Soju Girl

Crispy Pork Hock with palm sugar caramel and crispy fried onion.
Crispy Pork Hock with palm sugar caramel and crispy fried onion. Photo: Rohan Thomson

41/43-45 Northbourne Avenue Canberra, Australian Capital Territory 2601

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Opening hours ,Wed-Fri 12pm-3pm; Tue-Sat 5pm-late.
Features Bar
Prices Expensive (mains over $40)
Chef , Leon Yu and Matthew Lightowler
Seats 200
Payments Mastercard, AMEX, eftpos, Visa
Phone 02 6257 5328

Canberra Times Top 20 for 2012

Soju Girl is part bar, part restaurant. Patrons are here variously for drinking, meeting, snacking and dining, but the spaces are separated and dinner is in a dedicated room.

The feel is young and energetic, and service is good from friendly staff, all well able to answer questions on the menu and wine list.

The menu is Oz-Asian, with a Thai bent. Lots of snacky ‘‘little plates’’ and a handful of ‘‘big plates’’, if you’re after a main. A dish that has been on the menu since Soju Girl opened in late 2011 is the whole baby snapper, which used to be served in swimming position, up on its belly and curved. No longer, we’re told. But still whole, fried, fresh and good with chilli jam and Thai herbs. Also in the mains is a duck curry, filled with green Asian vegies and two pieces of duck on the bone.

But most of the fun is in the long list of little plates. The likes of a pile of smoked trout and papaya with coriander and other Thai herbs served on a betel leaf; raw kingfish with yuzu and radish; or crispy pork hock with palm sugar caramel and crispy onions, a study in what the fatty bits and the fryer can bring to a bar snack. 

On the wine list are well-priced, mid-range locals and imports, with lots by the glass. Soju Girl is connected with Ellacure, a more familiar-in-style, mid-range Oz-Italian cafe near the Canberra Stadium.

So loads of energy and good food that’s made with care, with some Thai excitement. It adds up to a welcome part of the city dining scene.

How we score: Food and Wine Annual Top 20