I know, I know. I have used this statement a lot but I have seriously had Cantina 663 on my to go list for way too long now! However, shallow pockets requires good financial planning haha. After thinking of where to go for my friend’s birthday, we finally headed over to Cantina 663. With countless mentions and a whopping 49 reviews, I have finally landed on Cantina 663.. and I have to say, it was a place worthy of the hype.
Sitting down at quarter pass 6, the waitress came up and offered to take our orders. However, as I knew we would adjourn for drinks later, my friends and I politely declined! Another 10 minutes, and the waitress returned to ensure that we were OK. I said we were good, but could do with a little guide around the menu. After explaining how we wanted to share the food among the 8 of us, she put forth some recommendations which were really helpful. So, we started with:
2 serves of duck liver parfait, onion jam and bread @ $15 ea. For starters, the bread heated on a grill came out warm. This made the creamiest parfait spread like melting butter before I put some onion jam. The first bite landed me on heaven. It was extremely delicious. Its creamy texture was to die for and the seasoning of the meaty parfait was faultless. There was a sense of enjoyment which Fishman very coyly described as a feeling he gets from a McDonalds cheese burger. Where that came from I have no idea, but to me, this was simply sublime. No wonder the waitress said it was one of their most popular starters! Even my dining companions and the little darling who shy from innards dive in for seconds. That to me, says a lot!
Next were the arancini like balls served on shaved fennel, $17 ea! I can very hazily recall its name but this was another recommended starter. It was another vow. I did complained about my arancini back at Jamie’s Italian here as it claimed to have smoky bacon but tasted nowhere near. The one at Cantina 663 did not say smoky but the flavors in there did wonders. It had good amounts of cheese and the flavorsome fillings meant that one ball is never too much! Some arancini would make me feel sick but not this one. It had the savory sensation that kept me going! Kudos! Problem? The waitress said it had 4 per serve but only 3 came out on each plate. So 2 serves was not enough. But, it was something we easily solved by sharing halves :)!
When we finished out starters, it only took 15 minutes for our mains come out. I have seen most if not all the reviews. No one dish has gotten more praised than the gnocchi. At Cantina 663, the seasonal menu means there is not one but many sauces to compliment the fluffy potato pillows. The choice tonight was a little earthy with strong bold flavors. We had 2 serves of the gnocchi with beetroot puree, gorgonzola and walnuts, $26 ea.The flavors were not exactly my thing as beetroot for me is a red meat’s best friend. Saying that though, the puree tended to over power basic flavors I yearned for. This in particular was the blue cheese. It was there but not quite as bold as I had expected. Nonetheless, the quality of the gnocchi was faultless. Around the table, we all said that this was not bad but the gnocchi deserved better. The melt in your mouth gnocchi had a mild caramelisation which was simply delicious. No wonder it has such a large fan base! One day, I MUST try the gnocchi with pumpkin puree. I was already imagining that on my way to Cantina. Sadly, it I did not come at the right season!
The risotto called another name which I cannot remember was oh my god so yummy. As we shared one, we each had a few table spoons only. Yet, this did not hinder our enjoyment of a great dish. The rice was yum, the spices made it delicious and it was not your typical cloying creamy risotto! Furthermore, it was baked in the oven giving it a crunchiness which was great texture. Hidden in the middle was a small serve of chicken still tender from the moisture of the rice. It tasted like peri peri but not quite. Something along the line I guess haha. Biggest downfall of this dish? Those mussels were so dry it shriveled to the size of a 5 cent coin. That was almost tragic =.=!
We also called a few meat dishes which were complimented by a side of coleslaw, $9 and buttermilk potatoes, $10. Coleslaw was really yum considering how our dishes were either very meaty or rich in cheese. Hence this light, refreshing and at the same time fruity coleslaw encouraged us to eat more. Our only dislike was a hint of lingering bitterness which could be due to the cabbage. The buttermilk potatoes (shown in pic) was not so popular as it was not tasty and felt a little too plain for our liking. For the girls, they could not justify piling on the carbs haha.
Our meat courses consisted of 2 serves of beef short ribs and a pork knuckle for 2. Around the table, everyone commended the delicious ribs. They were cook so tender and soft that the meat fell apart with little effort. It was also very moist with several fatty bits to making it a delicious course. The sauce was sweet and the little artichokes and mash soaked up all the beautiful sauce the rib had! Definitely the best main for the night! I could not help myself but tuck in for more after everyone had finished and eat the little bits of meat and artichokes that were left! SO moreish! Beef Rib, $44.
The pork hock on the other hand was not so popular. The meat was cooked well but we found little joy as it was not tasty. It came with a trio of sauces which had a salsa verde, maybe a vinegar and some sauce but that still did not make the pork hock as enjoyable as we expected it to be. More over, the crackling was very chewy and not crunchy! Fishman was sad :(! We were wondering why it was not left to crackle a little bit more! It is was crunchy, that would have presented the dish better! No one hates a crispy crackling!Pork Hock for 2, $55
With the bill coming to slightly over $300 for 4 appetizers, and 7 mains, I cannot help but feel that I have walked away with a bargain. In Perth, such fulfilling meal for 8 people rarely stays below $50 and very often hovers around the $70 mark. The quality we received today was exceptional. Out of the lot, the only dish which performed below our expectations were the pork hock and the side of cumin buttermilk potatoes. Other than that, no one could fault with the beautiful liver parfait or the tender beef ribs. These were dishes alongside the Arancini and Gnocchi really made Cantina 663 a great dining experience. More often than not, I eat out at such hyped diners feeling satisfied but not extremely contented because the hype felt greater than what I have experienced. And I will be honest, hype kills. Even places like Jamie’s Italian, and Gordon St. Garage fell short on my books because with the queue and all the mentions, one would really expect more. Like A LOT more. However, Cantina 663 is an exception from what I experienced that night. And with this place so well established in the area, their reputation is, hopefully, here to stay.