My friend Heather and I are dining in Barton. Away from the pace and noise and hard-won parking spaces of Civic or Braddon’s food strip, Lilotang is tucked away along the side of the Burbury Hotel.
The first part is easy. I find a parking space immediately. But it takes me three pushes of the wrong door and three separate and increasingly embarrassing rotations through the Burbury’s revolving door to work out that I need to go back out and push the second door along, the one next to the glowing Lilotang sign.
Push the door open and walk through a short corridor that recalibrates your senses into mellow mode before entering the restaurant/bar.
Lilotang’s vibe is subtly classy, understated with muted modern tones and soft lighting. Our waiter, Will, materialises with menus, helpful dining suggestions and a smile that lights his whole face. Everything on the menu sounds innovative and delicious. It’s modern Japanese fare, including several dishes that are cooked over a robata charcoal grill.
We start with cocktails. My Coconut Sora High is all blue shards and white snowflakes, like an iceberg from a Disney movie. Tropical meets the ski slopes. The scent of coconut and lime fills my nostrils and the drink slides down real easy.
Heather’s Lilo Mojo cocktail brings the musk of Davidson plum gin with warmth from the apricot brandy. I can taste gentle back notes of lime and pineapple. Not overly sweet, this is a cozy winter cocktail, Heather declares.
Our first dish arrives. Salmon nigiri. Wedges of deliciously sticky, seasoned sushi rice, its edges fried golden crisp, topped with a spread of luscious salmon mousse and a delicate piece of salmon. Tasty, and the textures are pleasing too.
Next, golden and bubbling, the scallops are straight off the robata grill, perched oyster-like on their shells. Don’t be tempted to swallow these straight from the shell, like we nearly did. They are hot! Scallop bites, pickled daikon and marinated cod roe in chilli have been tossed with mayonnaise and then grilled. The grilled creates an almost Parmesan-like crust. Salty meets bittersweet meets creamy goodness. Waiter Will says that this dish enticed him to include fish in his previously vegetarian diet.
We enjoy the Popcorn shrimp, drizzled with chilli mayo and accompanied by a little bowl of Nanban sauce. I like this sauce so much that I Google a recipe immediately. I think the clever chefs might have added a couple of secret ingredients to their Nanban sauce to bring an extra robust toothsomeness to it.
Our main is from the robata grill: a slow-cooked Angus short rib. No knife needed. It is outstanding. It melts like umami butter in your mouth, with a gorgeous, charred crunch to the exterior. The rich meaty flavours are cut through with the pickled Nashi pear and onion.
We finish this wonderful dinner on a double high.
Dessert is the miso fondant. Miso is a magical unicorn of flavour, is it not?
I have had two miso highlights in my life.
The first was Terra’s incredible mashed potatoes. The second is here at Lilotang. This miso fondant is a taste sensation I will never forget. It is not a dessert that punches you in the face with big flavours. Instead, each delicate mouthful seduces you even more with its subtle perfections. The miso brings a salted caramel smoothness to the fondant. While its edges give a crunchy, caramelised chew, the interior of this miniature cake is soft and buttery. The accompanying ginger ice cream is refreshingly tart.
Will brings us each a shot of coconut sake to finish our meal. A roughly filtered sake, cloudy and infused with the sweet, nutty notes of coconut. Drink of the night!
Come for some drinks, or bring a first date here to impress. Grab a group of friends and share some plates from the new menu.
Lilotang is located at 1 Burbury Cl in Barton. It is open for lunch from Tuesday to Friday from noon until 2:30 pm. Check out their new Express lunch, a $30 Supercharged Bento Box! It is open for dinner and drinks from Tuesday to Saturday from 5:30 pm to 10:3 pm. See their colourful menu here to whet your appetite and follow them on Instagram and Facebook.