Joe’s Bar is a small Italian bar and restaurant located in the lobby of East Hotel. It has only been open under a year but has already built quite the reputation amongst the burgeoning Canberra food scene. Joe’s Bar is the brainchild of siblings Dan and Dion Bisa and named after their dad Joe, a first-generation Italian-Australian. The Bisa family owns the East Hotel and wanted to provide a dining option that complemented the East Hotel’s modern design combined with their Italian heritage.
I had the opportunity to meet and interview the head chef of Joe’s Bar, Italian-born Francesco. The food at Joe’s Bar is all made in-house in their tiny kitchen using nothing but the highest quality and freshest ingredients. Chef Francesco’s menu has been specifically created to share and to complement the curated wine list and classic cocktails on offer.
Francesco is passionate about serving the freshest food possible and the menu changes depending on what is in season. The new winter menu is filled with traditional, hearty Roman dishes that are the ultimate comfort food to combat Canberra’s chilly winters. And with truffles now in season, I couldn’t wait to see how they were incorporated into the menu!
Francesco and I started off the night with the quintessential Italian cocktail, a Negroni – with Bulldog Gin, Cinzano Rosso and Campari.
Our first dish was Polenta Chips al Gorgonzola, which are house-made thick cut polenta chips served with sea salt, rosemary & gorgonzola sauce. The chips were crispy and seasoned well and perfectly complemented the dipping sauce.
The nest dish, Burrata con Tartufo, arrived in style under a smoke-filled glass cloche. This dish is typical of the Puglia region in Italy, and is an oozy and decadent mozzarella made from cows milk and cream. It was served with smokey gold tomato, olive oil & crusty bread and topped with fresh local truffles. The smoke added a subtle, earthy taste to the dish.
I was keen to try the fresh pasta on offer, especially the Pappardelle ai Funghi, Capocollo e Tartufo. The pappardelle is freshly made in-house and comes with swiss brown mushrooms, minced pork neck and generous dusting of freshly shaved truffles.
I was also eyeing off the vegetarian pasta on the menu, Ravioli di Zucca. The house made ravioli features roasted pumpkin and ricotta, and is served with stracciatella di bufala, which is a cheese produced from Italian buffalo milk. It’s rich and creamy and incredibly comforting. The dusting of edible flowers is a nice touch.
Despite starting to get a little full at this point, I couldn’t say no to the Tagliata di Manzo con Lardo. This 320g Grain-fed scotch fillet was cooked medium rare and served with paper thin lardo and crispy roasted rosemary potatoes. Indulgent and flavoursome, this dish was one of the highlights.
I am fortunate enough to be blessed with a second dessert stomach, and ordered the Semifreddo di Francesco to finish off our meal. This is Chef Francesco’s twist on the classic Italian dessert and features house-made vanilla semifreddo topped with torrone (nougat) crumble and served with a drizzle of warm chocolate sauce. It’s rich and creamy and I loved the smooth semifreddo contrasted against the chewy and crunchy pistachio nougat.
No meal would be complete without wine, and these were 2 of the wines chosen to complement our entree and main dishes. Joe’s Bar provides wine pairing suggestions on most dishes, or you can order a bottle of whatever you please from their mix of local and Italian wines.
And what do you need after a stomach-bursting meal? Grappa of course! It is an excellent digestif and Joe’s Bar has a huge range of 14 different varieties to choose from.
Thanks to Joe’s Bar and Francesco for a decadent journey through Italy without the need to grab my passport. I can assure you I’ll be back next time I’m in Canberra!
69 Canberra Avenue, Griffith, ACT
+61 2 6178 0050
Open Monday – Sunday, noon until late.
Love Swah +1 dined as a guest of Joe’s Bar