Friday night at Rocksalt

27 Oct

In any list of Canberra‘s favourite restaurants, Rocksalt in the Belconnen suburb of Hawker invariably gets a mention. With modern Australian cuisine, it’s known for its friendly atmosphere, decent prices and generous portions, while still managing to be synonymous with a fine dining experience.

We had booked for 7.30pm, and it was relatively quiet, but it may be more of a mark of the decent size of the restaurant making it seem like there were fewer people than there were. The friendly waiter asked for our reservation and then checked with Chris (the owner? We heard his name mentioned and saw him plenty more throughout the night) where we’d be sitting. We were ushered up a few steps into a separate, more intimate room that was still very much a part of the rest of the restaurant. We were sat in the corner, cuddling up to a strange, heavy ceiling-to-floor curtain. I took a place on a bench seat, while Boyfriend sat on a chair on the other side of the table.

The couple next to us appeared to know their wine, which was fascinating to watch. As well as a fairly generous wine list (with both reds and whites averaging between $30 and $40 a bottle – very reasonable), there’s a back page full of what they term ‘museum wines‘ which start at about $75 a bottle. The waiter serving that table had to keep ‘checking with Chris’ about the availability of these wines, and the table also requested that Chris be consulted on whether the 98 or 94 wine from the same vineyard was better.

We were left alone to ponder the wines for probably a little too long. By the time our waiter returned, we’d picked out the wine (Riesling from Dionysus – barring the dessert wine, this was the only Canberra district wine on the menu. Disappointing), taken pictures of every page of the menu (including the breakfast and lunch menus – not sure why they are included), chosen our entrees and mains and had ample time to study the strange marks on the red wall across from me and what appeared to be numerous water marks on the ceiling.

Apart from that delay, I can’t fault the service. The waiters were polite and not pretentious. There was a dish on the menu called ‘pissaladiere’ which we didn’t know how to pronounce, and our waiter didn’t seem to know either, but took the order in such a way that she didn’t sound clueless (she knew exactly what it was – it’s a pasta dish), but empathetic.

Pissaladiere

Our entrees arrived at 8pm. Boyfriend received the pissaladiere, which is like a pizza with caramelised onion, beetroot, olives and sheep’s feta and perhaps an over the top layer of rocket. He demolished it quickly so you’ll have to take his word for it that it was great.

Crab and ginger spring rolls with seared scallops

I had the crab and ginger spring rolls with seared scallops in a mango chilli sauce. Our wine connoisseurs next to us also had the spring rolls (they shared the dish) and had to ask their waiter what was in them once they’d finished (the waiter couldn’t recall). I think that’s a fair statement – the taste and texture of crab was totally lost, and I was genuinely confused about whether I was indeed eating crab. However, the scallops were simple divine and I was lucky to have three on the plate. They were plump and cooked to perfection, and married perfectly to the mango chilli sauce. I wish the whole dish had been scallops and the sauce!

Once our plates was cleared we were served a palate cleanser in the form of a delicious mango sorbet, and our mains were served within 20 minutes of our entrees being served – fast!

Chicken breast with coconut crust

Potato gnocchi with asparagus

Our mains were ENORMOUS, and were both cooked very well. The chicken was just right in Boyfriend’s dish, and the asparagus was crunchy in mine. But, it’s fair to say that we both agreed our entrees were much better than our mains. What had sounded good on paper just did not translate into a tasty experience. The chicken breast with ccoconut crust was served on udon noodles with kaffir lime sauce. I had a bit of the dish and thought that the crust was, frankly, a little strange. My potato gnocchi with asparagus in a vermouth and cream sauce topped with hazelnuts and blue cheese was bemusing.  I couldn’t get a forkful to contain all the elements of the dish, and found the crunchy asparagus a distraction in my dish which already had the crunch of a few hazelnuts. The blue cheese was delicious, but I had to work hard to ensure it was distributed right throughout the dish. There was seemed to be an overpower of onion throughout the dish, of which I am still having phantom tastes this morning. All that said, it wasn’t bad – I was just very disappointed.

The dessert menu isn’t contained in the normal menu so I didn’t get a good squiz, but you’re asked if you want to see the menu on collection of the mains. Having not been able to finish more than half of the gnocchi and feeling like I was bursting, we just couldn’t do it. However, I had spent the evening coveting the sticky date pudding on other tables which, judging by its numerous appearances, seemed like a popular choice.

It was Chris who processed our bill and wished us a nice night, and apart from the slow start I left impressed with the friendly and efficient service which wasn’t at any times overbearing. The food was a good enough price and in large enough portions to return, but I think I might wait for a menu refresh before going back for dinner. (The breakfast menu, on the other hand, looks amazing.)

Date: Friday, 26 October 2012

Time: 7.3opm-8.45pm

Attendees: T1 and Boyfriend

Cost: $115 (two entrees, two mains and a decent bottle of wine)

Worthwhile factor: Somewhat worthwhile

Want more? http://rocksaltcanberra.com.au/

Rocksalt on Urbanspoon

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3 Responses to “Friday night at Rocksalt”

  1. Gary Lum October 27, 2012 at 11:24 am #

    We’ve eaten there a few times in the evening. The sticky date is good 🙂
    Great review T1. Thank you for sharing. It’s a good trigger for us to return and have another go.

    • inthetaratory October 27, 2012 at 11:33 am #

      Thanks Gary 🙂 Let me know what you try (and if the tastes and textures work!) 🙂

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  1. Me and Mrs Jones versus Bodega de Pintxos « In The Taratory - December 13, 2012

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