XO Restaurant in Narrabundah has been on my ‘to eat’ list since they opened. Their food photos and recipes in The Capital Cookbook 3, and more recently Gourmet Traveller, have been tempting me for a long time. So I gave some (not so subtle) hints to Mr Eat Canberra about where I wanted to go for my birthday dinner…. He got the hint and whisked me off to XO last week and I was over the moon with the whole experience. It took me a little while to get there but it was definitely worth the wait.
What was once known as Artisan is now a modern restaurant with a bright white brick wall down one side and timber panelling down the other with light timber décor and a range of seating options throughout. It’s a long, narrow, cosy space and it’s suitable for many occasions. There are a range of innovative, modern and traditional South East Asian menu items to choose from.
The team at XO have created a special Chinese New Year menu that’s currently available (until 11 February) where you can get 8 courses for $88. The dishes sound really interesting and unique but I have been eyeing their menu off for months and there were so many dishes I wanted to try. So after 5 minutes of tossing up between the special menu and the dishes I had been dreaming about we went with the à la carte option.
Modern, upbeat music played in the background and the service was exceptional. I started off with a Nick O’Leary Riesling and we ordered out feast.
We started off with the Shantung Bao – twice-cooked pork belly with cucumber, pickled daikon and ginger. They’re don’t look like the bao you would expect to see and instead are presented as mini sliders filled with the delicious combination of pork and other condiments sandwiched between a soft and fluffy bao bun. They’re small but very satisfying.
Next up were the Steamed Dumplings filled with minced prawn and pork with spicy soy vinaigrette. Now let’s stop for a minute and talk about the vinaigrette. One word – WOW!! There was some serious appreciation that went on that night and I was sipping it by the spoonful. I actually poured the rest in a bowl and guarded it with my dear life each time one of the wait staff visited the table. I was not letting it go and used it with the other dishes through the evening. Apparently I’m not the only one who loves it. One of the wait staff told us about a lady who asked for more with every dish and even contemplated trying it with her dessert… The dumplings were delicious too and the soft, thin dumpling skin encased the filling beautifully. A lovely combination of flavours and I’m still thinking about that vinaigrette.
Just after we finished the dumplings, the Sexy Squid arrived and oh my I know how it got its name. It’s incredible and absolutely irresistible…. Every mouthful has you going back for more and we wanted that plate of squid to never end. The squid was so tender and lightly battered in a crisp coating. It was slightly sweet and a little lime juice squeezed on top changed the flavour completely. It was one of the best fried squid dishes I’ve ever eaten. It also tasted good with the vinaigrette….
After hearing great things and being really intrigued by the Asian Bolognese – stir fried udon in XO chicken ragout with a 60 degree egg – we had to give it a go. It was such a fun and interesting dish. The egg was perfectly cooked and the yolk added a richness to the ragout. Yum!
The Vit Tiem – confit duck leg (I’m a sucker for duck) with shitake herbal broth was next to hit the table. It was served on a bed of crispy noodles that softened as they soaked up the broth. The broth was flavoursome and the duck was really tender. I liked this dish but it wasn’t my favourite one of the night.
We couldn’t resist the cauliflower nuggets fried with mixed spices and mint yoghurt as a side. The mint yoghurt was fresh and tasty and the dish was very aromatic. I love cauliflower and this dish was very tasty however it was on the smaller side.
The last dish to arrive was the famous crispy lamb ribs. When we ordered the waitress was a little concerned at the amount (we like to try lots of dishes when we dine out) and said that if we needed to we could take the lamb ribs home. She was spot on because I could only get through half and Mr Eat Canberra had one and my other half. They were soooo tasty and tender and the sticky plum sauce they were coated in worked beautifully. However, they were a little on the heavy side to finish the meal. We took our waitresses advice and got the two we couldn’t eat to take away!
The team at XO surprised me with a delicious Black Sesame pudding with yuzu curd and milk and candied ginger ice cream. The pudding was light and the fresh and zesty yuzu curd paired with the ice cream completed the whole dining experience. They also have special soft serve ice cream on the menu with flavours that change regularly. When we were there they had adzuki and they’ve previously had chrysanthemum tea.
I can’t wait to return to XO Restaurant and try everything else on the menu and of course I need that Sexy Squid again ASAP! The Chinese New Year menu is available until 11 February but I would recommend to book now. We dined at 7pm on a Monday night and by 7:30pm the restaurant was full.