X(O) Rated. We try Narrabundah’s Newest
by The Editor
The searing heat of January is evident through the haze rising from the bitumen of the Narrabundah shops carpark. It’s a Saturday, and time for lunch. However, the temperature – which is rapidly climbing into the high-30s – suggests the day would be better spent with cocktails by the pool.
Perhaps next week. A New Year resolution to be kept at all cost is to settle into at XO – Canberra’s latest restaurant to ride the building wave of punked Asian flavours. With a somewhat inaccessible façade that disguises the restaurant behind construction hoardings (compete with requisite street-art chic), there’s a sense of adventure in seeking out the entrance. Relief from the boiling air is simply an added bonus.
Inside, the contrast is stunning. Gone is the feeling of suburban decay – replaced by clean lines, light woods and air conditioning. High-wattage LEDs that spray the walls with a cool glow. Our approach suggested something dark and discrete. Instead, XO’s dining room is an exercise in clever utilisation of space. While its former incarnation – The Artisan – could sit barely more than 40, XO looks capable of dealing with half as many again, and without anyone feeling crowded.
The vibe of the room is one of restrained energy. Pop hits from the 80s play through the room as the chatter builds. The addition of sound dampeners through the exposed beams above removes noisy clatter from the room – remedying one of The Artisans few foibles.
As we take our seats, Whitney Houston wants to dance with somebody. Meanwhile, the touchy-feely waiter and owner, Kent Nahn, sweeps the room and delivers greetings and menus as the lunch crowd piles in.
Madonna’s Material Girl reminds us of auto-tune in a time before computers. Dishes are selected and wine is essential. Clonakilla’s latest Viognier Nouveau is filled with florals and suggests it will play nicely with the exploration of South-East Asia promised by the menu. Prawn & Pork Dumpling? Tick. Fried Chicken with Kepwie mayo? Tick. A few larger plates (Hiramasa Kingfish and Char Sui) round things out nicely as we work our way to the bottom of what turned out to be one of Murrumbateman’s finest.
Plates come and go. Some are left on the table as the smile of our waitress hides the effects of a big Friday night. Shaking hands are her Judas, but it doesn’t matter. We’re grooving in our seats as Jacko sings PYT and the wine kicks in. Dessert? The clever and playful pairing of a Black Rice Pudding and coconut ice cream looks to good to refuse. Once it arrives, resistance is futile.
The bill is paid. Value is assured. Indulgence. Humour. Flavour. Saturday afternoons were meant to be like this.