Nine Fine Food

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The Japanese food scene is burgeoning in Perth, with the likes of Marumo, Ha-Lu and Bonsai setting the bar high without charging inflated prices. Nine Fine Food adds its name to the list, serving up beautiful food in an intimate atmosphere without a hefty price tag.

I dined recently with a group of five friends; a first time experience for me but not for a few of my friends who had selected their courses before we even got there. Nine Fine Food offers different set menus depending on the number of courses you want. We chose the Osusume menu with four courses, which gave us a feast of exquisite food for the not-so princely sum of $69.

We opted for sashimi for the first course. This platter of fresh seafood was beautifully plated, and featured salmon and tuna as well as melt-in-your-mouth soft octopus pieces in a creamy sauce. You can elect to have all salmon and tuna sashimi for an extra $2, though I doubt you’d want to forego the octopus once you’ve tried it.

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The next course featured  Nine Fine Food’s signature dish of caviar pasta. This Japanese-meets-Italian dish of angel hair pasta in a creamy rice wine sauce with mushrooms and Tobico caviar, was exquisite and unlike anything else I’ve eaten. The taste sensations of creaminess and saltiness combined with the soft texture of the pasta and the juicy crunchy pop of the caviar, was a revelation.

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The main course featured non-typical Japanese dishes, but cooked and presented in the inimitable Japanese style. My duck leg confit  had been slow cooked to succulent perfection, and finished with wickedly crispy skin. Duck jus and silky mashed potato complemented the meltingly tender duck meat, while two lightly seared scallops dotted with caviar added to the sense of east-meets-west. A drift of pumpkin puree topped with a smatter of delicate little vegetables and fruit pieces, completed this superb dish.

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As much as I was tempted by the matcha brûlée, my stomach told me I should finish on a lighter note. And so I ordered the blood orange sorbet and coconut gelato; the superb fruitiness of the sorbet was the ideal foil for the creaminess of the coconut gelato. A dusting of crushed nuts and popcorn provided a textural contrast. A pleasingly light end to a meal that was deceptively substantial.

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Small wonder that we had a four week wait to book into Nine Fine Food on a Saturday night. I’m always amazed when restaurants of this ilk offer the BYO option, which means you can enjoy a fine dining experience without the premium wine prices.  We loved that the meal was spread out and we weren’t rushed, or kept waiting too long between courses.  The service was pleasant, efficient and unobtrusive. Surprisingly the noise level was high; given the soft furnishings this is unusual, but it is a small space and this tends to be the norm these days. The food was exquisite though really we could all have done with one less course. Which course would you leave out though?  In the words of Steve Tyler, “I don’t want to miss a thing”.  Certainly not at Nine Fine Food.

 

http://www.ninefinefood.com.au/9/NINE_FINE_FOOD-ABOUT.html

 

Nine Fine Food Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Threecoins Trattoria revisited

My pal Scotty and I re-visited Threecoins last week; our third visit in the past year. We always enjoy the food and the atmosphere here and would go more often, except that wouldn’t leave time to visit the other fabulous restaurants around the traps.

On a Thursday night we were able to get a table for dinner at the last minute, but the empty tables at 6.30 had all filled up by 8.30 when we left. Lots of families and large groups come here, and why wouldn’t they? You get the feeling you’re in Italy, with the food, the Italian-accented wait staff and the check tablecloths.

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All of the pasta dishes feature home-made pasta, and all of the pasta dishes I’ve tried have been delicious. Aside from the normal menu, there are daily specials of either pasta or pizza, and usually a salad and fish dish. Scotty and I decided to share two dishes as the pizza of the day sounded tempting, as did one of the pasta dishes which I’ve had before and loved. The pizza of the day was mozzarella with anchovies and zucchini flowers – how often do you see zucchini flowers on the menu in Perth? I often wonder what happens to these edible little gems with our locally grown zucchinis. You rarely even see them being sold at fresh produce stores. Where do they go?
Scotty doesn’t care for anchovies, so she asked if she could have ham on her pizza half. How can you not love it when restaurants willingly oblige your food requests? Threecoins happily served up a fabulous wood fired pizza with ham on one side and anchovies on the other. The little zucchini flowers looked a treat, and our pizza also featured a generous amount of mozzarella and anchovies. The sharp saltiness of the anchovies was the perfect foil for the smooth creaminess of the mozzarella and the subtlety of the zucchini flowers. A match made in heaven as far as I was concerned. Scotty didn’t know what she was missing.

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Our pasta dish of Pumpkin and Taleggio Ravioli with truffle oil, and butter, sage and parmesan sauce, was sublime. Perfectly cooked ravioli with a sweet, creamy filling and a subtle sauce that complemented but didn’t overwhelm. I’ve had this dish before and it was still as good the second time around. The waiter even offered to divide and serve up the pasta dish for us – so the amount you see on the plate is half a serve.

Desserts are fairly standard Italian with tiramisu, pannacotta, sweet calzone and semifreddo on offer. As good as the raspberry-topped pannacotta was on our last visit, we decided to forego the dolce this time as were pleasantly sated.

This Umbrian family run restaurant has authentic Italian stamped all over it. It is all about honest, home-spun Italian dishes, as you’d expect your Italian mamma would make. Wines by the glass are reasonably priced, or you can bring a bottle of your own vino.
Along with corkage for BYO wine, our bill was $30 each. Hard to fault, really.

http://www.threecoins.com.au/food2/food/

Threecoins Italian Trattoria Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Mo:Mo’s Nepalese restaurant and cafe

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Search Google and you’ll find that a colon doesn’t exist in Nepalese grammar. So what the heck it’s doing in the middle of the Nepalese word for dumpling (also the name of the restaurant) is anybody’s guess. Grammar aside, Mo:Mo’s serves damn fine Nepalese food and does it with a smile, so who would quibble over a punctuation mark?

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Our group of four gals arrived on an AFL finals night, so there was a glut of empty tables. All the better for us, as we had the undivided attention of the part owner who was keen to share with us his knowledge of Nepalese cuisine, and to recommend dishes based on our likes.

Naturally we had to start with the iconic Nepalese dish of dumplings, of both the chicken and beef variety. Served with a tangy tomato and ginger chutney, the dumplings were a mellow intro into Nepalese cuisine.  I always feel quite virtuous eating these steamed dumplings, as there seems to be so little fat involved that they must be healthy, right?  We also ordered the not-so-healthy potato cakes – Aloo Chop – fluffy potatoes with fresh coriander and onions, dusted with besan flour and pan fried. Served with a coriander chutney, these mild potato cakes were pleasant enough without being remarkable.

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Although we were urged to try the house specialty of goat curry, none of us were keen to explore that option and went for the eternally popular chicken dishes. The chicken methi curry cooked in cream, was redolent with the dried fenugreek leaves (methi) that give it its unique taste. We loved this dish; the flavours of the spices and the methi worked beautifully together. We mopped it up with roti bread and steamed rice. If you’ve never tried any methi dishes (also popular in Indian cuisine), this is a great introduction to the subtle burnt caramel/maple flavour it brings to food.

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Not to be outdone by a chicken curry, we wanted to try Mo:Mo’s version of BBQ chicken. The kukhura poleko comprised pieces of chicken thighs, marinated in fresh coriander, parsley, garlic and ginger, and char grilled to succulent perfection. The herby zing of the marinade and the smokey char grilled edges, resulted in an intensely satisfying, delicious dish. This is probably the Nepalese equivalent of Indian tandoori food, but it couldn’t be more different in taste. Whereas tandoori dishes rely on heavy spicing and yoghurt-based marinades, this is all about the herbs.

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To get our healthy dose of veggies we opted for the Cauli Aloo; a mix of cauliflower and potatoes in a mildly spiced tomato, garlic and ginger sauce. It’s impossible not to love cauliflower and potatoes in a curry if the sauce is good, and Mo:Mo’s version rose to the occasion.

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The desserts sounded very similar to the Indian ones we are so familiar with, and we were curious to discover if there were any discernible differences. Indeed there were. Whilst Indian desserts are generally super sweet, these used much less sugar. In fact my khir – slow cooked rice in milk and with cardamon – although lush and creamy, lacked depth because of the small amount of sugar. When you’re eating a rice dessert, you need a decent amount of sweetener to balance it out and lift those starchy carbs.

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Frau K liked the sound of the carrot pudding (I forgot to get a photo), but as with my khir, the pudding was suffering from a lack of sugar. I’ve tried many versions of carrot pudding/halwa including my own made with condensed milk (now that’s a serious sugar load), but sadly this was the blandest yet.

The Prof won out with her dish of saffron yoghurt with lal mohan. The vibrant yellow of the saffron yoghurt made this dish pop, and underneath all that creamy smoothness lay the lal mohan – the Nepalese version of the Indian gulab jamun. There was no scrimping on the sugar in this dish – those dense little lal mohan balls wallowing in sugar syrup were the perfect foil for the slight acidity of the “hung” yoghurt; we all concurred that this dessert was the standout.

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I’ve dined at other Nepalese restaurants and at times haven’t found much difference between Nepalese and Indian cuisines. At Mo:Mo’s however the distinction was made clear, and it was interesting and enjoyable to sample what we felt was authentic Nepalese food. Our congenial host assured us that they stick to their food origins and reproduce the food that they grew up with in Nepal. Our experience was positive and we would have loved to sample a few more dishes if only we could fit them in. It’s pity about the desserts as we all felt that each one could be sensational if made a bit sweeter. We were told by our lovely host that “these aren’t the same as Indian desserts”, so maybe Mo:Mo’s is keen to highlight the differences in not just the savoury, but the sweet dishes as well. In any event, it’s really not always about desserts, and the delicious range of savoury food is enough to compensate.

This cosy suburban restaurant has many things going for it, and once again proves that you don’t need to spend a fortune to have a good meal. You can BYO alcohol, sample a range of dishes, and enjoy the hospitality of the staff. Mo:Mo’s is also in the Entertainment Book, although we really didn’t need the discount as we felt the food was reasonably priced anyway. If you’re a newbie to Nepalese cuisine Mo:Mo’s is the perfect introduction for you.

http://www.momosrestaurantperth.com.au/index.php

Mo:Mo's nepalese restaurant and cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Jolly Good Indian

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Indian restaurants in Perth appear to multiply at a rapid rate in the past few years. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing – competition encourages excellence and variety apparently is the spice of life. Inglewood isn’t a large suburb but it has three Indian restaurants within a few kilometres of each other on Beaufort St; none of which I had tried. I set out with a group of friends to change that and to see if Jolly Good Indian lived up to its name.

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The restaurant is in a converted house, and this in itself is high on the charm scale. Dining in different rooms as opposed to one large area can reduce the noise level, and give you a bit of privacy if that’s what you want. Decorated throughout with Indian knickknacks, the restaurant retains some of its beautiful old windows and even has a display cabinet with Indian jewellery and accessories for sale.

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We started with a few entrees of curried chicken spring rolls, and potato and onion bhaji. The spring rolls were scant on filling, and dry and overcooked.

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Whilst the bhaji were crisp, they were somewhat bland and I’ve had far better. I may have been spoiled by sampling Sauma’s bhaji a few weeks ago, so comparisons will be inevitable. I prefer a higher ratio of onion to chick pea flour batter – I think the potato watered down the flavour and the crunch factor. A mint chutney or sweet tamarind based dipping sauce would have been better than the one provided.

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Whenever I dine out with friends, it’s inevitable that butter chicken will be ordered. Although I like this dish, the quality varies enormously between restaurants and I’ve had some really bog standard versions of this in the past. I’d much prefer trying a different chicken dish than going for something I suspect may be humdrum. However group dining is all about going with the flow and accommodating crowd favourites, so butter chicken it was. Jolly Good’s dish comprised the usual boneless chicken pieces in a creamy sauce, but with no depth of flavour. I’m puzzled as to why they would use chicken breast pieces rather than thighs – this inevitably means less flavour and less succulence in the meat.

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My friends enjoyed the lamb rogan josh but I didn’t sample this dish as I’m not fond of lamb and there were several other dishes ordered that I much preferred. I never feel deprived when my friends order lamb or beef dishes, as long as there are other options on offer. Occasionally I will nibble at a meat dish at a shared table but it’s not something I would order for myself.

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There were a few prawn and fish dishes on the menu, and we settled on the tiger prawn tikka masala. This was another mild curry so I had to settle for a bowl of cut up chillies on the side to add some heat/interest to my food.

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We’d read some enthused comments about the palak paneer so we naturally had to order this and see what the fuss was about. It was a pleasant dish, but again, not memorable or special. I guess that summed up the experience overall – nothing was a stand out, though it was all acceptable food.

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Mixed veggies shabji was our final dish, and this was a typical Indian vegetable curry of potatoes, cauliflower, carrots and peas in a mild sauce.

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The best thing about Jolly Good Indian is the setting. Although everyone enjoyed their meal, we all agreed that there wasn’t much difference in taste between our dishes, with the exception of the palak paneer, but this was likely because it was spinach and not tomato based. I guess it didn’t help that every curry was mild, and I much prefer the added depth that chillies bring to a curry. With different curries you expect to find the hint of sourness in tamarind, the pungency of curry leaves, the smoothness of coconut cream or yoghurt, the bite of chillies or the intensity of a variety of fried spices. We didn’t experience the range of flavours that should come with a range of curries.

Some people will likely be quite happy with this food, and I can understand why. It’s palatable and acceptable and certainly won’t offend you. However as a lover of Indian food I appreciate and expect the differences, subtleties and the complexities that make this cuisine so special. Jolly Good Indian failed to deliver on that level. All much of a muchness really, and more of the dumbing down of food to cater to the Western palate.
Surely Western palates in the 21st century have evolved enough for us to not only appreciate, but to demand authenticity in international cuisines?

http://jollygoodindian.com.au

Jolly Good Indian Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Red Opium

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It’s tricky locating Red Opium on your first visit, but your efforts are rewarded with the innovative fusion dishes created by Thai chef Jak. There aren’t many restaurants in Perth located in a basement, so that’s another thing that sets this place apart.  Our  group of six agreed that we wanted to sample a cross section of dishes and opted for the $52pp Full Monty set menu. How could anyone resist a name like that?

The chilli crab dip was the opening event, and this featured crab meat and egg in a curry sauce, served with baguette. This was a perfect sharing dish and enabled us to get a feel for the dishes that were to follow.

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Our first tapas dish was a picture perfect set of freshly shucked oysters with chilli and lime, served in shot glasses. These little beauties were downed in a matter of seconds.

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Sashimi-grade salmon ceviche served with onions, chilli and wasabi was our second tapas choice, and continued the pleasant light spiced theme.

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Our Full Monty menu included four mains and the groups agreed on a mix of dishes that seemed to please everyone. After a few glasses of red and a top up of Dutch courage, the guys in our group were eager to extend the Full Monty theme and entertain the other patrons with a makeshift floor show. Must have been something about dining in a cellar with red lighting and gauzy curtains that induced that harebrained idea, but fortunately the arrival of the mains put the guys’ attention back on the food.

The roast duck red curry with lychees and vegetables was rich and creamy with a meld of fine flavours.  This satisfying dish of lush crispy skinned duck meat, combined with the sweetness of lychees and the zing of fresh herbs, was a favourite at our table.  I have to qualify this and say I still haven’t found a version to match the one Galangal Thai Cuisine produces. I guess Galangal’s red duck curry is my yardstick, and I can’t help but compare it to every other Thai restaurant’s version. This is not a negative reflection on Red Opium by any means; it’s just that this dish is one of my all time favourites and comparisons are inevitable for me.

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The Masaman beef curry was a hit with the guys – being all meaty and peanutty. I only had a potato, but managed with that to get a good a taste of the sauce which was redolent with tamarind, peanuts and coconut and a hint of cardamon.

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Our next main was Pad Cha chicken, featuring  a light, mild dish of chicken pieces cooked with green peppercorns, green beans, red capsicum and herbs. This was a refreshing change from the richer coconut-based curries.

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Last but not least was another prawn dish; king prawn green curry with veggies. Different from the usual green curry, this version came with green peppercorns and a small amount of sauce, and delicious fat juicy prawns. Green curry is my least favourite Thai curry, but I did enjoy this dish which really didn’t resemble a green curry in the traditional sense.

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Once again Red Opium proved to be a positive dining experience, dishing up a repertoire of innovative and interesting food. Whilst I love traditional Thai food, I also enjoy trying Thai food that dares to be different. Thai restaurants are proliferating in Perth so it’s wonderful to see a Thai chef doing something beyond the pale that sets him apart from the crowd. I’ve dined at Red Opium about six times over the past few years and have always enjoyed their creative and flavourful food. Service is friendly and efficient, and you always get the feeling you are a valued customer. If you enjoy Thai flavours but want to experience food that marries those flavours with imagination and passion, then make a booking for Red Opium.

http://www.redopium.com.au/Home%20.html

Red Opium Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Our Table

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A small stretch of turf on Grand Prom in Bedford is home to several innocuous-looking shops including a bonsai specialist, a massage parlour, a few takeaway joints, and a relative newcomer to the restaurant scene, Our Table. I’d been so accustomed to driving by and ignoring this strip opposite the Bedford Bowling Club that it was several months before I twigged to this new kid on the block apparently serving up decent fare.

And so it was with three friends in tow that I arrived on a blustery Saturday night with a bottle of vino under my arm, ready to sample the wares. The menu is largely Italian with several fish and seafood options, various steaks and a range of pastas. Although some of the dishes are familiar, some are refreshingly different. Although the entrees looked appealing, we all decided to go straight for the big girl stuff followed by dessert.

Aside from the regular menu found on the website, one of the daily specials caught my eye. I love chilli mussels, and the Hot Pot sounded like a variation on that. In a rich tomatoey mild chilli sauce sat fresh prawns, the softest strips of calamari I’ve eaten in a long while, half a Morton Bay bug and oodles of plump orange mussels. Two slices of lightly toasted sourdough bread came along for the ride – perfect for dipping into that wonderful slurpy sauce.  I was thankful I’d skipped entrees as this mother was a big serve. I managed to finish it too; I couldn’t bear to leave a drop of that beautiful sauce behind.

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Chicken and mushroom tortellini was served in a light creamy sauce with baby spinach leaves scattered through, with just enough heat for them to wilt. My friend enjoyed the flavours of this dish but said it could have been warmer. Shame about that as the other elements of the dish worked very well. Everyone loves a piping hot meal, especially in winter. I think this may have sat in the kitchen for a bit, waiting on the other dishes to be ready. This dish was another of the daily specials and was priced around $24, but I forgot to make a note of it. The pasta and gnocchi dishes all ranged from $21 to $26 and all featured home made pasta/gnocchi.

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The seafood platter for one was a generous serving featuring a range of grilled and lightly crumbed seafood.   Barramundi, prawns, scallops, calamari, a Morton Bay bug and a lone oyster appeared, along with a bowl of warming chilli mussels.  Crunchy potato wedges, a side salad and dipping sauces complimented the seafood. For $38.50 this is value for money these days, and could likely be shared between two with a few entrees thrown in. Fresh well cooked seafood sealed the deal, and much as my pal Lindi enthused about  her meal, she couldn’t finish it.

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Our Table’s version of Surf ‘n Turf – Ocean and Earth – starred a whopping 400gm  rib eye steak, half a Morton Bay bug, potato wedges, sautéed mushrooms and creamy garlic sauce. A feast fit for a man, but also a lovely lady with a hankering for meat. The steak was cooked medium as requested, and this dish was given the seal of approval.

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We all managed to squeeze in the obligatory desserts, although Our Table’s range is quite small. It was the usual suspects of tiramisu and creme brûlée, along with profiteroles with vanilla custard and chocolate sauce. We all opted for the profiteroles, but while the choux pastries were perfect and the custard light and not too sweet, the sauce was served at room temperature. I thought it an unwritten rule that chocolate sauce when served with profiteroles must be warm. Sadly the chef at Our Table didn’t get that memo, but next time around I’ll know to request that.

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This inconspicuous suburban venue serves up decent food at reasonable prices. Add BYO into the mix and you’re on to a winner. By 7.30pm on a Saturday night there wasn’t an empty table in sight, and I suspect there were many tables of returning local diners and a few large family groups. We enjoyed warm and efficient service and all in all, it is a great recipe for a pleasant evening out, minus the inner city traffic and parking woes.

 

http://ourtable.com.au/menu/

 

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Marumo

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Having waited what seemed an eternity to get into the exalted Marumo’s door, my pals JS, Frau K, The Prof and I were like excited schoolgirls waiting to visit their teen crush. Securing a table at Marumo is a mission in itself, and it took me a good six months of frantic internet keyboarding to secure a table. It was worth waiting for. The tiny restaurant features an Omakase menu that evolves monthly, according to produce availability.

Our amuse bouche was presented shortly after we were seated. For the life of me I cannot remember what this was except that it was seafood, and a simple but fitting precursor to what followed.

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Chef Moe  sources salmon roe from the Yarra Valley and yamaimo (a type of yam) from southern Japan. This man is committed to excellence in all he does, as we were to see throughout the evening.  Our first course was yellow fin Pacific tuna and yamaimo. The tuna nestled on a jus of mirin and lemon juice, with a hint of mustard wasabi. Just melt-in-your-mouth fresh and as with every course, beautifully presented.

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Next up was the Margaret River beef tatami, featuring lightly seared beef served with a light Ponzu sauce and dried yuzu (a tangy and sweet Japanese citrus fruit). I’m not generally a fan of red meat, but this dish was so subtly flavoured that it wasn’t at all like eating a piece of steak. There was no strong meaty flavour, and the beef was incredibly lean, soft and delicate. The light, citrusy flavour of the sauce was perfect for dipping the meat in, while the tiny pieces of spring onion and thin radish slices provided a crunchy contrast.

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Soft shell crab and enoki was presented next, and this was one of my two favourite courses. Fried nori was rolled around lightly battered soft shell crab, mashed potato and sweet corn. Served with tiny enoki mushrooms and a dashi-based stock, this was unlike any soft shell crab dish I have ever eaten. The crunch of the crab and the nori contrasted with the soft potato and the sweetness of the corn. We were advised to eat this in one mouthful so as to capture the tastes and textures of all the elements of the dish. It was a brilliantly executed dish and I would come back here just for this.

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The chef’s section of sashimi was next up, and this featured scallops, salmon and (I think) kingfish. Although I took notes throughout dinner, I was focused on eating and enjoying the experience so I wasn’t meticulous about noting all of the details. Sometimes you just have to savour the moment. Again, the feature of this course was the ultra freshness of the ingredients.

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Our next course of Tasmanian salmon belly sushi was my other favourite dish of the evening. Sushi never tasted this good. Crunchy prawns were encased in sushi rice and topped with barbecued salmon belly and salty fish roe. The smoky barbecue flavour of the salmon belly really shone in this dish and again, we were advised to eat the whole piece in one mouthful so we could experience all of the flavours at the same time.

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The final savoury course was the biggest one of the evening. Linley Valley pork fillet had been cooked sous vide, then pan fried and served with a lush sweet Mirin-soy sauce. None of us could finish this dish though this is no reflection on the dish itself, but rather on the size of the dish towards the end of an immensely satisfying meal. I’m fairly certain men would have no issues polishing off the meat, but for four gals it proved too much. Not to mention we knew dessert lay ahead and we absolutely had to leave space for that.

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The courses were spread out over several hours, and we were never rushed. I enjoyed the explanation that came with each course, and the way each course was so lovingly presented. There is so much integrity and love in Marumo’s little kitchen.

Before dessert was presented, we were served a small sorbet.  The tang of juicy orange was evident in this refreshing little citrus palate cleanser.

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Dessert was a delectable concoction of miso caramel parfait, pear and popcorn. I love the way chef Moe turns everyday ingredients like miso, into something special and out-of-the-box. The miso flavour was subtle and barely detectable. As expected of Japanese desserts this was a light but creamy dish that was a fitting end to a memorable meal.

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This is one of the most enjoyable fine dining experiences I’ve had in Perth. It’s quality minus the hefty price tag, and minus the pomp and ceremony. For $60, you have an evening of superlative dining in a cosy atmosphere. You can even BYO your booze. Chef Moe loves to cook. That’s all he wants to do, he told me. “I don’t want to think about the details. I know that people complain because they can’t get a table here. But I leave my wife to take care of all that. I just want to cook”. And cook he does. Although “cook” seems to belie the mastery of what he does. He doesn’t just cook; he imagines, creates and perfects.

Now that Dimmi is handling the table bookings it is easier to book a table, and that is how I managed to secure a booking after fruitless months of trying beforehand. You have to be prepared to eat whatever Moe creates on the day, so there’s no room for fussy diners in this establishment. But if you treasure exceptional food experiences and appreciate cooking as an art form, I recommend you indulge yourself at Marumo’s. Just be prepared for a bit of wait, as tables are now booked up 10 weeks ahead.

http://www.marumo.com.au

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IlPasto Italian Trattoria, Inglewood

Some months back, strolling around Inglewood on a mild Autumn evening, Scotty and I peered in the beckoning window of ilPasto and determined that we would visit some time soon for a slap-up Italian dinner. We held true to that and dined there last week, once more marvelling at the growing number of good foodie outlets up the top end of Beaufort St.

We’re a bit spoiled for choice in this area when it comes to Italian – with Threecoins a few kilometres up the road and Cecchi’s a stone’s throw in the other direction, you wouldn’t be deprived of a good pasta dish any time soon. Add Our Table to the mix, the new Italian on Grand Prom, and the choice becomes tricky.

This older sister of ilPasto in Mount Hawthorn has a lot going for it: authentic Italian food, charming wait staff, and a cosy ambience complete with white linen tablecloths and a wall of black and white photos chronicling the journey of the family who started the business.

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Scotty and I had already decided that dessert was a given, so with that in mind we opted to share an entree. The quattro bruschette ($14) featured four pieces of bruschetta with different toppings: tomato and fresh basil, roasted marinated artichoke, pulled duck meat and Swiss brown mushrooms, and soft marinated goats feta with herbs and EVOO. Presented on organic sourdough, each type of bruschetta was fresh, light and delicious.  We cut each piece in half so we we could both sample everything. It was the perfect starter. Simplicity and fresh ingredients – the key elements of a satisfying dish.

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As so often happens when Scotty and I dine together, we had our eyes on the same main. In this case it was the pescatore ($38), a melange of seafood cooked in a white wine and tomato sauce. The tiger prawns, mussels, baby squid were sea salty fresh, and the snapper fillet was garnished with a zingy basil salsa. The slowly simmered sauce was perfect for dunking chunks of crusty bread. For some strange reason however, this dish is served with crunchy crostino which definitely isn’t dunking material. Our waiter obligingly provided us with a plate of crusty bread to mop up all the tomatoey juices.

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Scotty and I managed to scoff every mouthful, just stopping short of surreptitiously licking the plate. We could have managed that, stuck as we were down the back of the restaurant. Poor Scotty had a view of my face and a white wall all evening; not the most enticing of sights. It didn’t affect her appetite though; it takes a helluva lot more than that to turn a Scotswoman off her food.

We were nigh on stuffed at this point, having downed a bottle of Veuve with our meal. Nothing short of a tsunami however was going to stop us ordering dolce, and I had eyes only for the chocolate rum and raisin brownie ($12). This delectable squidgy chocolate brownie wallowed in a pool of rum and raisin syrup, with plump rum-soaked raisins on top and vanilla bean ice cream and double cream on the side. Oh my. Alcohol chocolate cream heaven. I had to admit defeat half way through, despite giving it my best shot.

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Scotty opted for the seasonal fruit pudding ($12) of warm apple and cinnamon sponge with flaked almonds and double cream. Finally defeated by the dessert monster, Scotty reluctantly left a good portion of her pudding to the rubbish gods. Such a crying shame.

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Apart from being seated at our back wall hidey-hole table, our ilPasto experience was a delight.  It was a pleasant change to find a range of top notch desserts for $12, and to enjoy a fine Italian meal with the bonus of being able to BYO. There’s a pleasant al fresco area at the front which would be ideal in the warmer weather. The wait staff were fabulous and if you have time to peruse the old photos at the front, you’ll get a kick out of seeing the original family members back in the day, fresh off the boat. They’ve come a long way since then.

http://www.ilpasto.com.au

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Litte Lebanon Cafe & Restaurant

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As you enter this cavernous restaurant you pass the long empty verandah out front and wonder if that gets much of a workout in winter. The answer to that was obvious when we left a few hours later. Small throngs of Shisha enthusiasts had braved the cold night air to chill, chat and smoke pipes.

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My small group of friends and I were previously Little Lebanon virgins. Considering
a )how damn good the food was
b) how cheap our evening out was and
c) its proximity to home;
I wondered how that was possible.

My friends like to share. None of this individual dish business. Fortunately Little Lebanon is the perfect venue for sharing. They offer a banquet for only $40 each, and we quickly earmarked that for our next visit. On our premier visit however, we decided to play it safe and choose a range of smallish share plates.

Our two friendly wait staff (with one young lad in training) established that we were happy for our plates to arrive fairly close together. Our initial wait was about 30 minutes which can be dangerous when you have four hungry women with empty stomachs and several bottles of vino. Our first few plates were thus received with gusto. The felafel with yoghurt sauce and pickles on the side was devoured in no time, along with complimentary pita bread, and another type of unidentifiable fried bread that none of us had tried before. We preferred the pitas.

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These heavenly little pastries were vegetarian sambousiks, filled with spinach and cheese ($12). As a veggie lover, I’m constantly delighted by the range of food available in Lebanese and Indian restaurants featuring a variety of creative and delicious vegetable dishes.

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The Lebanese were roasting and frying cauliflower long before it became trendy. This version of fried cauliflower was served with tahini sauce ($12) and was crunchy, creamy and beautifully caramelised.

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Our only non-entree dish was the chicken shawarma ($20). This meal of marinated shredded chicken served with garlic sauce was everyone’s favourite. With a mix of spices, the zing of fresh herbs and slices of crunchy red cabbage, cucumber and onion, it was simply scrumptious wrapped in the extra pita bread served with it. I can’t imagine coming back here and not ordering this dish. Yum.

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Fried eggplant with yoghurt ($12) was our obligatory eggplant dish. It’s an unwritten rule that when ordering plates of Lebanese food , you must include eggplant. And felafel of course.  This version featured strips of fried eggplant lightly dusted in mild spices, and fried till golden. You can see this dish in the photo below, on the right.

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What Little Lebanon lacks in atmosphere it makes up for in food. There were so many other tempting options on the menu, but we sadly didn’t have the capacity to try more. We waddled out, stuffed to the gills and with barely a dent in our purses. This place is family friendly, super cheap – our meal was less than $20 a head – and BYOB with no corkage charge. What are you waiting for?

http://www.littlelebanon.com.au

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Thai Orchid, South Perth

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There aren’t too many establishments in Perth that boast views like this one, especially establishments that don’t charge a premium for the privilege. Thai Orchid in South Perth is worth a visit for this reason alone.

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Meeting a friend mid-week, there were only a few tables occupied and we were seated at the window. I was captivated by the view and it reminded me of a dining experience last year at Coco’s across the way, where the view was also amazing but the food was not.

We started with a few entrees of Thai fish cakes and golden bags. I love trying different versions of Thai fish cakes, and these were spicy and tasty, and not rubbery. It’s often considered the mark of a good fish cake to have that rubbery texture, but I really don’t enjoy that texture and prefer them to be tender and moist. The golden bags were scrumptious, with minced chicken and corn and peas all wrapped up in little fried dumplings.

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Roast duck red curry is probably my favourite Thai dish, and this version was a good one – creamy with coconut, the right amount of red curry spicing, and a generous serve of duck.

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Our other main was prawns with cashew nuts and chilli jam. This stir fried fish featured a generous amount of prawns with a good chilli kick – a very tasty, flavourful dish that we both enjoyed.

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Our dining experience cost us less than $30 each, thanks to the Entertainment card. Even without the card, this was a value-for-money dining experience. The service was good, the food – though far from the best Thai food in Perth – was still delicious. The view was priceless. I recommend you book a table with views when you visit, as that certainly enhances the whole experience.

 

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A Fish Called Inglewood

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This family run fish cafe in Inglewood is a fairly casual friendly affair. Sitting at a long table right next to the bustling open kitchen, my friends and I had a birds eye perspective on the goings on, and the takeaways were flying out the door on this Friday night.

The menu changes daily according to produce availability, with a few staples such as fish and chips being a permanent feature. Having eyed off a few plates of fish and chips coming out, I had eyes for nothing else. My cider battered fish, reasonably priced at $25, was a fresh piece of WA snapper served with hand-cut chips and aioli. This generous serve of fish featured a crispy gluten-free batter, and beautifully crunchy chips. It’s the basic things that matter in simple dishes like this: good quality oil, salt and potatoes.

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The Prof opted for the seafood plate for one; at $39 this featured grilled prawns, calamari, scallops, snapper, chips and salad. She couldn’t quite manage to eat everything on her plate so being the considerate friends we are, we helped her polish it off. Sometimes you just have to make sacrifices to help a friend in need 🙂
The Prof was impressed with her plate of seafood – with almost everything grilled, it was a light meal that allowed the freshness and the flavours of the seafood to shine. The calamari I sampled was beautifully tender, and The Prof was satisfied with all of the elements of her dish.

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Whilst three of us were happy customers, our friend Rob suffered from food envy. He’d chosen the $29 Barramundi with candied prosciutto, cauliflower and pesto, and was underwhelmed by his serving size.  “This is hardly a man’s serve” he spluttered when his plate arrived. He promptly ordered a side of chips ($6.50) and a bowl of brussel sprout salad with bacon and maple dressing ($7.50). His meal certainly won the award for best plating of the night, but that didn’t appease him. He did concede that his fish was beautifully cooked, but he was miffed. The Prof and I would have been happy with this serve – quality over quantity – but for some guys the only thing that satisfies them is a massive plate of something…… anything…..as long as it’s big. It may have helped if the wait staff had told him to expect a smallish serve.

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The brussel sprout salad was surprisingly delicious. This is the only veggie from my childhood days that used to make me gag, but then my mother’s treatment of it was hardly kind. Eaten this way in a salad with fresh herbs and a sweet dressing, it was crisp and fresh and nothing like the spongey greyish blobs I remembered.

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The house-made ice creams at this eatery have become legendary. During the summer months of the Beaufort St markets, the restaurant sets up a huge freezer outside and does a roaring trade selling these gourmet treats on sticks.  A restaurant wall now showcases the flavours on offer and as you can see, they are seriously tempting. For those who prefer something warmer on these cold winter nights, there are also Limoncello dumplings – with ice cream of course.

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The Prof and I ordered the chocolate with caramel and macadamia ($8), a creamy, delicious, albeit cold finish to our meal.

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A Fish Called Inglewood is the love child of chef Paul Zammit, and is another welcome addition to the small but growing number of quality eateries in Inglewood. Our service was exemplary, with friendly, hospitable staff and short wait times for food. If you love fresh fish and seafood, you will enjoy the reasonably priced food on offer. The menu is small but showcases an eclectic range of quality fish, and you could treat the family to a feed of fish (NZ dory) and chips for only $15 each.  I love that this little suburban restaurant offers a quality dining experience without the exorbitant price tags. I’m looking forward to a return visit to sample more of the superb seafood on offer.

http://www.afishcalledinglewood.com.au

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Monggo Restaurant

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Indonesian with a twist – that’s probably the best way to describe Monggo restaurant in Mount Lawley. I’ve heard purists dismiss Monggo because they consider the food not authentic Indonesian, but for me it’s often the path less travelled that makes it more interesting. Think confit duck leg, deconstructed lumpiah and murtabak filo triangles and you have an idea of some of the fusion-type dishes available.  This small family-run restaurant in Mount Lawley has been around for several years, and is always busy on the weekends with diners and take away orders.

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With a party of four you can partake in a Rijsttafel Bagus for a total of $109 which enables sampling of a cross section of Indonesian dishes. This option was too good to pass up, and being the greedies we are, we also had to add a few entrees to the table. We started with the kwo tie – pumpkin and mushroom dumplings, followed by duck martabak and sea salt and pepper squid. The dumpling wrappers were a little chewy and perhaps could have been steamed a bit longer.

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The duck martabak with its fried filo pastry and dipping sauce was crisp and delicious. Monggo offers several duck dishes, all of which are excellent, and not what you’d call typical Indonesian.

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The squid served on a bed of salad was tender and lightly battered, with a good sprinkling of sea salt and pepper.

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And then came the rijsttafel.  Our first shared plate was piled with appetisers of hard boiled eggs with sweet tangy Balado sauce, vegetable spring rolls, kacang ikan teri (spiced peanuts with ikan bilis), and Jimbaran fish.

I loved the fish dish which I have ordered as a main dish several times, and the eggs were unusual and not something I would ordinarily choose. That’s the beauty of ordering food this way – trying dishes that aren’t on the a la carte menu and that you may not ordinarily consider.

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Our next plate featured a massive portion of  Balinese mie goreng and ayam bakar Taliwang  (grilled half chicken with rujak sauce). You can’t tell from this photo, but the chicken was a huge serving that our token male deftly cut up, making it easier for us all to help ourselves. Both chicken and noodles were delicious. I’ve had the mie goreng here many times and it’s always reliably good.

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Our final platter was filled with vegetable dishes: sayur arap (warm vegetables with coconut), tahu bacem (marinated tofu), acar (pickled cabbage and carrot) and tumis sayur (stir fried veggies with garlic). I completely forgot about taking a photo of this plate, but it was a generous serve and the dishes were flavourful and delicious. I’ve had the sayur arap before; it’s a veggie dish with a hint of sweetness from the coconut and sweet corn and is a good accompaniment to some of the spicy meat dishes.  We each had our own bowl of steamed rice to eat with the rijsttafel dishes.

Monggo means “welcome” in Javanese and you certainly do feel welcome here.  I’ve always been satisfied with their meals but I prefer to come mid-week when it’s not so busy. With people packed in here on weekends, the noise level is high which makes normal conversation challenging at times.  With the benefit of BYO and a discount in the Entertainment Book, our meal cost us $30 each which is quite amazing considering the variety and volume we had.

 

http://www.monggorestaurant.com/#!menu/c24tf

 

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iLPasto Mount Hawthorn

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Red flocked wallpaper, white linen napery, chocolate brown leather bench seats and gilded mirrors contribute to  iLPasto’s sleek, sophisticated Italian feel. Add wait staff attired in white shirts with black vests and ties to the recipe and you could imagine you were in some chichi restaurant anywhere in the world. With all this subdued elegance, you’d expect prices to match, but prices are reasonable enough for you to enjoy a two course meal from as low as $35.

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Each of us chose the pasta or gnocchi options; comfort food on these cold winter nights. The penne with fresh basil, tomatoes, peas, bocconcini and asparagus was one of the daily specials and was light and flavoursome, letting the fresh ingredients and olive oil dressing speak for themselves.

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As soon as I spotted duck on the menu, my mind was made up; gnocchi with duck and mushrooms ($28) for me. The duck had been slow cooked and was melt-in-your-mouth tender, while the little gnocchi pillows were gloriously soft. The Swiss brown mushrooms added depth, and the richness of the dish was largely thanks to the lush natural juices of the duck and the mushrooms.

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RC’s seafood risotto was creamy and starchy and made with a well flavoured stock. Replete with bite-size pieces of fresh seafood, he was a happy man.

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Dessert or not? I settled for an affogato at $6, but the others selected more exotic options. RC’s torta di ricotta ($12) was described as a cheesecake on the menu but it wasn’t cheesecake in the traditional sense. A biscuit base layered with ricotta and pieces of candied orange, and topped with a mix of pistachios and orange zest, it was an unusual but enjoyable treat.

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Two of my pals chose the popular vanilla, orange, saffron creme brûlée at $12. It was served with a biscuit on the side which was superfluous for such a rich dessert. The creme was zhooshed up a notch by the orange flavouring, and the brûlée topping was perfectly crackly and caramelised. Of course I sampled both of the desserts and both were delicious, but my preference was with the creme brûlée. IlPasto also has a daily winter baked pudding on offer; it featured pears on the night we visited.

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In many ways this Italian eatery feels like an up-market establishment minus the up-market price tag. We experienced friendly and attentive service, and the food was served within 20 minutes of placing orders. On Sundays iLPasto features a $14 special Sicilian pasta menu with a limited choice of meat or vegetarian pasta dishes. On Tuesdays and Wednesdays main course dishes are available for $25, reflecting different regions of Italy. With free street parking outside and the option to BYO wine, it’s an affordable and pleasant dining experience.

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Tabella in Fremantle

2015-06-11 13.25.36It was an outstanding winter’s day and I had fortuitously arranged a ladies lunch in Fremantle at Tabella.  Dimmi had extended another generous offer of 50% off the price of food, so what better excuse was needed than to try a place a bit further afield?  This eatery has an open feel and an inviting atmosphere, and we had a perfect sunny spot near the window.

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Tabella vies for customers with a myriad of other eateries on South Terrace. When the competition is this fierce, you’d better have something significant going for you.

We decided to skip entrees and order mains, along with a glass of bubbles or wine each.

2015-06-11 13.26.19We thought it appropriate to order fish; Fremantle seems the sort of place where you do that. On the coast, access to fresh fish and all that. Two of us ordered the pan fried salmon, two others the Barramundi, and another the steak sandwich, cooked medium. The waiter appeared again after five minutes to inform us that they’d run out of salmon. A bit odd at midday on a Wednesday unless there was a rush on before we arrived. Two other tables occupied; nope, not a rush on. Was there any fresh fish available? No, they don’t serve fresh fish; and that includes the Barramundi. OK then, a re-think on the orders.  I ordered the local prawns – Gamberi All’ Aglio at $29.50 – can’t go wrong with fresh WA prawns, right?

2015-06-11 13.31.16The prawns look enticing in the photo, but looks can be deceiving. The only thing fresh on this plate was the bread. Normally garlic prawns come out sizzling in good quality olive oil, but in this case they came out fizzling in a pond of yellow butter that I daresay had been mixed with oil. I could have forgiven Tabella for this had the prawns been fresh, but they were stale and chalky. None of that crunchy, salty, sweet sensation you get from fresh prawns.

2015-06-11 13.29.36JS didn’t fare much better with her plate of Linguine ai Frutti di Mare at $28.50. As you can see from this plate, there was a generous serve of seafood, but the huge serving of pasta was dry and with just olive oil as the sauce and little seasoning, the dish was insipid and unappetising. Sometimes with a dish, the fresh flavours speak for themselves, but the prawns and fish weren’t fresh and the calamari was rubbery, so the only speaking they were doing doesn’t bear repeating. Sadly JS didn’t make much of a dent in this dish apart from picking off the seafood pieces, and left almost a full plate of dry, inedible pasta.

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Rena faired better with her Whitebait at $16. The tiny fish were crunchy and fresh, and it was a huge serving that came with aioli and a side of leafy salad.

2015-06-11 13.27.24Then there was the Pesce al Forno at $33, or Barramundi  fillets with Mediterranean sauce.  The colours of the sauce look brilliant; all those bright greens and reds. The verdict was that the strongly-flavoured sauce overpowered the dish. Sometimes simple is best, and this is especially applicable to fish. Perhaps the sauce was designed to disguise the taste of frozen fish? Barramundi is being served in almost every restaurant in Perth at the moment. It’s not the best fish by a long shot if it’s been frozen and then it’s really not worth eating, especially at the price of $33.  I know we had the benefit of a discount, but other diners may not have.

I don’t have a photo of the final dish ordered by Kim. The steak sandwich at $16.50 was spoiled by an overcooked, tough piece of steak. She didn’t get the benefit of the 50% off the price of her food, as our surly waiter informed us that the lunch specials were not part of the deal.

It’s difficult coming up with a few positives to say about Tabella. Much as I don’t relish giving a place an absolute drubbing, this was not an enjoyable dining experience. Four out of five meals were below par. Our waiter looked and sounded like he really didn’t want to be there, and it wasn’t long before we felt like that too. It took 15 minutes before we were given a carafe of water. No excuse for that with only two other tables occupied. The music was loud and intrusive – Eminem and Nirvana playing at lunchtime – fine for a pub but not an Italian cafe. The corkage for BYO wine is a whopping $8.50 per bottle.  I know that many people have had positive experiences at Tabella and enjoyed their food, so maybe we picked the wrong day and ours was an isolated experience. In saying that though, when you are located on a cafe strip surrounded by reliable competition, you need to be consistently good. Mediocrity won’t get you far, and it certainly won’t get you return customers. On a positive note the bread was delicious, but that credit is due to Tabella’s supplier, Lawley’s Bakery.

http://www.tabella.com.au/lunch-dinner.html

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6101 Tapas and Meze Bar

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What’s in a name? At the 6101 Tapas and Meze Bar the new owners are planning on a name change, but as long as the food remains as amazing as it currently is, we really don’t care what it’s called. With food that juxtaposes Mediterranean with Middle Eastern, it’s definitely treat time.

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About as wide as a postage stamp, this little tapas and meze venue in East Vic Park oozes warmth and charm. With its main eating area out the back decked out in red chairs, blankets, heater and canvas covers overhead, you can get cosy with a small band of friends or just a loved one, and enjoy some fresh and inspiring Mediterranean/Lebanese food.

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Courtesy of another Dimmi special, our table of six reaped the benefits of an evening with 50% off the cost of food. Our hosts informed us that they are trying to get new customers in the door, and the discount was an enticement they hope will pay off with return patronage. After our foodie experience, we were unanimous in our desire to return. Even at full price, this place is a bargain.

Based on the owner’s recommendations, we decided to share dishes so we could experience a good cross section of the food on offer.

With several types of seafood on the menu, we elected to try the grilled garlic mussels. The generous sized serving of these fresh, large mussels featured a light breadcrumb gratin topping.

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Next up were Cigars;  firm Lebanese cheese with fresh parsley, wrapped and deep fried and served with a black olive tapenade. With very little spicing, this simple dish was a table pleaser. Apparently the father of one of the owners grows a veritable market garden of fresh herbs on his Hills property, and these are utilised daily in the 6101 kitchen. Pesticide free and grown with a healthy dose of love, the 6101 people believe these herbs are what imbue their dishes with a little something special.

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The lentil koftas were not the fried versions we expected. These red lentils had been soaked in water to soften them, drained and mixed with lemon, onion and herbs, spiced with some chilli, and rolled into croquette shapes. Fresh and citrusy, this new and interesting slant on the traditional kofta was a welcome contrast to some of the other richer foods we’d ordered.

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6101’s version of dolmades was their stuffed cabbage rolls with mustard sauce. Filled with spiced rice and sultanas, this was another tasty dish where the simple flavours really spoke for themselves. Although the rice filling was similar to traditional dolmades, the cabbage and the sauce resulted in something entirely different. Less oily and less heavy.

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It’s pate folks, but not as we know it. The garlic walnut chicken pate was finely shredded chicken subtly flavoured with garlic and served with toasted Turkish bread. Quite a change from the usual smooth, blended pate, and quite delicious.

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The warm Sujuk was 6101’s slant on chorizo, but perhaps softer and less chewy than many chorizos. Served with Turkish bread again, this was a quality product that worked well as a shared dish.

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JS chose her own dish rather than share, and of course I got to taste test this one too. Her mild chilli mussels were served with a rich tomato-based sauce and mounds of toasted Turkish bread. As JS said, although the meal itself wasn’t huge, the richness of the dish meant that she couldn’t comfortably eat anything else. If I had to describe the sauce, I’d say it had Italian origins with a Lebanese slant.

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Not to be beaten by our savoury dishes, three of us managed to squeeze in dessert. No, I wasn’t one of them. Tempting as the desserts sounded, I was happy to sit back and get my sweet fix vicariously. The cinnamon rice pudding, banana cream cake and the creme brulee were all generous portions and had three of our gals licking their chops. I might have seen a finger scraping the bowl too, but I won’t tell anyone if you won’t 🙂

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In the next few weeks 6101 or what-ever-it-shall-be-known-as, will introduce new menu items, including some large share plates intended for groups.The new owners are switched on to the needs of their customers, and are very hands-on when it comes to meeting, greeting, serving and looking after everyone. Friendly, reasonably priced and with fresh and interesting food, this little place on the Albany Hway strip is well worth a visit. Bring a bottle of vino and relax for a few hours, letting your taste buds revel in some simple, fresh flavours. Bookings recommended.

https://www.facebook.com/6101tapasbar?fref=ts

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