Since Lola joined our little family, Ben and I have not been on a single date. We have been excellent parents, but no adult time whatsoever. I have been wanting to try out XO for some time, and one Saturday night, I discovered that I had nothing in our fridge (GASP!) for dinner, so impromptu date it was!
By the time I had realised we had no food to eat at home, it was already 7pm. As you might imagine, I was pretty crazy to think I could get in anywhere that is not McDonalds on a Saturday night. I called up XO, and they informed me we couldn’t get a table until 8.30pm. I was desperate enough to try XO out that I agreed to wait until they could get us a table.
So we leave the puppy crying at home and trot out completely underdressed (verging on the homeless look – me in my sleeveless puffer jacket and hole-y gym tights, and my handsome husband in his most hole-y-est shirt and tattered jeans).
XO is a modern Asian fusion restaurant, with a focus on Malaysian and Vietnamese cuisine – hence why I was desperate to give it a go. You only need to say the words “Malaysian” and ‘restaurant” in the same sentence, and I am there. Arrive at XO, it is bloody freezing, and proceed to wait for our table. Needless to say, XO is a very fancy place, and people were dressed to the nines. Lots of black clothing and red lipstick.
We are seated at the bar in front of the very young bartenders, and it is amazing from the get go. The atmosphere in the restaurant is palpable, there is an excitement in the air, and the staff were so lovely and polite. Nobody judged us for looking like homeless people. I have been stuck in proud-parent-to-a-puppy mode for weeks, and proceed to show off pictures of Princess Lola to the young bartenders. My husband tells me I’m crazy. I put my phone away and pretend to be an adult again. In keeping with that endeavour, I order an adult cocktail called “The Weekend”. My husband orders the “Old Fashioned”. My cocktail was sweet and lime-y = FANTASTIC. I was not a fan of the Old Fashioned.
We quickly become fast friends with the two young bartenders. They kept giving us free stuff to try, so I think they like us.
Looking at the delectable menu, I (as usual) want to try everything. Of course, that approach is very expensive and completely unsustainable, but my Malaysian tummy doesn’t think like that. Luckily, my husband curbs my baser instincts.
On recommendation from the two young bartenders, we decided on the following dishes:
Shantung Bao – $8 EA
I am in two minds about this dish. When the baos arrived, my husband and I were kind of underwhelmed by their size. They were pretty small. However, when I popped it into my mouth, there was just this explosion of really determined flavour, and it was just incredible. I was really impressed that the baos were freshly made on the premises (not frozen, confirmed by the chef). All in all, it was really tasty, I just question if it was worth $8 each.
Asian Bolognese – $21
The Asian Bolognese was really interesting. It seemed kind of weird, but once you eat it, it kind of works in a weird and funky way. One of the owners/chef is an Indian-Malaysian (a man after my own heart), who was trained in classic Italian cooking. It was his idea to pair up Udon Noodles with finely minced chicken ragout and a 60⁰C egg. Piercing the egg was a glorious moment, it just oozed everywhere and coated the noodles perfectly. This dish was really tasty.
Chettinad Varuval – $30
The Varuval was a slow cooked pork neck dry curry. It was so tasty, and had just the right amount of spice for my husband.
Cauliflower Nuggets – $12
I really enjoyed this dish. It reminded me of a tamer version of Manchurian Cauliflower, which usually is a deep fried cauliflower and a very spicy coating. The XO Cauliflower Nuggets had such a light batter on them and I was quite surprised that the florets were so soft considering how large the florets were.
Black Rice Pudding – $14
OMG – AMAZING. I haven’t really had much black rice pudding in Malaysia, I always feel like it can be quite stodgy. The chef, AK, himself came out to serve us this dish. This dessert had so many complex flavours, it was incredible! There was the black rice pudding itself (which was so silky, with a little bit of bite), golden honeycomb made out of gula melaka, lime meringue shards, red rice popcorn, and a coconut ice-cream for a bit of relief.
Chrysanthemum Tea Soft Serve Ice Cream
Our favourite bartenders gave us a little bit of the soft serve to try. I will admit, I have never been a fan of the Chrysanthemum tea that comes in those juice poppers (it just tastes really weird), but this soft serve was incredible. It was just screaming “I am the amazing Chrysanthemum Tea Soft Serve Ice Cream, EAT ME!!!”. Apparently they make a different flavour every day.
10 out of 10. The young bartenders were so lovely and interesting, and the Chef came out to speak with us a couple of times. Everyone was just so personable and friendly, and were very sincere about ensuring we had a great time. I could tell a lot of thought had gone into the menu and creating the dishes. I also loved the concept of the restaurant, it really seeks to modernise and elevate Asian food beyond your run of the mill Chinese Restaurant or your local Pappa Rich.
All in all, I was very impressed with XO, and Ben and I will be going back in July to try out their new menu.