Along with a new glamorous casino for the nation’s capital comes a refreshed fine dining offering for local folk and visitors alike – one that is sure to impress even the fussiest of VIPs.
Natural 9 is a seamless extension of the Casino Canberra extravagance, while providing an intimate and private space where, for a moment of time, you forget about your surroundings and find yourself immersed in superb food and service.
The Natural 9 experience is a memorable one, and one that begins from the first step inside the casino’s grand double doors. Staff graciously greet you before the sight of a stunning chandelier atop the lit marble bar catches your eye down the end of an even more outstanding space.
The journey down to the restaurant provides time to truly appreciate the detail of the first stage of the casino’s multi million dollar refurbishment – lush red carpet, plush velvet furnishings, crystal décor, gold feature wallpaper, marble surfaces and polished facades. Upon arrival of Natural 9, the awe continues through to the restaurant’s five-star service and menu.
“The restaurant is essentially an Australian take on Asian food. It’s authentic Asian cuisine with a modern twist,” Food and Beverage Director Chad Ogden says.
“We pride ourselves on sourcing from the region’s freshest quality produce and we let the ingredients speak for themselves.”
With an impressive background in American, French and Japanese cuisine, and having worked in Asia’s biggest and best casino restaurants, Ogden joined forces with Natural 9 Executive Chef David Black’s modern Australian signature to create a menu like no other.
For us, our much-anticipated dining experience at Natural 9 all started with the King Fish Ceviche served with lime juice, lime leaf, coconut cream and chilli. Don’t be fooled by its petite portion, lovely looks and delicate presentation, it packs a delightful flavour punch to brace your palate for the standard to come.
Next up we have a trio of the Coffin Bay Oysters with refreshing yuzu granita, daikon and soy dashi, served skillfully assembled on an island of crushed ice. The yuzu is a citrus fruit from Japan – a component reflective of Ogden’s unique Asian influence.
“All the inspiration for my cooking comes from living in Asia and the rich culture I experienced there. Especially in Japan, the flavour profiles are just amazing and we try to give that a nod here at Natural 9,” he explains.
Continuing the Japanese finesse is the Sake Citrus Cured Salmon with cucumber, lime sauce, sake and rose jelly, cream fraiche and grilled baguette. The sake and rose jelly is a contrasting, yet welcomed, surprise alongside the subtle tang of the cured salmon – who would have thought the two would combine to be the perfect match.
A highlight on the menu is the Milk Poached Seared Free Range Chicken with pan-seared crispy skin. Ogden once again showcases his signature Asian twist through its accompaniment of jasmine smoked persimmon and foie gras mousse with pomegranate jus. This dish evokes memories of comfort and content, while providing a textural feast for the senses. Take our word for it, you’ll be desperately scraping what’s left of the jus off the plate.
“I love the challenge of finding fresh and exciting produce to work with,” Black adds.
“I’ve been in the industry now for 16 years and still the search for new ingredients never gets old – and what you can do to common ingredients to make them different and bring out the best in them. That’s why I’m so passionate about food.”
The Grimaud Duck Breast is a testament to this, made with Sichuan pepper and honey-glazed sweetbreads, brandy, stewed orange vinaigrette, mushroom puree and pistachios. The crispy texture of the duck skin and full-bodied taste of the succulent meat juxtaposed with the citrus pop of orange vinaigrette is a faultless balance of flavour – only one that Ogden and Black can manage to pull off.
“The produce available at our fingertips in Canberra is beautiful – the meats from the region and the fish from the sea – it’s all amazing,” Ogden says.
It’s a bitter sweet moment as our dining experience draws to an end but not before being spoilt with three, yes three, dessert options. Sure, if you insist of course!
White Chocolate and Chilli Bread Pudding. Round of applaud please. If you were to pay a visit to Natural 9 and were confined to only choosing one item off the menu, then well, one: that’s really sad for you, and two: make it this one. The pudding is light and airy, sprinkled in wonderful crunchy ‘mini Malteasers’ and topped with a generous scoop of ice-cream. The contrasting temperatures in this dish play amok on your palate and just a tip from us, it’s probably best not to share.
We were also treated to the Almond Jelly with Guava and Strawberries, a pretty dish garnished with charming micro flowers; and the Matcha Dusted, Custard Apple Anglaise and Hazelnuts, which is a dish I’d recommend for those after a not-so-sweet but quirky dessert.
Among the hustle and bustle of the tables and games, the great thing about Natural 9 is that it’s easy to simply forget that you’re dining in a casino setting, and a bonus is the adjacent Chandelier Bar, which boasts an extensive cocktail and wine list, and is the perfect place to unwind after.
“That’s the special thing about this restaurant, you get submerged into the dining atmosphere and great food,” Black says.
“Every restaurant wants to be special, we just want to make it a really fun and interesting place to eat and do what we can to make people happy – that’s it.”