Monday, April 25, 2011

Coo Izakaya

Location: 15 East Row, Sydney Building, Canberra
Phone: (02) 6257 2233
Cuisine: Japanese

I've had Iori, and its sister restaurant Coo, recommended to me a few times, so when my parents came up to visit me, I decided to try out Coo.

Coo had a nice set up and sported an almost-tapas like menu with an extensive range of smaller dishes and a few larger ones. We decided to go tapas-style and ordered an assortment of the smaller dishes.

renkon chips - deep fried lotus root
First to arrive was the renkon chips, essentially deep fried thinly sliced lotus root. The crunchy slivers of lotus root had an interesting texture. and were lightly seasoned. 

spider roll - inside-out sushi roll filled with tempura soft shell crab,
lettuce, avocado, cucumber and seafood stick, wrapped with
special Aburi salmon
This was one of the most interesting items on the menu, and there were no regrets in trying it out. The spider roll was a beautiful combination of flavours and textures. 

Shio Saba - grilled mackerel
This dish was a bit of a disappointment for me, both in size and in quality. The serving size was rather small and the sauce was rather lacking. The mackerel was a tad overcooked and had a dry and brittle texture.

Coo ramen
The ramen was a bit of a gimmick - served in a stone pot over a flame. The broth was light and flavoursome, the noodles 'al dente' and the vegies plentiful. However, the ramen was nothing like the ramen I've had at Ramen Ya and Meshiya, it was missing the menya (picked bamboo) and would have tasted a significantly better if it had some meat in it.

Teri chicken
The highlight of the night was the teri chicken. The tender juicy pieces of chicken were smothered in a beautiful teriyaki sauce and the salad was light and refreshing.

We finished off the meal with a scoop of green tea ice-cream. The ice-cream was unlike normal ice-cream and had a slightly chewy texture, as though tapioca powder had been added to the mix. The result was a scoop of ice-cream that did not melt and collapse into a puddle as easily as normal ice-cream would, in fact, it managed to hold its shape until the very last bite.
The service was varied, The main waitress who took our orders and looked after our table was rather rude and dismissive, something I would not have expected at a restaurant of Coo's standing. The other waiter who brought us some of our dishes, on the other hand, was quite friendly and eager to help.

Food-wise, the experience was great, but I won't be rushing back for the service. Might give it's sister restaurant, Iori, a shot first.

Overall Impression: 7.5/10
Coo on Urbanspoon

Saturday, April 16, 2011


Location: Shop 4, Melbourne Building, West Row, Canberra City
Phone: (02) 6247 8212
Cuisine: Modern Australian

Sabayon was the first classy fine-dining experience I've had in Canberra. And I must say from the outset, I was quite impressed with the place. 

Service started off a little slow, we were taken to a table by a friendly and polite waiter, but had to wait a few minutes before menus and water were offered. On opening the menu, I was a little disappointed that the menu differed from that which I had seen on the website (the pork belly dish I had intended to order was missing).

That aside, the menu had a nice selection of dishes ranging from red meats to seafood and also vegetarian options.

Ironically, my first highlight of the meal was the complimentary bread. Having been served far too many bad bread rolls (either rock hard, dry, cold or a combination of the three), the bread at Sabayon was delightful. Served warm, you could tell that the bread was freshly baked - light and airy, and when smothered with some butter, just melted in your mouth. Hands down the best complimentary bread roll I've had. Unfortunately, it just looked like an ordinary bread roll, so no photos were taken.

Now onto our entrées.

seared Queensland scallops with a confit duck terrine, Fennel puree and an apple salad
First up were some beautifully seared scallops served on top of a duck terrine. The scallops were fresh, juicy and lightly seasoned to bring out the sweetness in the scallops themselves. The duck terrine was nicely flavoured and you could still get actual pieces of duck. The matchstick sized apple pieces provided a nice refreshing balance to the dish.

quail Wellington with a mushroom Duxelle, beetroot and
goats cheese finished with a balsamic walnut oil dressing
Probably my least favourite dish of the night - which was perhaps an ordering mistake rather than a mistake of the chef - I found that the dish was very much pastry dominated. So much that the quail, which in and of itself, was beautifully cooked and well flavoured, was drowned out. The pastry also seemed to have more oil or butter that it needed. The beetroot, goats cheese and dressing gave the dish with some extra 'kick' but were very much required to balance out the excess pastry flavour.

Our mains took a little while to arrive. But the wait turned out to be a good thing - the serving sizes weren't as small as we had anticipated.

grass fed beef fillet (cooked medium), mustard spatzle, chick pea
 chips, zucchini, tarragon bearnaise and port jus
A fairly sizable portion of tender beef was cooked exactly the way we asked for it to be cooked. The beef was so well cooked that we didn't even need a steak knife. The chick pea chips were very creative, with smooth chick pea puree centre and a crispy outer shell. 

ballotine of ocean trout and dory fillets wit herb gnocchi and
chorizo, Jerusalem artichoke puree and basil jus
With so many components on the plate, we were a little concerned as to how the flavours would pair up, but it kind of worked. The ocean trout was cooked to perfection. It held its shape when being cut, but just melted in your mouth with an almost creamy like texture. The gnocchi and chorizo went well together and gave the dish a subtle chilli 'kick'.

roasted Moroccan spiced lamb rack, spec and cauliflower puree,
potato fondant, confit cherry tomato, marinated artichoke,
lentils and garlic jus
Again, the meat was cooked perfectly. The lamb was just cooked, a little pink on the inside and very juicy and tender. The potato fondant was like a little disc of mashed potato with crispy edges. The two richer flavours were balanced off with the slightly sour artichoke, spec and cauliflower puree and the burst of freshness from the cherry tomato. The lentils added a interesting dimension to the dish with the somewhat nutty texture.

nectarine sorbet

We were surprised to be presented with a complimentary scoop of nectarine sorbet each, as a palate cleanser. Whilst the sorbet was a little too sweet for a palate cleanser, it was however very refreshing and quite tasty. It could potentially work well served as an accompaniment to a dark chocolate dessert.

warm chocolate fondant with fresh raspberries and
a pistachio malt ice-cream
Chocolate fondant. Probably one of my favourite desserts of all time - when done well. Tonight's was delicious, but a little on the overcooked side. The edges were nice and crisp, but the inside was not as oozy as I had expected it to be. It was probably closer to being a cake than a fondant. The ice-cream, on the other hand, was absolutely spectacular. On reading the menu, I had imagined pistachio flavoured ice-cream. This was not to be - the ice-cream was served with actual pieces of pistachio in it! The pistachios added a wonderful crunch and nuttiness to the ice-cream. 

Service was a little slow, which I guess is understandable for a Friday evening, and given the serving sizes are not as small as one would expect at a higher end restaurant, the breaks were rather needed. The staff were pleasant and friendly without being overbearing.

The atmosphere was chilled and relaxed, seating comfortable and lighting dimmed. A nice place to enjoy a quiet dinner for a special occasion, but definitely not a place where you would let your kids run wild in. 

Sabayon is reasonable in terms of value for money if you appreciate quality as well. The entrées.were $18 each, the mains $32 each and desserts $15 each.

Overall Impression: 8.5/10
Sabayon on Urbanspoon