Baked whole baby snapper with mango Salsa from Kusina. Photo: Jay Cronan
Every year Canberra gets a little bit more diverse, and the restaurant scene gets more varied. In the interests of multicultural dining, food blogger Rachi Perera and Natasha Rudra pick some Canberra restaurants that offer the best of cuisine from around the world, and it’s everything from the cheap and cheerful to fine dining.
The Burmese Curry Place restaurant and cafe in Civic.
If you've never had Filipino food before, this is a warm welcome. The sizzling sisig, a rich tumble of pork and egg served on a hissing hotplate, is a spectacular, hearty dish, while the signature chicken adobo - a calling card of Filipino cuisine - is simple but comforting. And you can't leave without having a brightly coloured slice of purple yam cake or Kermit-green coconut cream cake for dessert. There are also coffees and pastries for casual weekday breakfasts.
Details: Shop 11, Cooleman Court, Weston Creek, 6288 8461, facebook.com/KusinaRestaurant
Loading Zone cafe.
On the other end of the spectrum, if you are after fine-dining Asian cuisine with water views, Morks Restaurant in Kingston Foreshore is the best of the best. The delicious contemporary Thai cuisine and the service from this family-owned-and-run restaurant make Morks one of a kind in Canberra. For dinner, pan-seared scallops and pig-ear terrine is a flavour sensation, while the duck Maryland in red curry sauce is familiar flavours served with finesse. For lunch, the massaman beef burger is a thing of slow-cooked beauty.
Details: 18/19 Eastland Parade, Kingston Foreshore, 6295 0112, morks.com.au
Burmese Curry Place
Morks' Massamun burger.
If you are after cheap and cheerful yet extremely delicious Asian food, you'd be hard-pressed to find better value than Burmese Curry Place. It's nothing more than a hole in the wall in the not-so-inspiring surrounds of the Civic bus interchange, but the regular lunchtime queues speak volumes for the popularity of this place. The menu is simple; there are nine options and you can choose two curries with rice, $8 to dine in or $7 to take away. My picks are the sweet pork and the egg curry with some fresh-cut chillies and chilli oil on the side. Hits the spot every time.
Details: 106 City Walk, Canberra
This is another of Canberra's suburban gems. Sanur's is on a strip of shops perched near the Lake Ginninderra waterfront in Belconnen. It serves fragrant Balinese dishes of chicken and duck curry filled with delicate spices. There are also traditional Indonesian dishes such as beef rendang, satay plates, mee goreng and a rijsttafel platter. It's not your average Asian restaurant at all.
Details: 1/114 Emu Bank, Belconnen, 6162 1688, sanurs.com.au
Ethiopia Down Under
This is yet another hidden little gem tucked away in a suburban shopping strip. Try the meat or vegetable combination platters to get a broad taste of Ethiopian cuisine, all mopped up with delicious injera, which is like a spongy sourdough pancake. The vibrant colours and flavours of the curries and lentils are sure to leave you wanting more. Their delicious range of homemade ice creams of unusual flavours, such as Ethiopian Sidamo coffee and roasted hazelnuts, means it is worth staying for dessert. They also have a kiosk in the Westfield Woden food court.
Details: 1/70 Hodgson Crescent, Pearce, 6286 1659, ethiopiadownunder.com.au
If you're not able to get down to the Woden Valley, get your Ethiopian fix from Global Cafe, a tiny shop fronting onto busy Northbourne Avenue near the Jolimont Centre bus station in Civic. It's super cheap and cheerful - for just under $10 you'll get a takeaway lunch packed with rice, a fluffy injera pancake and a couple of mild chicken or beef curries or a serve of comforting lentils. Like the Burmese Curry Place, this is not fine dining and it's popular with the Civic office worker lunch crowd.
Details: 63 Northbourne Avenue, Civic
Elk and Pea
Elk and Pea serves up delicious Mexican street food in hipster surrounds. They call their tacos ''fistfuls of flavours wrapped in a soft corn tortilla'' and they are just that. From the punchy flavours of beef short ribs with jalapeno salsa to the more exotic tempura soft-shell crab, at $7.50 these tacos are a little bargain. Add some street corn and ceviche tostada for a little Mexican street food feast.
Details: 21 Lonsdale Street, Braddon, 6162 0222, elkandpea.com.au
Loading Zone brings Melbourne's laneway dining scene to Canberra and does it well. Found in a back alley off London Circuit, Loading Zone dishes up affordable Italian dishes that are fresh, flavoursome and easy on the wallet. Antipasto platters with marinated vegetables, prosciutto, bocconcini and crostini are delicious regulars on the menu. The pasta specials of the day are seasonal and vary from hearty comfort dishes like pappardelle with lamb ragout to a simple orechiette with Sicilian pesto, basil, sun-dried tomato and capsicum. And the coffee is seriously good, too.
Details: 22 Odgers Lane, Canberra, facebook.com/pages/Loading-Zone
If you're after fine-dining European cuisine look no further than Sage. Nestled in the historic surrounds of the Gorman Arts Centre, Sage offers sophisticated fine dining that's sure to impress. The menu is seasonal and the dishes are innovative. From a delicate entree of a kingfish crudo to a more hearty main of beef short ribs with English mustard and potato foam, the menu at Sage has flair and creativity.
Details: Gorman House Arts Centre, Batman Street, Braddon, 6249 6050, sagerestaurant.net.au
An Afghani Cafe in Gungahlin. Why not? The tasting plate for two is fantastic value and a flavour sensation; the char-grilled chicken is tender with all the right spicy notes, and the lamb chablee is a kebab, but not as you know it. Furthermore, the traditional Afghani rice topped with sliced carrots, barberries and almonds is delicious all on its own and deserves a special mention.
Details: Shop 33, Gungahlin Place, Gungahlin, 6262 2341, facebook.com/KoochiCafe
It's hard to go past Smoque when you think good old-fashioned American barbecue-style cuisine. Carolina pulled pork, Texas brisket, Kansas City chicken and Memphis pork ribs scream American but not just for their names; the flavours are big and bold. You'd be a hard man or woman to please (or a vegetarian) if a plate of buffalo hot wings with blue cheese aioli doesn't make your heart flutter.
Details: Bailey's Arcade, London Circuit, Canberra, 6162 3350, smoque.com.au
Rama's Fiji Indian Restaurant
One doesn't go to Rama's for an intimate dinner or the ambience. It's the delicious curries that will keep you going back time and time again. The spicy and creamy goat curry is unlike anything you will find in Canberra, while the prawn saabji and the traditional Fijian pork curry will have you sweating for all the right reasons. It's a cramped little spot in a suburban shopping strip, but don't let that stop you.
Details: Pearce Shopping Centre, Macfarland Crescent, Pearce, 6286 1964, ramas.com.au
It's a Peruvian restaurant owned by Peruvians in Canberra. The Pollo a la Brasa, or the roasted Peruvian-style charcoaled chicken with green chilli sauce, is incredibly succulent and one taste is enough to keep you going back for more. Then there are more familiar items such as empanadas and cassava chips as well as intriguing Peruvian drinks like chicha morada, made of purple corn that's sure to stimulate your tastebuds.
Details: Shop 68, 12 Challis Street, Dickson, 6248 8648, cholos.com.au