Cartier Masthead Final Weeks

Seeing seafood in seven courses

Emma Macdonald

There’s a Japanese proverb “Even the head of a sardine can become holy with devotion.”

But fear not. When the Chairman Group roll out their Seafood Festival over autumn, there will be plenty more to devote yourself to than sardine heads alone…

For instance, how does a succulent slab of chargrilled lobster resting on a pillow of the silkiest egg tofu which floats in a dashi broth with chive oil and blood orange powder sound?

Certainly, it looks better than a sardine head. And it tastes sublime.


Photo credit: Anisa Sabet

The seafood festival is run across the Chairman Group’s three restaurants, including Chairman and Yip and Lilotang – both located in the Burbury Hotel in Barton – and Lanterne Rooms in Campbell.

The lobster is just one of a seven-course Seafood Tasting Menu at Lilotang, with different degustation menus running across each restaurant and a range of special events scheduled throughout March and April.

But for those considering whether to go the full monty with the seafood degustation, here is a little of what you can expect.

It starts with artistic platters of sashimi, including a beautiful strip of raw octopus that is dense, delicate and intriguing all at the same time.

The lobster is followed by a sushi plate which includes tuna with sea urchin and crispy nori and kingfisher with sakura, dried plum and grated daikon.

Next comes braised sea eel sushi, followed by an interesting mix of textures and temperatures in a seaweed oyster tempura.

The oyster is warm, and wrapped in a salty seaweed salad with a dollop of cold and creamy oyster ‘ice-cream’ on top. This dish won’t be everyone’s cup of green tea but oyster-lovers such as myself will appreciate the approach.

The next dish is a beautiful platter of radicchio leaves, bejewelled with delicate squares of poached ocean trout and wasabi mascarpone.


Photo credit: Anisa Sabet

Did I mention that I am going the full experience and washing this down with sake? The tasting menu offers both a wine and a sake accompaniment and in the interests of full cultural immersion, I go the sake. I’m relatively new to the alcohol, but appreciate the dry and crisp flavours of the Hakkaisan Junmai.

The final dish veers from the seafood theme – a bowl of chargrilled scotch fillet with herbed miso, spicy dried plum and Japanese seven spice.

A committed pescatarian, I leave it to my carnivorous dining companion to devour while I focus on the accompaniment of grilled cauliflower with shitake mushroom, walnut and anchovy garlic dressing.

Both dishes are robust and quickly consumed despite coming at the end of five courses.

We’d be forgiven for showing little enthusiasm for dessert, but when it arrives at the table as a little garden of seaweed jelly, apple sheep yoghurt, Yuzu gel and wasabi ice-cream – all laid out on a glass case – we find ourselves enthusiastically scooping up each section.

It’s an inventive dish, although be prepared for the nostril-flaring strength of wasabi flavour in the ice-cream.

While we have eaten a large amount of food, we don’t feel heavy. It’s been an exercise in satisfying our curiosity as we have tried things we would not have normally ordered off an à la carte menu.

Some of the combinations require bravery on the part of the diner, but for those who like to stretch the boundaries of their restaurant experience and who love seafood in all its forms, this dinner should be placed at the top of your autumn to-do list.

the essentials

What: The Chairman Group Seafood Festival
Where: Chairman and Yip, Lilotang and Lanterne Rooms
When: 6 March – 22 April

Highlights include:

  • The Crab Feast: 13 April at Chairman and Yip ($135 per person, including food and matched wines provided by Voyager Estate).
  • The Beer and Satay Market at Lanterne Rooms: Starts on Wednesday 22 and Thursday 23 March, and takes place every Wednesday and Thursday until the end of April from 5.30–7.30pm (bar snacks start from $17 for a set of skewers and a side, and a range of beers/wines/cocktails also available).
  • Sake Kaiseki Dinner at Lilotang: 6 April ($135 per person, including menu & matched sakes, provided by Deja Vu Sake and presented by Yukino Ochiai).

The author and her guest ate courtesy of Lilotang, however, all opinions remain her own. 


Emma Macdonald

Emma Macdonald has been writing about Canberra and its people for more than 20 years, winning numerous awards for her journalism - including a Walkley or two - along the way. Canberra born and bred, she’s fiercely loyal to the city, tribally inner-north, and relieved the rest of the country is finally recognising Canberra’s cool and creative credentials. More about the Author