Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Dinner at Asana

Asana by Pete Evans

Continuing on with the theme of healthy eating, this dinner experience at Asana was definitely one worth blogging about. I didn't even know this place existed or I'm sure I would have tried it out sooner. Asana is masterminded by celebrity chef Pete Evans of the My Kitchen Rules series. He has also built himself a reputation as a passionate paleo diet advocate.

I'm not one to get strongly sucked into any dietary fads because I like all food way too much to remain faithful to one school of thought. I dipped my toes into paleo for a while because in my day to day, I try to limit refined carbs and paleo eating is aligned with that. It does go much beyond that if you're a hardcore paleo enthusiast and I'm not sure of the scientific rationale behind their theories but then again, when have fad diets ever leaned on actual scientific research?

What I can say though is that Asana was perfect for quenching my desire to dine out whilst fulfilling wedding diet obligations. It doesn't matter how healthy the food 'actually' is, I just like the feeling that I'm not making unfatty choices. Health food marketing is huge nowadays and I can definitely see myself paying a premium or buying/eating at certain places to sell myself the lie that I'm going to lose weight.

Asana is located in Capri by Fraser a new hotel that looks (and smells) wonderful. I thought about how nice it would be to stay here until I remembered I already live in inner city Brisbane. The restaurant has clean, contemporary lines and is decorated by living, vertical gardens, which is my favourite styling trend of now.

Although Asana doesn't openly call itself a paleo restaurant, our waiter does inform us that the menu is 'paleo inspired'. You're not going to find conventional burgers and chips on here. All the food items have been tweaked to less junky alternatives. There are pizzas on the menu but they are made with 100% spelt flour bases. You do have the option of choosing a full paleo base too. Instead of fries, there are oven baked sweet potato chips. We found plenty of things on the menu that sounded tasty and ended up ordering both entrees and mains.

Seed crackers - with roasted beetroot hummus, baba ghanoush and chicken liver pate

To start, I ordered a platter of seed crackers with beetroot dip and baba ghanoush. The seed crackers were very thin, crunchy and tasty. We felt like birds eating them but if this is what bird food tastes like, sign me up. The beetroot dip was vibrant and full of flavour. I wasn't a fan of the pate at all and I normally like that kind of thing.

Salumi plate - salami, bresola, jamon and lardo

We also tried some cured meats that were served with a (possibly grain-free) bread. Marc commented that the bread tasted like the kind of baking I did when I was going through my 'no wheat flour' phase. The cured meats were as expected and there was a decent selection to choose from. I'm not sure how the pickled vegetables fit in so for the most part I left them untouched.

Healing chicken broth - with ginger, ginseng, lemon, native greens and seasonal vegetables

The thing that drew me to Asana the most when I read the menu online was the healing chicken broth. I love soup. I love broth. I'm a soup nut. I could eat soup every day of my life and not get sick of it. I've been under the weather recently and even when I'm at my sickest, the thought of soup seems nourishing and wholesome. Add to that the fact that this soup even claimed to be 'healing'. Yet another example of how buzzword marketing draws me in.

The soup was a good serve with chunks of tender chicken, mushroom and veggies. The mushrooms had soaked up the flavour from the soup and were very tasty. The broth itself was too salty for me. I think my palate is quite salty so when I think something is salty, I feel that it must really be too salty.

Pizza of pepperoni - with mint and chili

Our other main of choice was the pepperoni pizza. We stuck to the spelt base, which turned out to be fairly decent. Don't get me wrong, it is nothing like proper puffy and crunchy Italian pizza base. I would liken this more to a biscuit x flatbread base. It wasn't as good as 'real pizza' but if I had made this at home as a 'healthy pizza alternative' I would have been proud. The other thing Marc noticed was the lack of gooey cheesiness. There was cheese present (we could choose between buffalo mozzarella or vegan cashew cheese) but it wasn't generous.

Oven roasted sweet potato fries - with cinnamon, rosemary and thyme

As our side, we chose a bowl of sweet potato fries. I read an online review from someone who was disappointed that the sweet potato fries weren't crunchy. I think I've yet to try sweet potato fries that were as crunchy as regular potato fries. You probably need to fry the heck out of them to overcome the high water content. These ones were baked, not fried so in my mind didn't have much chance of being crunchy in the first place but they were actually quite nice. They reminded me of a dessert... maybe cinnamon donuts or churros. They has a cinnamon seasoning and together with the sugary aroma of sweet potato,  inspired desserty thoughts. The accompanying aioli was distinctly savoury though and worked as a nice compliment.

It might sound like I didn't enjoy the food at Asana but I think it has to be rated for what it is. You can't compare an authentic wood fire pizza with all the trimmings to one that is limited by health principles. Obviously one would be much tastier. I think Asana did well to uphold their philosophy but deliver reasonably tasty food. I expected the broth to be better because that should already fit paleo cooking but it was too salty to enjoy and not as interesting as most Asian broths I've tried. The service was quite nice and I liked the look of the restaurant.
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