Sunday, July 24, 2011

Clarences - Haute bar food

Being just a short drive away from our neighbourhood, Clarences bar has become a recent favourite haunt for M and I to pop in for a drink or two. The bar itself has become a bit of a hot spot amidst the sea of choices you find yourself wading through in the bustling suburb of Mount Lawley. This despite having a non-descript entrance that doesn't scream out for attention.

The interior of this bar/bistro is uber cool - eclectic artwork, comfy dining booths and an awesome courtyard out the back that is just perfect in the warmer months of the year. The drinks list here is also pretty interesting, with an interesting selection of beers and probably one of the largest lists of ciders I have seen around Perth.

We popped in on the weekend for a late lunch and were pretty excited at what read like a very innovative menu. The flavour combinations sounded clever and put a twist on typical bar favourites. And so we ordered with much anticipation.

We started off with the Crispy baldivis rabbit legs with aioli. This was pleasant enough - crispy crumbed rabbit legs simply seasoned on top of shaved fennel and aioli. I would personally have preferred a dressed bit of fennel as this element of the plate fairly dry. The aioli itself also lacked punch - and would have rounded off the dish with a tad more creaminess and salt.

We also ordered the crab, confit chicken wings and celeriac remoulade. This presented nicely - the confit chicken wings were tasty and as lowbrow as this sounds, reminded me of spam (probably from the pork fat it was rendered in) - not that this is a bad thing. The sides were actually combined - not what I had expected given the punctuation (not to mention the confit chicken wings) that interjected between the words "crab" and "celeriac remoulade". This however was tasty enough. The dish however needed texture - Perhaps a crispening of the chicken wings post confit or even substituting celeriac with an apple slaw instead would have made this a more memorable dish.

We finished off with the Clarences cheeseburger which came with a side of hand cut chips. As "cheesy" as it sounds, this was probably the dish we enjoyed the most. A simple house made brioche bun with coarsely grounded beef, just melted cheese and a bit of sliced pickle for acidity. The hand cut chips were delicious and went down well with our cider. The only gripe I would have on this was presentation - maybe it comes with wanting food to photograph well but this dish had lots of yellow (think brioche bun, cheese, hand cut chips) and was screaming out for a bit of green to spike its visual appeal. But heck - at least it tasted good.

All up - Clarences is a great spot to pop in for a drink and a casual bite to eat. The menu is inventive but some tweaks in execution and a a bit of thoughtfulness in how ingredients come together on the plate could go a long way in making it a brilliant gastrobar in this city of ours.

566 Beaufort Street
Mount Lawley

Monday, June 6, 2011

(definitely)Crispy (sorta)Mexican roast pork tortillas

My current food fad is a new found fascination for Mexican cuisine - no... not Tex Mex "Gag-a-mole" microwaved cheese-caked nachos... I'm talking about the zingy, spicy, fresh and complex flavours of Mexico.

I guess my feelings towards the things I used to hate about what I thought was a representation of Mexican food (think dodgy kebabs dressed as burritos, the aforementioned nacho disasters, etc) are exactly the same emotions towards the misrepresentations of Chinese food that make me cringe (I don't want to come across as a food snob but special fried rice and combination chow mein aren't exactly special or a sought after combo in China).

And so - in my journey towards discovering the flavours of ol' Mexicana, I whipped up my interpretation of that cuisine over the weekend in the form of a super crispy roast pork belly marinated in fire roasted green chilli, fresh coriander, lime juice/zest, garlic and olive oil.

In keeping with theme, I decided to serve this in a tortilla (store bought - I am only an el novice!) topped with home made guacamole (pimped up with fresh lime, coriander and chopped tomato) and a fire roasted red capsicum salsa. The flavours worked incredibly well together - the kick from the heat of the chillis and the tang of the limes balanced beautifully with the sweetness of the capsicums. And of course - the super crispy crackling on the pork belly added an addictive textural element to creaminess of the avocado in this comforting dish.

As far as food fads go - this one is definitely here to stay - just as I know that there is hope beyond the thick battered sweet and sour pork atrocities that are so prevalent in Chinese restaurants all over the world - my dream is that I will find myself in the streets of Mexico one day laughing with a few amigos at those nasty nachos. Viva la Mexico!

And they're back again (Free double passes giveaway!)

It seems like almost a year ago... ok - it has almost exactly been a year ago when I waxed lyrical about the exciting prospect of the Good Food & Wine Show arriving into the sleepy city of Perth. And with that news came the reminder of my love hate relationship with this city that has so much offer but is just so stuck in its old ways... and don't get me started on all things unrelated to the food scene because that could be the start of a whole new other blog.

Nevertheless, it's events like the GF&WS that remind the hopefuls in this city of ours that there is more to Perth than overpriced, lacklustre plates... that there are purveyors and restaurateurs out there that are proud to be West Australian but aren't ashamed to admit we need change. And I'm so excited to say that as quick as the past year seems to have flown by, Perth HAS experienced change. I only have to look to my neighbourhood to see the opening of two highly successful Melbournesque cafes,the pending arrival of a gourmet deli and very soon, two exciting new small bars.

And so, with the marking of the second post to encourage readers to attend this year's GF&WS from 15-17 July 2011 at the Perth Conventre and Exhibition Centre, I am proud as punch to offer one lucky reader two free tickets to this worthwhile event (reality TV celebrity chefs included). All you have to do is leave a commment against this entry on what is the one change (be it restaurant, cafe, new ingredient to the markets, etc) you have experienced in the Perth food scene over the past year that has given you the most joy and hope for our city. The winner will be announced on this blog on the 20th June (Monday) so check back in to claim your prize!

Good luck!

Friday, May 27, 2011

It just ain't the same

I have just returned from a trip from Singapore where, as usual, the itinerary consisted of the next destination to eat, the tight timeslots for snacking and a whole lotta satisfaction.

And whilst it can often be easy to forget the food that you miss whilst living in a different country to the one you grew up in, I have found with every visit a clear reminder that some things will always be better in Asia... full stop.

One of my favourite regular haunts of late everytime I am in Singapore is a coffeeshop just off the hustle and bustle of Chinatown. Whilst seemingly like just another of the many coffeeshops in Singapore on the outside, this eatery on a quiet street filled with loads of character boasts some of the most kickass char siew wanton mein (barbecued pork wanton noodles) ever... and I mean kick ass.

As a popular reality cooking show currently airing would describe, the "hero" of the dish here is without doubt the char siew. Perfectly sweet and caramelised with just the right amount of marbling in the melt in your mouth pork, this is truly something special that you realise will never be replicated in Australia.

The noodles here are also served al dente (which gets a big tick in my books) in a dark sweet soy sauce - perfectly balanced with a mild but savoury sambal chilli. The only let down would probably be the wantons here - not particularly memorable with not a whole lot of flavour... but then again, with the "hero" of this dish being so damn good - there'll be plenty to write home about before you return to your adopted country to realise, quite sadly, that some things will just never be the same.

Foong Kee Coffeeshop
6 Keong Saik Road

Saturday, March 19, 2011

That Little Mexican Place

Mexican food outside of the States and of course... Mexico... has a pretty bad rep due to the confusion with tex mex cuisine - consisting usually of sloopy greasy nachos and soggy burritos. Of course, just like good chinese food isn't about satay chicken and mongolian lamb, real Mexican food is nothing like tex mex has made it out to be. Quite the opposite, authentic Mexican food is fresh, light, complex and darn right exciting.

That Little Mexican Place in North Perth (and now also in Vic Park)... is exactly as its name describes.. a small eatery that serves up honest Mexican food. We dropped by for a lazy weekend lunch - crab meat empanadas, freshly made tacos with shredded pork and salsa verde, shredded goat tamale and a beautiful albondigas in chipotle and tomato salsa. Everything was fresh, zingy and so exciting to eat. The empanadas were a highlight - the beautiful corn pastry encasing perfectly seasoned crab meat. The albondigas were also incredibly addictive - mexican meatballs served piping hot in a chipotle and tomato sauce - smoky, rich and so moreish.

The food at TLMP is very well executed - and for those who may not have discovered what real Mexican food is all about, it is a fantastic place to visit to taste what I think is truly one of the most underrated cuisines in the world.

That Little Mexican Place
382 Fitzgerald Street
North Perth

Sunday, February 27, 2011

When close is almost enough

Let's face it. Hawker fare will never be the same here in Perth as it is in South East Asia. Not only are prices phenomenally ridiculous here, you constantly find yourself desperately seeking that familiar flavor of a well cooked hawker dish.

Enter Newton Circle which is perched in, of all places, a food court in the city. This long running establishment is packed during the office lunch hour and offers a range of hawker items at reasonable prices (for Perth city's crazy standards).

The most popular items here are clearly the Char kway teow and Hainanese chicken rice. The former is more akin to a Singaporean version with a slight dousing of sweet soy sauce with the addition of lap cheong (Chinese sausage) and the latter is more Malaysian in flavor with a more savoury soy dressing.

The verdict? As cliched as it sounds, it definitely is not as good as what you can get in most hawker centres in Singapore or Malaysia... at literally a fraction of the price. But it works to at least satisfy a craving. The Char kway teow has that sometimes elusive charred "wok hei" flavor which is a good indicator for any great wok fried dish. The seasoning however lacks depth and body which you find it the gutsy versions you might be used to.

The chicken rice is generous but the meat is definitely on the tough side (which is always made worse by most chicken rice establishments here that microwave the chicken before serving). The rice also lacks the ginger and garlic hit you expect when you tuck into this iconic dish. What is pretty good here is the chilli sauce - laced with lemon juice, it bears some resemblance to the lime spiked versions you get in Singapore.

All in all, Newton Circle is not a bad spot to visit when you want to find the familiar - it won't stop you yearning for the real stuff... but at least it helps jolt the food memory till the next time you find it.

Newton Circle
4/207 Murray Street
(Sidewalk cafe on the top floor of Carillon arcade)

Panko Pangritata

For dinner tonight, M and I whipped up a quick but very tasty spaghetti with pan roasted field mushrooms, chilli, thyme and parmesan cheese. But something was missing... and so, I decided to add a textural dimension to our pasta dish - pangritata.

Pangritata is basically a poor man's parmesan born from Southern Italy. Breadcrumbs toasted in olive oil, garlic, chilli and seasoned with sea salt... the humble ingredients add crunch, loads of flavour and lots of fun to a basic spaghetti dish.

But what was special about my pangritata tonight was that because I didn't have any leftover crusty bread which I would normally process into breadcrumbs, and also frankly because I was too lazy to clean up, I used, in a stroke of rare genius (well to me at least it was), leftover panko I had in the pantry. And the results were surprisingly good. The panko crumbs crispened up perfectly and were so easy to make. Tossed through our pasta dinner, it turned something something so simple into something truly special.

Sunday, February 6, 2011


Ok - a word of warning to egg haters and vegans - this post may offend. And whilst I fully respect that everyone has their preferences on what they eat and equally what they don't, I have never been a closet eggnophile - I LOVE EGGS. There is something so rich and comforting about perfectly cooked eggs that is just so satisfying. And as much as some may try to deny it - I firmly believe that an egg makes a simple savoury dish look (and taste) fabulous.

I recently discovered a fail proof way to cook ni-tamago eggs - probably one of the best ways to enjoy the tastiest free range eggs you can get your hands on. Ni-tamago refers to the eggs that are most commonly found in ramen shops all over Japan - just set egg whites enveloping a creamy, gelatinous egg yolk that is still slightly ever so runny. Simply cook eggs straight out from the fridge in lightly boiling (not vigorously such that the eggs are tumbling around in the pot)water for approximately 7 minutes (for medium sized eggs). Remove and drop into an ice bath laced with malt vinegar (this apparently helps in the peeling process). Leave for approx 1/2 hour until the egg is completely cool - peel and eat.

They are fantastic paired with, as pictured above, Bovril noodles which I have previously blogged about, with Rosa's morcilla sausages on toast or simply by themselves.


Saturday, February 5, 2011

Spanish Flavours

For those of you out there who have previously discovered the incredible chorizo at Spanish Flavors, previously in Wembley, Rosa and her little deli have moved to the Leederville/Mount Hawthorn border.

Rosa is a bit of a celebrity here in Perth - her chorizo sausages are widely regarded as the best in town with many restaurants procuring directly from her. More importantly, Rosa has incredible charisma and a wicked sense of humor - the pint sized providore never failing to put a smile on your face in the little time you spend in her store.

Along with the new premises, Rosa has now introduced an adjoining cafe which serves up a small menu of spanish dishes drawing from some of her products that she has on sale. M and I sampled her spanish ham croquettes before we made our purchases on the weekend. The verdict? As much as I wanted to love the croquettes here, and as much as I wanted Rosa's cafe to be brilliant - it wasn't. The croquettes were, to be honest, a little bland and were a tad dry. This was definitely a far cry from the most incredible croquettes I tasted at Movida in Melbourne which I've previously blogged about. And as friendly as the service was from her family members, it was unfortunately a little clumsy and showed that there were definitely teething problems that needed to be dealt with between the kitchen and front of the house.

But all is forgiven with purchases from Rosa's deli. Her morcilla sausages (or spanish black pudding) is out of this world. Simple pan fry till crispy at home and top with a crispy fried egg for one of the most stunning weekend breakfasts. Or fry up some of her delicious chorizo until you render that delicious paprika spiked oil - toss in a can of chickpeas, a couple of spigs of thyme, thinly sliced red onion and flat leaf parsley. Finish with a squeeze of lemon juice and mop up with crusty toasted bread. Yum.

Spanish Flavors
413 Oxford St
Mount Hawthorn

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Spicing things up

I have blogged about Arigataya several times before - it is, in the absence of a trip to Japan, the best version of ramen here in Perth. And whilst there are definitely shortcomings that I can choose to pick at in terms of the preparation of its belly pork and the consistency of the ni-tamago, it still ticks alot of boxes - not the least of which is the fact that you can order a free kaedama (an extra portion of noodles to add to your remaining broth)

My favourite variation here is definitely the miso ramen - the broth has great depth and is always served piping hot. And on the subject of hot, Arigataya has recently introduced a spicy version of its ramen variations - a deep red broth which probably looks more lip numbing than it actually is. Delicious and mildly addictive, this will have you slurping on another kaedama before you know it,

62 Roe Street Northbridge

Monday, January 24, 2011

More than toast

I'll admit - whilst I like to romantacize the idea of dining out on a lazy weekend for breakfast, more or often than not this turns out to be sadly disappointing. You see, whilst Perth has no shortage of breakfast spots, the majority are overpriced and offer up bland and boring takes on the first meal of the day.

Cue Toast in East Perth overlooking Claisebrook cove - a small, no frills addition to the popular waterside restaurant strip. Their menu is well priced and adds just enough of a spin to old favourites (think potato, mint and fetta pancakes with smoked salmon, poached eggs sour cream and chives or polenta toast with mushrooms, soft italian cheese and parsley). The service is warm and inviting - definitely an unpretentious breakfast spot that dares to be different and pleases even the breakfast romantics like myself who have fallen in love with it.

21/60 Royal Street
East Perth WA 6004
(08) 9221 0771

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