I like Soju Girl a lot, I have fond memories of it since it was probably the first hipster place I visited in Canberra. It was about a year and a half ago and it was a Tuesday. I won’t forget that because it was twofers (aka two for one) night! I ate at Soju Girl a couple of times last year, sometimes for their awesome twofers, sometimes for their Asian inspired drinks and cocktails, other times it was for their amazing beef massamun. But then sometime last year I just stopped going there. I think the reason is two-fold. One, so many awesome bars and hipster eating joints have opened up in the last year, sadly its hard to try them all out whilst still eating at old favourites. Two, for some reason I thought they stopped offering twofers, I must have heard it somewhere or saw something and I kind of like two for one.
Recently, it was brought to my attention that Soju Girl still does twofers. In fact, it looks like it never stopped! I love the food at Soju Girl but it’s not exactly budget people food or anything, it’s delicious but pricey. So, twofers does really help for things like this! So the following Tuesday I headed out for some goodness. We got to the door and Soju Girl had their sign out and on both sides they had a cross through two for one Tuesdays with massive block letters stating ‘Booked Out’. No Soju Girl that night but I was determined, to come back here and get more of the amazing Asian inspired fusion food, so I made a booking for the following week. Same thing happens, we get there and we see the Booked Out message. No problems, this time because we had a table! We were there from about 6.30 – 8.30PM, I swear I saw empty tables! Point of the story, if you had plans to check out their two for one dinner deal and didn’t book, still ask! Cos that sign is totally deceptive!
Alrighty, enough story telling, time for the drool worthy food. Okay, maybe not just yet! Just another quick note about the two for one deal, it doesn’t include everything on their small plates menu, I remember there was only one seafood dish, the calamari but I think most of the other meat and veggie plates were included. Okay, food time!
First up we grabbed the Crispy pork belly ($18) with chilli salt, fried apple puree and bacon candy. This was a little different to what we were expecting from crispy pork belly but delicious nevertheless. The pork was crispy on the outside, like it had a crispy outer shell to it. The inside wasn’t melt in your mouth tender like you generally get with pork belly. It was quite firm but still super flavourful. It was like they got pork belly and flash fried or shallow fried it. The skin wasn’t super crispy which was a bit disappointing since I really love crispy pork skin but it was still really nice overall.
The pork was covered in a sweet caramelised bacon sauce with little bits of candied bacon here and there too. Getting pork and adding more pork to it is a genius idea and I’m hoping more places pick it up! There was also an apple foam to the dish that added some sourness and tanginess to the pork and really worked well to compliment the sweetness from everything else. I was also a big fan of the coriander and shallots, which brought a lot of colour and freshness to the plate.
Next up, the Korean rice gnocchi ($16) with sauté mushrooms and truffle snow. This was interesting. The gnocchi was absolutely amazing, it’s probably a little different to traditional gnocchi that you’d get at an italian place as this Korean rice gnocchi was quite glutenous and chewy (in a good way)! Outside of the awesome texture, it had a slight ricey taste to it but like the standard pasta version of gnocchi it wasn’t an overpowering flavour, letting the sauces and condiments do most of the heavy lifting. Here at Soju Girl they matched up the rice gnocchi with super flavoursome and savoury mushrooms. I did find that the mushrooms were really salty, and they worked really well if you had it with a piece of rice gnocchi but unfortunately I found that the ratio between mushrooms and gnocchi was really skewed towards the mushroom side of things. There was a massive amount of mushrooms compared to gnocchi as you can see in the picture, there are only a couple of pieces of gnocchi here and there. Outside of the saltiness, I loved everything else about this dish. There was also crispy rice chips which gave it some great texture and crunch. Didn’t notice any truffles but overall the dish had some pretty strong flavours so I can see it being overwhelmed. Really nice.
Next up, the Fried silken tofu ($15) with crispy chickpea, green pea slaw and miso honey. Again another tasty Asian inspired dish. The texture of the tofu was great, it was super crispy on the outside with a lot of crunch to it while remaining soft and airy on the inside. It looks like they’ve been deep fried but the tofu was not overly oily, which was a big plus. This awesomeness was topped with deep fried chickpea. I’ve never really heard of tried deep fried chickpea but damn was I happy to find out about it. I would happily replace every further instance of nuts or chickpeas for some of these crispy little bits of joy. Just imagine a crunchy deep fried green pea but with an awesome creamy hummus flavour, drool worthy!
Flavourwise, it was interesting. The tofu and chickpeas were quite bland while the miso paste which is all over the bottom of the plate is extremely strong in flavour and savouriness. I guess the two should have come together quite well, bring the miso flavours over into the silken tofu but for some reason it didn’t work all that perfectly for me. Maybe the paste was too thick and the tofu too delicate and crumbly. Unfortunately every time you went to get some of the miso paste onto the tofu you either lost your tofu or ended up with a massive amount of miso and had to try and scrape it off. I really liked the idea and flavours, I guess I wish the miso paste was a little less salty. When you managed to get it right, it was really good!
Lastly, the Wagyu carpaccio ($20) with togarashi, horseadish and pickled radish. Can’t go wrong with a carpaccio and Soju Girl got it spot on! Tasty, fatty and full of delicious meatiness. Overall it had a lot of citrus to it. I could clearly identity the sweetness from the orange flavours that Soju used, this added a lot of freshness and flavour to the whole dish and really lifted it. I’m not quite sure what the creamy white blotches were but they added a lot of tang to the dish and really complimented the sweetness of citrus and the savouriness of the soy like sauce. I really liked the addition of the shallots which added lovely smells to the carpaccio and wonderful texture as you bit into it. Soju was also quite generous with the horseradish slices which were in the salad. They were quite strong, and unfortunately wasn’t quite to my liking since I don’t like the huskiness of horseradish but it would be great for any wasabi lovers out there. For anyone else out there like me, it was a pretty easy fix. The horseradish was pretty identifiable and came away really easily. So super tasty dish, all in all.
For our drinks, first up a Bokbunjajoo ($25), black raspberry wine. We couldn’t come here and not get an Asian wine, probably should have went for one of Soju Girl’s house made infused wines but sadly we didn’t see that until we were leaving. Next time! Anyways, here we grabbed the black raspberry wine. I’ve always been a massive fan of Japanese and Korean wines, not so much the other Asian countries but then again I only really know them for having rice wine. The reason I love them so much is because they always have the really sweet and fruity wines, like this or plum wine. It’s quite enjoyable for someone who is still developing a taste for more full bodied and drier Western wines!
This black raspberry wine was really tasty. It was quite sweet and had a lot of fruitness and fresh berry flavours to it. It also had a lovely berry scent to it, that you could smell the minute the wine is poured into your cup. I did find that it had a slight medicinal taste but I reckon that’s pretty normal for berry based Asian wines and it wasn’t too much nor was it cherry medicine flavour!
Lastly, one of Soju Girl’s awesome cocktails, a Girls Gone Wild ($15) Grape sake, blueberry drinking vinegar, lime shaken then topped with blueberry sake jelly. This was interesting, it was definitely on the sour side. I probably should have picked that up from the blueberry drinking vinegar ingredient but I clearly wasn’t paying enough attention when I was looking at the drinks menu, so the sourness really did hit me. I think the blueberry sake jelly was also made out of the same stuff since they were quite sour too which was sad because I started trying to drink them with the cocktail as I kind of expected the jelly to be sweet, it only really made the whole drink more sour! Outside of the sourness, I didn’t mind the drink. It had quite a bit of lime to it which brought a lot of freshness, and there were also nice and strong berry flavours to it. This drink probably wasn’t my cup of tea but it would be great for any sour lovers out there. Next time, I’m going for one of Soju Girl’s sweeter drinks!
Even after all this time, Soju Girl remains a super exciting place to eat and drink at. The food is fantastic and the atmosphere is lovely too. I’ve definitely putting Soju Girl back on my list of places to hit up more regularly.