Monster has been at the top of my wishlist of places to visit in Canberra – mainly because I heard conflicting views (similar to what I heard about Eightysix before I fell in love with it myself!). The main points of discussion were that it was overpriced, featured terrible service but everyone agreed that the food was fantastic. Our experience was a little different.
Monster is housed in the lobby of Hotel Hotel. Slightly curvature in nature, the dining room is definitely an interesting space that draws your eyes everywhere. The architecture of the Nishi building is exquisite and I loved looking up and seeing the sky through little viewing windows on the ceiling, regardless of Nishi being a multistory development. It’s pretty nifty.
I had booked ahead for a table of two on a Friday evening, aiming to catch a movie after dinner at Palace Cinemas downstairs. Our evening started with two glasses of local Canberra sparkling – Gallagher blanc de blanc ($12 each). The wine list at Monster is extensive, however I was happy to see local wines being showcased on the menu.
Monsters food menu consists of dishes to share, each arriving one at a time. Our first dish to arrive was the labneh, dukkah, rose, and warm sourdough ($14). I grew up eating homemade labneh and Monster’s version was definitely exceptional. It had the slightly sour but thick consistently – exactly the way a traditional labneh should be. The addition of dukkah and rose petals went well together but the warm sourdough was the standout accompaniment to the labneh – soft, fluffy sourdough that tasted as though it was straight out of the oven. It was a fantastic way to start our evening.
When our lovely waiter told us the specials of the evening, my mind immediately decided to order the prawn toast ($16), a twist on a classic which came with house made sweet and sour sauce. I haven’t had much experience with the Asian equivalent, but we loved Monsters rendition, featuring a rich prawn flavour.
The eggplant, smoked goats curd, katsuobushi and sesame ($18) didn’t immediately jump out at me when I saw it on the menu, but A decided to order it. I am so glad she did as it was possibly the highlight of the evening. The flavours paired perfectly – even the katsuobushi (a Japanese name for dried, fermented and smoked tuna) matched the eggplant and goats curd perfectly.
The twice-cooked Western Australian octopus, chorizo, smoked potato and nettle ($26) was my least favourite dish of the evening. The octopus was a little tough and from a personal perspective, I thought the flavours of the octopus and chorizo didn’t work together.
By this stage, A and I were keen to call it an evening, as were were well and truly satiated. However, the wagyu special ($35) arrived as our last dish of the evening and was served with house made mustard and miso butter. The wagyu was chewy but the flavours went exceptionally well together.
At the end of the meal, we were very content. We loved the atmosphere of the restaurant, our waiter was efficient, although not exceptionally friendly, and the food itself was good. Now, I know there’s talk that Monster is pricey, however when you think about the produce that is used in their dishes, I think the price matches. The service, however, can be a little friendlier. Regardless, it’s definitely worth a visit.