Dinner at Provini, Civic

I am generally not a huge fan of Italian food but ‘J’ loves it and decided we were going to try out newcomer, Provini, tonight.  Expecting to be completely underwhelmed and uninspired, I didn’t take any photos of the food.  Big mistake.  Provini may be the best Italian that Canberra has to offer.  So despite the lack of photos, I feel obligated to report back on the experience, albeit, in briefer form than usual.

We started off with the minestrone ($14), which boasted big chunks of carrot and zucchini and a tasty piece of crusty bread.  This was one of the best minestrones I’ve ever had.  It was a bit salty, but in that full flavoured, seasoned way.  If you don’t like salt, it may not be for you, but I really enjoyed it.

I ordered the San Daniele pizza (tomato, fior di latte, roquette, prosciutto, parmesan, $24), and this was, by far, the best pizza we’ve had in Canberra.  Not overloaded with cheese, fresh ingredients, and a base cooked to perfection, meaning just the right amount of smoky burnt bottom and poofy crust.

‘J’ ordered the veal osso bucco with polenta ($33).  This is a bit out of our usual ordering habits so I don’t have much to compare it to, but the veal was incredibly tender and flavourful and paired well with the mild polenta.  We really enjoyed this.  Definitely a solid, worth-while dish.

‘A’ ordered the gnocchi (tomato, buffalo mozzarella, basil, $26) and this was the only dish we weren’t wowed by.  The gnocchi was made well and all the ingredients were fresh but the flavour was a bit bland compared to the other dishes and the serving size was small.   It wasn’t bad; it just didn’t live up to the other dishes.  I’d also recommend ordering it as a dish to share rather than as a meal.

We also order the bitter leaves salad off the Contori menu ($12) consisting of very large leaves cos and radicchio (I think) in a very light vinaigrette with faint hints of something citrus-y (maybe mandarin?).  This was a nice side for those who like to add a bit of green to their meal.

There are a few different rooms in the restaurant, each with their own decorative styles.  We were surrounded by a warm ’60s, almost Mad Men-esque feel, but could definitely see the Italian Grandma room from where we were.  We were attended to by friendly, attentive staff.  The dishes were pricey but not unreasonable, and comparable to most of the other Canberra Italian restaurants.

Bottom line: we will most definitely be back.

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Dinner at Happy’s Chinese Restaurant, Civic

‘J’ and I have just moved into Inner North very close to Civic and we have eagerly begun to explore the many restaurants in our new realm.  Wanting Chinese, we headed over to Happy’s in Garema Place.  According to their website, they’ve been operating since 1962.  This probably contributes to the old-school Chinatown feel of the entrance that drew me in.   You enter through a door leading to a dodgy looking staircase (close the door behind you or it slams!  We learned the hard way.)  The interior feels a bit cramped and dated but that just seems to add to the authenticity.  It didn’t seem to bother all the full tables, including two large parties of at least 10 each.

Entrance of Happy’s in Garema Place. Apologies for the blurry picture and ones to follow- my camera’s focus has been acting up.

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Coffee at Tupelo Coffee Co., Civic

New cafe Tupelo Coffee opened its doors on Wednesday in Civic, filling a long-lasting coffee void left in the bus station area.  The owner is a friend of a friend so I went with the latter friend on Friday afternoon to check it out.

Looking into Tupelo from the Alinga St.

With white walls and a small space decked out in crate/light wood furniture built by owner Nic Walker himself, Tupelo has a simple, but elegant feel.

Behind the counter: Owner Nic Walker (background in hat/glasses) and friendly staff member Sam (foreground) taking orders and making awesome coffee.

The current menu is deceptively simple.  In addition to your espresso-based favourites, they also offer filter coffee (pour-over), all made from coffee beans brought in from Code Black Roasters in Melbourne.

Tupelo Coffee menu

Though the filter coffee called out to my friend and I (both Americans), I opted for the iced coffee, which I was told was made more in the American style (iced coffee is NOT supposed to have ice cream in it!, just coffee over ice – milk and sugar optional).

That said, I tried a sip of my friend’s filter coffee (sorry, no picture), made from Ethiopian Yirgacheffe.  Usually, I can’t handle the bitterness of black coffee, but there was an orange fruitiness and a smoothness to this cup that really took the edge off.  Even without milk, it was a light coffee that was still refreshing despite the summer mugginess.

The iced coffee was made from a blend of the same Ethiopian Yirgacheffe and a Costa Rican bean.  They added milk and just a touch of simple syrup.  According to Nic, this is because the milk actually adds a bit of bitterness, so they counter it with some of the syrup.  The finished product was not overly sweet and came out just how I would have made mine on my own.

Iced Coffee

The shop currently offers a rotating assortment of baked goods at the counter and will be working to add more savoury products.  As they were nearing closing time and prefer to use fresh products each day, Nic kindly whipped us up a jaffle with some of their leftover spicy pumpkin soup as dipping sauce.  This was an awesome combination and I hope it becomes part of their regular offering.

Jaffle with spicy pumpkin soup for dipping

Though I depend heavily on my daily cup of coffee, I really don’t consider myself a coffee snob.  Even so, I can tell that what Tupelo is serving is a cut above the rest.  So if you are a coffee lover or want to become one, get yourself over to Tupelo ASAP.

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Brunch at Local Press Cafe, Kingston

Local Press Cafe has been quite popular since its opening and I watched blogger after blogger write about it before I made it over there last month.  I’ve delayed writing it up for a while, perhaps because it didn’t excite me as much as I hoped it would.   Everything was really good and fresh, but breakfast isn’t really my meal.  However, there was one thing I really thought was worth mentioning so I decided to write a short post after all.  Here are my abbreviated thoughts:

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Dinner at neighbourhood food, Gungahlin

There’s a new home-style Italian place in town and its name is neighbourhood food!  Located on a quieter corner of Gungahlin Town Center, neighbourhood food offers casual Italian dining, BYO, and and a selection of rotating specials (that night, it was a barramundi dish with kale) in addition to its regular menu.  The staff greeted us warmly and were attentive throughout our meal.

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