Just in: Soju Girl.
by The Editor
Northbourne Avenue casts a divide over our fair city in a very similar way to the lake. You’re either on one side or the other, and the gulf between can be huge. The Canberran is of a vintage old enough to remember queues down the block for PJ O’Reillys, so nothing is impossible. In fact, one only has to look at stalwarts such as Mezzalira, the Wig & Pen, Sabayon and Muddle Bar to realise how good the operators are around and the Melbourne building. It was then, with great anticipation The Canberran pressed the button on the pedestrian crossing to set off for the western side of our great arterial.
Soju Girl brings forth thoughts of partying in Shibuya, of crazy nights with weird pop bands and lots and lots of karaoke. Fortunately, the feel of Canberra’s latest restaurant-come-bar uses the Asian influence in a more subtle manner to inspire a menu bought to tasty fruition by Derrick Brown, formerly of Parlour Wine Room (until its unfortunate demise) along with Yarrick Meisner (Belluci’s) among others. Out in front of house, Grant Macara steers a steady ship.
To be honest, that’s what we liked best about Soju Girl – it feels absolutely solid. During our visit, Grant had us in the palm of his hand. “What beers do you serve?” Bang! He rattled them off – a sophisticated list indeed. “What’s your food focus?” Bam! Grant described the way the venue is divided into three, serving bar snacks, formal dinners and pub-style brasserie meals. “Talk us through your wine-list.” Whammo! Again, a direct hit as Grant explained the price points Soju is targeting, with a fantastic focus on value instead of opportunism, a strategy many new starters don’t understand.
Sitting on the bar with Grant’s smooth, though honest service, it was easy to get lost in the moment. Before we knew it we were seated in front of three wonderful tasting plates. Betel leaves with smoked trout and chilli dressing (an amazing mouthful when wrapped up and devoured); Soft shelled crab with Som Tom salad and citrus dressing (crispy though succulent and filed with light, summery flavour), and finally the pork hock, served with red date puree and black vinegar caramel.
These dishes were amazing – a feast of flavours in quick succession not enjoyed since we lost Derrick’s old place of employment. It’s fair to say, though, the boy is inspired by the new surrounds, and the quality of the food as well as the generous servings offered by Soju Girl give this venue a real edge over other current popular lunch venues. The value is only matched by the enthusiastic manner in which the food is served.
Throw on top of this a beautiful, spacious venue with touched of street art and a little bit of ikebana, lots of neutral tones and a space for whatever mood you may be in, and Soju Girl is definitely off to a great start. The team needs to be congratulated for a polished and competent start, but moreover should be proud for pushing the envelope for Canberra’s hospitality scene.