White Chaco is a bit of an enigma - their website comes with a warning that it's located in a 'hidden corner' but I didn't expect to walk right past it...twice! It usually turns out that terms like 'hidden' and 'secret' are just part of the hype but in this case, it's more a not so subtle hint to keep your eyes wide open. Looking desperately through the courtyard of the Nibu Building as the hangry vibe set in, I caught myself wondering if the White Chaco staff were watching and giggling as I searched, I got distracted because there were some unexpected and really amazing businesses tucked away here (more on those another day). I eventually circled back to where I began and sure enough, there was White Chaco tucked behind a wall. To find it, just take a sharp right as soon as you enter the courtyard and it will be right in front of you.
The interior of White Chaco is moody - lots of concrete, low lighting and an impressive display of sake above the front counter. My visit was on an unusually frigid Canberra night and it was quite chilly inside. It was a coat on at the table situation but thankfully the food was enough to heat things up fast.
A fusion of Asian cuisines, the menu is fairly small (not a bad thing!) and broken into share plates and ramen. We started with smoky popcorn chicken which was a revelation. Sweet, malty and with the lighter than air crunch, this was a great start to the meal. No heavy batter, just flavour-filled, bite-sized pops. Next, vegetable bao with fluffy buns and a punchy and crunchy filling of salad, sauce and crunchy vegetables. The last share plate was spring rolls which I think are always a good measure of a restaurant's quality. These were a real surprise with a zesty citrus flavour and tangy sauce, definitely on the 'I'd order them again' list.
Next, it was time to try the ramen, the star attraction for sure. With a range of flavours, there is literally a ramen for everyone on this menu and if you try one, especially in the depths of Canberra winter, you won't be disappointed! Hearty, generous and with so much flavour packed into the bowl, after tasting this it's difficult to think of a better ramen in Canberra. We tried the red (pork and chilli), the black (sesame) and the truffle (truffle and fungus). Slurping through it was like heaven, not a bite missed the mark with a great ratio of noodles, broth and toppings to last right down to the very last, delicious drop.
The cherry on top was the custard buns for dessert - sweet, sticky and comforting, just what a dessert should be and small enough to squeeze in at the end of a delightful meal.
White Chaco really lived up to its recent hype. The food was above expectations and the service was fast and attentive. I get the feeling White Chaco knows it's onto a good thing and is happy to deliver a small selection of things done exceptionally well instead of a rambling, lengthy menu. Hopefully, hungry Canberrans embrace and support this place because it is a real gem.