Courier Mail – August 9, 2006

FOR years restaurateur Robert Foley and chef Mark Newman have run the consummate and much-loved Piccolo Restaurant at Ascot. Serving a mix of modern Australian and Asian flavours, the casual BYO has become a favourite meeting spot for lunch or a family dinner with a menu that suits all age groups.

Now the pair has branched out to Wilston, opening a second venue called Citron in the village heart. Over the years, several different restaurants have opened at the site, but this one feels as though it is here to stay. A large tiled deck hangs over the front and inside is a spacious room simply furnished with Asian chairs and pale walls with accents of red and lime.

The menu focuses on modern Asian flavours, a priority for Newman who has developed a consuming passion for this style of cooking. If the dishes we tried at lunch recently are anything to go by, he has a firm handle on this style.

The lunch menu is small but everything appeals, from the wonton crisps to dip in smoky eggplant and red shallot relish, or the deliciously fresh betel leaves topped with a salad of diced prawns, freshly shaved coconut and a hint of chilli and lime, to the more substantial choices which we ordered to share.

The betel leaves are all about flavour so make a great little appetiser leaving plenty of room for starters like the light, tangy fishcakes with a sweet/salty chilli and cucumber dressing.

Silken tofu with grilled eggplant and a Thai herb salad is another option as is chilli salt calamari which we nearly ordered but decided to max out the next course instead.

The twice baked chicken has a wonderfully golden, almost caramelised coat and sits over a petit herb-filled salad doused in a sticky chilli glaze. Inside the chicken is snowy white and very moist and comes sliced into several large pieces that easily soak up the spicy glaze.

The stir-fry of pork is laced with pieces of fresh pineapple which lends acid and a tangy sweetness to the dish. Tossed through with lots of greens in a yellow bean sauce, it’s an easy but interesting combination and one with a lovely crisp finish.

Softer and more more-ish is the Thai fried rice with shredded duck that I could eat by the bucket. All the flavours of chilli, lime, shallots are gently blended and the rice has been cooked in the wok long enough to ensure a hint of smokiness to it. It’s incredibly good and I kept thinking of this for a Sunday night supper in front of the TV.

On my next visit I will be heading straight for the oxtail gow gees with green tea noodles and a ginger-scented broth and there’s a braised beef brisket in a tamarind sauce on the evening menu that doesn’t look too bad either.

Of the five dessert choices, which include a lemongrass brulee and a roasted banana pudding with palm sugar butterscotch, the passionfruit tart with a quenelle of toasted meringue had instant appeal. Served with a dollop of cardamon-scented yoghurt which offset the sweet passionfruit curd, the pastry was light and flaky and the meringue, absolutely delicious. The perfect home-style sweet ending.

Citron has just become licensed but Foley and Newman will continue to accept BYO bottled wine. For the lucky residents of Wilston and surrounding suburbs, this is a restaurant that will soon become a firm favourite. Service is consummate and gracious with Foley keeping an eye on things out the front and Newman keeping the food flowing and the quality high out in the kitchen.

 

CITRON

Address: 3 Macgregor St, Wilston

Ph: (07) 3856 0066

Hours: Tue-Sun noon-3pm; Tue-Sat 6pm late

Liquor Status: licensed and BYO bottled wine only

Prices: entrees $8-$16; mains $21-$29; desserts $10

Owners: Robert Foley and Mark Newman

Chef: Mark Newman

Smoking: no

Parking: on site and off street

Wheel chair access: yes and full facilities

Other: seats 90; all major credit cards; airconditioned inside the restaurant

 

The score

Food: 15

Wine: n/a

Service: 15

Ambience: 14

 

About the score: 0-5 don’t bother; 6-9 needs serious improvement; 10-12 reasonable, room for improvement; 13-14 good; 15-17 very good; 18-19 exceptional; 20 perfection