with flavours and the looks of the dishes.”

Black Cod Saikyo Miso Yaki.

Black Cod Saikyo Miso Yaki.

 

Japanese cuisine is defined by the distinctive flavours of Dashi, soup stock made from Konbu (dried seaweed) and Bonito flake; soy sauce, sake, mirin, miso, and sea salt. At Lilotang, you might see these ingredients come together in a dish of Black Cod Saikyo Miso Yaki where the Black Cod is marinated for four days in a sweet and mild Saikyo, or the Duck Breast Sukiyaki, a melty tempura egg which, when broken, spreads creamy yolk over the chargrilled duck breast and Japanese mushrooms in sweet soy with a hint of Sake flavour.

It’s not so hard to pinpoint this good taste.

Must try: Umami-jime Snapper Sashimi, Josephine Pear, Heirloom Tomato w Chilli Tosazu.

Lilotang | 1 Burbury Close, Barton | lilotang.com.au

French: Les Bistronomes

While Canberra has more Italian restaurants than you can poke a grissini at, French restaurants remain few and far between. But now Clement Chauvin and Abel Bariller are bringing a certain je ne sais quoi to Braddon with Les Bistronomes.

Originally from Lyon, Clement started his career in the kitchen at the two-Michelin star Pic in France. From there it was on to the prestigious Nicholas La Bec and Gordon Ramsey’s Claridges in London before he followed his heart to Australia, working at Sage and Water’s Edge before opening Les Bistronomes.

Les Bistronomes' Executive Chef, Clement Chauvin.

Les Bistronomes’ Clement Chauvin.

 

Abel’s pedigree is no less impressive. As a professional chef sommelier and beverage consultant he worked at the three-Michelin star restaurant Michel Trois-Gros in the Rhone Valley, going on to be awarded the title of Knight of Cognac.

Together, the two are taking modern classic French dishes to new heights using creative technique and the freshest seasonal produce, complemented by an impressive list of local and French wines.

Chestnut Log, Quince and Yoghurt Sorbet.

Chestnut Log, Quince and Yoghurt Sorbet.

 

“We have our blackboard specials which offer more authentic French delicacy and the à la carte menu offering our seasonal menu,” says Abel.

“The most popular dishes on the menu are our mains to share, and we have our famous Beef Wellington made to Gordon’s recipe and Ash crusted duck à l’orange – a classic french dish with a Clement twist.”

Must try: The Chestnut Log, Quince and Yoghurt Sorbet.

Les Bistronomes | Eloura Street, Braddon | lesbistronomes.net 

Nepalese: The Hungry Buddha

Canberra has many ‘moonlighters’…those who work public service jobs during the day and pursue passion projects after hours. Maybe they’re photographers, or jewellery designers; or in the case of Lachhu Thapa and Benjamin Richardson, they’re restaurant owners.

The Hungry Buddha is a humble restaurant nestled downstairs at the Curtin shops, and its authentic cuisine has developed a loyal following.

The Hungry Buddha is nestled downstairs at Curtin Shops.

The Hungry Buddha is nestled downstairs at Curtin Shops.

 

“Nepal is a very emotive word for many people. It takes them back to a trek, an image of the Himalayas, the food of Nepal,” says Lacchu.

“The different districts of Nepal all have their own style of food, with strong influences from Tibet and India. At The Hungry Buddha we serve a mix of Thakali and Newari cuisine.”

The focus of Nepalese food is the spices.

The focus of Nepalese food is the spices.

 

According to Lacchu and Ben, the focus of Nepalese food is the spices. A variety are used, without the use of cream or milk, to create fresh, light curry dishes with a vivid array of flavours and colours.

Goat features large, being the most popular meat in Nepal, favoured over lamb, buffalo and beef. It’s not an everyday protein for most Australians, but it’s delicious.

Nepalese food is not widely available in Canberra.

Nepalese food is not widely available in Canberra.

 

“When we first opened The Hungry Buddha four years ago, we had no idea how it was going to turn out,” says Ben.

“We have been so humbled by the reception of the community and are so glad for all of the people we get to meet every day as part of our work.”

Must try: Khasi ko masu (goat curry) is a Nepalese classic.

The Hungry Buddha | Lower Ground, 44E Curtin Place, Curtin | thehungrybuddha.com.au 

Filipino: Kusina

Kusina’s opening in late 2012 was the realisation of a long held dream for siblings Jon Ora and Leilani Fox. After their father’s initial attempt at introducing Filipino cuisine to Canberra in the early 80s failed to take off, they felt the time had come to try again.

As a Spanish colony for over 400 years, the Phillipines has adopted many of Spain’s flavours and elements, while its position on the main trading route through Asia has seen a large migrant Chinese community infuse its culinary influences into the local cuisine.

Kusina's Leilani Fox.

Kusina’s Leilani Fox.

 

“Filipino cuisine is a balanced combination of sweet, sour and salty. Most dishes will hold a counterbalance of these flavours to give a rich flavour with plenty of depth and complexity,” says Leilani.

“Even simple, one element dishes such as Crispy Pata (Crispy pork hock) will add the sweet/sour element by using the accompanying sauces and condiments.”

Kusina serves traditional dishes from the Philippines.

Kusina serves traditional dishes from the Philippines.

 

Kusina serves traditional dishes from the Philippines, with Jon selecting dishes he believes will appeal to the western palate. His 10 years of international experience with Hyatt add a sophistication to otherwise homely, simple fare which is unlike any other Asian cuisine.

Must try: The Boodle Feast. Groups of four or more are provided an arrangement of delicious dishes on a banana leaf platform, surrounding a central mountain of rice. No cutlery allowed.

Kusina | Parkinson Street, Weston |  kusina.com.au

Peruvian: Mr Papa

After being the latest food trend in the US for a couple of years, Peruvian cuisine hit Canberra in early 2014, brought to town by Mr. Papa’s Carlos Ramirez-Roldan.

carlos

Mr. Papa’s Carlos Ramirez-Roldan.

 

His ‘Criolla’ food, commonly found in Peruvian markets and homes, is the result of the blend of ancient Incan culture (with its giant corn, yellow potatoes, Aji Amarillo and Rocoto Chillies, beans, cacao, quinoa), with other introduced cultures: the arrival of the Spanish Conquistadors and different migrants, such as Chinese, European, Indian and Japanese peoples. For Carlos, Mr. Papa is his heritage on a plate.

“It’s all about my childhood dreams and memories back home, always related to food adventures. I was always motivated to have a place for everyone to come and feel what Peruvian cuisine and culture is all about.”

Chanchito: Peruvian pork belly burger.

Chanchito: Peruvian pork belly burger.

 

From Carlos’ warm ‘Hola!’ to the reggaeton pumping from the speakers of Mr. Papa’s food van; from the eponymous ‘Papa’ (Peruvian stuffed potatoes) to the Chocotejas (Peruvian chocolate stuffed with pecans and dulce de leche); the culture of Peru shines through. Close your eyes for a second and imagine you’re there.

Must try: Chanchito. Mr. Papa’s Peruvian Pork Belly Sandwich. Slow-cooked and juicy pork belly, golden-fried sweet potato, Creole salsa and home-made chillies all served in ‘Pan Frances’ Peruvian-inspired bread made by local bakers.

Mr Papa | The Hamlet, 16 Lonsdale Street, Braddon | mrpapa.com.au

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Images by Rebecca Doyle Photography.

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Amanda Whitley

Amanda Whitley is the founder and director of HerCanberra. In her 'spare time', she instructs zumba, loves to cook (and eat), and wrangles two gorgeous little girls. She's done everything from present the tv news to operate a stop and go sign and is passionate about connecting Canberra women. More about the Author

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