It seems like a lifetime ago that we ventured to Lazy-Su before a trip to the theatre. Both of those things pose some inherent risk now. Indeed the Canberra Theatre Centre is closed to the public until April 19, something in here about the fate of restaurants.
But let's forget all of that. That's what we've got to do in these crazy times. Try and function as close to normal as we possibly can, while actually paying some attention to measures those in the know are suggesting.
Our Canberra Times reviewing team has had a chat and we're going to keep reviewing. We have to support our restaurants until someone tells us we can no longer do that. We trust the fine men and women making their living in the food industry in this town and we know they're doing all they can to make sure we're safe. We have to give back to them and we can do that by eating their food.
Which is what we intend to do at Lazy-Su in Braddon. I've had a bee in my bonnet for years now about the lack of pre-theatre options. You know, a place where you can quickly down a good meal, a couple of champagnes, to get you in the mood for a show. Be in and out before you know it. Alas, I had just dined at Natural Nine at the Canberra Casino, they have three pre-theatre banquet menus for bookings between 5.30 and 6.30pm.
Then there's Mr Wei's basically at the steps of the theatre on London Circuit which should perhaps get more consideration next time but I'll admit I usually end up at Bar Rochford with their wine list and grab a tube of Pringles from the box office before the show. Classy.
I'd never considered Lazy-Su, there's the walk back through Civic and all, but we're booking early as the show starts at seven and the website informs me that tables booked before that time have to be out in 90 minutes if there's only two of us, you get a bit longer if there's more guests.
It's always a gamble when you tell your waiter that you need to be gone in an hour because you're going somewhere else, but here they encourage that.
To make it even simpler we go with the Miso Hungry banquet, $49pp, order a bottle of local winery Mada's nebbiolo rose, a firm favourite, and just sit back and relax.
Mind you, sitting at the bar is a little supercharged. There's lots of lights and neon and the drinks selection on the back wall is distracting in its abundance with bottles of different shapes and sizes and colours making for something of a display.
It's distracting too watching the chef on the raw bar work his magic. On this occasion he's being watched by a huge kingfish. I wonder if he's (the fish) for show, or whether he will eventually end up on someone's plate.
Our first dish comes straight over the bar directly, yellowfin tuna tataki with taramasalata, yuzu kosho ponzu and chives ($19, I'll give the off menu prices here, but portion sizes are smaller in the banquet). The delicate slivers of tuna are fresh and finely cooked, the ponzu sauce is tart and offset by the richness of the taramasalata.
Next is the chicken gyoza ($12), little pan-fried dumplings which are full of filling and flavour and just a little crispy on the edges.
Not knowing what was instore I'm secretly glad when the wagyu cheesesteak springrolls ($6 each) arrive. It's like the iconic Lazy-Su dish, one the team replicated over at their sister restaurant Baby-Su in No Name Lane such is its popularity. How can you describe these? A meaty, cheesy mouthful wrapped in a crispy pastry. It's decadent and delicious for something so casual.
They're so filling that we're starting to wonder how many courses are left in the banquet. We're going good for time. Seated at the bar, waiters mysteriously appear behind you with the next dish, you don't even see them coming, they set and clear in one smooth movement and we just keep on eating.
Next are two little pork belly bao-gers ($10), soy braised pork belly with a herb salad, pickled cucumber with a hoi sin sauce. There's a trick to these. It's something to do with the ration of soft fluffy bun to filling. You've got to be able to take a bite and have it all come off in the mouth. Does that make sense without sounding weird? These are good. There's a crispiness to the pork belly, the sauce is smooth without being too much so it oozes everywhere, the salad a fresh contrast.
And it keeps coming. Our last two dishes complement each other well. There's a serve of tea-smoked duck breast ($29), slices of tender meat which has been smoked with the flavours of jasmine, served with a carrot and yuzu puree and charred Asian greens. After the fulsomness of the spring roll and the bao-ger, perhaps some of the delicacy of the duck is lost. The puree is interesting and vibrant, the greens something we could have had more of all night to cut through all the richness. That said, the duck is well cooked and tender.
Perhaps it would have been nice to get the kimchi fried rice ($14) served at the start, so we could sample it with all courses. It's moreish. The rice is mixed through with some gochujang, a spicy Korean chili sauce, nori, egg and sesame, and the mixture of textures and heat and flavour makes for an excellent rice choice.
We make do with our bottle of Mada, it's lovely, but if you're keen there's a vast range of cocktails, beers, wines and "Asian drinks", sake, umeshu, and as we discover while sitting at the bar, "sumo bowls" of drinks that include several combinations of the above plus various juices and syrups.
But we're off to see Monty Python's Spamalot at the theatre and we restrain ourselves.
It's a rubbish time, but after a good meal, an excellent bottle of wine, and great company, perhaps we should all do as Monty Python says and always look on the bright side of life.
Address: 1/9 Lonsdale St, Braddon
Hours: Monday, 5-9.30pm; Tuesday to Friday, noon-3pm, 5-late; Saturday to Sunday, noon-4pm, 5pm-late.
Owners: Jared Calnan, Ben Ilic, Andrew Duong, Shaoyi Kuek
Chef: Sang Yoon Kim
Wheelchair access: Yes
Vegetarian: Plenty of options
Noise: There's a vibe but that's half the point