Narrabundah still has a scruffy edge, but it's fighting the creeping gentrification that you can see most obviously in the restaurants that look to be thriving here.
Three restaurants are pumping with activity tonight in this small collection of shops - insofar as any venue can be said to be pumping in times of COVID-19.
The virus has lent its own edge to eating out, but it's a resigned and semi-melancholic edge, rather than the flush of exciting danger.
Restaurants are finding new ways to survive as they accommodate awkward rules about recording customers' details, social distancing and limited numbers.
Customers - in my theory the very people more vulnerable to the virus by virtue of a skew to older age groups - are taking a leap of faith in relying on the young people serving them to be sanitising and obsessively gloving-up and generally taking middle-aged hygiene precautions.
The Apple Store is setting the gold standard in all of this with its mad ranks of non-medically-trained staff taking temperatures and quizzing people about fevers, handing out masks, and directly people militarily to organised queues.
With that example, restaurants are occupying uneasy ground and it's kind of obvious to all concerned.
At XO, the social distancing seems pretty much under control, with gauzing white curtains separating tables of diners which adds to the intimacy.
There are legions of staff, and we are, as it turns out, served rather intensely.
Food is fast, water is filled, replaced, filled, plates are whisked away no sooner are chopsticks set down.
This is presumably about getting through what is an extensive degustation menu in the allotted two hours between sittings, but it begins to feel a bit perfunctory by the end - although everyone has been helpful, and we are especially happy with the guy who arrives to tell us about the sakes.
It's a set menu ($70 a head), no choices - unless, presumably, you have a dietary preference, since they ask us about that.
It starts with a little snack comprising a chicken "cracker", which is a soft slightly chewy square, with a refreshing coleslaw top - a welcome bite.
Then comes as banh mi - a mini burger with a crumbed and a hard-fried pork patty, lettuce, carrot and cucumber.
There's lots of heat in the fine-ground patty, and it sets the scene for a meal of heat and originality. Soft-bun burgers like these are crowd-pleasers.
Dumplings arrive, filled with diced beef, and very fragrant with a familiar almost floral spice that we sadly can't name. The dumplings are in a thin and nicely understated broth with bean sprouts.
"Strange tasting eggplant" is aptly described. It's funky like kimchi. It's got loads of heat. And it's an unusual dish. The eggplant flesh is soft and semi-mushed.
It's served cold, which to my mind is a mistake, with what's described as a spiced sesame dressing, which has a miso feel, and with mushroom relish - all adding up to a kind of dip that you eat with prawn crackers.
So yes, it's intriguing and it's strange, but I'm not sure it's successful with this mix of odd flavours and the cold presentation.
Lai Yau prawns with "curry and kelp butter sauce" and "fluffy egg floss" are delicious. The prawns are deep-fried with a light batter, and the sauce more clingy than anything. The egg is unusual, little shredded threads of crisp egg that are unctuous and rich like the prawns, emphasising the umami feel.
After all this we get to the "main", which tonight is steamed barramundi, two big fillets, just cooked, and served in a thin, light and likeable soy broth with cherry tomatoes and a pile of coriander. Alongside are gai lan greens, served simply with confit garlic, thin sliced and crisp.
There seems to have been a long list of courses tonight, but it's balanced well since we don't feel Mr Creosote-stuffed by any means.
Despite the speed - all of this food has been timed to clear our table in well under two hours for the next sitting - we feel happily well fed. But there hasn't been a great deal of harmony between courses.
The dishes are united, of course, by the Chinese-South East Asian theme, but nevertheless have felt a little devised in isolation.
The dessert strikes us, like the eggplant, as served at the wrong temperature, there's a thick slice of charred pineapple, which I'd prefer warm than cold.
Yuzu marmalade and two ice creams. A tamarind ice cream, sour, and intriguing more than pleasant. And a coconut ice cream, which is lovely.
We leave with just slightly mixed feelings. While some dishes have felt perplexing more than successful, that seems partly to do with the efficiencies of serving a lot of food in unison in a short space of time, a casualty of the pandemic.
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Overall, XO has a good feel and is working really hard to bring quality, with attention and focus on the floor as well as in the kitchen.
Plenty of thought has gone into the wine list too, which, while not cheap, offers such luxuries as a 11-year sweep of vintages since 2008 of Clonakilla Shiraz Viognier. XO has undoubtedly brought a level of cool and lastability to Narrabundah.
Address: 16 Iluka St, Narrabundah
Owners: Greg Lally, Kent Nhan, AK Ramakrishna
Chef: AK Ramakrishna
Hours: Lunch: Tuesday to Friday, noon to 2pm. Dinner: Monday to Sunday, 6-10pm.
Noise: No problem
Vegetarian: On request with set menu