Unlike the “Pass the asparagus” scene in American Beauty where Kevin Spacey hurls the plate of delicate green stems against the wall, there was no such uncivilised behaviour at Must during our recent asparagus dining experience. Our band of foodies was invited to a Taste of Must evening, courtesy of Zomato, and Must Winebar head chef and partner, Russell Blaikie.
On one special evening every month, Must hosts a four course degustation dinner with wine pairings, showcasing a different food on each occasion. Fortunately asparagus, high on my list of fave foods, was the guest of honour the evening we were invited.
Much as I enjoy the occasional gin and tonic, I’d never imagined a world where gin would be infused with asparagus. But the creative brains in the Must kitchen certainly did, and so the nifty little gin sour topped with a yellow nasturtium was our segue into the asparagus evening ahead.
Our appetisers of satin smooth blue manna crab custard decorated with tiny green asparagus tips, were complemented by crostadas topped with prosciutto and white asparagus. Seafood custards are staples in several Asian cuisines, but Must’s version was lighter and more delicate than any I have tried before.
Enter the entrees of asparagus and shallot tart tatins, mushroom foam and white wine gastrique. These subtly flavoured pastries, with sweet shallots and tender white and green asparagus stems, were perfectly paired with a Right Reverend V Industria chardonnay from Margaret River. The mushroom foam added visual interest and a creamy texture to the tart.
Mains were a choice of Middle eastern spiced lamb rump, or a chicken thigh for the non-red meaters. The thigh was succulent and soft; with the flesh melting in my mouth and the skin buttery rich and crisp. Served with a mousse-like walnut tahini, ‘risotto’ and a raw salad shanklish, this combo of ingredients made my palate dance. The shanklish was an homage to feta, more subtly flavoured but ideally suited to the fresh flavour of the asparagus risotto, which had been laboriously cut into tiny pieces by the junior chef that day. Such attention to the finer details is what makes Must stand out amongst a sea of gourmet rivals. A glass of Great Southern Rockcliffe Third Reef shiraz was the paired wine with this course.
My fellow Zomatoes who chose the lamb were in foodie nirvana, proclaiming this their favourite course of the evening.
No meal is complete without some sweet treat, and Must excelled itself again with its choice of dessert. Chocolate aero, salted caramel ice cream and samphire came together in a melange of flavours and textures. Samphire in a dessert?? Known as the “asparagus of the sea”, though it seemed an unusual choice it looked a treat, coated in sugar crystals atop a mound of chocolate and cream colours. The tiny samphire strands carried the asparagus theme through to its rightful conclusion. The texture of the chocolate aero changed as soon as it hit my mouth, with the sweetness tempered by the salted caramel ice cream. Our final tipple of Rockford Cane Cut Semillon from the Barossa Valley was a fitting end to a sublime meal.
Must Winebar has long been a favourite of mine, but I rarely order anything except the angel hair pasta with blue manna crab meat. That’s simply because it’s so damn good that I’m oblivious to anything else on the menu. It was a revelation to sample a range of dishes that illustrate the creative chops of Russell Blaikie and his team.
I’ve attended cooking classes, dined a la carte, and dropped in solely for a glass of wine in the evenings, but this was my first degustation experience at Must. Small wonder that since this establishment opened in 2001 it has won a slew of awards for its food and wine, and continues to dazzle the people of Perth with memorable dining experiences.
Despite these plaudits, what I love most about Must is that it isn’t pretentious or beyond the reach of Joe and Jill Average. Whether it’s for a four course meal, for a Sunday afternoon soul session, for a champagne oyster lunch, for the superlative service, for the superb complimentary baguette and butter served with meals, or simply for a glass of wine – just come. I defy you to try the angel hair pasta with crab meat and not fall instantly in love.