Not many places are open on a Monday night in Canberra, so I was pleasantly surprised to find out I could add new contemporary Asian eatery in Narrabundah, XO restaurant, to my Monday night dining list.
XO restaurant is now where The Artisan used to be and is run by four Canberra boys. Two of those boys have a South East Asian background and the flavours represent what they know and love.
My dining buddy and I decided to treat ourselves last Monday night with cocktails! Both were light and refreshing drinks. I would have been happy with either drink. He chose "The weekend", a gin based cocktail with ginger liqueur and chilli sugar syrup. My "Japerol Spritz" was made with a special 50/50 blend sake, aperol and fresh orange.
For starters, I couldn't go past the bao. The Shangtung Bao is twice cooked pork belly with cucumber, pickled daikon and ginger ($8 each*). Probably my favourite dish from last night, I would happily have these baos for breakfast, lunch and dinner! There was a good meat to bun ratio due to the fact they were shaped more like burger buns, than the traditional "bao shape".
We also got the Steamed Dumplings - minced prawn and pork with spicy sauce vinaigrette. Perhaps a tad steep at $16* for 4 dumplings, but I really liked the "al dente" chewiness of the dumpling wrapping. The sweet and sour flavour of the vinaigrette was the perfect sauce for the dumplings too.
The Shallow Fried Tofu had a beautiful soft texture but wasn't particularly crispy on the outside. It was more a delicate, subtle dish. I thought it was a tad steep at $14* for 6 small slices of tofu in soy sauce. I mentioned this to the chef when he came out to say hi. He explained that he wanted a contrast to the other more flavourful dishes and that the dish also included candied ginger.
I was excited to try the Hiramasa kingfish ($16*). The sweetness from the ponzu nuoc cham was a delicious dressing for the fish and I loved the contrasting flavours of the mixed herbs (shiso leaves I think?)
For our larger plate, the Beef Rendang ($29*) was aromatic and full of flavour from the spices.
It was a difficult choice to make when it came to dessert time. So we got them all! The Chrysanthemum tea soft serve cone looked like a fun (and cheap) option for only $5. The punchy tea flavour surprised me on the first lick, but then I couldn't get enough. An icier soft serve than traditional soft serves, it's a rather refreshing way to end the meal. Or transition to a sweeter dessert!
The Black Rice Pudding with coconut ice cream, golden honeycomb, and lime meringue ($14*) was an array of flavours and textures. Chewy from the rice pudding, creamy from the coconut ice cream and crunchyness from the honeycomb and meringue.
It was a tough call as to which one I liked better, the soft serve or the Pandan Panna Cotta ($12*). This dairy free panna cotta was made from coconut cream and it was incredibly creamy. Loved it.
The boys are keen to put their stamp on everything in their restaurant, from adding dehydrated Vietnamese mint and vanilla extract to the Sriracha, to creating their own cocktails, to creating their own unique flavour of soft serve. I think I've found my go-to restaurant for Monday nights...
*My dining partner and I ended up dining as guests of XO. All views are my own.
XO restaurant Address: 16 Iluka Street, Narrabundah Phone: 02 6295 9696 Website: XO restaurant Open for lunch: Tuesday - Saturday 12 - 3pm Open for dinner: Monday - Saturday 6 - 11pm
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If you are a fan of Asian food, have you tried a Filipino breakfast? Check out this post to get some inspiration for your next foodie adventure!
Do you know of other places that serve amazing baos? If so, let me know in the comments below! I’d love to hear from you!