Maya Indian Restaurant & Bar

 

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The trouble with Tribbles is that they keep multiplying. If you’re a Trekkie fan from way back, you’ll recognise this reference illustrating the proliferation of Indian restaurants in Perth. Am I just imagining it or are they multiplying like Tribbles in every suburb at an alarming rate? I say alarming because the quality of some of these establishments is questionable. I’ve tried one too many with underwhelming experiences. I’ve become much more discerning these days and won’t dine Indian unless I’m fairly confident of getting a good meal. My two friends on this occasion are also lovers of Indian cuisine, and we were hopeful of a good experience based on word-of-mouth and online reviews.

Our mid-week dining night was quiet, but then there’s plenty of competition in Freo and restaurants usually fill out later in the week.  Maya has plenty of tables, including an upstairs room that serves as a bar area.  Some interesting art work, a dark wooden staircase, and sparkling chandeliers added some character to the decor.

Our starters were Chowk Ki Tikki – scrumptious potato patties with chick peas, chilli, cumin and 3 sauces (including my favourite tamarind sauce); and Tiger Prawns – Shark Bay tiger prawns with pineapple and tomato chutney. Although the tandoor-cooked prawns sounded promising, they were a bit on the dry side.

Our Fish Qmin curry with saltwater barramundi fillets was spicy and creamy at the same time. Flavoured with cumin, chilli and fenugreek and cooked in coconut milk, this was a noteworthy dish, and as good as some of the better fish curries I’ve had before.

The Chicken Mumtaz, commonly known as butter chicken, was the standout dish of the evening. With chicken pieces that had the desired marinated smoky tandoor flavour with a rich creamy tomatoey sauce, this is the best version I have had in Perth. I’ve had so many appalling versions of this dish that I rarely order it, but I’m so glad we did. It’s heartening to know that while there are a plethora of mediocre Indian restaurants around the traps, there is thankfully a handful of top notch establishments that don’t cheat on the preparations, and don’t dumb down the ingredients.

The garlic naan was the perfect accompaniment to our meal, along with a bowl of Basmati rice. We were too full to contemplate dessert, but we did manage to down a few glasses of reasonably priced SSB during our meal.

The wait staff at Maya were cheerful and friendly, and the wait time for food was brief. Most of our dishes were beautifully flavoured and well presented, and I’m eagerly anticipating a return in the colder months to sample one of their degustation menus. Recommended for lovers of good Indian food.

http://www.mayarestaurant.com.au/food

Maya Indian Restaurant and Lounge Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Prego Restaurant

Prego. Love the name, and the way Italians say it. Would the restaurant live up to the welcome of its name?

It’s a fairly austere environment with muted decor and little in the way of adornments. While aesthetics don’t determine your dining experience,  they can certainly enhance it. Our group of 5 was here to celebrate a birthday, and the birthday girl assured us her old favourite Prego would deliver the goods as far as quality dining goes. Many a good thing comes in plain packaging, right?

We opted for glasses of Prosecco all round, followed later by various wines by the glass at reasonable prices. A limited selection, but with some good options.

We were given a complimentary plate of Mediterranean falafel to start with. Covered with a creamy garlic mayo type of hummus and a tomato onion salsa, the falafel was moist and tasty and a well received starter. The salmon carpaccio was a hit at our table too, with its avocado salsa and strips of tender octopus adorning the plate.

Hooray for duck! Prego’s version was crispy skinned and slow roasted, and accompanied by green beans, a jus and baked polenta. Succulent meat inside and crispy, mild-spiced skin outside, the duck was lip smackingly good.  Oh my wordy lordy. There’s not much I love more than a superbly cooked duck dish, and this one met all the criteria.

Two of our group opted for the huge meaty plates of roast lamb shoulder and roast duck, which neither of them could finish.  Murmurings of approval for the slow cooked duo, but the protein overload on those massive plates had them wanting something green or orange to break up those hunks of meat. There’s only so much protein you can eat, especially when you’re ladies 🙂

Chocolate fondant was the unanimous choice for dessert. Accompanied by vanilla bean ice-cream, the fondant was appropriately oozy and a fitting end to a fine meal.

Service at Prego was uniformly charming and efficient. Italian accents always add charm to the occasion, and you’ve got to love that Italian waiters take their craft so seriously. Food, after all, is a serious matter. Prego is about traditional Italian ingredients cooked with love and pizzazz, served with pride in a simple setting. Prices aren’t cheap here, but the old saying “you get what you pay for” holds true. I can’t see this sedate establishment attracting the hipsters, but for the more mature patrons (of whom there were plenty the night we dined there), it’s pure gold.

 

Prego Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato</

Stix Bar

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Stix looks like a bit like a shiny diamond amid the burgeoning apartment complexes on the Swan River in Burswood. Replete with a burnished wooden bar, gleaming copper fittings, views of the city and glimpses of the nearby Swan River, it’s a welcoming chill out spot away from the bustling Crown Casino complex a few minutes away.

We took advantage of a Groupon offer of 4 courses for $60, and thoroughly enjoyed our Stix evening of good food and attentive service. With 2 choices for each course, the menu wouldn’t work if you were a fussy diner, but for our group it was perfect.  Starting with an amuse bouche of a scallop with roe atop pea puree, the courses were well paced and the perfect size. The entree of chicken ballotine was beautifully flavoured and was served on a bed of something cool and creamy (I didn’t make a note of the details at the time; all I can remember is how much I enjoyed it!).

Our mains of Mt Barker roasted chicken breast with tarragon jus were accompanied by the most delicious little potato morsels I’ve ever had. Creamy soft inside and baked to a slightly crisp finish, they were simply amazing. The chicken was tender and moist, and although this was a simple dish, it was satisfying and perfectly cooked.

A course of Yallingup camembert topped with rocket was served with a basket of bread, although crackers would probably have been better suited after our substantial mains.

Dessert consisted of a selection of ice-cream and sorbet served on a crispy shortbread biscuit. The coffee ice-cream was sensational, with a close favourite being the zingy lime and mint sorbet. An unusual-looking dessert because of the way it was served on the curved biscuit, it was a light and refreshing finale to our meal.

Stix is an impressive newcomer to the bar and dining scene in Perth, and no doubt a boon to the residents of the nearby apartments. It’s elegant, the food is good, and the service professional and friendly. There is a modest selection of wines by the glass, including one dessert and 2 sparkling options. With many plates designed to share, or an 8 course degustation available for $80 pp, it’s an accessible spot with easy parking – perfect for languid summer Perth evenings.

Stix Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Red Cabbage Food & Wine

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It was a long awaited visit to Red Cabbage for a birthday celebration with  five friends. We chose the 3 course menu for $59, courtesy of the Entertainment Card. This included a glass of prosecco. The decor is rather old world with lots of wood, dark carpet and dim lighting, but lightened by quirky wallpaper featuring rows of human faces.

My choice of entree was fire-roasted baby Manjimup marron with lemon curd. I don’t exaggerate when I say it was the tiniest entree I have ever had. At 2 minuscule forks of marron meat albeit fresh and beautifully presented, I wondered why they bothered. A perfect sized amuse bouche perhaps, but not nearly enough to whet the appetite.

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Friends who chose the scallops fared much better. They were beautifully moist and well presented, and  much more substantial and satisfying than the marron.

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My main course of smoked duck breast with cauliflower and garlic puree was disappointingly chewy. I devour duck at every opportunity but this wasn’t the usual tender  flesh I love.  I know that with slow cooking duck normally fares much better, so  the quality of this dish would likely have been improved with a different cooking method.

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The four of us who had the duck concurred, but two friends who opted for the fish dish (trout) were happy little Vegemites.

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For dessert we had the option to choose an individual dessert, or share a taste plate (called A Little Bit of Everything) between two. The taste plate with four different desserts was substantial and essentially 4 full size desserts. I’m often too full to have dessert, so this was an indication of how small the other course sizes were. Between 2 of us, we polished off our entire plate of desserts. The pumpkin pie was the standout, with the others being pleasant but not memorable. Presentation was somewhat lacking as you can see from the plate – nothing delicate or visually pleasing to the eye.

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I had been anticipating a visit to Red Cabbage for some time, and sadly I was disappointed by the  experience. Whilst the service was good, the food was average; certainly not the gourmet meal expected of this establishment. I also have a bugbear with restaurants charging $5 for a small bread roll when places like Must Wine Bar provide the most amazing French bread and butter free of charge.  I doubt I’ll return to Red Cabbage with so many other better dining experiences in Perth. Although some of the dishes were of a higher quality, it’s reasonable to expect uniformity in a 5 star establishment.

 

Red Cabbage Food + Wine Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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

Globe Coffee House Restaurant & Patisserie

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This Globe bears no resemblance to London’s thespian counterpart, but it does actually look sneakily similar to the decor in the Dome cafes. Coincidence? Who knows, but a friend of mine who’s lived in South Perth  for many years insists there’s a story to be told.

This Globe on the popular Angelo St strip in South Perth is a busy lunch time venue, and I’ve grabbed a coffee and a bite to eat here many times. Globe’s cakes are popular because they offer both normal and mini sizes, which of course simply encourages greedy folks like me to try more than one. Don’t leave your cake eating till evening though, as the best ones have usually sold by mid-afternoon.

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On this occasion via Dimmi, an offer of 50% off the food bill tempted our group of six to book in for dinner at The Globe. Along with glasses of wine for $6.50 (for an acceptable South Australian SBS or Cabernet Merlot), the offer was too good to pass up.

The specials of the day were grilled king snapper with roasted root vegetables, and chicken vindaloo. Call me crazy, but I would never ever ever order an Indian curry at a restaurant serving modern Australian cuisine. No sirree. I love chicken vindaloo and The Globe may have created a brilliant version, but I will never know.

Our resident carnivore Jai ordered the Scotch fillet steak with fries, mushrooms and vegetables. As is evident from the pic below, the presentation was rustic but Jai was content with her tender piece of meat – cooked medium as requested – and its sidekicks.

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The consensus among the three of us who ordered the daily special of grilled king snapper, was that it was a reasonable but unremarkable piece of fish. Kept simple and served with a few pan fried prawns and steamed asparagus, it wasn’t Michelin Star material but for $16, was adequate. You know the old saying, “you get what you pay for”?  Most of the time, it’s true.

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Frau K’s choice of the pork belly slow cooked in pear cider, and served with Pink Lady apples, Asian style vegetables, and fried rice noodles, was an interesting concoction featuring pork crackling as well as pork belly. Hmm, double the fat and double the fun. Frau K was happy with her dish and its unusual combination of flavours, though it was overly rich and she could only manage half of it.

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We had to check out the cakes on offer, though I’ve sampled these several times and found them to be perfect with a coffee in the afternoon. Between us we shared lemon tarts with cute smiley faces, and hazelnut cream layered cakes.

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The service at Globe was friendly and efficient, and the wait time for food wasn’t long. I prefer to dine here for lunch, rather than dinner though, as the lunch time sandwiches, crusty rolls, and quiches and pies served with salads, are reliably good. We could hardly complain about dinner at the prices we paid, and it’s adequate for those who are happy with simple food. Although we didn’t find Globe’s cuisine to be innovative or anything special, it has won awards for its baking and for being Cafe of the Year in 2014.  I  find that surprising given the number of cafes in Perth serving better much quality food overall,  but the award may have been influenced by Globe’s patisserie offerings, rather than its other food.

http://www.globesouthperth.com.au

Globe Coffee House Restaurant & Patisserie 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

Montereys Restaurant

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Up front I want to say for the record that I am not a fan of buffets. I much prefer to sit and choose what I want to eat from a menu, and be served that food by a waiter instead of jostling elbows with others while waiting impatiently in a queue by the salads to get to the good stuff. I have visions of being on a cruise and seeing people piling their plates with an obscene amount of food, hoovering up that food, and going back again and again to repeat. Call it mental scarring, but those visions haunt me whenever someone suggests a buffet. There’s something about an all-you-can-eat scenario that can flip the brain switch from decorous to gluttonous and it ain’t pretty. Fortunately I didn’t see any evidence of uncivilised gorging on the day we went.

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I do concede that buffets have their place, especially when dining out in a large group. It saves issues with billing at the end of the meal, and it means that everyone can eat at the same time. On this occasion it was a friend’s birthday lunch and 16 of us gathered to celebrate. It also happened to be Father’s Day so naturally Montereys became very busy by 12.30. A few of us cajoled our way into the restaurant before the opening time so we could take a few photos before the hordes arrived.

The selection at Montereys inside the Pan Pacific Hotel is relatively small, but most of it is agreeable and fresh fare. There were bowls of fresh tiger prawns, NZ mussels, and crabs. Crabs have to be one of the inappropriate choices for a buffet though – I mean, how do you chow down on these crustaceans with any decorum?  The prawns were fresh and sweet, and there were several sauces to accompany them. Sadly, there were no oysters.

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The usual potato and noodle salads were present, and an area where you could mix your own choice of  ingredients together.

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The roast meat area was the busiest and I couldn’t manage  a photo of this for ages. Sadly there was no turkey which is one of only a few roast meats I enjoy.

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There was beef curry with rice, and salmon in a creamy sauce, and white fish which I didn’t get a photo of. It was impossible to get photos of many of the main dishes because the throng of people around these never seemed to thin out.

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Roast vegetables – the carrots were super sweet and delicious. I know; carrots sound ordinary but I’m a veggie lover and really enjoyed them. The cauliflower cheese however, was tasteless and not cheesy.

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After the mains, it was a choice between the cheeses and the desserts and the desserts won out because I couldn’t fit both it. The cheeseboard was pedestrian anyway – the desserts looked much more enticing.

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The wide range of desserts came in small portions which meant we could try several without feeling like pigs.

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The dilemma was in deciding on just a few.

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The peanut butter parfait (on the right below) was my favourite , but I should have resisted the red velvet cake at the back. It was dry and nothing special.

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This dining experience was fine for the group, but I wouldn’t hurry back. Whilst all the food was fresh, it was a limited range and there was nothing special or creative, with the desserts being the most interesting. For $45 a head, I think it’s reasonably priced and no-one is under the illusion they are embarking on a five star dining experience.

I’ve found the best buffets to be in various Asian cities, and one of my primo experiences was at Mom Tri’s Boathouse in Phuket. I heartily recommend the insanely good breakfast buffet if you should ever go.  You can check out my old blog for details of Mom Tri’s; a truly wonderful place to stay, far from the gritty streets of Patong.

https://annetteinbangkok.wordpress.com/2010/04/04/phuket-re-visited-hail-to-mom-tris-boathouse/

 

Montereys Restaurant 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

Sandalford Estate Restaurant

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This Swan Valley stalwart was the scene of a recent birthday lunch with two friends. Despite having been to numerous Sandalford concerts over the years, I’d never before been to the restaurant. I loved the classic feel, the warm colours, the white tablecloths, the candles and the fire burning away in the hearth on this chilly Saturday in August.

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A dining reservation entitles you to free wine tasting, so we elbowed the gaggle of tourists aside and plonked ourselves at the tasting bar to sample a range of the Sandalford wines. We settled on a bottle of the Sandalford Margaret River Range Rose to have with our lunch. I do not exaggerate when I say busloads of tourists were coming and going like a production line. There was a constant stream in to the cellar door while we ate our lunch, but fortunately their presence didn’t impinge on enjoyment of our lunch.  Every dining table was booked, and there were several large tables celebrating various special occasions. Despite the hordes, it’s the sort of venue that feels special so I can see why people flock here. I loved this large sunny room overlooking the vineyards.

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Just to get the ball rolling, we ordered a charcuterie plate of duck rillettes with onion jam, chicken liver pate with Sandalera jelly, and pork terrine with cornichons ($28). Served with baguette slices, this was a small but pleasing dish to share.

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Frau K and I both settled on the entree size pan fried house made sweet potato gnocchi ($26).  I assumed that the individual gourmet elements of this dish would conspire to create something memorable. The sautéed mushrooms, toasted pine nuts, Persian feta and Manjimup black truffle failed however, to lift the gnocchi to the heights expected. Instead of toothsome caramelised nuggets of sweet potato, they were gluey and stuck to the roof of my mouth like gummy bears. A potentially amazing dish  rendered ordinary.

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The Prof resorted to her standby steak, and ordered the black Angus beef fillet, beef cheek, baba ganoush and fried onion rings ($45). That’s a whole lot of money for a few pieces of meat in my book. The Prof complained that her steak was cold, but she enjoyed the crisp onion rings. To be fair, she was suffering from a major hangover and I doubt anything would have tasted  appetising. She didn’t even try the beef cheek so I’m not giving her critique much cred.

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Frau K and I had decided early on that dessert was a given, and we both ordered the chocolate mousse with hazelnut and oat crumbs, morello cherries, bitter chocolate cookie and pashmak ($16). I was hoping that my finisher would compensate for my disappointing main course, and it did. I loved the contrasting textures, the mix of sweet mousse against the slightly sour cherries, and the crunchy biscuit base.

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The Prof opted for the trio of house-made sorbets with a vaniilla tuile ($16). Each scoop featured different fruits and Sandalford wines. This was a cool winner in her book.

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Despite my disappointing gnocchi dish, the overall experience at Sandalford was wonderful. Staff were uniformly obliging and efficient,  the ambience was delightful, the wine was excellent (I bought 4 bottles of the Margaret River Range to take home), and portions of my meal were perfect.  This would be the ideal venue to bring overseas visitors to, and you can take advantage of the excellent offer of one main meal free, courtesy of the Entertainment Card.

http://www.sandalford.com/Restaurant/restaurant.html

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Breezes on Como

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You know that feeling when you walk into a place that’s virtually empty, and you get a sneaking suspicion that lunch is going to be forgettable. Or regrettable. Or maybe both. Funny how instinct is often an unerring predictor.

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Frau K, JS, The Prof and I met up for lunch that we’d pre-paid for with Groupons. Two courses for $27.  Good old Groupons. Love ’em most of the time, but occasionally they give you a bum steer. The menu above is especially for Groupon groupies.  Not much of a choice, but hopefully we could find something we fancied. My instinct jarred again when I saw haloumi on the menu. Panko crumbed haloumi.  Haloumi is on my list of favourite foods; right up there with Porcini mushrooms and rosti. Call me mad, but why would you want to crumb haloumi?  I can think of a dozen reasons why you wouldn’t, but obviously the chef hadn’t.

We all played it as safe as possible and ordered the marinated prawn skewers.  These prawns had been dead a while and I was a bit anxious about eating them. They didn’t smell like ammonia so I figured even though they weren’t super fresh, they wouldn’t kill me. They didn’t. They were served with green salad leaves and a thousand island sauce. Not much else to say except that this dish was what I’d expect from my local chippie. Except their prawns would probably be fresher.

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The mains provided a few more choices, and The Prof and I ordered the fish and chips. They were offered either battered or panko crumbed. Must have been a sale on panko crumbs at the supermarket that week.  We asked for the fish to be grilled, and that was no problem.  The pink snapper wasn’t the worst fish I have eaten, but then that’s hardly a yardstick for restaurant food is it?  I suspect the fish had been frozen, and there was no evidence of that nice, smokey grilled flavour, but it was at least palatable. And the chips were crunchy and fresh. They got that right.

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JS opted for the Moroccan lamb shank with Israeli couscous and juicy vegetables. Looks pretty doesn’t it? JS doesn’t complain much, but her silence spoke volumes. As did her leaving a good portion of the lamb shank on her plate.  I recently cooked lamb shanks for my sons. The meat was falling off the bones after a night of slow cooking. This lamb was firm. This meat was well and truly stuck to the bone and had no intention of sliding off onto that bed of insipid couscous without a tool kit to assist. Let’s not talk about the sauce.

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Frau K’s slow roasted pork belly had a strange effect on her. She took one bite and said “I can’t eat this”. She took her plate up to the counter and spoke to the waiter. I might add that our waiter was charming and affable and is probably used to dealing with dissatisfied customers. The youngish chef emerged from Hell’s Kitchen and entered into the conversation. Frau K, not wanting to hurt his feelings, gave him some gentle tips about how the pork should be cooked. He was apologetic and was keen to take the tips on board. Hopefully the next customer will benefit from that bit of knowledge, as Frau K is a fine cook. In fact, she gave me some foolproof advice about cooking the lamb shanks.

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So, the substitute for Frau K’s pork belly was the butter chicken. She should have known better. Why oh why would you order butter kitchen in a non-Indian restaurant? I guess her options were limited at this point, and she thought this would be cooked already and she wouldn’t have to wait. She was right about it being cooked already and not having to wait. It was duly served by our lovely waiter within a few minutes. Who could quibble about the presentation?  The tiny pieces of chicken however, wallowed in a sauce that reeked of bottle. Of bottled simmered sauce.  I had to try a mouthful naturally, and all I could say was “oh wow”.  “Oh wow” being the descriptor of something so offensive to seasoned taste buds, that it was kind of unbelievable.

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The lovely waiter offered us all free coffees. The coffees were good. He has his work cut out for him, and he knows how to manage it well.  This venue is located at the front of the Broadwater Apartments complex. It’s a sunny location with glimpses of the Swan River across the freeway.  Sadly, that’s the only positive I can come up with.  There’s no love in this eatery. It exists primarily as a facility for the Broadwater patrons, and no doubt has a captive audience much of the time which is just as well, as I doubt any of the Groupon users would be hankering to return.

 

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Ugly Duckling Wines

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Thanks to good old Groupon, Scotty and I were able to sample another boutique winery in the Swan Valley that probably wouldn’t have popped up on our radar otherwise. This deal entitled us to a glass of wine and a home-made gourmet pie fresh from the Bindoon Bakehaus for $15 each.

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On a perfect sunny winter’s Friday, we arrived at the cellar door to find a green, bucolic vista complete with friendly resident golden retriever. While we indulged in a leisurely 30 minutes of wine tasting, the uber friendly staff popped our pies in the oven to warm up. Wine tasting for the first four tastings is free, and then a charge applies. There are also olives and olive oil tastings on offer for a small fee.

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We sampled a range of wines from the rose to the chardonnays to the reds, and decided the rose would be the perfect accompaniment to our meal.

We both selected the chicken, leek and chardonnay pies, although there are also four red meat options to choose from. The pies are all made with wines sourced from the Ugly Duckling. We checked out the other foods on offer which comprise cheese boards, charcuterie platters and Turkish bread with dips. The few other tables occupied also seemed to be taking advantage of the Groupon offer. Who doesn’t love a scrumptious pie when it’s home-made and accompanied by a glass of vino?

Served with a generous side salad drizzled with balsamic, our pies were made from beautiful crisp puff pastry and filled with snowy white chunks of chicken.

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The Ugly Duckling has expansive lawns and ample space for your ankle biters to run around. There’s live music on the weekends, and it’s a delightful way to while away a few hours, sipping wine and ruminating on life’s little pleasures. Do as we did, and cruise down the road to Yahava Koffeeworks or Maddison’s in Guildford for a coffee and a sweet treat afterwards. Bliss.

http://www.uglyducklingwines.com

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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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Aravina Estate Restaurant & Cafe

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If the expansive lawns, lake and buildings look eerily familiar when you drive into the Aravina Estate, it’s because you’ve probably visited during its previous incarnation of Amberly Estate. Back in the day, a bottle of trusty Amberly Chenin appeared on the table of just about every dinner party around town.

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Arriving at midday, we took the advice of the friendly wait staff and sacrificed wine tasting in favour of securing a table before the hordes descended upon us. Sound advice, because within 30 minutes there was nary an empty table in sight. With white wicker furniture, sunlight streaming through the windows and views of the picturesque grounds as you dine, Aravina looks beguiling. Would the food be on par?

Dining in a winery means you simply must have suitable libation with your meal, and The Prof and I decided bubbles were in order.  We chose a glass each of the 2010 Vintage Sparkling ($12), and this set the standard for the meal that was to follow.

Aravina offers a two course lunch for $55 or three courses for $65, so we naturally went for the second option. No point faffing around and depriving ourselves of dessert. We hadn’t eaten breakfast, so we deserved to indulge a bit. Or so we rationalised.

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Our entree of ocean trout rillettes with fine crackers and herbs was bursting with fresh flavours and was simply exquisite. The subtly flavoured rillettes were presented on wafer thin house-made crackers, topped with orbs of fresh roe, and garnished with delicate herbs. You could taste the slight saltiness of the sea, and the combination of the trout with the lushness of creme fraiche or its closest relation, was nothing short of superb. A simple dish with simple flavours where the key lies in the quality of the main ingredient.

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My main course of barramundi with truffled beans and chicken jus lived up to the standard of the entree. The creamy white beans were infused with fresh Manjimup truffle and provided a glorious base for the fish. I can’t remember eating barramundi this.damn.good.before. The crispy skin and the succulent flesh, combined with the richness of the jus, created a match made in heaven. I wouldn’t have imagined the pairing of fish with beans and chicken jus would succeed so completely, but the combination of the fresh elements of this dish was outstanding.

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The Prof’s choice of the duck leg with braised lentils was another noteworthy dish. The puy lentils with white carrots, pearl onions and chicken jus, provided a base that showcased the wonderful rich flavours of the duck. The fall-apart flesh was juicy and the skin super crispy. I know The Prof did not exaggerate the merits of this dish because I naturally had to sample it.

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Dessert continued to captivate us. Not only did this concoction look incredibly elegant, but the soft chocolate with WA raspberries and salted caramel, tasted amazing. All of the elements of this dish were in harmony, from the slightly acidic fruity bite of the Albany raspberries, to the velvet silkiness of the soft chocolate to the chewiness of the wafer and the salty smoothness of the caramel. Oh my. This-is-so-good-I-must-be-dreaming food delirium ensued.

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Simply put, this was one of the best meals I’d eaten for some time. It’s a rare pleasure to enjoy all courses of a meal equally, but Aravina obviously runs a top notch kitchen with a chef who knows what good food is all about. Their secret is in procuring top quality produce, sourced locally where possible. We could not fault one area of our dining experience; the wait staff were exemplary, the setting picture-book perfect, and the food was a gastronomic orgasm. Add a vintage car museum, a gift shop and cellar door tastings to the already brilliant equation, and you have an all-round wonderful experience. And as if things couldn’t get any better, you can use your Entertainment card for a discount. As with our childhood icon Mary Poppins, Aravina Estate Restaurant & Cafe is practically perfect in every way.

http://aravinaestate.com/pages/about-us

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Jezebelle in Guildford

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Old Guildford town has undergone a transformation over recent years, and the places for foodies to explore continue to grow. Jezebelles has been created out of an old bank building and brings a touch of funkiness amid the cottages and heritage decor. Meeting up with a small group of friends on a lazy Sunday afternoon is the perfect time to enjoy the Jezebelle offerings. With a jazz duo playing at the rear of the venue, sun streaming through the windows and comfy chairs to park yourselves in, you get to ruminating that life is pretty darn good. Add a $10 glass of sangria to the mix and all’s right with the world.

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The lunch menu comprises plates of Spanish themed tapas which enabled our party of five to sample a range of dishes. The quesadillas with Spanish cured ham, rocket and manchego cheese ($12.90) were everything quesadillas should be; generously filled, crispy outside, and oozing with warm cheese.

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Croquetas de setas ($16) were filled with mushroom and labneh and smeared with red pesto. These fried morsels nestling on a bed of pea puree were hot and crunchy and scrumptious.

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The service at Jezebelle was uniformly brilliant. Our Italian waiter was a beaming joy; happy to be there, knowledgeable about the menu, and eager to please. The tapas plates were presented at decent intervals so we had time to savour our food and enjoy the experience.

The delicious tiger prawn tacos ($20) were lightly beer battered and served with guacamole and pico de gallo. See those small soft tacos? They weren’t easy to pick up and eat, and looked more like a work of art to be admired. But troopers that we are, we somehow managed to polish them off.

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You can’t have too many fried foods; well certainly not when you’re eating a tapas meal. And as long as good quality olive oil is used, those old arteries won’t suffer too much. That’s what I tell myself and it seems to temporarily placate me. Enter the bola de paella ($16), chorizo and prawn paella balls; crispy golden rounds of rice mixed with nibbles of prawn and chorizo, accompanied by saffron aioli.

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Garden variety fish and chips is such a hit and miss affair that I am reluctant to order it unless I’m in a dedicated seafood eatery. I’m so glad we took the waiter’s advice and ordered Jezebelle’s version as it was a highlight amongst a slew of highlights. The fish of the day ($18) with patatas bravas, mesclun salad and house made tartare, featured two generous pieces of cod, beer battered and served on a board.  The serve of patatas was small but given the serious amount of carbs we’d devoured,  this wasn’t an issue. The fish was fresh and the batter crisp; better (and cheaper) than many I’ve sampled locally.

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Pork lovers are not forgotten. The pork and prawn cigars ($16) were fried in spring roll wrappers and served with sweet chilli mayo. I didn’t try these but JS and The Prof assured me they were the bees knees. I couldn’t possibly doubt that given the primo food we’d been scoffing.

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The ubiquitous salad. The thing we order because we think it will balance out the plates of fried/cheesy/decadent stuff we’ve scoffed. I do love salad actually so ordering it wasn’t a dilemma, but by the time it arrived I was almost at belt-loosening time. Still I had to find room for a few spoons of this colourful concoction, and I was glad I did. The warm salad of pumpkin, sweet potato and red onion ($12) was sensational. With a sprinkling of paprika pepitas, lashings of goats cheese and a tahini dressing, this was one gourmet surprise. I’m just sorry that we couldn’t finish it, but one has to squeeeezzzze in a dessert somewhere.

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And now for everybody’s favourite dessert these days – churros ($14). Served with a bowl of dulce de leche, this dessert allowed us to share without being greedy. Dusted in cinnamon and icing sugar, these churro fingers were marshmallow soft inside and crunchy outside. Just the way they should be.

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This was my second encounter with Jezebelles and it won’t be my last. The food was superb, the service impeccable and the ambience quirky and fun. Wednesday nights are cocktail nights where every one of their creations is a mere $10. Bargain by Perth standards. I can feel a midweek gathering a coming…

Did I mention this place is on the Entertainment gold card? Just another reason to visit if you’re not already convinced.

 

http://www.jezebelle.com.au

 

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