Soju Girl

Last night three of my friends and I decided to try everything on Soju Girls’ 2-4-1 Tuesday night special.

Why?

Because we’re idiots, that’s why.

As my surgery approaches, I have been trying out some of the Canberra restaurants that I’ve always wanted to go to – and somehow I seem to be the only person in Canberra who has never been to Soju Girl. My ex-boss and current friend, D, suggested that we go to Soju Girl for one of my “last suppers” (which has equated to a “last supper” pretty much every night for the last three weeks – yes, I’m broke). We dragged along my brother and my friend J, who I met while working with D.

We booked a table for four on a Tuesday night because I know they do a 2-4-1 special, and when we turned up last night we saw that many people had the same idea – the food-centric parts of the establishment were full. Soju Girl is divided in to three sections; the middle section where you enter is a bar space, a restaurant sits on the left hand side and a more laid back bistro/café on the right. All areas are decorated in a contemporary Asian fashion. There’s a fun vibe, with music playing at a decent level (but not too loud, thankfully) in the bar area and lots of people chatting and enjoying themselves about the place. However, the space is dark – a constant issue for a foodpornographer!

The Soju Girl menu is meant for sharing with small plates (to share lots) and big plates (to share between lots), with dishes heavily influenced by Japanese and Korean cuisine.

We looked at the normal menu and then the menu for the 2-4-1 special, which consisted of small plates – the 2-4-1 menu had a lot of nice sounding dishes and we agreed that we wanted to try them all. So we did. When they came to take our order, we literally said “we’ll have one of everything”.

What followed is a blur. A food blur. The dishes were all bought out so quickly, with the two starters coming not two minutes before the vegetarian dishes (of which there were five). The four meat based dishes came a little later, but we were still working on the first ones – so my photos are blurry and rushed, because we were trying to shove down food fast to make space on the table. It was chaotic dining and I would not recommend it!!! Next time, we’ll order a few dishes and then order some more if we need it – I was full before the meat even appeared (although my dining companions were not).

The first two dishes were the edamame beans and the ‘pan fried roti bread with sesame seeds, cumin oil, smoked salt’. I have no photos of these, cos we ate them straight away.

The edamame beans came out just before the other food, so we only ate a few – but they were nice and salty. The roti was delicious, really hot and flaky.

The next dishes to arrive were the ‘Cauliflower flowerets, puff rice, horseradish foam’ and the eggplant dish (I’m sorry, I didn’t write this one down and it’s not on their “everyday” menu!).

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The cauliflower was crunchy and well-cooked and the horseradish foam was more of a cream but complimented the dish well. Not sure what the rice bubbles were about though.

The eggplant dish was served on a giant black sesame crisp – which you use to dip and shovel. This was a nice dish, the flavours worked really well together.

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Next up, two more vegetarian dishes: ‘Silken tofu, crispy chick peas, taro slaw, yellow bean sauce’ and a mushroom dish that I also didn’t write down – damn chaotic dining!

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The tofu dish was awesome! The tofu was crispy on the outside but soft and silken on the inside, surrounded by deliciously crunchy chick peas and fresh vegies. This was one of my favourites of the night.

The mushroom dish had good flavours and the mushrooms themselves were cooked beautifully.

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A waiter came to give us the zucchini flowers, but we had no space on the table so we asked him to move the board that previously had the cauliflower on it, which he did – only he walked off with the zucchini flowers too…and never came back (more on the that later)!!!

But we lost interest once the meat dishes started arriving – meeeaaattt! The ‘Pork pom poi, coleslaw salad and roti’ and the ‘Australian squid, red dragon chilli spice, lemon puree’ came first.

ImageImageThe pork pom poi is presented like a kofte (in fact, as I’d not even read the menu properly when we ordered – that’s what I thought it was) and is flavoursome and moist. It’s placed on top of a coleslaw like salad and a piece of roti, and drizzled with sriracha. I quite liked this dish, although it wasn’t the easiest to share!

The squid was lovely and tender on the inside and is coated is a nice tasting but dry batter. I found the dish lacking of the promised “red dragon chilli spice and lemon puree” – although I was the last person on the table to try it, so perhaps my companions ate all of it?

Next came the ‘Katsu of chicken, honey and sprout kimchi, pineapple caramel’ and the ‘Crispy pork belly, chilli salt, fried apple puree, bacon candy’. I thought I’d taken a picture of the pork belly…but by this stage I was in a half-coma, so apparently not.

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I was well and truly full by this point, but pork belly is my favourite so I made an effort and had a piece of each. The Katsu was crispy and tasty, and the kimchi was a random (Katsu is Japanese, kimchi is Korean) element that I think worked well. The pork belly actually wasn’t that great, sadly. I didn’t really taste any chilli and it wasn’t crispy – the bacon candy was pretty awesome though.

When the waitress put down the pork belly she assured us that was all we ordered, but we knew there should be another three dishes to come. She said that she’d picked up a black plate, which had been the beetle leaves – and yes she had picked up a black plate, but it had had the roti on it. And then there was the random guy who walked off with our zucchini flowers, which she insisted we had got (I took a photo of pretty much everything so I offered to show her what was missing) – reluctantly she got the bill and read through what we’d ordered and we definitely had not received those three dishes (I would have remembered the carpaccio and the beetle leaf!). Eventually she decided that she believed us and we got our meals – she wasn’t unfriendly, but I could tell she was weary of being ripped off…which is fair enough, but “waiter walking off with meal and dirty plate” sounds a bit too ridiculous to not be true. And then my brother told her I was a food blogger and her entire demeanour changed – does that make me more trustworthy? Let’s go with that.

By the time the zucchini flowers came out, I could barely breath let alone eat any more – so my brother got a full flower, and J and D shared one.

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Everyone said they were fantastic – the sushi rice in the middle was a great touch and everything worked nicely with the sauce and compote. They looked beautiful to boot.

I was keen to try the wagyu carpaccio – promptly forgetting how full I was – and grabbed a few slices of the ‘Wagyucarpaccio, togarashi, horseadish, pickled radish’. Somehow we ended up with two, which worked out nicely in the end cos we got one dish between two.

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Sadly, I was a little disappointed with the carpaccio, it wasn’t awful but it wasn’t as buttery and as meaty as I would have liked. The other flavours on the plate overpowered the flavours of the meat and left me with a strong radish taste in my mouth.

Lastly we got the betel leaf – ‘Betel leaf, green papaya, chilli cashew dressing, smoked trout’. I couldn’t eat this unfortunately. By this stage of the meal I was so full I thought I was going to throw up, so the one extremely flavourful mouthful I had was too much for me and I can’t fairly comment on it. Everyone else enjoyed it and liked the flavours.

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I’m so glad we didn’t order two of everything, like D had originally wanted us to – those “small plates” are not small at all. I would recommend ONE dish per person. NOT 13! It’s 4pm the next day and I am still full.

The service at Soju Girl was really good, despite our little incident with missing meals – all staff were friendly and helpful. They kept coming back to check whether we really truely wanted the rest of the food we ordered, I kept shaking my head but my companions kept saying “bring it on”.

I’m glad I got to finally try Soju Girl, and I really realised that if I ever go back there I’d have to share a quarter of one small plate (thanks to my gastric sleeve) – so I ate as much as I could fit in! I was a little disappointed that, while all the food was of a good quality, not one dish stood out to me as amazing or memorable. But is is a fun place to catch up with friends and share some food (or maybe take a date – you’ll totally get cool points) and it’s definitely one of the more inventive dining establishments in Canberra.

But the best thing, the very best thing, about Soju Girl on a Tuesday night is the value for money. Nowhere else in Canberra will you get so many courses for what amounted to $25 per person!!! It’s crazy and it’s fantastic!

Soju Girl on Urbanspoon

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