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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Bites: Fibber McGee’s @ Leedervile

In a country, that prides itself with one of the best beef in the world, Australia certainly does not disappoint.  In my latest foodie visit, I decided to give Fibber McGee’s in Leederville a try.  This Irish pub has operated for more than a decade with its very own farm (according to its website).  All cows are butchered and dry-aged in house, meaning diners should only expect the best.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Using the entertainment book, my sister and I both ordered the humungous dry-aged rib eye with a side vegetables and fried goodies which include tempura onion rings and chips!  Believe it or not, the discount is a buy 1 free one which made our steaks only $25 dollars each.  It was such a steal!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Generous Dry Aged  Rib Eye which came weighing in at 500grams.  While I thoroughly enjoyed the delicious sides which includes the vegetables, tempura onion rings and chips (can’t fault with store bought ones), I had a question about the steak.  What constitutes a good dry aged steak?  For me, two important requirement, first is the robustness of the flavour thanks to the higher concentration of blood and reduced moisture.  Dry aging lets the beef naturally reduce its moisture (water content) through evaporation.  The next important thing is the increase in tenderness due to the deterioration of chewy muscles intertwining the meat layers as the meats due to natural enzymes digesting them.  So how does Fibber McGee’s stack up against my two requirement.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA My sister and I had our steaks cooked to two style, one was medium rare and the other medium.  My medium steak felt slightly overdone as all it had in the middle was a very pale pink colour.  I was hoping to see a little darker shade of pink but it still works fine for me.  In terms of tenderness, the steak was spot on.  Cooking large slices of steak is usually impossible to get even cooking but this was perfectly executed.  However, my major complain is that the flavour of the beef felt lacking in richness.  I am not sure what Rockpool does to their steaks but theirs carry a certain flavour and taste to their beef which makes it even more tempting to eat!  Sister’s beef on the other hand, was deliciously red on the inside and for me, this is the maximum cooking that dry aged steaks should be prepared to.  Medium Rare.   But then again, like my steak, I believe the richness the steak flavour still felt lacking.


At the end of the night, we barely finished half of our meal as sis decided to add a side of mash which was velvety smooth and yummy.  With so much leftovers, it would be a waste to throw it away such good meat although sceptics even questioned among themselves why would we even bring steaks back when they were pretty “positive” that it was going to get thrown away.  So to those disbelievers, a steak can be used for more than one purpose.  In this case, the steak was still absolutely tender when I did a quick pan fry to make my steak sandwich!  :P!


Last but not the least, I found the service here pretty slow although there were so few of us.  On the positive side, at leas the waiters were keen to serve!


Fibber McGee’s to me is a pretty damn good steakhouse that charges decent money for quality steak.  With such places around, is there even a need for places like Hog Breath?  I doubt it.  If you have a budget and want a bite of luxury, Fibber McGee’s definitely is definitely the place to be.  In fact, 3 people can easily share two serves.    However, if you are an extremely picky eater who wants nothing but the best, the steaks at Rockpool still holds a place dear to my heart.  Its steaks are tip top with no expenses spared in making it absolutely the best.  The catch?  $60-120 dollars for a piece with no sides.



Fibber McGee's on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Bites: BlueWaters @ Cottesloe

Bluewaters hold a happy memory for me as I first came here with the little darling awhile ago.  Last week, I decided to pay a visit with my friends to see how the cook, a former Michelin starred restaurant chef has cope with time.  The food that night felt a little lackluster but where it was strong before, it still is now.


For starters, risotto dishes at Bluewaters are just simply delicious! They are light, buttery and pack the beautiful flavors of the season.  That night, I had the Nero Risotto which was squid ink risotto with scallops.  This for me was the highlight.  Superbly executed and easily comparable to the mint and sweet pea risotto I had 2 years ago.  Many kudos for the consistency!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The next appetizer was the Arancini which to me felt a little dense.  The creamy dressing if I recall correctly to be Aioli or a mayo concoction of some sort did not quite make the cut too.  The Arancini itself is a pretty dense ball filled with cheese and rice which to me is pretty bland.  Perhaps a chutney for some sweetness or tomato chili salsa for that extra freshness and acidity.  That would definitely prevent this dish from starting your meal too heavy especially if you had the whole thing yourself, it would be cloying! OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA


For my main, I chose the Wagyu steak.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI really felt that this was nowhere near the fillet steak I had before.  What to me was a turnoff was the fatty bits which were not tasty.  So, for me, I plucked out all the fatty bits to have the meat.  Nowadays, I find the name Wagyu overused.  There is no point using the Wagyu is it does not benefit the steak enough.  This clearly is one of those instances.  A cube of prime Angus fillet would have more than suffice like it did 2 years ago.


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe other main we had was the Salmon which my friend said was pretty good! Kudos to the chef for that one.


Over all, I thought my dinner there was pretty enjoyable.  Food was still quality although the misses were pretty apparent this time!  Also, my friend found the waiter quite rude as she mumbles to herself when speaking.  As if mocking as times according to fishman.  Perhaps better luck next time? 



Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Bites: Nahm Thai @ Highgate

As an amateur to the fine dining scene in Perth, the suburb Highgate and Mount Lawley has been nothing but surprisingly good (although EXPENSIVE) restaurants.  Located next to one of my favourite Japanese fusion restaurant Nine Fine Food, a Thai restaurant has taken the decadent Thai cuisine to a whole new level.   To start off, I am going to put a little controversial statement that if you dislike Thai food, you probably do not know how to eat. Fact.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFor Nahm Thai, this was all business and this was no joke.  Forget messy, forget street style Bangkok food.  At Nahm Thai, it is all about the finesse and matching taste without losing its traditional roots.  Funny fact though, is that Nahm Thai is not run by a Thai person but instead a Vietnamese couple who is passionate about their Thai food.   On Saturdays, only a Nahm Thai set menu is available for $75 per head. 


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAGalloping Horse was our first appetizer where little slices of pineapples and orange segments were topped with a paste which closely resembled “belachan”  or prawn paste.  Clearly present were bits of dried prawns which were nice.  It was sweet, and salty with a hint of heat but not too much.  With the fruit, it was really quite tasty although it did not really “wow” the palette as it did to the eye!


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASoft shell crab, watermelon, salad was probably one of the best dishes that night.  Whether it was the delicious sauce or the perfectly crispy soft shell crab, it was yummy!  Underneath all that fried crabs are a bed of diced watermelon which works quite nicely with the crispy seafoods.  I realize that watermelon goes well with deep fried slightly spicy food like the deep fried squid I had at Jacksons and even this dish at Nahm Thai is a really good example.


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAScallop, curry and chili  was for me the reason why the first appetizer lost its “wow” factor.  The same paste we had on the fruit were used on these perfectly seared scallops with a spoonful of lip smacking red curry sauce.  For me, this combination was just absolute.  The large scallops means there is no hiding that delicious sweetness of the scallops despite the strong flavored herbed paste.  More importantly, the red curry sauce tied everything together for that one perfect morsel.  I really liked this!


Having the appetizers above, Nahm Thai had my appetizer riding a high although the similarity between the scallops and galloping horse will not have happened had they been able to supply their betel leaf.  Nonetheless, knowing what we ordered for our mains made me drool!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFirst main served to us was the roast duck red curry with lychees and quail eggs.  Unlike previous versions I have had before, this was simply flawless especially the red curry sauce that was rich and extremely fragrant.   The sweetness is well toned on this one although it was a little sweeter than I would have liked.  But more importantly, is that the sweetness did not feel as if it was all from the sugared syrup.  It felt more subtle although its presence is unmistakable.  Also, one thing that made me like this even more was that the curry did not feel oily in anyway.  My previous tries even at the S & T CafĂ© was extremely oily.  To put it together, the roast duck red curry in Nahm Thai is simply sublime hitting all the right notes where it matters most!!


Crispy skin barramundi, and herbsOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOur next main was a fish course which to me turned out slightly disappointing.  The fish definitely felt lack luster with it soggy skin being the main cause.  And at this early stage, I am already starting to feel worried.  The little concoction which made the soft shell crab appetizer highly appetizing is starting to feel overused although in fact, the sauces could be different despite tasting similar.  Not sure how that works but I will not mention further.  The grilled vegetables went well with the fish and my praise for this dish is that the fish is very fresh.  I would normally not eat barramundi as I have heaps of bad experience with it being overly fish with a scent of muddiness.



The pork hock was also the victim of the “same sauce”  syndrome with the exception that this also had a thicker syrup on the dish.  But for this dish, it was simply perfect.  The sauce is spot on.  Hard to fault as this combination of sweetness and pork like a classic pork roast and apple sauce.   Or perhaps turkey with cranberry sauce.    But more importantly, the pork hock was crisp on the skin, tender on the inside with absolutely no bones.  This was absolute joy!


Other than this dish, we also ordered grilled prawns which were placed on a bed of cucumber salad.  The crime?  SAME SAUCE problem.  No insults but it did not taste  any different from the sauce seen in the soft shell crab, fish, and pork hock.  To a certain extent, this is going to be a problem for most if not everyone.   To drag things a little lower, we were 1 prawn short which had your sincerely giving up the prawn so others could have theirs.  Fortunately though, I asked for an extra serve of dessert instead of troubling the chef to prepare one large prawn.


After a less than satisfying main (more reasons to come at the end), we were treated to our dessert course:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe lime tart with coconut ice cream was a in house specialty that had me drooling with its presentation.  Taste wise, this dish splendidly displayed the zesty lime flavors that was simply delicious in desserts.  On first bite though, the acidity might feel a little overpowering.  But when the tongue adjusts itself to this velvety smooth lemon custard, it was hard to stop.  The crust was slightly hard but that was hardly enough to fault with the dessert.  For me, I thoroughly enjoyed it but to my dismay, my dining companion enjoyed it even more than I did.  I have always thought that he is no big fan of sour foods but I was wrong.


For my second dessert, I could not have gone any further than to try the benchmark of any Thai cooking, the obligatory sticky rice with coconut milk and fresh mangoes.  Not joking! In Thailand  most electric rice cookers come with multiple levels drawn on the pot which distinguishes between water levels needed to cook glutinous rice and normal rice.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis was delicious in almost every place that screams “I’m authentic” and the version at Nahm Thai did not disappoint either.  But where changes can be made for the better, I felt that the sticky rice was a little tougher than I would have liked it to be.  Pandan leaf taste was way too subtle as if it never existed.  For me, the rice has to be fragrant, light, and cooked just right.  And to me, having deep fried shallots just does not make the cut.    While it seems like I have faulted with every element except the coconut milk and the mango,  it was still pretty good.  But in my list of tops, nowhere near Jim’s mother’s version where authentic Thai is finished with a touch of homeliness.


Another issue I need to point out was the fact that the Jasmine rice was a little hard that night.  But having mixed the coconut and Jasmine rice in equal proportions help bring the carbs back on track!


At the end, Nahm Thai is clearly a winner when it comes to quality food which further reinforces that fact that anyone can cook anything.  But with its highs comes its lows where the food to a certain extent felt slightly one dimensional with the sauce and condiments used over and over again.    Then comes the fact that the waitress seemed more interested in varying our meat than the flavors that day.  But how does Nahm Thai change the Thai food scene in Perth.   For me, the quality here significantly differs itself from other high end places without being pretentious.  Nahm Thai could easily be a whole new level if our choices were made with better help from the waitress.  Unfortunately in this particular occasion, it was good but not great enough to be prided as Thai dining at a whole new level.  I remembered the menu and I know what we should have ordered to avoid the problem of the same sauce issue.  A step which could have made our meal a whole new level.


My pick for a more than 3 person Nahm degustation is:


Scallops on shell

Crispy soft shell crab

Miang Prawns



Roast Duck Red Curry

Crispy Pork Hock

King Prawn Green Curry

Beef Stew (Nahm Thai’s version of the Massaman)






Nahm Thai Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Bites: Amuse Re-visited @ East Perth

The last time the little darling and I came to Amuse, we were treated to a degustation like none other were the simplest of ingredients were turned into something extraordinary.  Hoping to relive our beautiful experience with our friends, we decided to have our last gathering for the year at Amuse.
Considering how much praises I had for them in my last visit, I will not dwell too much on each dish served but instead mentioned the high and lows for the night.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA “snack” of cured meat was not even half as satisfying as the bone marrow tubes the little darling and I had before.  It was rather unfortunate that the cured meat did not benefit from the curing as is did not pack the natural flavors that usually mellows with the meat but this still carried a porky stench.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASweet potato crisps with sour cream was probably one of the nicer snacks along with the crackers topped with rosemary powder and edible flowers!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATasmanian trout with dill and mustard on top of a thin layer of crisp was not as good as my previous visit because the crisp had turned soggy at the bottom.

Appetizers:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACeviche of blue ridge marron, poached marron claw, compressed melons and cucumber.  This for me was an appetizer not worthy of the Amuse household.  Its mediocre ceviche was served lukewarm making it feel as if the marrons have started turning bad.  Definitely a low especially when my friend got mild food poisoning later that morning.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAsparagus, green and white was a showcase of how one can do so much with so little.  Beautiful white asparagus was poached in pecorino oil while the green asparagus was shaved with its harder outer layer turned into ash and sprinkled on top pecorino cream.  To finish off was an asparagus soup which was delish.  This dish was not one of strong taste but rather a subtle sweetness of the asparagus.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         The obligatory half boiled runny egg served smoking in a jar.   Inside was a serve of egg, mushrooms, pine nuts and salty treat of crisp chicken skin. Slurps!!  This dish was voted the top “HOT” dish in Australia which was on par with a dish produced by Quay in Sydney!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAEgg, mushroom and pine nuts!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACuttlefish, pork and nettles.  This for me was one of the best dishes we had that night surpassing the mediocre cuttlefish dish I had in my first visit at Amuse! This beautifully composed dish was cooked spot on, topped with spicy crisps and sat on top of a salsa Verde which had more than 25 ingredients including chopped sausages.  It was delicious.  I enjoyed every bit of this dish as it was just the perfect pairing of ingredients although some might argue that the salsa Verde was a little too salty.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         Rabbit, carrot and buttermilk sounds like the perfect Bugs Bunny story but this fell a little short of my expectations.  I loved the bit of the rabbit wrapped in silver beet cooked sous vide as it was super soft and tender but the other rabbit strip loin felt like corned meat and was really salty.  Perhaps it was meant to be corned but I must have missed that part of the description.

Our final savory course for the night was called the Duck, sweet corn and buckwheat.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
But for me, the best bit of the night would have to be the duck course which was absolutely spot on in terms of cooking.  The duck was perfectly cooked I can guarantee, while the buckwheat provided a textural element with the grilled corn providing an earthy yet very delicious flavor when paired up with the gamey meat!!  Broccoletti though, felt as if it was there because mom says greens are good for you.

Palette cleanserOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAGrape fruit, lychee and Thai basil. 

Desserts:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAJersey cream, berries and rhubarb!  In an attempt to re-make a typical ice cream, Amuse has whipped up chill cream making it extremely light without losing it creaminess before topping the lot with rhubarb!  Put in a small jar on the side is a small compote consisting of grilled strawberries, crystallized blood orange and berries making this dessert delicious!   The fruits were a mix of sweet ripened ones and sour berries which provided different levels of sweetness in this dessert. I like this quite a fair bit despite its simplicity!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOur final dessert course before the petit fours is a course of chocolate, wattle and honey comb.  But do not be fooled, the chocolate here is no conventional chocolate but instead been served in a form of jelly.  While some might consider that special, I have never taken a liking to having my chocolate in the form of a jelly as there is no sense of creaminess in doing so.  All you get is a mild bitterness in it.  Other component were nice with a little liquid nitrogen play in freezing the ice cream so that it melts in your mouth.  But the unfortunate story is the bit where the little ice cream bits still take a little too long reach that state of creaminess and very often it is down your throat before it happens.  For me, this could have been a lot better.

After the sweet finish, we were serve complimentary tea and treatsOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPineapple jubes, sugared berries and half dipped tangerines were a very poor ending to the night.  Not really sure is this the intention of Amuse but the execution of the start and end was really poor.  For me, if Amuse was a person, the his/her image is totally tarnished.  The start and the end if really all that counts where outcome matters.  For me, Amuse has failed in this aspect.  The half dipped tangerine felt like Koko Black rip offs while the jubes have not improved from when I had it before.  Even the berries looked childishly prepared.  

Coming from a place like Amuse and a degustation menu which had increase in price, I certainly expected more from the kitchen.  On the bright side, the middle courses have certainly improved.  The cuttlefish was a shining start along with the perfectly prepared duck.   Unfortunately, the only saving grace were the savory menu.  The dessert bits were a tad of disappointment which quickly escalated to a large disappointment with the chocolate course. 

Was this a failure by the kitchen?  For me, I would like to think not as every degustation is an experiment.  However, my friend have a different dining definition and for him, a degustation is where the chef’s skills and imagination should be stretched to the limit.   If you have the definition of the latter, my dining at Amuse which totaled to over a $1000 tonight was by means a failure which only have a 6.5/11 approval for which a point was given to dishes I liked and 0.5 points where applicable.  For a meal that cost $130 per person, one would definitely have expected more.

Restaurant Amuse on Urbanspoon