Today my little sister turned 30. I'm somewhat blown away by that. I was fine with turning 30 but my little sister? That just doesn't seem possible. I have such clear memories of her as a very little girl, not to mention our awkward teenage years where my mother would despair at our fights before we matured into great friends. 30 seems so grown up, and judging from our conversation today over lunch about issues of managing staff, investment properties, house-hold appliances, plumbers etc we are grown up. It is just that in my head she is my little sister and surely little sisters don't turn 30 do they?
Tonight Mum is cooking birthday dinner as is tradition, but 30 is a special birthday and there is more than one meal opportunity in a day, so my sister's husband, brother-in-law and I took her out to lunch at the Canberra restaurant Soju Girl. The website describes the food style as modern South-East Asian and Japanese dishes but I would say that this is one of those restaurants that owes a lot to the creative freedom and inventiveness that is so present in so much of modern Australian food.
The dishes are designed to share, so we chose to share three "small plates" and two "large plates".
Our first small plate was zucchini flower, sushi rice, soy mirin and it was fantastic. Each zucchini flower was stuffed with deliciously piquant rice, then lightly battered and fried giving it a beautiful crisp texture. The soy mirin dipping sauce complimented it perfectly.
By the second plate I remembered to take photos and the Tiradito of King Fish, Yuzo, white soy, raddish was very photogenic and completely delicious. This was probably my favourite of everything we ate (although it was all wonderful). The flavours were so delicate and beautifully balanced.
Our final small plate was soft shell crab, som tom salad, citrus dressing. I'm a fan softshell crab and the crispy deep fried batter was delicious, making this a joy in the mouth. The flavours were complex and the salad a beautiful accompaniment.
Our two large plates were the beef cheek penang cashew curry and the coconut braised duck yellow curry which were accompanied by kaffir scented rice. Both curries were beautiful. The meat was fantastically cooked, it broke apart at the touch of a spoon and the sauces were rich and delicious. There was a good array of vegetables in both curries which I particularly liked. Fresh asparagus and snap peas lightened the meal along with generous garnishes of fresh herbs.
Our 5 dishes was a perfect amount for lunch for the four of us and with softdrinks and a beer and a coffee came to just under $40 a head which I thought was very reasonable given the quality of food.
Soju Girl is half restaurant, half bar with an extensive cocktail and wine list and a range of beers on tap. It is quite open plan, so I wonder how noisy it would get when the bar side is full, but it is definitely somewhere I would be keen to return to.