10 June 2022

Five minutes with Zac Young, Kita Canberra

| Evelyn Karatzas
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Man in restaurant

Zac Young at Kita in Narrabundah. Photo: Evelyn Karatzas.

Who is Zac Young: I am the co-founder and front of house manager of Kita in Narrabundah.

Best recent dining experience: I would have to say my dear friends at Onzieme in Kingston. Their casual, yet thought out approach to what they think hospitality should be like in Canberra, is second to none. And with their brand new wine bar opening downstairs, I’d recommend this place to anyone and everyone. It’s got the most delicious food and wine. What more could you want?

Favourite cuisine: Italian food. It is something I could probably eat for the rest of my life and would never get sick of – after Indonesian food of course! But there’s just something about Italian … maybe it’s because of their use of cheese – I love cheese!

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Most embarrassing pantry item: Right now I have a stale loaf of what once was a delicious sourdough. I’m trying to cut down on my food wastage, but when something is in front of me that I can’t say no to, it’s hard to resist, but I need to learn to.

What ingredient can I not live without: Salt, salt and salt. As well as rice, and maybe eggs … Yeah, definitely eggs too.

Coffee

Zac visits Bloom in Woden several times throughout the week. Photo: Thomas Lucraft.

Next big thing in the Canberra food scene: It’s hard to say, because so many people are doing so many amazing things. All I know is that I want to be a part of it.

Best coffee spot in Canberra: I would probably say Bloom. It’s nestled in the concrete jungle of the developing Woden area, and it’s a café I visit multiple times a week.

My favourite place for lunch: Hands down our very own Indo Café. Located on London Circuit in the City, our heritage store has been an Indo staple for more than twenty years. I remember growing up there, learning the basics of hospitality, building my confidence with customers, and learning about the Indonesian flavours and ingredients. Without it, there would be no Kita.

Larb carpaccio

Larb carpaccio from XO Restaurant: perfection on a plate. Photo: XO Restaurant.

Who I admire in the Canberra food and wine scene: Anand Ramakrishna (AK) from XO and ILY. His menu at ILY blew me away last time I went a few weeks ago. It was hearty, delicious and had a home-cooked feel to it. Really, anything those boys are doing at those venues is spot on. Keep it up, lads.

XO pork neck curry

XO’s chettinad varuval pock neck curry with chilli masala and cashews. Photo: XO.

Biggest culinary influence: I would have to say my Mum. Growing up, the house was always filled with the smells of delicious food. I was privileged enough to be exposed to so many different types of cuisines at a young age, which has made me love all foods now. She worked hard to make sure we ate well, and for that, I will always be grateful. Oh, and my boy Gordon Ramsay! I could watch that man do his thing for hours.

Favourite cookbook: I picked up Simple by Yotam Ottolenghi last lockdown in the hope it would spark some motivation to cook more often at home. So far I’ve only made the feta and oregano chips which is arguably the most simple dish in the book, but still very delicious. Now, it sits on my kitchen bench as more of an aesthetic piece. Oh well.

A must-try on our menu: On the menu at Kita, I’d say the Soto Ayam. It may not be our most popular, or our most colourful, but I have so many memories with this dish as a child. So, now that I have the opportunity to share those memories with our customers, I’d definitely say that the Soto Ayam is a must-try.

What are this week’s specials at Kita?: Semur Dagging – Soy and black pepper beef curry with snow peas and mushrooms, served with fluffy steamed jasmine rice and fried shallots. It’s tender, hearty and perfect for this colder weather. (This has a vegetarian option available too).

Lamb cutlets

If Zac’s mum won’t make you lamb cutlets, there’s always the Yass Soldiers Club. Photo: Yass Soldiers Club.

Where am I travelling to next: My partner and I have just booked tickets to visit her hometown in Cebu, Philippines! I have been all over South-East Asia, but never to the Philippines, so I’m really looking forward to exploring their culture and food. I’ve heard that Jollibee is the place to go? So I’ll be checking that out for sure.

Death row meal: Easily my mum’s crumbed lamb cutlets, with steamed vegetables, and potato mash.

My least favourite food: To be honest, I like just about everything, but capsicum really doesn’t do it for me. I know some people eat it like an apple, much like how I eat tomatoes. But something about it just isn’t right.

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COVID-19 response: It was tough, just like for everyone. But luckily our menu and shop, it was designed for takeaway as well as dine in. So we adapted to what we needed to, offered home delivery and crossed our fingers. We have to say that without our loyal customers and staff, we really would have struggled more than we already did through that period. We are extremely lucky to have such an amazing following and family. Hopefully we’ll never have to go back.

My top three cooking tips:

  1. Put a wet paper towel under your chopping board.
  2. Clean as you go and have an open bin next to you to throw away waste.
  3. Always add salt!

Kita is open Wednesday and Thursday, 6 pm to 6 am; Friday, 6 pm to 12 pm; Saturday 6 am to 12 pm and then reopen from 9 pm to 12 am and from 12 am to 12 pm on Sunday. It is located at 31 Kennedy Street, Kingston.

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