When I travel, I plan my itinerary by my meals. I try to make the most of every opportunity to eat, especially if it’s a relatively short trip. This doesn’t mean non-stop eating; it means I’m careful not to eat any meal too late, which can then throw off the timing/appetite for the next meal. I also try not to get into a situation where I’m starving so I end up eating something out of sheer desperation or convenience that’s ultimately not that tasty/interesting/bloggable. Those of you who read the posts from my three-night-stay in Sydney earlier this year would remember I had a pretty tight eating schedule!
I had a two-day conference to attend in Canberra in the first week of November. I’d never been to Canberra before and decided to take a bit of a holiday at the same time. Jac came along and we spent 5 nights together on a much needed break.
In planning our eating in Canberra, we carefully considered suggestions from TFP readers (thank you!), talked to friends who’ve been to Canberra and did my own online research. Jac and I discussed which restaurants appealed most to us and from there we made a plan to dine at a number of them, leaving a few spare slots for places we might discover while there.
One of the restaurants we were very keen to dine at was The Chairman and Yip, known for fusion cuisine and its signature dish of roast duck and shitake mushroom pancakes. My friend Julia declared it to be the best Asian-style upmarket restaurant she’s ever been to, and another reader Lizzi also recommended it. Well, Jules and Lizzi, my tummy says thanks you and this post is dedicated to you!
I made a dinner reservation at The Chairman and Yip for our first night in Canberra. As soon as we stepped into the restaurant, delicious smells made my heart sing!
We were shown to a table towards the back of the restaurant, quite a cosy spot. We started with what became our standard pre-dinner drink order for the trip: for Jac, a Virgin Mary; for me, a lemon, lime and bitters.
The waiter placed an art magazine in front of each of us. The menu pages were pasted onto the magazine’s pages, but Jac didn’t realise this immediately – the WTF look on her face was priceless. :D
We were both ready for a great night of eating and chose the Chef’s tasting menu, $79.50 per person for 7 courses plus dessert and coffee/tea. It didn’t take long for the first dish to arrive.
First course: fried calamari with spicy salt and chopped fresh chilli, served on a bed of shredded lettuce. The calamari pieces were tender and seasoned well. We even devoured the lettuce, which tasted of spicy salt and chilli too. I do like seasoned fresh lettuce – have you tasted lettuce with salt and pepper? So simple but very tasty, especially if the lettuce is really fresh and crisp.
Second course: light fried prawns with ginger infused chilli vinegar, served to us silver service style. Our waiter placed three large battered prawns with shredded lettuce, julienne carrot and sliced cucumber on each of our plates, then drizzled the tangy, sweet and sour vinegary sauce over the top. Although the sauce made the batter soggy, the prawns inside were plump and bursty. We both thought three prawns each was very generous for a tasting menu course.
Third course: seasonal fish. As he placed the dishes on the table, our waiter informed us today’s seasonal fish was trout fillet with ginger infused sweet soy. This was one of our favourite dishes of the meal. The trout was moist and flaked beautifully into large, luscious chunks that I rolled greedily in the sauce. If we were food hall dining as opposed to fine dining I would’ve lifted my plate to my lips and consumed every remaining drop of that utterly drinkable sweet soy sauce. If I was at home, I’d have also licked the plate.
While we were still eating the trout, I sensed the presence of a waiter hovering to my left. But the maitre’d intervened and quietly said: “Let them finish the fish course first.”
Fourth course: the famous roasted duck and shitake pancakes. I’d been watching waiters assembling the pancakes at other tables and eagerly anticipating the arrival of ours! I’m glad our pancakes weren’t served until our trout dishes had been cleared away and we were ready for the next course. I watched the waiter’s every move as he scooped filling onto a soft pancake, then deftly rolled it up without any pancake breakage or filling spillage.
The roast duck and shitake filling was on the salty side, but it was really tasty. It would’ve tasted beautiful in any kind of pancake, bun, pie or puff. But I would’ve been perfectly content left alone with a spoon and a bowl of duck and shitake pancake filling. I wished we got more than one pancake each but knew I was just being greedy.
Fifth course: Kurobuta Rich River pork cake with red wine vinaigrette. On the dish, two juicy pork patties buried under shredded lettuce and red cabbage, with slices of crispy green apple tumbled over the top. We were still finishing off our pancakes when this dish was delivered to our table. Our waiter hesitated, and once again the maitre’d intervened, this time advising him to simply leave the plate of pork cakes on the table for us to help ourselves when we were ready. These were probably the fanciest rissoles I’ve ever eaten! ;) They were well seasoned and porky, with a delicious caramelised crust.
Sixth course: grilled field mushrooms with herb and cashew pesto. We thought this dish was brought out too quickly – we were still finishing our pork cakes when this dish was served. I scrambled to push the remainder of my pork and apple to one side of my plate while the waiter placed a mushroom in the corner of my plate. I’d have preferred to eat the mushroom on a separate plate so as not to mingle the flavours. We’d been given a new plate to eat off for each of the previous courses. The grilled mushroom was poppingly fresh: the pesto was molten hot and the mushroom itself bursting with juice when I cut into it. I ate it with very careful bites, not wanting to burn my tongue. The noodles added an interesting texture to the dish. This was our least favourite dish for different reasons. Although I liked the mushroom and the pesto was rich and tasty, to me, the flavour profile of the dish jarred with the rest of the meal. It seemed to me that it tasted too distinctly “west” of the fusion place I’d settled comfortably into – remember that Sesame Street song “One of these things is not like the others”? :) Jac had been looking forward to the mushroom dish but found the pesto not to her taste.
Seventh course: Pepper beef and scallop hot pot. By the time this dish was served, I was battling. Actually, I had battled with the richness of the mushroom in the preceding course. My tummy had been singing with pleasure but now it groaned, knowing it was still expected to carry out its duty! The beef was tender, the scallops soft and delicate, the pepper flavour strong and bitey. There were juicy sliced mushrooms in the dish too. For the first time in the meal, I really wished I had some rice, some sort of carbohydrate to help absorb the strong peppery flavours. With regret, we were forced to admit defeat, leaving the dish only half-finished. But being a scallop lover, I made sure we didn’t leave any scallops behind!
With the pepper beef dishes cleared away, it was time for dessert, coffee and tea. There was something Winnie the Pooh honeypot-ish about the sugar bowl, which was labeled “Yip”.
When the desserts arrived, I was impressed all over again.
Panna cotta is probably Jac’s all-time favourite dessert. She ordered the vanilla panna cotta with passionfruit sauce. The panna cotta was silky smooth, delicate and light, speckled with little black dots of vanilla bean. I couldn’t help myself: I had to gently rock the plate to make the panna cotta wobble ever so slightly. It looked achingly perfect for a spoon to be plunged into its soft, beauteous form. It also looked too achingly perfect for a spoon to be plunged into its soft, beauteous form.
For my dessert, I chose the chocolate feullatine with orange and caramel sauce: a rich chocolate mousse set hard in the shape of a pyramid with a white chocolate mousse centre, on a crispy hazelnut wafer base. It looked a bit retro and was both elegant and tacky thanks to the Donald Trump-esque bling of gold leaf on the pyramid’s tip. The sauce smelled intoxicatingly wonderfully of orange. I could taste it even before it touched my lips.
The mousse was firm but creamy and melted perfectly in the mouth. The crispy wafer base was practically invisible – I relished its crunch under my spoon and then my teeth. The orange sauce was light and not too sweet. The desserts were exactly what restaurant desserts should be – decadent and created and presented with precision that most people wouldn’t be capable of or bother with at home.
I took the photo below of the dining room shortly after we arrived. By the time we left, there were no empty tables and a few of them had been turned over at least once before. Pretty impressive for a restaurant on a Monday night.
There was a lot of construction going on around the street outside the restaurant. You may not have even known there was a restaurant hiding behind the fencing, witches hats and bits of concrete and bitumen. On the way to the restaurant, our taxi driver had assured us we’d made a good choice. “Everyone in Canberra knows The Chairman and Yip,” he said.
The servings were very generous. If you’re not a big eater you’ll probably struggle to get through the tasting menu. You can order a la carte, or if you prefer, the staff are only too happy to put together a customised banquet/tasting menu for you.
We got the impression the waiter who served most of our dishes was still in training, as he seemed very nervous and uncertain whenever he approached the table, with the maitre’d never far away. The pacing of the courses was uneven, with a number of courses being almost or actually delivered a little too early. This wasn’t a major problem, but noticeable. To be honest, we were too busy enjoying the food and being on the first night of our holiday to get terribly annoyed.
The desserts were exquisite.
We’d definitely return to The Chairman and Yip.
The Chairman and Yip
108 Bunda Street, Civic
Canberra ACT 2601
Telephone: (02) 6248 7109
www.thechairmanandyip.com (Flash-based, unfortunately!)
Lunch Tuesday – Friday 12.00pm – 2.30pm
Dinner: Monday – Saturday 6.00pm – 10.30pm
Sunday: open for bookings for 30 people or more
This was a fantastic start to our holiday.
Canberra trip, November 2010
See the full list of posts from our Canberra trip, November 2010 in correct reading order.