Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Alto Restaurant (Canberra)

Address: Telstra Tower, Black Mountain Drive

Acton Canberra ACT 2601
Reservations 02 6247 5518


Funny how when you search up "alto" on google this restaurant is about the last thing on the page that correlates. However this was recommended as one of the highlights of Australia’s capital city so it was an excuse for a tourist like me to check it out.

I was a bit disgruntled at paying $7.50 to go up the lift before I could even pay for my dinner, however a short walk through the tower didn’t hurt. The indoor viewing deck (in all its 1960s-70s style deco) was a good 10-minute nutshell Canberra tour. I even got to laugh at the post box located in this tower establishment (who would pay $7.50 + 55c to post a letter?).

OK bullshit aside – now onto the food. Alto is a revolving restaurant, much similar to the revolving restaurant in Centrepoint tower Sydney. However, this is arguably one of top 5 restauarants in Canberra so I was keen to sample what this modern Australia / European fusion restaurant had to offer.

I don’t recall ordering this but I believe we were given a starter which consisted of a petite crusty multi-grain bread roll and a macchiato-sized sweet corn / chive cream-based soup. It was an interesting taste sensation – the intensity of flavours was appropriately controlled via portion size. The bread had a salty ‘tang’ to it which was offset nicely by the sweet corn ‘soup’.

For main I ordered the Duck Duo– “pan roasted breast and confit leg rillette with carrot puree, potato croquette and red wine sauce”. Essentially this was 3 slices of duck breast, skin crisped to perfection, meat cooked to a pink, juicy texture with not too much fat (as sometimes duck can be). Very delicious. The red wine sauce was a light and refreshing compliment to the duck breast, carrot puree and spinach bed. The thing you see on the right is the other half of this dish – made of duck also but a much saltier, rougher version made into a rosti or patty of sorts.

Below you also see the “Tajima Wagyu - aged 9+ marbled strip loin with mustard condiments, fresh horseradish, sauce béarnaise and house cut chips 150g”. I didn’t personally try this but it looked nice.

Everything is very minimalist here – I’m used to being a bargain eater so the mains coming out was a bit of a surprise for me, however by the end of my meal I was ready to keel over and fall asleep (note: never to let your eyes speak for your stomach).

For dessert we had a hot chocolate made with ‘real chocolate chips’. The chocolate was A-grade, but the milky froth a bit disappointing. This was long forgotten after the chef gave us a complimentary serving of the ‘petit four’ (sorry no photos) – consisting of 3 small sweet nibbles. There was a thin slice of shortbread – creamy yet reminiscent of something almondy or brandy-snappish. I also sampled what I call a “chocolate nougat” – like a dry, chewy chocolate brownie cross fruit cake. It was an interesting melding of flavours and textures to say the least! Finally there was what looked like a piece of white marshmellow (very firm) coated in a hard, dark chocolate shell.

Admittedly the staff were professional, courteous and non-disruptive making the whole experience of going to a ‘fine dining’ restaurant much more bearable and less pretentious.