It is dark and cold, and I have a night by myself and I decide to venture off in search of a new food destination. Kind of like a mystery hike in the Lonsdale St area. Now living nearby, I thought I knew all the hip and new places. But while walking at the Haig Park end, I spied something interesting – Chaki Chaki Japanese restaurant.
Chaki Chaki has been opened for over a year, but it looks and feels like new – as if it has just popped up overnight. Perhaps because of the building site across the road that restricts pedestrians walking by, you don’t really look up and notice this place. In fact, when I wandered across to find it took me around five minutes to work out how to get upstairs. This is despite being in the building, more times than I want to admit, consuming more Mr Frugii ice-creams than is sensible (Mr Froggy my kids call it, after a Pokemon character). The tip is to head up the stairs towards the gym and then turn left – don’t try to head into the apartment block.
Chaki Chaki is decked out in a modern Japanese-Australian style, with a wide deck overlooking Lonsdale St and tasteful wooden chairs. Inside the decor is designed to circle the bar. It would be a fine place to relax with a few Japanese beers and sashimi on a Friday night. On this occasion, I was dining by myself, and it was a relaxed and stylish venue for my solo purpose.
The menu is geared towards degustation menu; the cheapest is the nami (wave) $60 for a six-course meal that consists of one main course and several smaller dishes. While this looked tempting and was probably the best value, I went for my eclectic selection dishes instead.
I couldn’t resist edamame beans ($10), in this case, a bowl of warm soy beans that I enjoyed squeezing through my teeth to extract the bean inside. I forgot that I wanted to sit and type, so I struggled with the resulting greasy hands a bit.
I was initially disappointed by the tuna and avocado salad ($18) because as the dish approached my table, it seemed so small. It looked at first like a small plate of tomato and avocado salad, but on closer inspection, the dish contained generous chunks of fresh tuna. The salad was a taste sensation, a correctly balanced choice of textures and flavours and ideal to order in winter when avocados are plentiful.
Living in Asia, I loved ramen and had been surprised until now that the ramen craze had not trickled down to Canberra. Where is our award winning ramen restaurants with long queues of people fighting to slurp soup? Thanks to Chaki Chaki we now have a serious contender although they need to talk it up a bit. I nearly didn’t order the Tonkotsu Pork Ramen ($20), because it was listed halfway down the menu, and then the menu cautioned to ask first to see if it is still available. It was there, and while perhaps slightly smaller than I expected, it was just the right thing on a cold Canberra night: piping hot, made with a rich pork broth and with a tapestry of toppings that eventually open to discover chewy noodles underneath. This is a great place to come with friends and reminisce about Niseko skiing trips or to plan one.
Canberra’s best ramen? It is one of the only dishes I have found so far and the best.
The layout is spacious and almost minimalist, yet there is a warmth that radiates from the personality of the chef and owner. As I was sitting by myself and observing, she came out and spoke with a Japanese mother and her daughter, who were obviously regulars. I could almost feel the love. The restaurant is priding itself on Zen style dishes, but there is a depth beyond pristine Instagram snaps.
Have you been to Chaki Chaki? Where can you find the best ramen in Canberra?