31 March 2021

Five minutes with John Leverink, The Boat House Restaurant and Ramen Daddy

| Michelle Rowe
Chef John Leverink.

The Boat House Restaurant and Ramen Daddy owner and head chef John Leverink. Photo: Supplied.

Who is John Leverink? Owner and head chef of The Boat House Restaurant in Barton and Ramen Daddy at Verity Lane Market in Civic.

Best recent dining experience: Rizla in Braddon. I have always loved the wine list, and owner Andy Day’s focus on it. And the food is great, too!

Most embarrassing pantry item: Two-minute noodles. But if you get imaginative and add homemade sambal, fried egg and some crispy eschalot, it’s a pretty tasty post-work snack.

Diners at Rizla bar and restaurant in Braddon.

Rizla bar and restaurant in Braddon has a great focus on wine and a pretty good menu, too. Photo: Ash St George.

Must-buy ingredient: I have a few. I don’t cook a lot at home but I can’t live without good sea salt flakes, a good Spanish Jerez vinegar, a quality Japanese soy sauce and, of course, a good local olive oil.

Next big thing: Sake. I have really enjoyed sake in food and drinks pairing at some great restaurants in Sydney and Melbourne. It’s also great to cook with – we’ve often paired fish with a sake glaze at The Boat House.

Favourite place for breakfast in the ACT: I really haven’t been out for a long time for breakfast post-COVID-19 lockdown and post-newborn, but I have been craving Rebel Rebel’s baked eggs with shankleesh for a while.

My Canberra food secret: When I lived in Griffith, we would order Agostinis pizza a least once a week. It’s the best pizza in Canberra – a big call, but I stand by it. And if you dine in they have a great wine list. While on the Italian train, definitely visit Tony Lo Terzo at The Italian Place in Braddon. It’s great for dine-in or you can take away fresh pasta, sauce and some Parmigiano Reggiano for a delicious ‘homemade’ dinner. You’ll look like a pro.

A pizza from Agostinis.

Chef John Leverink says the pizza at Agostinis in Kingston’s East Hotel is the best in Canberra. Photo: Supplied.

Biggest culinary influence: I’ve been influenced and inspired by many people throughout my career. I don’t think I have just one, rather it’s the chefs who are pushing boundaries and doing great things. There is always an amazing new dining experience to try and be influenced by, or the passion of a producer or winemaker to learn from and be inspired by.

Favourite cookbook: It’s like picking a favourite child. I have hundreds of cookbooks, but Marco Pierre White’s White Heat has always been a favourite for classic, old-school inspiration. Most recently, Foundations of Flavour: The Noma Guide to Fermentation by Copenhagen’s Rene Redzepi and David Zilber has sparked the creative juices in our kitchens – fermenting blueberries, honey, grains and rice for a range of entrees and desserts.

Who I admire on the Canberra food and wine scene: Keaton McDonnell and Daniel Giordani own and operate Ondine European Brasserie in Deakin, serving beautiful French food. They opened at the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic and managed to operate with takeaway and delivery only. Such resilience and motivation – well done team!

What’s on the menu this week: We have recently shaken up the menu at The Boat House and I’m really loving our new Cone Bay barramundi dish with charred baby gem, mushroom XO, and black pepper sauce.

Barramundi dish from The Boat House.

The Boat House’s Cone Bay barramundi with charred baby gem, mushroom XO and black pepper sauce. Photo: Supplied.

Where I’m going next: I’m keen to try out the openings in the new Constitution Place precinct, notably ARC by Redbrick. And the word on the street is that Chairman Group is opening a sashimi and sake bar. Shhhh… I didn’t tell you!

Death row meal: Dumplings and Champagne. Anyone who knows me knows I love the combination of fried dumplings, pork fat, chilli oil, black vinegar and champagne.

My COVID-19 response: Life as a chef and business owner changed a lot during the past 12 months. In fact, it was almost exactly 12 months ago that venues went into lockdown. Ramen Daddy was due to open at Verity Lane so rather than staying closed completely we offered a delivery service and stocked IGA Ainslie with ready-to-cook noodle packs for home.

Noodle dishes at Ramen Daddy.

Ramen Daddy wows diners with Japanese fusion cuisine. Photo: Ash St George.

At The Boat House we opened an outdoor bar, Armada. It’s such a great location on the edge of Lake Burley Griffin. This allowed us to serve more people to make up for the loss of business. The bar has been great and we decided to keep it open until the end of April. We also reopened lunches – I think it was about 10 years since we offered lunch. But I am a pretty big fan of long Sunday lunches. I just need to get the day off to dine soon!

Armada outdoor bar at The Boat House.

Armada outdoor bar at The Boat House will remain open until the end of April. Photo: Supplied.

My really simple recipe tip: One thing I always have in my fridge is store-bought wonton wrappers and some frozen pork mince for dumplings on demand. If you want to spend a little more time on it, I use this recipe for pot stickers for any occasion (and preferably with Champagne): Mix 200g of pork mince, 20ml sesame oil, 10g salt, 10g ginger, a pinch of sugar and fresh cracked pepper. You’ll need 20 wonton wrappers. For a crispy batter, combine 80g of water, 40g of vegetable oil, 10g of plain flour and a pinch of sauce in a squeezy bottle and give it a shake. As your dumplings are starting to get crisp in a small amount of oil, add the batter and put on the lid. The water in the batter steams the dumplings, and once it evaporates you’re left with a nice crispy base. Dip the dumplings in a sauce made of equal parts good quality soy sauce, chilli oil or paste, rice vinegar or brown vinegar, sugar and toasted sesame.

The Boat House is located at Grevillea Park, Menindee Drive, Barton, and offers a four-course dinner menu from Thursday to Saturday and two-course and three-course lunches from Friday to Sunday. The restaurant recently won Best Listing of a Region’s Wines in The Australian Wine List of the Year Awards.

Original Article published by Michelle Rowe on The RiotACT.

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