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Saturday, May 31, 2014

Bites: A Foodie Affair @ Lamont's Bishop, Perth CBD

Understanding my parents’ preference for good food without the fuss of modern gastronomy techniques, I brought them to Lamont’s Bishops for dinner.  Known as one of the most established restaurants in fine dining and wine scene, I have heard many good things about this place.  Such that the food is consistently good, the service courteous and setting impeccable.  Needless to say, a walk through the lush gardens to the building entrance all felt very grand.  Housed in a heritage building, its fittings were suited to a gentleman from the 70s.  But for foodies like my family and I, it was all about the food.

Walking in, the waitress was very accommodating.  XL was offered a spirit mix sample prior to ordering one for herself.  The waitress’s favourite the Hendriks Gin and Tonic suited XL well and she immediately ordered one of that.  My sister ordered an in-house sweet wine, the Rosé.  But for me who dislike the taste of alcohol, nature’s gift i.e. water was all I needed.

For tonight, our pick was the degustation.   The description of the dishes promised a fancy yet traditional fare.  First up was a typical bread course.  But unlike typical bread, this was a lobster roll.  Did I not say it was fancy? :)!  The flavours of the lobster were quite subtle and meat succulent, however I did not quite get the natural sweetness of a lobster.  Potato wafers were the thinnest in the business and crisp.  Kimchi though were not typical Korean.  The one at Lamont’s felt more like a toned down coleslaw. 
Rock lobster and prawn roll with potato wafers, kimchi

The next dish looked a little clumsy but luckily it was big in flavour .  Generous sized meatballs covered in a mushroom cream topped with a crisp pancetta.  This dish was every bit tasty but small eaters like my mom and sis found it a little too rich.
White rocks veal and leek polpetti with porcini cream, crisp pancetta

The next dish of game bird was rather special.  Whilst it looked spectacular, it did not meet my expectations.  The quail was decently cooked but still felt a little tough.  That though was not my complain.  The low point would be the black pudding.  Something with so much body felt very under seasoned.  I was expecting more flavour and spices to shine through the black pudding.  Instead it felt a little raw.  Mom did not even touch hers.  Luckily, the little roasted juniper pear was a nice touch.  
Grilled quail with juniper roasted pears with fried black pudding, sherry vinegar

The next dish was one from the sea and it was probably one of my most preferred courses of the night.  My fish was well-cooked and I just love the combination of the crushed pea-broad bean that came with it.  The colours had good contrast and the presentation was no less spectacular.  It was very minimalistic this dish with nothing to disrupt its true flavours.  Simple fish, greens and a well toned sauce.  But dad found that his fish was not cooked well.  His skin for example was slimy as the fish was only browned flesh side.  Not a good impression I must say.
Snapper, crushed pea and broad bean with squid ink beurre blanc

The last main course to come was a carbohydrate dish.  From the menu, I was expecting a spectacular end to the night. The pasta was called Caramelle pasta with duck confit ragu, orange and rocket salad. Whilst I could let you google up the word “Caramella pasta”, it simply is to me, a ravioli shaped as a candy.  
For me, this was where the excitement ended.  This dish was for me, one of the worst pasta dishes I have ever eaten.  I found the approach very similar to the fish.  A purist dish.  In a dish like this, execution is key.  Looking back, I lamented the elements of the dish.  For example, the pasta was not rolled thin enough.  I had doughy bits in mine.  As for the duck confit ragu, hmmmm perhaps I did not see the word “confit”.  I was expecting tender duck mince but obviously this one was going to be shredded.  Its flavours were rather boring to end the night.  This dish itself could be a palate cleanser.  Because it was that boring.  The only thing that tasted right was the rocket salad.  So sorry for the harsh words but no one around the table was amused =/.

But that was ok.  It was not the end yet.  For the night, Lamont’s served us a dessert of chocolate and caramel tart.  I was happy with what this dish had to offer.  Texture, visually, flavour balance and technique.  So many things so different yet able to work harmoniously together.  Crust was short and the caramel had just the right amount of salt to trigger the happy feeling.  Raspberry sorbet was sour but because of the sweetness of the caramel, it worked well for me.  All in all, this was rather commendable.
Textures of Valrhona chocolate, caramel tart, raspberry sorbet and bark

The dinner tonight was pretty decent tonight when it comes to flavours.  There were hits and misses but some definitely left more of an impression than the rest.  While I liked the veal, fish and dessert, the damage left by the pasta was pretty bad.  At this level and price of dining, it was ok to be average but not bad.  Service here was decently nice with the way the waitress was always there to ensure our cups were full and the plates cleared.  One big thing missing though was that professional touch when a dish arrives and every element on the dish is explained in a quick, logical manner.  Here, there was none.   It was plates on the table and off she goes. I only realised that when I got home.  Dad and mom are not really used to things such as black pudding.  Imagine their face when I had to explain what it was later on. LOL.  Oh well, all is a good and it was a good night out with the family.


Lamont's Bishop House on Urbanspoon

Friday, May 23, 2014

Bites: MillPoint Book Cafe @ South Perth

My Monday morning started off damp and wet with the clouds steadily threatening another pour. With time to spare, I had a few more lazy rolls in bed before getting up. After grabbing a quick bite, I brought my parents to MillPoint Caffe Bookshop for a drink and some food. The environment is beautiful with a choice of indoor sitting amongst the neatly arranged books or an outdoor seat in the yard. Although the expansive Jarrah floor boards and soaring ceilings were rather tempting, my preference for the outdoors ultimately decided where I sat.
The cafe’s breakfast menu had all the usual suspects from the Benedicts to Full Breakfast. For us, we decided to share a Spanish Pot with Chorizo and another serve of French Toast. The Spanish Pot looked sensational.  Beautifully caramelised Chorizos set atop perfectly cooked eggs and a sprinkling of chives. But where it come to taste hmmm.  I was hoping for a tad more acidity in the tomato base. In many ways had I expect the merits of the Turkish Shak Shouka, but this definitely was not it. Over all an OK dish but nothing beyond mediocrity.  Also, do not be fulled by the size as the beans were very filling especially if only one person was going to have it. 
Next was the French Toast. A lot more playful this one. Vanilla Mascaporne, Persian Floss and a Berry Compote, the description of this dish promised a great composition of flavours. But executing them is something else quite different.
The vanilla flavour was nice in the Mascaporne and gave the French Toast a luscious bite when smeared over. But my main concern was the berry compote. It was way too sour to complement lot. It needed more sweetness for sure. Maybe a generous dash of maple syrup to bind it all together? Additionally, I was not exactly the happiest person with the French toast itself. I wanted a thicker slice of bread soaked to through and perfectly caramelised on the outside but moist on the inside. The one here was dry. Nonetheless, it was not a big problem. Every bite edible. I was more impressed with the French Toast at Perth City Farm. You can see the post here.
How would I rate a place like this? Definitely in the OK - Zone but not something life changing. On the other hand, I enjoyed the calm tempo from the start to the end. The drive was easy. parking was a bliss and, the quiet Monday morning was just filled with tranquility. But the food? MEH. If I had actually travelled far for this, I would not be the happiest person. But this is, definitely a fuss free simple suburban cafe for the locals.

MillPoint Caffé Bookshop on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Bites: Nao Ramen @ Perth CBD.

Quality ramen is my once a month treat when I am back home in Perth. A distinctive broth filled with springy noodles and topped with melt in your mouth Chashu slices, this is simply carbohydrate heaven. Along side Perth favourite Dosukoi Ramen, Nao is a ramen shop to be reckoned with. Its reputation has long been instilled into the taste buds of Perth residents. Any single day Nao is open, expect to see a long queue at peak hours. But with their speedy service and the typically quick ramen eating culture, the wait is often fairly bearable (approx 30 minutes).

My choice for today was the delicious Spicy Miso Ramen with Extra Chasu ($14.50). Melt in your mouth Chashu? Checked. Perfectly cooked noodles? Checked. Superb broth? Not so check. Unfortunately a lardy soup is sometimes not up to scratch. In this instance, I felt that the ramen at Nao was a fair bit oilier than usual. Its flavours though, was still every bit tasty and the taste of the miso stood out despite the presence of the chilli.  I was a little bumped about the oily base but this was not enough to displace my trust in this little establishment.  Additionally prices here can be  a little steep compared to other ramen places but considering its easy to reach location, most will find it very well worth it.

Is Nao one of my favourite ramen places in town?  Definitely so.  But to blog about this is like stating the obvious.  Nao Ramen is no hidden secret by any means.  It is clearly a Perth favourite. 


Nao Japanese on Urbanspoon

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Bites: Fine Dining @ 1907, Perth.

You know you are onto something special when you are greeted by a charming smile.  The movement from door to table was uninterrupted, courteous and classy.  Paired with a clever interior formed between a mix of classic and modern touches made it remarkable.  Especially the quirky re-interpretation of a unicorn by the entrance.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfter quickly deciding on the prestige degustation, the ladies settled for the lemon meringue cocktail, a concoction of liquor topped with a generous amount of meringue.  Simply phenomenal.  The meringue was to die for.  The same though, cannot be said about the liquor which I abstain from as always:P!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThen came the assortment of bread.  It had a good mix of fruit bread, herbed ones as well as some with cheese.  Over all, the choices were interesting but I cannot help but feel that the bread were not treated with enough love.  It was as if the assortment of breads were left out for a little too long.  I would have loved them to be warm instead.  

Next came the Amuse Bouche, three selection of vegetables from 1907’s very own farm in Toodyay along with a spiced popcorn.  I did not quite buy the concept.  Bloody Mary Jelly with Celery came tops but it was barely impressive, Ginger Glazed Carrots where rather ordinary and the Turnip had a bitter aftertaste, all of which did not live up to my expectations.  Alas, it was the trusty popcorn that packed the most kick.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Then came the first course of thinly sliced venison Carpaccio.  After weeks away from Perth, I finally got my first slice of heaven.  It was just perfection on a plate.  The preparation of the veal was simply exquisite and the combination was sensational.  The layers of flavors from the biscuit, wine fermented cheese and condiments made every bit of this course enjoyable.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAVenison; Margaret River venison Carpaccio, tonka bean mayo, pickled walnuts, fromajo cioc al vino rosso.

The next course was a small meal of marron.  WA’s signature protein when cooked right has an unparalleled sweetness.  In the hands of 1907, it was another dish done well.  The combination from start to end was spot on.  I approached a small piece of marron with the pea emulsion topped with caviar. After polishing the marron, I progressed to the fennel apple salad topped with a battered bone marrow.  Simply wow! OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMarron; Manjimup marron, fennel apple & lemon salad, pea emulsion.

A meal of spatchcock arrived next.  Prepared three ways when most cannot even prepare it right in one way, 1907 was definitely out to impress.  The flavours of the sous vide was only average at best but I loved the balanced tones of the drumettes glazed with a mild mixture of soy as well as the sausage that was very well seasoned.  A steamed bun stuffed with what seemed like a parfait sealed the deal.  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASpatchcock; Sous vide breast, glazed drumettes, sausage, steamed bun 

The Entremet, or a course in between courses prepared us for the mains.   As the smoked poured out of the glass it reveal a juicy scallop, minute seared on a bed of what I perceive as curried lentils.  I loved the scallop but the textures of lentils did not pair well for me.  I wanted something more subtle in texture.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAScallops; Minute seared scallops, curried lentils.

The 4th course was another product from the sea.  As impressed as I was with the preparation of the seared scallops and marron earlier, I was not blown away by the fish.  It was overcooked, dry on the edges with it's flesh feeling a little too firm for my liking. Brioche crisp was ok and I did not like the anchovy one single bit. This for me, was not a winner.  The flavor as a whole was very clean and did not really appeal to me.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFish; Fish of the day, baby vegetables, black olive, white anchovy, brioche crisp, marron bisque.

There have been several beef dishes that have wow-ed me beyond words during my eating career.  Some were fine dining, and one was at random county inn from the South West region. The preparation of the beef at 1907 was good but fell short of spectacular.  The tenderloin despite being cooked to perfection, was missing something.  I wanted more.  Maybe a good sauce like a red wine reduction paired with a seared slice of foie gras.  I needed to be elevated once more.  Bring on the French, bring on the modern.  While the cooking was hard to fault with a perfectly medium-rare tenderloin and a fall-off-the-bone braised rib, it needed more.  I wanted the peppers to blistered to bring out the sweetness more.  Perhaps too demanding haha.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA  Beef; Cape Grim beef tenderloin, braised ribs, Brussels sprouts, coriander and pepper salad.

After a palate cleanser of champagne butter and strawberries, our dessert came.  It was any chocolate lovers heaven.  On the plate, 4 different chocolates came to marry.  Decadent, creamy, and rich. Sadly,its downfall here was an over-pressed tart base which hindered an otherwise perfect tart.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA1907 Chocolate plate; Cherry & milk chocolate tart, dark chocolate glaze, blond chocolate custard, white chocolate, cherry ripple ice-cream.

Then came a large cheese platter to share.  Amazingly, fish man and xl stood up to the challenge of having 6 different cheeses to end the night.  There were so many I cannot even name them all.  But the cheese coming from France, Spain, Australia and the UK made this course a memorable one.  From the full-bodied blue cheese to the stinky half ripen goat milk’s cheese till the mellow red wine matured one, every bite was a journey to remember.  A happy one.  Délicieux.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA



The night ended with petit fours and drinks.  A pleasant meringue and a chocolate slice topped with crystallized violet. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Just as we left, we were handed a little surprise from the restaurant.  A bag of goodies for tomorrow.  2 bread, chocolate truffles, a muffin and a breakfast muesli.  How courteous!  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA1907 that night stood as a restaurant worthy of the title "one of Perth’s best" in the fine dining scene.  The food, a combination of modern Australian and French was fulfilling with a bit of hit and miss but mainly perfection.  Its Pledge was poor but the Turn was every bit spectacular.  The marron, and the venison were clear winners that night.  It had technique, balance and complexity. Such is the requirements for dining at this level.  If your expectation is molecular gastronomy, I would clearly steer clear of 1907 as the food today fell in the region of being more traditional rather than pushing the boundaries of the conventional.  Service was every bit courteous and to have a wait crew as knowledgeable as the chef made the evening complexities a smooth journey. 



1907 Restaurant on Urbanspoon