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Showing posts with label Fine Dining. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Fine Dining. Show all posts

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Bites: Is this the best Japanese in Perth? @ Nobu, Burswood.

Nobu is a top tier Japanese restaurant with an International presence. Since making its mark in Perth some 5 years ago, Nobu has gone from strength to strength and even took out the title of best Japanese fine dining on some blogs.  But for some reason, I was never quite curious enough to step into Nobu, until today.  Nobu’s menu is a  cross between Peruvian and Japanese but is it a winner against my preferred French and Japanese fusion?  Lets check it out.

New Style Sashimi, Kingfish with Jalapeño.

This is one of Nobu’s most popular dish, but I was not convinced that the freshness and touch of citrus burst in the soy was enough to justify its popularity.


This dish on the other hand was wow!  Start with the thick slices of perfectly seared salmon, wrap the fried leeks in the salmon before dipping it in the complex sauce of yuzu, miso and hot mustard.  Its a real act of balancing here. So many things happening in one bite.  The citrusy beginning followed by a nice salty-almost sweet miso and to end it all was a hint of heat from the mustard!  Complex flavours working in harmony with one another.

Popcorn Prawn with Spicy Mayonnaise

Another Instagram favourite, the popcorn prawn.  Unless you have a prawn allergy, there is very little to dislike about crispy battered prawns.  Crunchy, salty and juicy in each bite, it is a crowd pleaser on its own. Unfortunately these did not pack the crunch I wanted.  Then comes the spicy mayonnaise.  I have had plenty of spicy mayonnaise but I was not satisfied by the spicy mayonnaise in Nobu. It tasted flat and perhaps a little boring.  Perhaps they could bump it up with more Sriracha?  Or maybe I am just too used to having Spicy Mayo made from Sriracha and Mayo!

Black Cod Miso

I talked about favourites at Nobu earlier but if Nobu is famous for something, it has to be its Black Cod Miso.  Presentation was everything I had expected to see and the flakiness of the cod was perfect.  There is something therapeutic about layers of fish flaking off one layer at a time.  It is like enjoying the marbling of a fine Wagyu!  Flavour wise the caramelised miso was nutty, sweet and salty all at the same time! Another high point!  Was it deserving of the hype? It sure was. If only the skin had more appeal hmmm.

Chicken Anticucho

The Yakitori is to the Japanese what the Anticucho would be for the Peruvians (according to google).  Yay/Nay/Ok? At best, it was only going to qualify for an OK.  The Anticucho was unfortunately drier than expected and it not for the punchy sauce, it would have been a write-off.  I guess after going to the Michelin Star Tori Shin in NYC, very few chicken skewers  are able to satisfy me with the exception of a finely executed Chicken Satay :P!

Pork Belly Spicy Miso Caramel

With my favourite Buta No Kakuni not on the list, I thought I would give the Miso Caramel Pork Belly a try.  Bad choice.

Fillet Mignon with Truffle Teriyaki Sauce.

The last savoury dish of the night was the Fillet Mignon with a Truffle Teriyaki Sauce.  Was it simply Beef Teriyaki with a fancy price tag?  Fortunately not! The advantage about using a quality meat like the fillet mignon is that it packs a good beefy flavour without the fat. The Teriyaki sauce was OK, but I was hoping for a more impactful truffle taste in the Teriyaki.  The addition of Truffle from Nobu would struggle to compete with the flavours I get from the drizzling of a quality truffle oil on regular steak.  Sad but true.  Another bummer was that we ordered medium only to be served medium-well! Bummer much?  =/!

Last but not least was dessert to share.  Pictured below is the Miso Cappuccino (we also ordered another Nobu Dessert Bento!)

Talk about Miso overkill!  This was the 4th dish with Miso and while I disagreed with  the order at first, I was actually glad my sister got it.  The Miso Cappuccino was delicious!  Frothy, at the top with a hint of miso.  It was not plain miso in your face but rather layers of frothed milk, miso, chocolate creme and I think some biscuit crumbs? Also, that shine on the froth with that perfectly positioned Nobu badge!  Absolute precision!  Enjoyable in every bite.

The bill was $300 for the night (without drinks) and was not as expensive as I thought it would be.  So yay or nay?  I am giving Nobu a yay but it barely got there!  My expectation for the  night was a 9, but it ultimately delivered a respectable 7.   So where did it go wrong?  Well lets start with what it did well.  The seared salmon with a complex taste composition was definitely a winner along with Nobu’s signature Black Cod Miso.  I also quite liked the Mignon with Truffle Teriyaki but was let down by the lack of truffle flavours.  Oooh did I mention the really delicious Miso Cappuccino too?  Then comes the let downs which were the Pork belly, and the Chicken Anticucho.  Sashimi King Fish and Popcorn Prawns  which are popular among Nobu’s diners lacked a punch!  Sister reckons we should give them another try perhaps for lunch as they are usually less busy and the food is much better! Perhaps I will one of these days. For now I will stick to French Japanese combinations.

Nobu Perth Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Monday, January 9, 2017

Bites: Classic Thai Dining with a Modern Touch @ Itsara, Nedlands.

We finally got our ex-colleague Win out to eat with us.  This time, at Itsara in Nedlands.   The bloke who previously dined with me at Nahm Thai reunites for a whole new level of Thai dining!  His reluctance to join us  is understandable as he was not keen on being a victim of high spec Thai dining.  At Itsara, diners a choice of indoor sitting or outdoor sitting in the garden.  Typically, I would not like to sit outdoors in summer because it is stinking hot!  Fortunately, both choices of sitting are air-conditioned!  That evening we were given the option of the group dining menu or the ala carte. We opted for the set menu as it guarantees the complete Itsara experience for the table.  

After ordering some drinks to start, a host of appetisers made their appearance.  The betel leaf wrap and chive dumpling on a spoon.

While the dumpling was pretty decent, I enjoyed the Betel Leaf Wrap better.  Filled with prawns, roasted desiccated coconut, and Thai spices, it was super refreshing.  

The next dish I believe is called the Fleeing Fish.  Catchy as is, the flavours of this dish send me on another roller coaster ride.  On first bite you get the saltiness of the fried fish.  As you chew, the freshness of the mangoes and acidity of the lemon juice all of which mellowed nicely with the sweet sauce made for a perfect appetiser! 

Crispy fish of the day with fresh mango, lemon grass, kaffir lime, ginger, lime zest and cashew nuts tossed with complex homemade sweet and tangy chilli dressing.

Initial impressions of the duck were very positive with its tender flesh and perfectly cooked outer bit means the fat was perfectly rendered. This gave each bite a hint of smokiness.  Then you have the “full-flavoured” pineapple dressing which was nice, though I would question the full-flavoured portion of it ha ha.  Another dish that despite being a meat dish was extremely refreshing!

Pretty Duck; Char-grilled marinated duck with fresh green mango, shallot, cashew nut and homemade full-flavoured pineapple sweet chilli dressing.

Believe it or not, we were already feeling pretty full at this stage and the mains were not even out!  But as the kind host started bring rice out, we knew it was time for the mains. 

Green Curry w/ Chargrilled Chicken.

Itsara Island; Bite sized pieces of barramundi drizzled with caramelised tamarind lime and fish sauce on a bed of crispy Thai herbs

Besides the 2 mains above, we also had a delicious prawn dish and the Itsara Mignion Curry which tasted similar to a Massaman. Each dish were worthy of praise without doubt.  The Mignion Curry was a pairing between tender beef and a rich curry sauce while the chicken was perfectly grilled on the outside with a fragrant green curry paste.  Also, who does not like crispy fish with a tangy dipping sauce?!  The best part of it all?  Fresh plump prawns cooked spot on, and the sauce was super good.  Heaps of chilli and garlic! Not quite sure what sauce was used but I could not stop putting spoonfuls of it on my rice.  Very nicely done.

Feeling very full, we decided to skip dessert and go to Koko Black for dessert.  So how did my friends and I feel about Itsara that night?   While the upscale Thai food at Itsara was every bit enjoyable, I have to question the vibe I get.  My friend who’s part Thai thought the food’s sugar level was a notch too high while the rest thought Nahm Thai ranked better.  Did it?  I really wondered because I felt Itsara had better balance on the tasting plate by alternating the curries, and the palm sugary sauced dishes. Presentation the food at Nahm Thai made a much better statement though!   Unfortunately its closed now!  Putting comparisons aside, there is a good reason why eating Thai food always has a special place in my earth.  The service of is a notch above the rest.  Then comes its flavours, I do not think there is any cuisine in this world better at balancing its flavours than Thai food.  It is the pinnacle of multi-flavoured balancing!!

Itsara Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Bali 2016: Sensational Balinese Dining @ Merah Putih, Seminyak

After a light breakfast at Biku, we headed over to the famous Kudeta to chill out.  Guess what?  It ended becoming an intense Pokemon stout as the waves kept gushing Magikarps our way haha.  No comments to that activity.  After exercising our fingers, it was finally time to settle for a more enjoyable activity.  A meal at what was possibly the best meal I ever had in Bali.  Merah Putih which literally translates to Red - White in English are the colours of the Indonesian flag.   The entrance to this modern diner is nothing more than a gateway to awesomeness.  With soaring high ceilings, and glass panels through the dining area, it was a tropical green house in its finest.

The menu at Merah Putih  is a salvation to the morning at Biku. In sight were some really fancy sounding Indonesian dishes which had me salivating.  To go round the table we ordered a few share plates.  But to get us started, Merah Putih served us a much loved Indonesian classic, the Soto Ayam.
To start was a Duck Spring Roll which which felt like a unique twist of the Peking Duck.  Instead of utilising a roasted duck, Merah Putih cooks up a super crisp fried duck.  Best of all, it was not even one bit dry.  The pickled cucumber and other crisp vegetables gave it additional texture and that dash of kecap manis brought the dish home!  Wrap it all in that thin piece of pancake and voila! “Peking Duck” :P!

Bebek Goreng “Popia”; Fried Boneless Duck, palm hearts, kecap manis, pancake

Our next appetiser was the soft shell crab.  It is hard to go wrong with a seafood produce that is so elementary. Deep fried soft shell crabs has always been a crowd pleaser, and this was no different.  Add a dipping sauce and egg yolk, for a touch of indulgence.  Its presentation was another element worth mentioning.  But despite all the ups, what felt a little bit of a let down was the batter of the crab.  It was on the hard side and I would have preferred a milder crunch to this. 

Jangkang; Soft Shell Crab, salted egg, leek, coriander.

Another stunningly presented dish was the Puyuh Panggang Sumatra.  The chargrilled marks were equally brilliant to the smoky flavours of the quail sat upon the rice cakes. Shame though, that it just was not as juicy as I had expected it to be.  It did not quite fall off the bone on first bite.  Probably 2-3 minutes over-cooked.  Luckily, its lip-smacking sauce help salvage its position.  The spices were super potent, with a mild sweetness and acidity. The whole thing was just delicious!

Puyuh Panggang Sumatra; Chargrilled Quail, onions rice cake, curry leaf.

This was the shared main of Sapi Bumbu Rujak.  Its like a Beef Bourguineon minus the wine and Western Spices, ok so its an Indonesian beef stew.  But an amazing Indonesian one that had my tongue wagging.  The beef cheeks were super tender and fell apart effortlessly.  Then you have the perfectly plump Shimeji shroom sauteed and topping the beef.  All of which are put in a sauce so good that I could not stop spooning it on to my bowl of rice.  Not sure how to even describe the sauce but it was flavoured sensationally!  

Sapi Bumbu Rujak; Javanese Beef Cheek, tomato, shimiji, chilli

After a satisfying lunch, I could not help but suggest ordering desserts to share. How could I resist after seeing Merah Putih do so well with the savoury courses?

First dessert was Madu. The word “Madu” is honey and this simply presented dish allowed the main ingredient of honey to shine.  Creamy ice-cream, and wafer thin tuile was a great pairing.  The ice cream was silky smooth and the ginger helped accentuate the glorious honey notes.

Madu; Borneo Honeycomb Ice Cream, chocolate, ginger tuile

Next was a coconut dessert which consisted of Meringue and Ice Cream.  While I am usually not a fan of the overly sweet Meringue, the combination of Kalamansi and coconut along with sago helped balanced the dessert that night.  So many layers of flavours and textures to enjoy. Not just a one note dessert. You get the citrusy-zesty flavours of the Chinese Orange clashing with the creamy coconut.  At the same time there is the frothy Meringue and springy sago bits.  So much to like on the plate.

Kelapa; Coconut Ice Cream, kalamansi meringue, boni sago

This modern Indonesian restaurant has reinvented the wheel with its modern rendition on some Indonesian staples.  While this is an act considered taboo by some, the strong combination of top notch ingredients and fresh plating, all of which are done simultaneously while maintaining the dish's authentic Indonesian flavours makes Merah Putih the favourite of my trip.

Merah Putih Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Bali 2016: Fish Dining @ Sardine, Seminyak.

Right after our cafe hopping we were left in a dilemma.  To go back to our hotel in Seminyak and wait for dinner or stay in Kerobokan until dinner time.  We end up choosing the latter and decided to go to our dinner spot early for some drinks.  Tonight’s dinner is none other than the famed Sardine, a fine dining restaurant famous for their fish dishes in an amazing Balinese setting.

In the evening just before the sunset, the outdoor sitting area is pretty special.  The rice field has now been swapped out with sunflowers for the next couple of months.  When it blooms, I can imagine Sardine to be the most welcoming place for a drink or even dinner.   After being wowed by the setting,  I was kept impressed by warm and attentive service.  From the moment we stepped in the ladies brought us to the lounge area and allowed us to choose our seats.  Once the drinks order were placed, a complimentary bowl of hand cut chips were served as a snack.


As our dinner was about to start, we decided against snacking but my colleague could not help but take a photo of another table’s satay.  It was a tough thing not losing my determination to not order any snacks!  Thankfully, time flew and we moved to the dining area.


Complimentary bread:

Have to say that the bread was good!  Easily on the same level like other fine dining places you would find in Australia.

After that was the amuse bouche of Tuna Nicoise Salad.

For dinner that night, we ordered a few things but I only took a few photos as the warm lighting prevented me from taking photos without flash.  

I ordered the lobster potstickers with a ginger and vinegar dipping sauce.  

Surprisingly Asian but still every bit tantalising.  There was not like a whole chunk of lobster in the dumplings but there was a good enough amount to give diners the bursty-briny flavours of the lobster that is rich in seafood sweetness.  The final kick of acidity came from the dipping sauce that mellowed nicely with the dumpling flavours.

Another of the other appetisers we ordered was the Vietnamese Beef Salad.

Have to say, the flavours were authentic but lacked the “wow” factor because it was something you could get easily in the Vietnamese restaurants back in Perth.  I guess, what I am trying to get at is that there could have been a little more surprise to the whole dish like the lobster potstickers which I ordered.  Perhaps, hitting the right notes like an authentic Vietnamese diner would is a good enough achievement? lol.

Finishing off the appetiser, my main arrived.  This time, another Asian inspired dish of Miso Seabass with a Soba salad.

This white fish is a favourite of mine because when cooked right its absolutely tender and smooth.  Sardine is well-known for their fish dishes and its smooth flesh did not disappoint!  Its accompaniment of soba was the perfect pairing for the miso basted fish.  My slight discontent though was the fact that the layer of miso on top could have been a bit more generous.  And to finish that good layer of miso, shall be a good broil to help all the miso caramelise to perfection.  Why more Miso?  For me the dish could have done with a little more salt and the caramelised miso also has an ability to accentuate the sweetness of the fish!


We skipped that dessert that night as it was probably the 4th or 5th meal we have had that day.  Sardine was an enjoyable dinner.  While the setting was worth raving about, the food as a whole felt a bit of a let down.  Do not get me wrong, it was in no way bad but it lacked that “special” touch and finish.  But if it’s the classics that you are looking for, Sardine will have plenty to offer.  Price wise, be prepared to pay around $40 for a full 3 course meal + drinks.  Not cheap by Balinese standards but still worth every penny.

Sardine Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Istanbul: Modern traditions @ Neolokal, Karakoy

After a day at Princes’ Island, we returned to the mainland.  This time landing on the North side port the Kabatas Seaport, which was unfortunately on the wrong side of where we needed to be.  But I was pumped.  Tonight’s meal stretches beyond the norms of skewers, rotisserie and other basic food served around town.  The dinner tonight is going to be at Neolokal.  A dining institute that seeks to show gratitude to mother nature and her produce by serving genuine products using traditional techniques.  This way, the finest details are not missed and tradition preserved. As the head chef says “if we do not protect our food, the generations to come will not have anything left in their hands”.

Tonight my colleagues and I feasted on a shared course that stretched the evening.   Straight from the menu:

But before we started; was a serve of rye fermented with yeast the same age as the restaurant.

BUTTER; parsley, olive oil & shiitake powder

HOUMUS & fresh herbs, tahini “piyaz” cream

PASTRAMI & DRIED MEAT raki & fig jam and fig vinegar cream

FRIED MUSSELS, walnut dip and poached onion salad

MARINATED BLACK SEABASS with strawberry raki terrine, fennel salad and salicorn

SURPRISE GARDEN TASTES, from our garden with vegan and vegetarian options

“MÜCVER” fritters with shrimp and salicorn, turmeric & pepper & salicorn yogurt

TARAMASALATA & HADDOCK, bottarga powder, raki beets

“KISIR & TARTAR”, turnip, mustard and turmeric & cauliflower pickle

Beet & “KARGI TULUM”, cheese, purslane

LAVENDER OCTOPUS, lemony potato cream, lemon zest and orange powder

The appetisers were an interesting journey with mixed emotions with some very obvious hits and misses. My favourites that night were the Hummus, Pastrami and the Beets.  All of which were executed flawlessly.  The Hummus for example boasted a stunning presentation but never for once lost its flavours.  Instead new textures were introduced with the fresh herb “garden” and crisps.  The Beets on the other hand play a strong fusion between an Aussie favourite and the traditional cheese which was an Istanbul produce.  Sweet,earthy and tart, the salad knocked me off my socks.

For the mains we shared:

BLACK SEABASS, zucchini & flower, baby potatoes & lentil

LAMB SHANK, üveyik wheat pilaf cooked with apple and onions, apple pickles & crisps

"KATMER" & "TİRİT", “tarhana” yogurt cream, dried “tarhana”

BEEF, pulled tacos <-- I made this up, I did not get a name for it haha.
The mains for me did not leave a lasting impression.  The lamb shank and pulled beef were especially poor in execution.  These two had very minimal seasoning and did little to highlight it usually tender flesh.  I wanted a little more flair from the Turkish mob. Perhaps a hint of smokiness to match with a melt in your mouth shank.  Or, a juicy pulled beef with a garlicky chilli yoghurt.  It might be just me but I wanted flavour. I wanted the meat to be better.  For this part of the course, I enjoy the fish heaps!  Even the vegetarian Katmer & Tirit, a by-product of leftover bread was creative and equally impressive in presentation.  Meat, shame on you lol.

BAKLAVA AND WALNUT CANDY, ricotta pistacchio & walnut cream, molasses tahini halva

Rose, coffee, cardamom PUDDING and meringue

YASEMIN’S CAKE berries and pistacchio croquant, pudding cream

The dessert bit of the dinner was a definite happy ending.  The cake is a recipe by the chef’s mom, Yasmine and was handed down to him. For me, it was delicious. A soft fluffy inside topped with a luscious butter-cream like coating.  It was a little sweet but extremely pleasing.  This was yummy!  The Baklava on the other hand looked stunning.  I have never seen something so well presented before.  More importantly, its nothing like any Baklava you have ever had.  This was not overly sweet, the crushed pistachios still fragrant and pastry crisp.

Overall, the meal at Neolokal met my expectations in Istanbul.  The food is different in many ways yet tasty.  Some of my colleagues found that several dishes had been altered so much that the essence of its main ingredient seemed lost.  While that was true, it is common for this style of dining that an element sometimes loses its original form to better pair with is surrounding.  In other words, it adapts.  The service at Neolokal was good and attentive, without a single moment of neglect.  Even when I was confused, the maitre’d would gladly answer my questions.  The finer details of fine dining is fused with tradition in this leading culinary institute.  Its flavours are bold, renditions modern and ingredients international.   No wonder the word Neolokal stems from the English word, the New Local.

The night finished with a long walk through Istiklal Avenue and across the bridge. A good 5km work out back to the hotel but it was every bit joy.  Istanbul is an amazing city.
So much to offer both day and night as you would expect from a big city.  Sure the booze scene is not as vibrant as its Western counter-part but who needs booze :P?!

My joker colleagues by the plant market: