In my almost four years of writing reviews I have had only one rule - never review places that you go to for fun. But this week, Temporada has made me break that rule.
It's generally been a good rule, for several reasons. One, sometimes analysing each dish to death can ruin the magic. Two, and a lesson I learnt the hard way, is that chefs don't tend to like being reviewed. In my first year, I wrote a review of one of my favourite restaurants - I thought it was good publicity, they didn't quite see it that way. The great tragedy is that I've been too scared to return since, hence my rule.
But here I am on a Tuesday night reviewing Temporada, one of my go-to restaurants in Canberra. The return of its à la carte menu means that I can pop in for a few small dishes on a weeknight, not necessarily committing to the length of the set menu.
I love the elegant simplicity of the one-page share plate menu; some small bites, some larger plates. If you do want a full tour of Temporada's best dishes, there's a $90 set menu with the option of adding on matched wines for $60. Saturdays are set menu only.
The drinks list is well thought out and has something for everyone whether you're into the traditional or unconventional. I'm smitten by Blood Moon's Promise Schioppettino ($17 a glass), a super interesting funky wild yeast ferment with smoky and savoury notes. My partner's Helm cabernet sauvignon ($16 a glass) is a cracker local wine, elegant and crafted with the surety of the Helm family hand.
First tip - you should never skip the bread at Temporada ($3 per serve). Yes, it does take up valuable room, but it's worth every bite. With a moist, fluffy interior and a charred crust that captures all the flavour of their wood-fired oven, it's better than many artisan bakeries.
My favourite thing on the menu, and quite possibly in all of Canberra, is Temporada's Ortiz anchovy on toast with confit tomato ($9 each). As an anchovy sceptic, I don't say this lightly - this is the best version of anchovy on toast I've ever had. It is a salty-sweet, chewy-crunchy morsel that I just can't get enough of. My partner, who typically hates anchovies, concurs.
Can you overuse a charcoal grill? Not really when each dish is so different. There's charcoal-grilled king prawn ($12 each), an aromatic affair with Makrut lime leaves, chilli paste, finger lime and peanuts - almost a gado gado or satay-inspired number. It's light, and the gentle heat allows the sweetness of the prawns to shine through.
Charcoal-grilled Blackmore Wagyu 9+ intercostal ($34) is deeper and richer. Fingers of marbled intercostal meat are wrapped in shiso leaf and then grilled. Korean gochujang adds chilli and umami, while slices of nashi pear bring lightness, crunch and contrast.
The spanner crab omelette ($34) is finished with black pepper butter and pickled daikon. The delicate, almost custardy egg is decadent against the sweetness of crabmeat. Parsley, dill and pickled daikon complete the dish, adding an uplifting freshness.
Even simple dishes like grilled broccolini ($14) are enlivened here, tonight with a pickley, herby gribiche sauce. It's very moreish. I really like the simplicity and restraint.
We round out our savoury dishes with ricotta tortellini ($28) beautifully plump tortellini with bright green peas and a brown butter crumb. I've said it before and I'll say it again, I'm glad à la carte is back.
I love how the dishes all work together - in whatever combination you choose to order them. There are subtle Asian influences in some, Italian in others, but they all work as part of a shared table. The menu works just as well whether you're on date night, or with a group of friends.
I'm generally not a big fan of white chocolate but one bite of Temporada's mousse ($18) makes an easy convert out of me. Served with a raspberry and shiso granita, fresh raspberries and oat biscuit, it's everything a summer dessert should be.
Dinner tonight is flawless. Every dish is a perfectly orchestrated assortment of textures, all flavours in balance. Service is friendly and professional, not over the top; plates changed seamlessly between courses, wine glasses discretely topped up. I cannot wait to eat here again.
It is without reservation that I say Temporada is in my top tier of restaurants in Canberra. It's casual, unpretentious and utterly delightful - I have never had a bad meal here. It's not so fine dining that I feel I need an excuse to book, and yet, the food always delivers.
Address: 15 Moore Street, Canberra
Phone: 6249 6683
Hours: Tuesday to Friday, 11.30am till late. Saturday, 5.30pm till late.
Owner: Dave Young
Chef: Dave Young
Noise: Not an issue
Outdoor seating: A couple of tables, request when booking
Dietary: Some good vegetarian dishes
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