We liked Backyard Cafe. We like its successor, Kakadu, even more. After proclaiming that we were going to visit the new Australian restaurant during the Spring Festival holiday, we did as we always do and ended up lazing in bed instead. We finally made our first trip down there, and are happy to report that Kakadu is what this particular diner is always pleased to find in Shanghai: quality uniqueness. We profess to be quite the ignoramuses when it comes to Australian food and culture, so we had some help from the affable Aussie co-owner and manager, who described to us the recent revival in his home country of its indigenous cuisine. Dishes that included barramundi, kangaroo, and crocodile meat were once solely the purview of restaurants and chefs catering to the tourist crowd, but now are blended with the country’s superlative produce and spices and other international influences, and have properly been reintroduced and welcomed into the mainstream to form a modern and unique culinary renaissance.
This spirit is palpable just by looking over the menu. We started off with the emu medallions, which were perfectly gamey and partnered well with a dash of riberry (indigenous Australian berry) confit. The Aussie beef burger was served on grilled panini, and the layer of beetroot chutney added a pleasant sweetness as we gobbled it down. Though not particularly novel, the Aussie lamb rack was still well made and with the right hint of pesto. Our favorite dish was the smoked duck breast, served over a pumpkin and thyme risotto that was creamy and delicate. The way the table next to us was near ecstasy about the emu fillet made us kick ourselves for not ordering it. We felt the same about not getting the pavlova for dessert either, but we intend to pick the two up on the next go around.
Kakadu’s namesake is Australia’s famed national park, home to most of the creatures that are on the menu, and according to the owners represents the richness and tradition of indigenous Australian culture. While some may sense something gimmicky in that theme, the food certainly is not, and combined with the warm atmosphere, pleasant service, and slammin’ cocktail concoctions, we expect to make our second trip very soon. And this time, it’ll be much easier to get us out of bed.
Kakadu – 8 Jianguo Zhong Lu, near Chongqing Lu (建国中路8号, 近重庆路), Tel: 5468-0118, Hours: 10am-midnight, Price/person: 150-200 RMB
Eric Hu is Shanghaiist’s Food Editor. Email tips, recommendations, and news and gossip about Shanghai’s food scene to food at shanghaiist.com.