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Showing posts with label Italian. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Italian. Show all posts

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Bites: Glorious Italian! @ Lulu la Delizia, Subiaco.

Life is too short to be wasted. When you’re working 10 hour days, 21 days at a time I tend to have a natural need to consume, as you guess it food.  This time around, Italian food.  While I am no Italian food expert, I know that it spans beyond pizza, pasta and salad!  I am finally at Lulu la Delizia and I was super pumped.  This cafe is super small making it cosy, and very Melbourne-esque (sorry Perth!).  The service from the door to the table was warm and welcoming making it an enjoyable entrance.

The menu at Lulu la Delizia has a group of “staples” paired with seasonal and daily specials.  The appetisers here are out of this world starting with a strong statement from the salty, crispy Parmesan paired with the earthy grounded shrooms.
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Complementary Parmesan crisp with ground mushroom

Then comes the fruit King Fish Crudo which surprised me with the ripeness of the dish yet refreshing with the acidity of the lemon juice.
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King Fish Crudo with Stone Fruit

Speaking of ripeness, what pairs better than caramelised slowly grilled figs with a Parmesan that is nutty in fragrance but absolutely robust with flavour in each bite. Super good!
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Grilled Fig & Parmesan

Sister’s favourite the marrow was luscious and rich with an nice meaty flavour.  What was even better is that is spreader like butter on the toast that was soaked with the herby beef ragu.  Droolworthy!
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Bone Marrow with Ragu

Pork sausage pasta, saffron, peas (Left), Ricotta gnocchi, blue swimmer, tomatoes (Mid), Lagoon clam pasta (Right).
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Three pastas from Lulu la Delizia were superb.  Whether its the warmth of the saffron or the briny seafood explosion in the clam pasta, the pastas were top notch.  Was it faultless?  Perhaps not 100%. What went wrong you might ask?  Don’t get me wrong I loved the Gnocchi’s sauce but I felt like the pasta itself should be softer, fluffier and more delicate. Might just be me though!

The meal at Lulu la Delizia was really enjoyable.  The cafe got a little noisy as Lulu la Delizia got busier and prices are not cheapest.  But Lulu la Delizia pairs good service, with quality handmade pasta and tasty appetisers for an amazing Italian night.  Will I come back here again? Definitely so.

WenY
Lulu La Delizia Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Bites: the Il Capo @ Lalla Rookh Bar & Eating House, Perth.

December babies are a cheat when it comes to their age.  And I’m one of them.  I turned 28 in 2016 but I know that for the rest of 2017, I will still be telling people that I am 28 :P!  My birthday venue was at Lalla Rookh and if you are looking for a place for drinks with great food, look no further. Famed for its good food in the CBD, I think it can now add “service” to its title as the waitress who served us that night did a stellar job.  
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That we ordered the Il Capo or Chef’s Menu, which gives diners a chance to taste the dishes that makes Lalla Rookh the establishment it is today.

We had an array of dishes spanning 6 courses long.  First up were three credible starters:
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The tartare was first up.  Super stylish, tasty and the textures on the plate was sensational. Crisps topped with tartare that was so finely balanced was amazing. They also had this cheesy sauce that the dish sat on that made the whole thing even better!

The quail was a table favourite! Shame the meat did not fall off the bone as easily as I had expected it to!  Other than that, it was perfect.
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The burrata paired with a grilled stone fruit salad.  I cannot remember what it was now but to me this was a decadent appetiser!  A little rich for those who are not into cheeses but I liked it!  The creaminess of the burrata on point.  Pair it with the grilled fruit salsa for added flavour bomb.
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After the appetisers, a dish of pasta ensued.  The pasta tossed in braised tender beef was super hearty but for those who prefer tomato based pasta, this felt a little too heavy!  But who have time to worry about that when the mains came almost immediately after.
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Alright guys I love my pork.  So when this bad boy hit the table with some grilled leeks, I was salivating.  Unfortunately the looks did not match my expectations with the meat let down by the mediocre crackling which was more chewy than crunchy!!  This is normally the best part of a classic pork roast! Perhaps they should have crisped it up separately while resting the meat? The good part?  Pork was still super tender and the veges were caramelised sensationally!

To finish was a dessert that was pretty much any Nutella fan’s dream come true.  It was ice cream, berries, crushed nuts and generous amounts of Nutella! All I can is that I loved it.  Its rare that I enjoy something so sweet but this time I did.  The berries, the nuts, the Nutella and the ice cream all did its job in keeping us eating it despite being filled to the brim.  Lalla Rookh was really enjoyable that evening.  Paired with the service, impeccable.  Food wise, the Il Capo was good though I reckon due to several seafood allergies around the table, they did not bring out the staples like Lalla Rookh's popular grilled squid and crab pasta.  Definitely one of the things I wanted to try!  One thing for sure, is that I will be coming back to give those a try :P!

WenY
Lalla Rookh Bar & Eating House Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Melbourne: An Italian Affair @ Kaprica, Carlton

What does a graffiti-laden-facade 1 man kitchen bring to the student suburb Carlton? Authentic pizzas and minimalistic pastas!  Housed in a shop opposite the Lincoln Square skate park, Kaprica sits quietly in its spot only to be revealed by buzz of patrons buy pulling stringy mozzarella apart and twirling their pastas.  Needless to say, I was one of them.

That day we ordered a couple of pastas to go around the table and a pizza to share. To start was a serve of garlic and chill prawns topped with parsley.  Unlike most prawns that come out in a cream based sauce, these were panfried an topped with crispy bits of garlic and chilli that was a mix of salty fragrant goodness!
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With the bread that came as a starter, I mopped up the tasty oil that has been infused with the flavours of garlic and chilli.  Quite a joy it was!

Next up was a pork sausage, with fennel and chilli pizza.  The pastry at Kaprica is thin, light and fluffy.  Every bite into the pizza was not greeted by a hard crust but a crisp one and when you tear it apart, you know it has been made just right.  Despite it being a fairly large pizza, I could have easily ate the whole thing by myself :P!
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The toppings on the pizza was not over the top.  Instead it capitalised on quality produce like homemade sausages and fresh herbs.  Kaprica’s home made sausages were absolutely more-ish.  Have it paired with the little bits of pungent onions and chilli sprinkled on the top and the pizza experience became even better !!  Also, I do not know how Kaprica does its tomato base but it was highly commendable.  It struck the right balance between its acidity and sweetness.  

Next was a mushroom fettuccine in a cream based sauce XL’s friend’s choice.
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Its approach was simple, slices of plump swiss mushrooms, silky pasta, lashings of cream and a generous grating of parmesan.  Despite looking rather heavy, the pasta as a whole was really yummy and light.  Even more so when shared amongst the table.  It was a bit of a surprise win this one!

Gnocchi Napolitana was XL’s order.  
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Fluffy little pillows that were cooked just spot on.  Neither was it mushy on the outside or doughy on the inside.  I quite enjoyed the flavours on the plate but is not quite sure whether I could eat the whole plate by myself. Sure, the  over all flavours were quite traditional and basic but the tomato sauce-cheese combination just did not seem substantially interesting enough for me down it solo!

Fettuccini alle Vongole was Mei and Hendra’s choice for the table.
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The briny flavours of the clam brings a whiff of the sea to plate.  Imagining the little pieces of fleshy clams paired with a sweet white wine sauce and freshly chopped parsley almost made this dish the winner of the night.  But twirling my fork through the noodles, I soon found a systematic error.  The food in Kaprica needed more salt.  Perhaps my taste buds have been polluted by the heavily flavoured food I have had in the last few days but a tad more salt would be very nice!

Simple, traditional and satisfying are three words I would use to describe the food at Kaprica. There is no try hard, sugar-coated dishes but instead, honest dishes that keeps the meal simple. But do not worry, the handwritten  menu at Kaprica changes depending on what’s in season so it remains simple but never boring :)!  Simply sublime.  This was another great introduction by XL’s friend KK. 

WenY
Kaprica on Urbanspoon

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Melbourne Trip: Winter Food Festival @ Luna 1878, Queen Victoria Market

Melbourne might be famous for laneway cafes, but Melbourne's rich culture is easily its next best feature.  For a foodie like myself, I was lucky to be there at a time when the Luna 1878 was held.  Every Wednesday night at Queen Victoria Market  visitors to the market are greeted with an amazing smell right from the door step.


Walking in, I was super excited to see all the different vendors come to promote their nationality.  Naturally, as a Malaysian, my first stop was at Mamak.  Fresh from the kitchen was a serve of Roti Telur and an Ayam Goreng.
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The fried chicken was a reminisce of my eating trip with my ex-colleagues to Sydney last year.  Superbly more-ish especially in the chilly weather!   Have it together with the Roti Telur and some curry.  So  damn good! 


Walking on,  I was got all excited again when I saw a large pig getting all crisped up over a charcoal grill.  Initially, I mistook it for the Indonesian Babi Guling, but quickly realised it was a Filipino vendor called Hoy Pinoy.
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Regardless of what it was, the roasted pig is always worth a try.  Thankfully, the pork was crisp and the meat was flavourful.  It came with a nice pickled vegetables.  The same delicious kind you get with the HK Barbecued restaurants in town.  All together it was quite a joy.  But I have to say, the rice was wet and I did hated that.  
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Next stop was a cup of mulled wine.  Hearing so much about the drink, I wanted to try it although I am no big fan of alcohol.  This did not differ.  Despite the notes of orange peel and spices, it was still every bit bitter! 
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But it was ok.  XL wandered away and unexpectedly returns with a serve of Italian grilled squid from 400 Gradi.   Weird choice but it was pretty nice.  Could have been a lot more tender!  But I had come to terms that these were not calamari tubes.  Instead, they were little octopuses which are  chewy as usual!
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Wanting to finish our night with something warm, we ended up at the soup factory for a bread bowl filled with potato and leek soup.  Yummy!
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Slowly scrapping the little bits of soup from the corners of the bowl was simply joyful.  Soaked with the soup it sits in, the bread made the whole experience very moreish.  Put Melbourne's chilly winter into the equation and the wonders that come is nothing you would not expect. :)!
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Apple strudel was our dessert that night.  The Austrian strudel is denser than the usual Corica strudel but pack an amazing flavour to its crust.  But the fillings of custard and apples were a little lacklustre.  Ultimately, there are no better strudels than the one from Corica's in Perth!
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Strudel for dessert anyone?  
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By the end of the night we were so full we could barely walk across back to the apartment.  The Luna Night Market was an exceptional host for dinner last night.  So many different types of food were on and the pictures I took were barely half of the vendors that participated in the event.  There were tonnes of other Indian, Mexican and American establishment that were setup for business.  Whilst I definitely enjoyed it, many people might find the prices here a little steep which it really is by Melbourne standards.  But if you want a place that has it all and is looking for a great festival feeling, definitely come to Luna 1878 at Queen Victoria Market.

WenY


Friday, August 8, 2014

Bites: Francoforte Spaghetti Bar @ William St. Arcade, Northbridge

Before jetting off to Melbourne last Tuesday, I enjoyed a  meal of pasta with my sister at the Francoforte  Spaghetti Bar located just a doorstep across from Super Star Waffles in the arcade on 189 William St, Northbridge.  7PM always seem like a bad idea but thankfully on a weekday, the congestion in this little pasta place clears quickly and it took them no more than 10 minutes to get us seated.
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After being seated, we placed our orders and were given a complimentary serve of bread, with olive oil and balsamic.
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Kale Pesto
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Kale and lemon pesto, pecorino, caciatorre sausage, spaghetti

Porco Rosso
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Sugo, pork sausages, spaghetti

Guanciale Carbonara
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Cured pigs cheek, parmesan, pecorino, penne

Having picked at various pastas around the table, I could not fault with the pasta served at Francoforte.   If was cooked right, served right and the taste was pretty decent.  Do not expect lashings of creamy and American style trickery to hide the pasta.  

Whilst I was not expecting the flavours to overpower the pasta, I was not exactly bowled over by the flavour combination and wanted more bang for my buck.  For example, the Carbonara had great saltiness from the generous slices of crisp pigs cheek which was a nice touch, but the over all finish to the dish was lacking.  It did not have the silkiness or an even salt distribution.  Without a slice of pig’s cheek, it was bland.  Similar comments would apply to both the Kale and Porco Rosso pastas.  The kale pesto one had a homemade feel that enveloped the strand of spaghetti very well but still did not bring me to that level of nirvana a normal basil pesto one does.  

Was Francoforte Spaghetti a bad eat?  Definitely not.  In fact, if I went to Italy, I would be looking for the homemade feel which I get from Francoforte.  Reading the comments of other, I quickly found the error.  If in Italy, the flavour of the sauce are meant to compliment the homemade pasta.  But in the case of using pre-made pasta, does it still work?  I have absolutely no idea whether the spaghetti was homemade or not.  One thing for sure though is that it did not have the same silkiness of the one I had at Marea or Rockpool.  Then again, the two restaurants I mentioned are heavily accredited by the folks at the Michelin Guide or Australia Good Food Guide.  
  
Francoforte despite being hard to fault, the pastas here were more of an OK than a “wow”.   In saying that, I would not feel obligated to even bother queuing on a busy day.  But on any other day, it could be an automatic walk-in meal.

Weny
Francoforte Spaghetti Bar on Urbanspoon

Monday, August 4, 2014

NYC Trip: The End

If someone asks you how big is New York City? Just say “Too big,”.  It really is.  Over a week, I ate my way through the big Apple and found many places irresistibly yummy! Despite a sore foot, I merely covered an area in Manhattan that spans from the Upper East till Downtown.

Although I could never really finish the city, I think I did pretty well food wise and here is an almost complete list of places where I dined sorted into 2 price categories.

NYC Essentials (<$20)

An iconic burger places with occasional collaborations with top chefs that is neither too commercialised to be a joint nor too unique to be a one-off boutique burger place.  But if you are having one of those “days”, what better than a shack burger paired with fries and a happy ending of peanut butter shake.  Happy days!

Start the meal with a basic Gyoza before calling a main of Hakata Style ramen.  Black garlicky oil on an already amazing porky broth?  Damn it was heaven without the line.  

If Hide Chan was North Pole, then Totto Ramen would be the South Pole.  Different from start to end, the only thing similar between the two is its owner.  At Totto Ramen, enjoy a Chicken Paiten Ramen so amazing it makes one dreams of it at night.  This is a legit pork alternative.  Beware, queues are long.

With popular places like Junior’s in the area, it is easy to overlook this relatively unknown diner.  Yet this might be your best bet for quality breakfast pancakes.  Crispy, fluffy and cooked through with perfection, it was all too hard to ignore.

Being the first does not necessarily makes you the best.  But the best itself could not be anymore subjective.  Old school fit up in this humble little eatery maintains its olden day charm.  Come in solo or with the brood, Nom Wah has got you covered.  When you crawl out of the bed during winter, know that piping hot dim sum is not too far away.

I had one shot to get a taste of New York Pizza into my busy schedule.  Thankfully, a slice at ABP did not disappoint.  With the Artichoke slice spanning across two plates topped with their famous cream base sauce, stringy cheese and caramelised artichokes,  this might be NYC’s best value bite yet at just $4.50 a slice. 

An aluminium wrapped takeaway box with a Middle-Eastern scent is the biggest giveaway that someone is holding a box of faithful mixed platter and rice from the infamous Halal Guys.  From street culture to fast-food joint, the Halal Guys are set to dominate.  Cult descriptions of nuclear red rice topped with pieces of meat and lashing of white sauce is just the beginning of a happy end to the night.  Operating till 4am, now Twilight has no reason to exist. 

Chelsea Market (Chelsea)
So much to eat, so little space to put it in.  Here you can enjoy soup, fresh seafood, independent farmers’ produce, Mexican, Korean, pastries or simply just have a stroll.  From clothing shopping to a filling in a hungry stomach, I love this place.  Located indoors for your convenience too.  After the market, head to the Highline Park just outside Chelsea Market for a mile of enjoyable walk to aid digestion.  It is heaven on rails.

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If fine dining has always been a part of your priority undertakings to understand the culture a city was built upon, these finer establishments might be the thing you are looking for.  NYC is a city of swag, so common delights can become fancy and clearly so when acknowledged by the headmasters at the Michelin corp.


Fine Dining at NYC
Classy,  sleek and inspiring.  This Jean Georges spinoff has more finesse in its fried chicken than a French bistro does with its Foie Gras. Its seasonal menu takes simple life pleasures and make it into something special.  The courteous service makes dining here a bliss.

Why is this fine dining?  This is because a $30 burger including tip ands tax is pretty damn fine!  But after 26 years of my life, this 1 Michelin star eatery has delivered what I call the “IT” burger.  With a claim like that, many people will have high expectations I know.  But as mentioned, the thick spread of Roquefort cheese on the brioche bun with a juicy patty shows that the Spotted Pig means business.  But that is IF you enjoy the Spotted Pig's take on the classic cheese burger.

The full tasting menu brought my bill beyond the $50 mark.  But a bread course, 4 seafood courses, a seasonal dessert and petit fours make this a bargain.  Sit down and let the jumbo scallops, sensational pastas, lobsters, crabs and briny sea urchins make their appearance as part of a seafood orchestra by Marea.  Top level service makes progressive dining here a seamless experience.
Another Michelin rated restaurant.  If a sushi master pressing sushi is artsy, prepared to be wow-ed by these handy skewer chefs.  Head to tail movement at its finest, see Chef Atsushi Kono coordinate the delicious transformation of the pedestrian chicken protein into something amazing.

One surprise after the other, the Gramercy Tavern is like a roller coaster ride in your mouth.  High and lows in this Modern American X Asian fusion delivers the best bang for your buck of the lot.  Ranked 1 star by the Michelin guide, the inventive savoury menu will keep your buds craving for more.  But when it comes to a sweet ending, good or bad really comes at the toss of a coin.  However, at $60 plus service charges, the tavern is a lunch time gem.

The Japanese culture is big in the States and Sushi Azabu the front runner for no-nonsense sushi exclusivity without the overwhelming price tag of the more mainstream establishments.  Do not expect California rolls or heavy lashings of pretentious Kewpie to make their mark.  Instead, Shim prepares sashimi prawns, tuna, sea urchins and other fresh offerings served on divine sushi rice.

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Food business in NYC is big business.  NYC residents are fussy and no trend is always there to stay when you are at the top of the class.  Evolution counts for survival.  Thankfully, with a superbly variable price tag, there is something for everyone.  Whether it is Asian or Western, Chinese or Japanese, Italian or American, be prepared to eat.  But prices in the big Apple can quickly add up especially if you do not watch the cheque due to taxes and tips which usually bumps the bill up by a minimum of 25%.  So, do tell me what you think if you hit the big Apple and try out the food I had.  Note that all opinions here are a from a hungry traveller's perspective which is one that is open and receptive.  If you come here acting all big headed with a mindset from home, it is likely that you will have different views.

WenY

Monday, July 21, 2014

NYC: Fine Italian @ Marea, Midtown West

Heralding 2 stars since its opening day in 2010, Marea redefines Italian dining with a touch of class and excellent cooking. This felt a little contradictory to me as my perception of Italian dining has always felt more homely rather than classy unlike the French. It is usually rustic in appearance, filled with classic flavours and typically come in larger portions. Then again, that is just my mindset which was proven wrong by this unparalleled Italian restaurant. 

Walking in to the restaurant, the service was instantaneous. I was made comfortable in no time with the maitre’d coming to my table to offer his service every now and then. One thing I’d realise is the attentiveness of the waitstaff at Marea. I generally have a “lost look” and every time I looked up, the waitstaff would notice me, walk to me and asked if I needed help with anything. Lost Asian kid in New York? lol. 

After settling in, I decided to go with the Marea tasting course. A course that will bring out the finest that Marea’s chefs has to offer in a 5 course meal. Needless to stay, I was looking forward to the meal. First up were the three slices of raw fish. While they were fresh, the merits were in the combination of each pairing . The tuna was the highlight for me over the fluke and snapper. Whatever that green puree the tuna sat on only god knows, but it was simply sublime together.  The plating was sensational and the attention to detail was every bit clear in its presentation. Thinking back, I should have cut them into halves! Their small size means the joy was a little short-lived. Worth it though!
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 ASSAGGIO DI TRE, a tasting of three crudo. 

My next course was a popular crustacean. On the plate were perfectly arranged lobster portions on a pressed burrata with the herbs, eggplants, tomatoes and basil seed. I will be honest here. The combination of the cheese, and lobster with a slight drizzling of olive oil was all I needed on this plate. Never have I had the cheese served this way before.  In fact there seemed to be a whimsical sense of creativity where everything just fell in place and worked. Basil seeds did not quite play a big impact but the fresh tomatoes added a sour-sweet note that mellowed very well with the lobster and the fresh creamy cheese. 
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ASTICE, nova scotia lobster, burrata, eggplant al funghetto, basil seeds. 


A classic Italian staple, the pasta was my next course. But this by no means was any ordinary pasta feat. The combinations of flavours here can be compared to how an expert talks about a perfume. Different notes/flavours coming in at different time. It all seemed very planned.  The first bite always had a burst of tomato with a strong crab taste. Something like a bisque. Just as the flavours pass on, you get the sweet-briny flavours of the sea urchin. Decadent! I now wonder whether the sea urchin gave this pasta sauce a cream like silkiness too! Great sauce for sure! Its accompany pasta was called strozzapreti, something like a coarsely rolled spiral with less swirls through. Cooked al dente, the pasta was spot on ( I would be disappointed if it was not)! To finish, the chefs were smart to ensure the dish did not appear one-dimensional and added the garlicky crumbs which not only had texture, but a fragrance to match the well loved seafood used. 
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STROZZAPRETI, crab, sea urchin, basil.

I was expecting a little beef dish to pop up at my table after having three courses of seafood. But least did I expect the showpiece of this meal to be another seafood course. This time a stunning dish of scallops, and root vegetables. Before I go further, if any of you watch cooking shows you will understand how important prep work is when cooking scallops. Chefs always say “hot pan”. This was where the magic happened. A really burning hot pan which was probably glowing red in colour. Scallops here were only cooked on one side with butter added at the end and gently scooped many times to cook it at the top. The result was a phenomenal crusty scallop with a melt through flesh. Intense sweetness of the scallop paired sautĂ©ed mushrooms, pickled shallots and slow-grilled endives set atop a smooth onion puree resulted in an instant foodgasm! This was clear why Marea has been one of the best if not the best Italian restaurants in town. Sensational. *respect* 

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CAPESANTE seared sea scallops, oyster mushrooms, grilled endive, pickled shallots. 

To end, the Marea put together a strawberry dessert. I am not quite sure what it was but I tasted notes of pistachio, coconut. There was probably almond in there haha. Ok, I did not know what I was eating. My brain was still stuck in the previous course. One thing for sure, it was good but nowhere near as memorable as the lobster, pasta or scallop course. 
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 TORTA DI FRAGOLE strawberries, ricotta crema, rhubarb, perilla


Boom boom pow! What a lovely meal I had that day. The artsy plating, sophisticated creations of Marea definitely had me think twice before generalising Italian finesse. Their marque automobile is after all the Ferrari. It has been said that always treat your subject with respect and your subject will reward for you.  Marea has shown the world what it does with the produce of the sea.  The ability of the chefs at Marea in retaining the flavours of the seafood was clear from start to end with each protein prepared with respect and garnished only with seasonal ingredients that bring out nothing but the best out of its seafood. There were not heavy lashings of cream, tomato sugo, vinegar or cheese. Most if not all ingredients were subtle and filled the undertones of each course. Very well done to Marea.  I am terribly impressed with this Manhattan establishment. 

Last but not least was the great service I received through out the day. Despite being dressed in chinos and oxford shirt whilst the businessman and woman in this trendy town were set in their black coats and formal wear, I was never neglected . Instead, the waitstaff were still every bit courteous with their greetings and I felt indifferent from the rest of the people. Definitely deserves the rating it holds. 

 WenY
Marea on Urbanspoon

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Bites: Cantina 663 @ Mount Lawley

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:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA2 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!

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANext 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.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe 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!

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe 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 =.=!

 

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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! OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABeef 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!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPork 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.

 

WenY

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Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Media Launch: Italian Master Class by Accento and ICCI

The Italian Cooking Master Class series enter its second year courtesy of Accento and it sponsors along with the recognition by the Italian Chamber of Commerce & Industry.    Each chef hosting one class as part of the series are proud holders of the Ospitalita’ Italiana award, a certified Italian quality seal bestowed only to the most authentic practice in the Italian culinary industry.  Needless to say, the Media Launch night was no less spectacular where food was concerned although I did get a little lost in the Italian culture and language that followed.  So for keen cooks looking to deepen their knowledge in authentic Italian Cuisine, be quick to register @ www.icci.asn.au or call 0892174200.  All classes are held in the Accento showroom in Claremont.  First class starts on the 20th this month.

 

Now, putting formality aside, I cannot deny that I had a really good night and as the little darling was too shy to come along, I asked another friend, J to fill in.  He too had a pretty awesome night.  I mean who would not have enjoyed all the beautiful food coming from the Accento kitchen?OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAChef Giuseppe Pagliaricci of Perugino (top) and Chef Egidio Squillace from Event Style (bottom) started the night with some well balanced fingers food ranging from scallop Carpaccio's to deep fried Bococcini  and even several toast with delicious toppings!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHe is in the midst of preparing the gnocchi for the pasta course!

 

Scallop Carpaccio with mango is every bit spectacular as I expect it to be especially the fruity mango used as a topping.  Needless to say that even the best pairing can be flawed when the quantity is off.  Fortunately, this was exceptional.  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA 

Prawn and pesto sauce.  While this was another fresh course, I found the serve too small for me to enjoy the richness of a typical pesto but I could not fault with much other than that!

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Bacala (cod) fritters (without potato) was also another decent eat.  It had good texture although a significant portion of its crunch was lost due to its standing time on the plate.                                                                             OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACod fritters.

 

The toast which I found to be really awesome.  It was simple.  Just crisp right, the correct portion of cheese and that topping of truffles was really minimalistic but the flavors were just at the right intensity.  Although a tad too dry, the combination of flavors were simply sublime!  Really quite extravagant and it reminded me of little darling’s parmesan net, chicken broth and truffle toastie that we had at Robuchon’s restaurant in Hong Kong. See post here Le Atelier de Joel Robuchon.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Besides this we had other starters like the crumbled bocconcini which was another tasty morsel served to us that night.  For me, it was again another minimalistic approach to maximize the natural flavors of the ingredient.  This felt very Italian.  Something like that when left to the Americans would normally come with Smokey barbecue or some sort of dip.  And in fact, a more popular dish that day would have to be the prawns wrapped in prosciutto.  Something that disappeared so very quickly when served.  Every single time.  But no worries, I caught it in the pan :)!

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Following the launch and speeches by organizers, we moved on from finger food to the main  courses for the night.  First up was a course of pasta.                                                                                                                        OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAChef Giuseppe Pagliaricci of Perugino looking exceptional in this photo. He loves his Italian food and his expressions do not lie.  Here, he prepares the sauce used for the gnocchi.  This was for me an extremely genius dish which I enjoyed best.

 

The gnocchi with gorgonzola, apple, parmesan and pine nutsOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Fluffy gnocchi pillow coated with decadent gorgonzola and parmesan sauce.  Wow factor for the night.  The aroma of the cheese was easily orgasmic and the flavors of the cheeses mellowed really nicely.  Especially when eaten with the little bits of apple.  Yums!  Pine nuts hmmmm I could not taste any.

 

Ravioli filled with potato, cheddar, and prosciutto with a pumpkin sauce and a dash of bĂ©chamel was the second pasta course.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe pasta skin made under the watchful eyes of the chef was thin and silky smooth!  Chef Giuseppi says, the most important thing for the pasta is the ratio of egg to flour.  He was careful enough to not spill his magic ratio so if you want to find out more, definitely register for the first Italian Master class led by him @ www.icci.asn.au or call 0892174200.  For me though, the highlight was the perfectly cooked pumpkin sauce.  So delish :)! The white sauce despite complementing the dish did not feel like it was needed! 

 

Rack of lamb cooked with olive oil, lemon juice and oregano was the meat course which I loved best.  It was tender, and the flavors of the lamb were not clouded by any seasoning.  It was just good old classic rack of lamb with pepper and salt, a few other herbs that was sealed before being finished in the oven.  Lip-smacking good!

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To finish the night, we had various cakes and more but the only desserts that could fit in my tummy were the 

1. Macadamia panna cotta with white chocolate sauce

2. Pistachio panna cotta with berry sauce

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThese desserts continued the enjoyment we foodies were having for the night.  While both were absolutely moorish, the acidity of the berry sauce gave the panna cotta an added complexity rather than topping sweet milk with more sweet milk.  For me, the Macadamia panna cotta with white chocolate sauce  did not reach the extent of cloying but felt bland as there was not contrast whatsoever.  One comment though, was that the pistachio in the berry panna cotta did not provide much crunch.  Felt somewhat soggy!   Perhaps better on top then at the bottom? :)!  Nevertheless, every spoonful was enjoyable :)! Just being picky because you expect chef’s like that to be at the top of their game! Bwahahaha

 

I was too full to eat anything else by the time the clock struck 9.   For me, tonight was awesome and I can only imagine the rest of the master classes where all participants get to feast on equally moorish courses.  How would I describe the quality of the food today?  Well authentic would be a great place to start albeit a bit shallow if one assumes all Italian cooks are equally pure.  For me, the food today was to a certain extent minimalistic but manages to capture the Italian flavors at its best.  So is it time to bring out the inner Italian in you?

 

For me, it was also the first time meeting my foodie mates TFP, ChompChomp and the Queen of Bad Timing.  All of which were super friendly and lovely people.  Maybe next time I will not be too paranoid about media launches although I have to say that the formality of such invite usually extends past my norm hahaha.

 

More information of the Italian Cooking Masterclass is shown below courtesy of http://travelletto.com

All demonstrations start at 6.30pm and held at the Accento Showroom, 256 Stirling Highway Claremont.

Cost per class is $90 or $500 for the series of six.

For more information, visit www.icci.asn.au or call 08 9217 4200.

 

WenY

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