As restrictions ease, restaurants excitedly re-open their doors to dine-in customers, and we can once again meet up with friends over delicious food. How wonderful to feel the buzz slowly returning to Canberra as our city’s lifeblood – its people – emerge from lockdown and begin to live life outside four walls again.
For your first meal out in months, which restaurant will you choose? With so many diverse and sublime dining options available along Braddon’s Lonsdale St, settling on where to eat on one of our best dining strips can feel daunting.
Tucked away out of sight, towards the Mandalay Bus end of Lonsdale St, White Chaco is one gem worth seeking out.
With its modern, yet intimate interior, White Chaco offers a fresh take on fusion.
“Taiwanese, Japanese and a little bit of Chinese,” says owner and chef Andrew.
“We use Asian ingredients and prepare them with a Western tweak. Our name shows our style. Charcoal is naturally black but White Chaco is different. We create and process traditional ingredients or dishes in a modern way with passion. White Chaco represents our twist on classic Chinese ingredients and styles.”
It delights Andrew to advise diners in their menu selection. What are his top picks?
“Our ramen is pretty good”, he says. “So are the soup dumplings. I recommend our sashimi dish. And some of our specials.”
“We have different kinds of fried chicken. With our salt and pepper style, we make our own salt mixture. Our bao is pretty unique. We use braised beef, and a very traditional fritter that is nice and crunchy. The spring onions and coriander, spicy peanuts and Chinese sauerkraut lighten the richness of the meat.”
It is time to taste.
First is the most tender seared scallop sashimi. Served with house blend soy sauce and wasabi, the scallop barely puts up a protest as you chew into it. Pure flavours, perfectly executed.
Two bites into the first bao and it becomes clear that this is my favourite bao of all time. The bao bun itself is slender while still being pillow-soft, allowing for more filling. Winning! And the flavour ratios are perfect.
Sometime when eating a bao, the tangy and the crunchy elements can feel like they are just there as window dressing and you can’t manage to make them last all the way to that last bite. With this bao, every mouthful is a satisfying balance of tang, mellow, salty spice and fresh herbs, and a pleasurable mix of textures and ingredients with smooth braised beef, spiced peanut, zingy onions and crunchy fried onion.
Soup dumplings. I am imagining a soup full of dumplings, but it is the other way around. Soup dumplings are plump with soup. Andrew says, “We are confident that we have a lot of soup in our dumplings; they are very good.”
I eat them the way Andrew suggests.
First, dunk a whole dumpling into the accompanying ruby vinaigrette, then place it into the special soup spoon.
With your chopstick, poke a hole in the dumpling, and watch the burst of soup that fills your spoon. After slurping up the soup, the ruby vinaigrette adds tang and sweetness to the dumpling’s mellow meat filling.
With a relatively small menu, White Chaco’s regularly changing specials are an opportunity for the chefs to have fun and experiment.
White Chaco’s current special is salmon belly with spiced fish roe and carrots. It is my favourite fish dish of all time for several reasons.
The sous vide salmon belly is tender beyond all imagining. The cream and subtle smokiness of the roe spread on top accentuates its lusciousness.
An autumnal rainbow of carrot slivers tops the dish, some fried into a delicate crunch, some delicately pickled. Each flake brings piquancy or texture to each bite. They make the dish sing, and I never thought I would be saying that about the humble carrot.
“We care a lot,” Andrew says, speaking of the respect with which they treat quality produce.
I am too full for dessert, but with black sesame and roasted tea ice cream on the menu, there will be another visit.
White Chaco is located in G10/27 Lonsdale st. Braddon. It’s open for lunch Thursday to Monday from 12:00 pm to 2:00 pm and for dinner from 5:30 to 9:00 pm.