Injecting an element of fun back into Canberra’s fine dining scene, XO brings a taste of modern, pan-Asian style food to a city that is often believed to lack a bit of the cool factor.
Opened in 2015, XO has played a huge part in the modern revival of Canberra. On the surface, it is a venue that ties together both geographical and culinary threads from all over the world, however, on closer inspection, you will come to find that this sleek, modern eatery celebrates the very city it resides in.
Owned by Head Chef, Anand Ramakrishna (AK), Restaurant Manager, Kent Nhan, and Gregory Lally, XO oozes cool on every level. Working closely with local interior designer Capezio Copeland, they created a venue that blurred the lines between casual and fine dining, a fit-out that saw the restaurant shortlisted for best restaurant design in the 2016 Eat Drink Design Awards. The result is a modern restaurant that one would expect to see among the abundance of venues in Sydney’s Potts Point or hidden down a slick Melbourne laneway. Walls are lined with wood, roughly painted exposed bricks, and snuggly brown leather banquettes. Tables are made of white marble and surrounded by stylish cane chairs, and the soundtrack is distinctly 80s.
To match this trendy interior, AK’s menu remains fresh and modern. AK is classically trained in the French culinary arts though he also spent many years in well-respected venues throughout Malaysia, including the Mandarin Oriental and Hilton Hotels in Kuala Lumpur. His unique perspective on Malay and South-East Asian cuisine has allowed him to develop a menu that holds true to traditional Asian cooking methods while still displaying his own personal style.
The food at XO is designed to share, so you can always make sure that you get to taste as many dishes as possible. Popular items include the Sexy Squid that combines fried baby squid and punchy sweet chilli salt, and the Crispy Lamb Ribs tossed in sticky plum sauce. But who could forget their famous Asian Bolognese, stir-fried udon noodles in XO chicken ragout with a 60-degree egg!
In the way of drinks, cocktails remain the speciality at XO, though they do have an impressive selection of whisky on offer too. Treat yourself to a classic or try out an XO speciality such as the Japerol Spritz, an Asian Aperol Spritz that combines 50/50 blend sake, Aperol and fresh orange. However, if you prefer to stick with wine, then the XO wine list is a succinct selection of both local and international drops boasting both well-known names and a few lesser-known boutique vineyards.
Giving the Canberra dining scene a much-needed youthful boost, XO is the capital’s answer to the modern Asian trend sweeping the nation. This is no cheap imitation though, it is the real deal, and it is no surprise that all the cool kids seem to be flocking to this now much-loved watering hole for a few cocktails and a pork belly bao or two.