What do you get when a seasoned fruiterer collides inspiration with an accomplished charcoal chef?
You get a crazy long rotisserie that transforms premium vegetables and protein into chargrilled deliciousness. You get Terra.
A fruiterer by trade, Anthony’s Belconnen-based fruit shop also includes a butcher’s shop. But things really took off when Anthony met chef Sungyeol Son when he began selling his produce wholesale to restaurants. The two immediately hit it off.
“I got to know him, and we just got along really well,” Anthony says.
The concept of Terra had been slowly percolating away in Anthony’s mind for a while.
“When you go out for lunch, you want to eat healthy and cheap, but there are no real options that offer a generous serve of meat with great salad and veggies. That was my vision.”
Many conversations later, including a hilarious miscommunication about the two of them running a kebab shop, and Anthony and Sung became business partners.
Anthony brings in all of Terra’s produce at a great price and Sung is a master of the charcoal grill.
“I love cooking vegetables over the charcoal grill. I love flavour matching and making vegetables a star on their own, like smoked pumpkin, pine mushrooms and smoked eggplant,” Sung explains enthusiastically.
Each morning, Sung and Canadian chef Greg work out what dishes they will cook, based on the produce they have on the day.
Terra had their breakfast and lunch concept nailed from the outset.
“In the morning, we do coffee and your typical breakfast dishes,” Anthony explains.
Then the magic happens.
“At lunchtime, we have the big bench here with the rotisserie behind it. We fill the bench up with fresh salads and vegetables. You line up and pick whatever meat you want. The chef slices it fresh from the grill. We do the brisket and pork shoulder in the smoker and the chickens on the rotissierie. One protein and one side is $15, or one protein and two sides for $18. Or you can have just salads and sides if meat isn’t your thing.”
From the outset, Terra’s concept has been popular, keeping the team ultra busy.
Anthony and Sung finished 2019 on a high note, being heralded in the media as one of the top 20 restaurants in Canberra. They had high hopes for 2020 (but didn’t we all?), then the year unfolded. Anthony and Sung found they had to quickly adapt to ongoing restrictions. Their response was the Terra Bird ‘n’ BBQ.
“We thought, let’s change the concept. What we do at lunch is great for takeaway. Let’s bring that idea to our dinner menu and tweak it. Let’s change the setup and do our meats and just five fresh salads. We set up our own order and delivery platform and managed to keep most of our team in a job, including a lot of our guys who don’t qualify for JobKeeper because they are originally from Canada or Korea etc.”
Now, to the tasting – and you’ll be glad they’re still grilling.
Terra grill most of their food over a 3-meter-long charcoal rotisserie that is half Brazilian churrasco, half Argentinian adjustable grill. They create further taste sensations using their massive custom-built smoker.
Speaking of tastes, this meal is all about ‘umami’.
Umami, the late-discovered ‘fifth taste’ (along with sweet, salty, sour, and bitter), is desired for its rich meatiness. French chef Raymond Blanc describes the taste of umami as “layer upon layer of velvet and silkiness”.
Terra brings umami in spades.
First the trio of meats. Spit roast pork belly with a crunchy top. Moist red brisket that is tender mouthfuls of smoke and char. Succulent chicken infused with the heady, sizzling fat that has dripped onto the charcoal from the rotisserie
Now, the chips. They’re full of crunch with a robust, almost meaty flavour. These have to be the best chips I have ever tasted. What makes them so magical is a mystery that doesn’t need solving. It is enough to know they exist in the same state as my tastebuds.
But that’s not all. A mouthful of the smoked fat mashed potato with miso gravy … WOW! This is the mash you want to marry, or at the very least have served at the wedding reception. Slathered with a silken miso gravy full of meaty notes, this is the BEST MASH EVER! Umami at its best.
A prominent feature at Terra is their large jars of pickled vegetables. The team make pickles and sauces fresh each week from whatever vegetables and chillies are in season.
The sauces are standout. The chipotle sauce is refreshing and full-bodied with a lazy hit of heat that comes after the first taste so you can really enjoy the fresh chipotle flavour.
The Terra BBQ sauce is all tang – tart with some underlying sweet notes, tamarind-like. Irresistible!
Some advice, though: save room for dessert. The Terra tart looks out of this world!
Terra is located at Shop G2, No Name Lane, 40 Marcus Clarke Street in City West. It’s open Monday to Friday from 7:30 am to 9:00 pm, and Saturday and Sunday from 11:30 am to 9:00 pm.