Sunday, November 25, 2012

Citron - Modern Asian restaurant

I haven't tried every restaurant in Brisbane but, for me, I've found my favourite - Citron.

LtoR Rob and Mark
So you know from the outset, the owners - restauranteur Robert Foley, who hails from California, and English-born chef Mark Newman - are friends. My association with Rob stretches back to the mid-1980s when, straight out of school, I worked as a pizza chef for Rob and his wife when they started out in the restaurant game with Moustache Cafe in Toowong, Brisbane (some of you may have staggered up Toowong High Street from the RE Hotel after closing time and ordered a pizza from me!). Not surprisingly, I have taken photos of Citron in the past and some have been used here. 

Despite knowing Rob and Mark, this review isn't a favour for them. They didn't pay for dinner in return for a write up. I just love eating there and thought I'd share the experience with you. Anyway, they don't need any favours. Bookings are essential on weekends and they're kept steadily busy the rest of the week. They're doing fine without my help.

A quick aside...if you dine at Citron and something seems familiar, it might be because Rob was the owner and Mark the executive chef at the award-winning Piccolo Restaurant in the Brisbane suburb of Ascot during the mid-1990s and early 2000s.

I have discovered that this post runs slowly if viewed on Internet Explorer. It's best viewed on Google Chrome or Firefox (not as fast as Chrome).

The spacious covered veranda set up for a couple of big parties, with the dining room through the glass doors.
In winter, clear plastic weather shields are lowered to enclose the veranda and heaters are used. It's cosy.
The dining room, with veranda out of shot to the right.

Citron is located in the inner-Brisbane suburb of Wilston (location details at bottom of post). If you're visiting Brisbane, it's unlikely you'll be staying at Wilston, so a cab ride will be necessary. It's around $15-$20 from the CBD. There is also the 335 bus from the CBD - see journey planner for details. If you do drive, Wilston is far enough away from the CBD that all street parking is free. Even though it's an inner suburb, it's not really a walk from the CBD, especially if you're in dinner attire. High heels? Not a chance!

Wilston is a lovely suburb - close to town but leafy (as is most of Brisbane), with lots of lovely 'Queenslanders'. The group of shops where Citron is located are called Wilston Village and they do have a village feel to them. Citron is a few doors down Macgregor Street, just off the main drag (Kedron Brook Road), so you're not confronted by the sound or sight of the passing parade of vehicles.

Kedron Brook Road and Wilston Village

Citron refers to itself as 'modern Asian'. However, don't try and tie in 'beef and black bean sauce', or 'honey chicken' with the Asian part of this description. Citron's flavours are a fusion of East and West. To be honest, what would you expect when a Californian and an Englishman combine to do 'Asian', other than a fusion of cultures. Citron was awarded Brisbane's Best Asian restaurant in 2007 and 2009 by the Restaurant and Caterers Association, so they're doing something right.

What I love about Citron is the flavours that come with each dish. They're subtle...they're delicate...but they're mostly more-ish. So much so that Citron is one of the few restaurants where you can have an entree, main and dessert (I even have taste treats to start) and not feel like you're going to need to undo the top button at the table. That's not to say you're left hungry - not a chance. What you're left with is the desire to have more. A cunning plan, perhaps?

The menu changes with the seasons.

Citron's 'Betel leaves with prawns, shaved fresh coconut, chilli & coriander', which are served as one of several choices of 'taste treats' that act as a prelude to the entree list, are well known to regulars (I've had lesser imitations elsewhere), as is their signature main course - 'Twice cooked crispy chicken, ginger & chilli caramel sauce'.

I last dined at Citron in April 2012 (I haven't mentioned it's licensed).

To start, a Mixed Taste plate (one of each - $10) - 
Betel leaves with prawns, shaved fresh coconut, chilli & coriander
Beef & lemongrass bites with sweet chilli sauce
Pickled watermelon, sticky five spice pork & sesame crunch 

Each of the three dishes above can be ordered on their own, or you can get one of each if you order the Mixed Taste plate. It's a bit of a no-brainer really. This mix is a belter and certainly gets the juices flowing for what is to come.

Sweet sticky pork, seared scallops, pineapple, peanuts, crispy shallots & shrimp floss ($19/$36)
Wow! This was the first time I'd seen this on the menu and it was a winner. The sticky pork had a glaze so it did, indeed, 'stick'. When mixed with a little bit of scallop and a little bit of everything else on each forkful, including the drizzle around the plate, it was magnificent. It can be ordered as a main and I'm hoping it stays on the menu for a while, because I'm ordering the larger version next time!

Slow roasted spiced pork belly, sweet & sour blood plum sauce, stir fried mustard greens & banana chilli ($35)
I didn't realise I'd doubled-up and ordered pork for main as well. Mind you, it was so different to the entree, it didn't matter. More great flavours and meat that just broke away as you cut into it. Once again, get a bit of everything on your fork and enjoy...

Wine with meal - Hollick Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot Coonawarra SA 2008 ($10/glass)

Bitter chocolate tart with mandarin sorbet and raspberries ($14)
If you're a regular reader of Travel With Giulio, you will know that dessert happens to be my favourite meal of the day. When I looked at the dessert menu and saw 'chocolate...' at the top of the list, I gave the other items a look over out of courtesy more than anything but knew I was going no further than the 'c-word'. And it didn't let me down. Even with dessert, get a bit of everything on the fork/spoon and let the flavours do the talking. A perfect way to end what had been one of my best Citron experiences to date. Mind you, I'll probably say the same think next time I go there!

Coffee by Blue Sky ($4)

***The dessert menu changed just after I dined at Citron, so my dessert is no longer on there...not to bother, I'm sure the new selection will be fantastic!


Betel leaves with prawns, shaved fresh coconut, chilli & coriander.
Roll them up and pop them in your mouth (whole if you're feeling game!).
Twice cooked crispy chicken, ginger & chilli caramel sauce -
a regular on the menu.

Those dining at Citron are predominantly locals and this brings with it a laid back feel. It's high end food mixed with relaxed ambience. Some of the diners have put on the 'glad rags' but T-shirt, jeans and sandals aren't frowned upon. Citron has few airs and graces about it. The welcome is always warm and the service is always efficient.

Citron is all about enjoying the experience.

Rob will invariably be the one greeting you at the door with a warm smile and a laid back Californian welcome (even though he's been here for a few decades now, "you can take the boy out of California but..."). Rob has been doing this a long time and watching him at work is like watching anything done well - he makes it look easy. 

The kitchen is semi-open to the restaurant and you can see Mark doing his thing in there. He's the thin, 'older' one wearing glasses. I hope he doesn't mind me saying this, but he looks like he'd be right at home up a ladder in the state library. Instead, he's responsible for all the culinary delights that will appear on the table before you (see the '...anything done well...' comment above).

The kitchen looks out into the dining area. That's Mark at the back, working his magic.

I've spoken a lot about the food and the ambience at Citron. The other outstanding thing is the service. It's understated but you never feel like you're going without. The wait staff - always (naturally) friendly and professional in their demeanour - give you enough time to look at the menu, then take your order and you get to sit back and chat while you enjoy a glass of wine. There's nothing more annoying than being given menus and then forgotten about.

The wait staff don't hover. They do their job but you don't notice they are there. Water glasses are filled regularly from water jugs kept elsewhere. This means less clutter on the table but it also means there are plenty of chances to talk to staff if you need something etc. There's none of the "How's your meal?" "Is everything okay?" chat. It's a personal thing, but I never enjoy being asked this question. Citron, it seems, has enough confidence in itself so as not to warrant this.

Water is never far away

When I last ate at Citron, I couldn't understand why their prices were so reasonable. I'd paid far more for far less (quality and service) in numerous restaurants. Thankfully, this time I noticed the prices had increased to where they should be.

I can't speak for everyone and I don't have the same palate as everyone but I can almost guarantee you won't be disappointed if you head to Wilston Village and dine at Citron.

Bon appétit!



I had dinner again at Citron in late May, 2012, and, once again, it was pretty special.

I started with the Mixed Taste plate ($9) each. The flavour explosion that occurs with the three taste treats always gets the juices flowing. It's the perfect way to start your meal at Citron.

Then for entree I had the Grilled wagyu rump, roast chilli relish, green papaya, snake beans & coriander ($18) which was sensational. The roast chilli relish was a superb accompaniment.

For main I went for the Panaeng curry of beef cheek, kaffir lime leaves, peanuts & steamed salted duck eggs ($35)It was fabulous.

I'd deliberately gone without a can of coke with my lunch so I could save a few calories for dessert. Within moments of the dessert menu being handed out I spied the Roasted banana pudding with coconut ice cream & cardamom butterscotch ($14) and, no sooner had it arrived, then my plate was empty. Admittedly, I'm rarely disappointed with dessert, but this was warm and wonderful!

I ate there on a Friday night and the restaurant was full and busy, as most people book for that 7 - 7.30pm mark (I always get in around 6.45pm to beat the rush). There was also a stand up finger food reception for 35 people at one end of the very large covered verandah (see photos at start of post). Despite this, the wait staff worked the floor without any sign of stress and still had enough time to top up the water glass several times. They make it look so effortless amidst the hustle and bustle. Even when I went to the little boys' room, one of the wait staff folded my linen napkin while I was gone and placed it neatly on the table next to where my plate would be.

It's little things like this that make Citron a great restaurant (food aside). It is in the 'burbs and it might not have the 'name' of other big name restaurants in Brisbane but everything about it is top flight.


Ate at Citron in late September, 2012, and won't go on too much here (I'll just be repeating what I've already said), but I had this for dessert -

Chocolate fudge cake, salted peanut ice cream, palm sugar caramel & soft nougat ($14)

Hand on heart, it was one of the best five desserts I have ever had...not just at Citron...ever...possibly even the best three desserts I've ever had. The rest of the meal was, as usual, spectacular.

Bon appétit!


*If you dined at Citron as a result of this post, please tell me -

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Citron Modern Asian Restaurant

(07) 3856 0066

3 Macgregor St

Wilston 4051

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Photos & text by Giulio Saggin (unless otherwise stated)
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