Five minutes with Josiah Li, Chairman Group

Michelle Rowe 9 July 2021 1
Josiah Li

Josiah Li’s hospitality stable includes Chairman & Yip, Lanterne Rooms and new venues at Constitution Place. Photo: The Chairman Group.

Who is Josiah Li: I’m the owner of The Chairman Group, which now includes Cicada Bar and Mu Omakase at Constitution Place in the city.

Best recent dining experience: The braised beef noodle and dumplings at White Chaco in Braddon. It’s not easy to get authentic Taiwanese noodles in Canberra cooked with care and precision, and to have the consistency of the steamed dumplings just right.

White chaco dumplings

Steamed Taiwanese dumplings from Braddon’s White Chaco restaurant. Photo: White Chaco.

Most embarrassing pantry item: The thousand kinds of tea collected during my travels that I haven’t had the chance to finish yet.

Must-buy ingredient: Air-dried pork belly, which is essential for making radish cake, for including in Taiwanese pork rice, for putting on steamed fish or just using as a condiment … a very versatile ingredient.

Next big thing: The next big thing is a small thing … small bars with carefully curated drinks and refined, handcrafted modern Australian cuisine (elevated bar food). And places where people love what they do and have a great product and service as a result.

Favourite place for breakfast in the ACT: Intra cafe in Campbell. I usually just order something simple, like sourdough toast with poached eggs.

Intra Cafe Campbell

The kimchi jaffle is a must-try at Campbell’s Intra cafe. Photo: Michelle Rowe.

My Canberra food secret: I always get my soy sauce from Ainslie IGA. It’s the only place I can find the selection I like, which is a handmade, slightly smoked Japanese sauce. The staff there are very knowledgeable.

Biggest culinary influence: Gilbert Lau, who was the original owner of Flower Drum Chinese restaurant in Melbourne, and later Lau’s Family Kitchen in St Kilda. I really admire his meticulous approach to hospitality.

Manuel Xyrakis

Manuel Xyrakis at Ainslie IGA, which has attracted a loyal following from across the city. Photo: Daniella Jukic.

Favourite cookbook: It’s a 10-volume book, Chinese Food in 30 Years, written after the authors travelled through China for three years in the 1950s. It covers all the provinces across the country and offers good insights into the food culture.

Who I admire on the Canberra food and wine scene: Chef Suen Koon Wei of Chairman & Yip – a quiet achiever who has worked for the same place for 38 years and who created many long-lasting, popular dishes. He’s still going at the age of 75!

Chairman Yip chef

Chef Suen Koon Wei has worked with the Chairman Group for decades. Photo: Rebecca Doyle Photography.

What’s on the menu this week: A delicious whisky highball at Lanterne Botanical.

Where I’m going next: Mu Omakase – our new restaurant offering a refined, multi-course Japanese menu with distinctly Australian flavours at Constitution Place.

Death row meal: A bowl of thick noodle soup – the warmth and the sugar from the carbs makes me happy. I love slurping those last few noodles down as loud as I like!

Lanterne Botanical cocktail

The whisky highball from Lanterne Botanical. Photo: Ash St George.

My COVID-19 response: I’m still looking for answers to this challenge.

My really simple recipe tip: I actually do this all the time … I will buy pizza from Italian and Sons, get the spicy lamb and double-cooked duck pancakes from Chairman & Yip and the dumplings from White Chaco. Then I’ll go to my neighbour Wendy’s place to steal her green bean dessert. This all needs to be accompanied by a good bottle of wine from Robbie at Cork & Glass in Yarralumla.

The Chairman Group owns Chairman & Yip in Barton, Lanterne Rooms and Lanterne Botanical in Campbell, and the new Mu Omakase and Cicada Bar at Constitution Place in the city.


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One Response to Five minutes with Josiah Li, Chairman Group
Robyne Mitchell Robyne Mitchell 3:00 pm 10 Jul 21

Well done, Josiah, I remember those heady days at the restaurant in North Lyneham where great food and art and craft were combined. Such wonderful times. Your foods wherever you are, are always superb.

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