Margie Fraser November 10 2012

 

When Citron opened in Brisbane’s inner-north Wilston seven years ago, chef Mark Newman and co-owner Robert Foley were committed to exploring a Modern Asian-style menu. The idea hit home with the locals, who have made it a favourite haunt since, and why not? In dress code lingo, it’s a smart casual kind of place. On a balmy night, most patrons opt for sitting under the awning on the expansive tiled verandah. Walls of glass fold back to an interior of comfy banquettes arranged around the avocado coloured walls, and tables are dressed in white cloths (with cloth napkins, thank-you) service is friendly but maintains a professional edge.

The menu, a simple one pager, offers three bliss bombs of appetisers before moving on to entrees that can double as main courses, and then to the more substantial mains. My tip is to try the tasters as a group of three. We did, and the affable Foley told us in which order they should be consumed. First, the betel leaf that acts as a lily pad base for a tiny tower of prawns, shaved fresh coconut, chilli and coriander. A wrap in a mouthful, it offers all the delightful contrasts of texture and sweet/hot/sour combinations we’ve come to love in Asian food. Asian is admittedly a generic term that covers a lot of geography and cuisines. For the most part, Citron favours Thai flavours, although there are a few nods to Japan and Vietnam. The second taster is a crispy ball of beef and lemon grass that sits in a puddle of sweet chilli sauce. More please. Number three comes on a tile of sweet pineapple piled with pork, prawn and peanuts.

Entrees include light-as-air whiting fillets served with pomelo and yam bean. The seared scallops with pork belly and Asian mushroom salad is a house favourite, but we were intrigued by the silken tofu with a miso sauce and ponzu. The sauce had a lovely, syrupy texture that complements the tofu and gives a buzz to the palate.

From a solid list of largely Oz offerings, the 2003 Tahbilk Marsanne (a reasonable $44) works with most of the dishes. A caramelised beef cheek with peanuts, tamarind-chilli sauce and pickled green papaya shows the sort of control in the layering of flavours that characterises most of the menu: excitement without confusing with too many components. Some will want more hot chilli punch in the dishes, whose delight tends to come from the sugary sweet and sour collaborations rather than from explosive heat. A decent chunk of snapper comes with turmeric spice that again won’t set the mouth alight, then a crisp, crunchy salad. Desserts maintain the standard, with soft nougat as a side to a large sandwich of salted peanut ice-cream flanked by chocolate sponge, or a caramelised rice pudding with a rhubarb compote and cardamom dipping sticks.

Citron has owned its status as a local charmer. It’s a family friendly, attitude-free zone were flavour is honoured as much as a warm welcome.

 

The score 15/20