17 November 2020

Hot in the City: Project Enoki represents Canberra’s next culinary chapter

| Sophia Brady
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Sambal lemon sole

A spicy sambal lemon sole and banana leaf dish is a highlight at Project Enoki. Photo: Ash St George.

Verity Lane Market opened a fortnight ago with an ambitious agenda.

Located in the historic Sydney Building, Verity Lane Market touted itself as a chef-driven gastronomic ground zero in the heart of the city. It promised to enliven and utilise the rear laneway – Verity Lane – to be a catalyst of laneway culture in Canberra and revitalise Civic.

My first visit on opening night was a complete delight and I left wanting to return, which I did the following night.

The historic space – which in its many incarnations housed the renowned Private Bin, Insomnia, ICBM, Meche and North Bar – has been rehabbed and elegantly transformed into a world-class food hall.

The premise is the same as your local shopping centre food court: communal seating, individual vendors set up to sell their wares, but the execution and experience have been heightened. Chain restaurants and plastic cutlery have been swapped for some of the city’s best chefs pumping out restaurant-quality meals in a beautifully curated environment anchored by a bar.

Verity Lane Market is poised to become an attraction for locals and tourists alike, representing Canberra’s next culinary chapter. We already have some of the country’s best coffee and wines, now we have an accessible space to act as an incubator that showcases great talent and amazing food.

Gerald Ong

Gerald Ong in the kitchen. Photo: Supplied.

One of the vendors that I made a beeline for during my visit that embodies the ethos of Verity Lane Market is Chef Gerald Ong’s Project Enoki.

Gerald previously worked at Chairman and Yip and was named as one of the five finalists for the 2020 Josephine Pignolet Young Chef Award.

Born in Singapore, Gerald has spent the past eight years working in Sydney and Canberra honing his craft.

“Project Enoki is a short five-month pop-up with a small and ever-changing menu, ending in March 2021. I was inspired by places like Kiosk, Mission Street food and Good Luck Pinbone. The short time allows the menu to be more daring. It’s all a good learning process and a chance to give back to an industry that has given so much to me,” Gerald says.

“I like the exciting structure of Verity Lane Market, the location and the team behind it. I am also the least established and newest business operator in the venue. After trying my food, the developers and owners of Verity Lane have decided to take a chance on this concept, and I cherish that greatly.”

Project Enoki

With a dynamic and ever-changing menu selection of snacks and shared plates, you never know week to week or day to day what will feature. Photo: Ash St George.

Project Enoki, he says, is a marriage of the authentic flavours of food-centric Singapore through the lens of modern Australian technicality.

“My inspiration is the food culture of Singapore, particularly the Hawker Centres, which are our traditional food halls and Zhe Char shops,” Gerald says, explaining that Zhe Char is a Hokkien term used in Singapore to describe wallet-friendly Chinese food stalls.

“It is the electric and eclectic mix of South-East Asian and British flavours that have become our national identity. I fuse that with the modern Australian techniques I have learnt in my time in Sydney, and the traditional Chinese techniques I learnt from my time at Chairman and Yip.’’

With a dynamic and ever-changing menu selection of snacks and shared plates, you never know week-to-week or day-to-day what will feature but you’re guaranteed it will be interesting and executed very well. Along with being highly skilled and technical, Gerald pays great respect to every ingredient.

During my visit, the highlights were a humble Roasted Cauliflower with coconut and satay sauce along with a delicate Steamed Scallop on the half shell with black pepper sauce and hazelnut and a spicy Sambal Lemon Sole & banana leaf.

“The challenge I’ve set for myself in this project is to have zero waste. I want to use every part of every product in some manner on my menu. My plan is to cook with intention, respect and love.”

Project Enoki is located in Verity Lane Market and is open Thursday to Saturday from 5:00 pm.

Steamed Scallop

Steamed Scallop on the half shell with black pepper sauce and hazelnut. Photo: Supplied.

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