Climbing the north face of Ruckers Hill, one restaurant at a time
Tuesday, September 28, 2010
A bit more than a year ago we started "Eat our Way" with the intention of capturing our thoughts about our local restaurants at a point in time before they became too popular, swanky and/or wanky. The deal was simple; I promised to focus on High Street and never use the word "authentic" and you promise not to complain about the humble scope of this blog. I say this really just to confess, in advance, that this time we're a little out of scope. No, that's not quite true; we're well out of scope. We had a couple of days in Darwin last week and had a lovely evening eating great Nonya food at a place called Hanuman, and this is our humble record of that evening. Think of it as "Eat our Way goes Mad in the Tropics".
Hanuman was just around the corner from our hotel and looked pretty fine from the street, and like everywhere wonderful in Darwin, it's open to the elements.
We don't often start a meal with a cocktail, but then we're not often in a different city without children for a couple of days either. I ordered a Hanuman Martini, which was flavoured with a sweet green tea liqueur, while the seahorse had a Cosmopolitan. The martini erred on the sweet sidewith a clean fragrance, but the Cosmo was a damp and diluted squib - a pale, faded pink shadow of the Platonic Cosmopolitan, like 1980's office decor - pale pink and grey like a galah. Afterwards the seahorse did complain her ears had fallen off, so perhaps it wasn't that diluted....
Oysters in sweet little pots
We ordered two entrees - oysters baked with ginger, soy and chili, and "Money Bags" - plump, fried wontons filled with a ginger-garlic chicken mousse. The oysters were intense and at the very limits of what I'm prepared to see happen to an oyster. They come in a beautiful terracotta dish, individually lidded in a sharp, hot sauce. There was still enough room for the oyster to shine through, but only just. Enjoyable, but not essence of oyster which is what I enjoy most in an oyster.
Moneybags of... chicken
The Money Bags were wrapped in a thin, crisp tofu skin and served with a sweet chili glaze. Plump, lovely and sweet, like... I could get into trouble now so I'll shut up.
Main courses were a coconut milk prawn curry that was unctuous, mild and warm and pork belly cooked with star anise and cinnamon. Both were fabulous on their own, although in retrospect they were both rich dishes with little spice, and choosing at least one dish with a bit more spark would have been a better idea. We also ordered roti, which was great, and raita which was a little sweet for my tastes.
Hanuman served up the best meal I've had in the Northern Territory, which to a southerner might sound like a backhanded compliment, but I've had some fantastic south east Asian food in Darwin that had a freshness that would be hard to beat. Green papaya salad and oodles of rice noodles at various markets mean my northern expectations are pretty high and Hanuman met these.
I didn't mention dessert - Black Rice Brulee. It was of the Gods.