I’ve lived a 5 minute walk from Braddon for almost a year now, yet I’ve never been to Elk & Pea somehow, though I’ve always considered it! The stupid reason for never going to Elk & Pea? Well someone told me they had a bad time there, they said the plates and servings were tiny and hence they said they had an expensive and some what underwhelming experience.
But of course my curiosity finally got to me after all the talking and recommendations from my work mates; I caved and decided to check out Elk & Pea. The person who disliked Elk & Pea came with me and actually really enjoyed it this time round, so, spoilers I guess. Also, I did find out that they first tried it when it was only about a month or so old.
If theres one thing I’ve learnt recently (especially in Canberra) about eating out at new restaurants is that its pretty risky checking out a place when it first opens up. They haven’t quite figured it all out yet, what works, what doesn’t, the staff are new and unfamiliar with it all. Its just so hit and miss. Hence, no more overly new restaurants for me, I’ve had one too many misses and I’ve been deprived of this awesome place for way too long for the same reason.
Well, time to talk about the awesome food. We decided to go with a couple of the canape items, or Mexican Street Food as they call it. No large share plates for us, but man did they look fantastic and massive! Much bigger than our originally dissatisfied friend remembered it being, especially the goat which was huge! We sat really close to the kitchen so we saw all the dishes coming and going.
First up, the Zucchini flowers ($7), manchego and bomba rice stuffed flowers and pumpkin foam. Super yummy! The zucchini flower was crunchy but light and not overly oily, also really enjoyed the cheesy rice filling, this wasn’t overly flavourful so the taste of the zucchini flowers really came out. But the best part of the dish was the pumpkin foam! Just imagine a super creamy and perfectly seasoned pumpkin soup but super light, fluffy and in foam form! It was like eating a cross between airy honeycomb and mushy marshmallows. Or just foam if you’ve had that before but savoury, creamy and delicious. The nuts were also nice, they gave the foam texture and crunch.
Our second street food was the Mexican street food corn ($5), chargrilled corn on a cob with manchego, chipotle and lime aioli. This was great, once it arrived at our table we could immediately smell the grilled corn scent, really lovely and smokey. The manchego, chipotle and lime aioli was creamy, cheesy and delicious, there was plenty of it to nicely coat the whole corn and give up a lot of extra flavour and spice.
For our biggish dish we got a Chilli con carne ($18), slow braised chilli beef, corn chips, avocado and sour cream. This was a lot bigger than we were expecting. Plenty of chilli and a generous serve of corn chips to go with it, however there still wasn’t enough for all the chilli they gave!
This was some good chilli. It was meaty and saucy and it was hot! Don’t get this dish if you’re like me and can barely handle pepper or Western chilli dipping sauces. This dish was legit hot. I was expecting the guacamole to be the usual more saucy and flavoured type but this was just fresh mashed up avocados, which was really awesome since I love avocados! Made the whole dish fresher and creamier. Also definitely helped with the spice levels.
Another bite size treat, the Ceviche tostada ($6), lime cured kingfish, papaya and avocado on a fried tortilla. I liked this a lot. The kingfish was light and fresh, the tanginess was just enough to bring out a lot of flavour but not too sour and unbearable. Again like for the chilli con carne this dish came with fresh avocado, this added creaminess to the bite and I feel like it also helped to mild out the sourness of the lime. The papaya and tostada gave the bite texture and crunch, which was a nice contrast to the softer texture of the kingfish and avocado. Overall the dish tasted so simple yet so light and refreshing, it was just awesome. Definitely wished I ordered more than one! Next time!
Lasty our taco arrived, I decided to go with the Tempura soft shell crab taco ($7.50), tempura soft shell crab with papaya and herb mayonnaise on a soft corn tortilla. This was really nice, not a massive fan of the soft tortilla but that’s always been a preference thing, I’ve always preferred hard shell, even if its messier to eat and everything goes everywhere. Sadly, Elk & Pea didn’t offer the option of hard shell, well we didn’t ask and the menu didn’t specify. Anyways, it was still really nice, the soft shell crab was crispy on the outside but soft on the inside. It was also lightish and not drenched in oil. The herby mayo was creamy and it made the dish moist so I didn’t feel desperate for water afterwards.
Can’t wait to come back again try the other tacos, especially the veggie one, I think it has pumpkin in it! I also noticed on their website that they do half price ‘happy hour’ taco and beers on Saturday after lunch and before dinner. Totally checking it out for pre dinner or to satisfy my hunger during the deadzone.
So before getting a chance to publish this post, I actually managed to head down to Elk & Pea during (what we call) the food deadzone! aka when everything is closed and if you’re hungry, you’re stuck with fast food, takeaway or home food. Very happy to know that I can go out for cheap tacos when I’m feeling hungry or snacking after lunch and before dinner on Saturdays.
First up, on the left is the Tempura soft shell crab with papaya and herb mayo and to the right, the Braised beef short rib with jalapeno salsa taco ($7.50, two for one tacos). Probably won’t talk about the tempura soft shell crab taco again. The beef one was pretty nice, the braised beef short rib was cooked and seasoned in that Mexican style that you’ll probably recognise. The meat was really tender, moist and juicy, a little messy but gave it a lot of awesome flavours. The flavours were really nice and rich, with a little bit of spice for a nice kick but not too much like the chilli con carne or manchego popcorn.
And our second order, on the left, Spiced pumpkin and goats cheese with rocket and coriander aioli and to the right, Crispy chicken with slaw, honey and agave glaze ($7.50, two for one tacos).
The vegetarian spiced pumpkin and goats cheese taco was awesome! The pumpkin was deep fried in a light batter, making it crunchy and full of deep fried goodness but not overly oily and heavy. This was coupled with a strong goats cheese giving the sweet pumpkin some lovely savouriness. And to top it all off, some creamy aioli and some rocket to balance it all off. Nice little vegetarian taco!
The crispy chicken with slaw and honey taco was probably the best of the four. Just imagine a high end honey chicken in taco form. Big fan of the nice bite size chicken chunks, made the whole taco really manageable – didn’t have half eaten bits of chicken falling everywhere. The chicken itself was moist and yummy. I think the chicken was coated in a crumb batter as it stuck to the chicken chunks instead of being fluffy like a flour batter, which is the only thing keeping me from calling it a high end honey chicken. The chicken was topped with some honey and agave glaze, giving it some delicious sweetness but not overly rich like honey chickens from take out joints. The slaw also help to bring it altogether. Big fan of this taco!
I was eyeing this nibbley last time, so decided to get some to go with the tacos, Manchego and chilli popcorn ($5). This was so damn spicy but so good at the same time. I think all round, if Elk & Pea mentions that a menu item has spice or chilli in it, they’re serious about it and it will pack a punch. Regardless, this was delicious. The popcorn was spicy but super creamy and cheesy, but there were no signs of melted cheese anywhere! Maybe a mist of manchego!? Really nice and a nice decent size bowl of it as well. Good stuff, would like to get it again but I would probably have to order a milkshake or something to go with it!
So if you’re feeling like food during the deadzone, don’t want take away or fast food, check out Elk & Pea, two for one tacos from 3PM to 6PM. Theres also live music and two for one Caronas ($8).
Can’t believe I didn’t check out Elk & Pea until now. Everything was so nice and the serving sizes have definitely gotten bigger according to our friend. Its kinda nice to have a place to go for fancier than take away Mexican especially since they do all these awesome street foods that you don’t see in most Mexican places where they focus on tacos, nachos, burritos etc. Also noticed they do lunch which is pretty similar to dinner but with burgers and burritos and most importantly breakfast where it looks like there’s quite a bit of a Mexican influence.