A group of friends and I took advantage of a recent Dimmi deal offering 50% off a degustation dinner at Natural 9 which opened a few months ago at Canberra Casino. The degustation dinner was usually $100, so we couldn’t turn down the offer of 5 courses for $50. The new look Canberra Casino looks a lot more swanky and sophisticated with red carpets, marble and a large chandelier hanging down over the bar. Let’s be honest, it was a much needed makeover. Natural 9 is set at the back of the casino next to the bar.
Our reserved table had been set for six people, and printed menus of that night’s degustation placed in front of us. Once the whole group arrived, staff started bringing out our degustation. We started off with an amuse bouche of kingfish sashimi with a small cup of house made apple cider.
One of the waiters arrived at our table carrying a basket of freshly baked white bread. We were informed that we could call on them for as much bread as we liked which was dangerous as I was starving. Besides accidentally skipping one person when placing the bread rolls on our plates (we did wave them back), I found the service to be polite and unobtrusive.
Course 1 – Oyster and sake citrus cured salmon. The natural oyster included a ball of sake and rose jelly, which was interesting and gave the oyster a subtle boozy hit. I’m no sake drinker but it still tasted pretty refreshing and a little acidic to complement the oyster. I loved the beautiful colour of the thin slices of salmon sashimi. The dish also came with a salmon and creme fraiche grilled baguette. I had to take off some of the creme fraiche as there was a bit too much for my liking.
Course 2 – globe artichoke with chive pancake, soy espuma and a zucchini flower. I enjoyed all the flavours in this dish. The zucchini flower had been lightly fried and was still crispy. The chive pancake added a lovely Asian hit to the meal. The artichoke itself had been cooked well giving off a slightly pickled taste and was easy to slice through. The espuma (culinary foam) was flavoursome and I couldn’t help mopping all of the other elements into it.
Course 3 – tea smoked duck breast with kale, cured duck yolk and black garlic aioli. We received a good portion of duck breast which had been thinly sliced however the duck meat wasn’t as flavoursome or rich as I usually like it. What impressed me was the the thin crisp sitting on top that was the cured egg yolk fried wafer thin. Very oily but oh so tasty.
Course 4 – Great Southern lamb rump with carrot gnocchi, sweet garlic, fennel, pea and mint salad. The lamb rump was a beautiful pink colour and we each received a large slice of rump. The gnocchi had been pan fried with a slightly crispy exterior and yummy soft potato inside. This was a nice dish but there was no wow factor for me.
Course 5 – passionfruit meringue with coconut custard, spice pineapple and rum caramel. I personally don’t like meringue (except in macarons), too much custard, rum or too much caramel (yes I’m picky with desserts), so when I saw this dessert printed on the menu, I had no idea what I would think when the dessert course came out. The dish was presented well in a deconstructed manner. In my defence, I did eat every single element together, and I can see how others might like it. Overall, I still thought it was a very sweet dish – I couldn’t make out any spices on the pineapple which tasted more like pineapple in syrup. The custard wasn’t overly sweet and I could taste a hint of coconut. The caramel was sweet and the meringue was sugary sweet. There wasn’t much sourness to balance the dish. I did like the mint scattered throughout the dessert that added some freshness.
To be honest, I don’t think I would pay the full price of $100 for a degustation at Natural 9. The dishes didn’t stand out enough for me to go back and try more. I do like what they’ve done with the place and what they’re trying to do with the food. We all found service was polite and professional. The timing of courses was also pretty spot on.
Natural 9 can be found inside Casino Canberra on 21 Binara Street in the city.
Value for money 8/10
FPJ score 21/30
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