I recently dined at Lilotang, the Chairman group’s latest addition, with a few of my good friends. I had only heard positive reviews before trying them out, but this Barton restaurant surpassed all my expectations when it came to good, traditional Japanese cuisine.
We strategically dined at Lilotang on a Tuesday evening so we could enjoy a relaxed and leisurely-paced dinner. Our waiter was extremely attentive and was willing to answer all our questions about the food.
Lilotang has a very cool and eclectic vibe with a mix of traditional and modern Japanese décor. The dimmed lighting gives the restaurant an intimate feel, which is completely contrasted with a large wall-length window that invites you to get lost in the outside world.
Lilotang’s edamame is possibly the best I’ve ever had, including the edamame I had in Japan. Often, restaurants serve the moreish soybeans steamed or boiled, but here the edamame are charred slightly, which gives it a distinct smokey flavour, and then tossed through shichimi salt. Shichimi salt is basically Japan’s answer to China’s five spice powder. Japan’s version however, consists of 7 different, and perhaps more subtle, spices which works well in this dish as the main flavour you want to taste is the smokiness from the char.
Poached ocean trout
When this dish came to the table, I was surprised to see what was essentially a salad as it didn’t read on the menu. I didn’t mind though, because I absolutely loved it. It came with perfectly poached ocean trout, grapefruit segmets, radicchio and a sweet pepper soy dressing and wasabi marscarpone. I barely had to apply any force to my knife as I cut through my piece of ocean trout. It was so beautifully soft and tender that it seemed almost raw still. The wasabi cut through the creaminess of marscarpone, and I thought the bitterness of the grapefruit and radicchio was complimented by the sweet pepper soy glaze.
Japanese curry croquette
Japanese croquettes, and Japanese curry were two of my favourite foods when I went to Japan (my number one will forever be ramen). So what do you get when you combine the two? A delicious crispy morsel made of potato, stuffed with oozy gruyere cheese and little chunks of curried meat a top and mustard miso aioli. The mustard really shone through which went perfectly with the cheese. In all seriousness though, can you really go wrong with deep-fried potato and cheese?
I only had yakitori a couple of times during my visit to Japan, so I didn’t have the highest expectations for this dish. Maybe it was because of that that I loved this dish so much. The robata skewers consisted of two chicken skewers with a sweet and smokey soy glaze, and two pork belly skewers with yuzu miso. The chicken was so tender they were like little pillows, and I absolutely loved the miso yuzu sauce on the pork belly. My only critique is that there wasn’t enough!
Tender lamb backstrap with sweet eggplant and wasabi vinaigrette. Although the main component of this dish was the lamb, the eggplant completely won me over. Don’t get me wrong, the lamb was delicious and incredibly tender, but I think eggplant and miso is one of my favourite flavour combinations. The eggplant itself was soft, but still had some bite to it and was doused in a delicious, savoury miso sauce. This was one of my favourite dishes of the night.
Chargrilled scotch fillet
The chargrilled scotch fillet was served with a handful of cabbage and paired with two contrasting sauces – salty herb miso and sweet and spicy dried plum. In Japan, green cabbage was virtually served as a side dish to every meal, so I felt a little nostalgic as I ate this dish. The scotch fillet itself was perfectly cooked and had an intentional burnt crust which gave it an amazingly intense, smokey flavour. Although a bold statement, I think Lilotang’s scotch fillet is up there in my list of top steaks. If I wasn’t subtle enough, I loved it…
Duck breast sukiyaki
Sukiyaki is Japan’s humble hotpot, generally served bubbling away in a communal pot in the middle of the table where friends and family would just dig in. Needless to say, I was interested to see a fine-dining restaurant’s take on this homely dish. Although Lilotang’s version doesn’t come in a communal pot, it does come with beautifully cooked duck breast, a tempura egg, shitake mushrooms and chrysanthemum leaves in a sweet, mushroomy broth. I appreciate that duck pairs really well with sweet accompaniments, but I thought the broth was a bit too sweet especially because there was so much of it. Because of that, it felt unbalanced. Having said this, I couldn’t fault any of the other components. The duck was blushing, the egg had a runny yolk, the mushrooms gave an intense flavour that complimented the duck and the chrysanthemum leaves offered some bitterness to counteract the sweet broth.
Lilotang offers a wide range of traditional Japanese flavours that I haven’t yet found anywhere else in Canberra. We had such a relaxing night filled with warm vibes and delicious food, there is nothing bad I could say about my experience. I suppose if I was really digging for a negative, the only thing I regret from that night was that we didn’t go with more people so we could try more dishes! This however, can be easily fixed… I guess I will be visiting Lilotang again soon!
Details for Lilotang:
Tuesday – Friday
10:00am – 10:30pm
6:00pm – 10:30pm
Monday and Sunday
1 Burbury Close, Barton