Sunday, April 27, 2008

Simply A Must

Must Wine Bar

Perth. I've been blogging about the food in Perth for the past few posts. I wonder if anyone is convinced to visit Perth just for the good food. Its not the first destination Malaysians would choose especially when the allure of bigger cities in Oz is just a Jet Star ticket away. A couple of weeks before we left for Perth, I starting preparing Mikael for the kind of lifestyle to expect in Perth. Words like "quiet", "sedate" and "dull" were repeated regularly. I always think its best to play it down than to hype it up. Its certainly a lot more lively since I left but it is by no means "exciting". Then again, we are not the type who look for excitement in a holiday. The only excitement I want to experience is strictly gastronomical. 

Perth used to be so dull and boring, there simply wasn't much to do for a restless teenager. I longed for term to end so that I could fly straight back to KL and party. Well, now that I am no longer a slice of Kraft Singles but a rather fine mature cheddar, Perth wasn't so bad this time round. Something about the clear blue skies and never crowded streets is utterly relaxing. There are actually lots of things to do in Perth. There is a casino, rock climbing, surfing, swimming with the dolphins, surfcatting on the Swan River, breweries and last but no least, the fantastic wineries of Margaret River. The latter probably the number one reason most adults would choose visit Perth (sorry kids, your parents are not really coming to "visit you"). See! So many things to do once you are all grown up! If you don't have time to take a trip to Margaret River, then you must at least visit Must Wine Bar in Mount Lawley (not a real mountain, like Bukit Bintang is not a bukit). 

Must Wine Bar is listed as one of the "must" places to visit in Perth. I did not know this of course since I didn't read up on tourist information nor am I a big wine buff. Turns out, Must is on top of the list of my friends' favourite restaurants. I love this place! I love that they have 40 wines you can order by the glass and over 500 wines by the bottle. Now, thats a real wine bar. If you get confused with the seemingly endless wine list, there are sommeliers on hand to guide you to a bottle. Most bottles start from AUD40. One probably would not expect great food at a place that is first and foremost a wine bar. However, you will be pleasantly surprised at this particular wine bar. With a small menu offering a mere smattering of starters (or "bistro menu" as listed) and mains, Must concentrates on making each dish spectacular. Dinner at Must was definitely one of the highlights of the trip. There were quite a few of us that night so I got to try all the dishes and I must say, they were all good. 

For starters, we shared their famous chicken liver parfait with grenache jelly and twice-baked porcini mushroom souffle. The parfait arrived with a smooth glossy layer of deep purple jelly on top. Fantastically smooth with just the right amount of brandy and not the slightest hint of musky liver. CW ordered a entree-sized angel hair pasta with blue manna crab, chilli, tomato, basil and fini olive oil so it arrived the same time as out starters. It was superb! I loved the abundance of bruised tomato cubes tossed in the creamy sauce. It tasted a lot like the one from Rialto's but richer. I like the latter but Laura loves the Must version because of the cream. 

She ordered the rotisserie spatchcock with rosemary potatoes and golden shallot jus for main course. Now, spatchcock, to you and me, refers to the way the bird has been spilt open and forced into the urdvha upavishta konasana position (certainly not for the stiff jointed! ). Basically you cut it in half and splay the body outwards so it lies flat.  However this is not what it means in Australia apparently. Or maybe just in Perth. Or maybe just to the dodos I happened to be having dinner with. I was confused when several people kept saying it was too big to be a spatchcock. Huh? Hey if you really wanted to, you could spatchcock a turkey too! Anyway, the spatchcock chicken was drop-dead gorgeous! I'm so used to not ordering battery farmed chicken in Malaysia that I automatically ignore all chicken dishes on menus. This was tender, moist, aromatic, flavoursome and better than any darned roast chicken I've ever had. The shallot sauce was salty and sweet at the same time, perfect for dousing the roast potatoes in. The other dish worth mentioning was Hunky's Must Pure Pork Sausage with caramelised pork belly, cassoulet beans and red wine jus. It was pure pork indeed and a very fine sausage it was. It was not overwhelmed with herbs nor was it too salty. It was exactly what a homemade sausage would taste like, wholesome and healthy. Although I seriously doubt it was all that healthy. The beans were a nice accompaniment but the pork belly was a tad disappointing. It was very tasty but the texture had turned a little coarse and the skin (the best part!) chewy from the caramelisation. 

To end the meal, we ordered a raspberry clafoutis and sticky treacle pudding from the special's board and from the menu, a creme brulee duo - grand marnier and pineapple. The winner was the raspberry clafoutis which was light, tangy and regrettably too small to share with so many people! The sticky treacle pudding was delicious too. Warm and oozing with tenderness, it was like receiving a big warm hug from a long lost friend. Eventhough the creme brulees were very well done, they seemed shallow and boring in comparison to the other two. If I had any room in my stomach left, I would've loved to have tried a selection of their cheese. Oh, I also had the first proper coffee of the trip. Dark roasted and perfectly brewed. Ah, what a perfect meal!

Must Wine Bar, 519 Beaufort Street, Mount Lawley. T. 08 9328 8255. Or for more information, click here
Starters from AUD14-23, mains from AUD36 and desserts from AUD14.5

Monday, April 21, 2008

Back in the 'burbs

I always think of Subiaco as part of the city and not relegated to the often untrendy "suburb". I've been back here several times to sample the great food on offer. This time round was no exception. I had three meals in Subiaco this trip. The first was for dinner with long lost friends. Its been over 16 years since I last saw my fellow school mates from PC. Thank God for Facebook otherwise we probably would not have found each other again. I've lost my yearbook which is rather unfortunate. I can still remember names but not the faces. Judging from the Facebook pictures, none of them have really changed all that much. I still have a hard time picturing them in anything but the navy blue school uniform.

We arranged to meet at Rialto's in Subiaco. The last time I dined here, I couldn't get enough of the blue manna crab angel hair pasta. I didn't want to be boring and order the same thing so I chose gnocchi instead. Next time I'll stick to boring. Thankfully Hunky ordered it so I didn't feel too sorry for myself for ordering the crappy gnocchi. Okay, it wasn't crappy but it certainly wasn't great. I make better gnocchi with my eyes closed. Okay, maybe not with my eyes closed but you get the picture. We did share a fantastic starter. I can't remember what it was called but it was cheesy and artichoke-y. Fantastic for dipping homemade piadina bread in. It was really wonderful seeing everyone again. I found out that I wasn't the only one who had a crush on Michael (hunk from Guildford Grammar). I don't even remember what he looks like except he was swoon-worthy. It was funny how everyone knew exactly which Michael I was talking about immediately.

The day of Laura and Peter's tea ceremony, we headed over to Ecco Cafe for a quick lunch. We were given strict instructions not to overeat as some refreshments were being served after the ceremony. We ordered deep-fried risotto balls and baked portobello mushrooms to start and a pizza to share between the four of us. CW couldn't get enough of the risotto balls and ordered a second plate. The baked mushrooms were deliciously cheesy. The pizza was our attempt to eat more vegetables! It arrived laden with fresh asparagus, artichoke and caramelised onion. Superb for lunch- light yet tasty. The only let down here was the coffee. If I wanted some watered down milky concoction I would've just gone to Coffee Bean. AUD4 for this? Choi!

Our final meal at Subiaco was at the trendy and bustling Funtastico. It was a Tuesday night but it was heaving like a pub on Friday night. Its not much to look at. It has a slight industrial feel to it with the hall-like space and high-ceilings. However, judging from the crowd, safe to say the food is the "wow" factor here. The menu is huge and has wood-fired pizza, risotto, pasta, light meals and mains on offer. I would describe the food as "authentically Italian". Everything was fresh, simple and hearty but the main giveaway was salt! It was far too salty for my palate and I am instantly transported back to Italy where I was suffering from hair loss and dehydration. Seriously, tasty but too heavy handed with the salt. I couldn't enjoy my meal. Laura and Hunky tucked right in and ate on my behalf. We shared a anti-misto platter to start. I can't remember much about it apart from the stuffed mushroom which was minty, creamy and tasty. The rest was quite forgettable but good to nibble on if you're just having drinks. I ordered their risotto al jorno which was a seafood and white wine-based risotto. Laura had double cooked duck with pear and honey sauce and mashed potato. She offered to swap her duck for my pasta as it was less salty but from the way she was tucking into the pasta, I have reason to believe there was an ulterior motive here! I got used to the saltiness after awhile but ended up being so full from drinking bottles of water. Hunky had tender veal medallions pan-fried with prosciutto with a white wine and sage sauce. Delicious but oh so salty!

Friday, April 18, 2008

A Simple Dinner

Taking a break from my holiday posts, last night I was lucky to be invited to FBB's "Simple Dinner In Honour for Fellow Food Bloggers". If you look at the menu above, it was anything but simple. As usual, the food was in abundance, the company fantastic and the conversation was soon in the gutter. There is something carnal and sensual about people getting together to feast on each other. Food! Oops, I mean food! Corks were popped and nipples were flashed. It was a regular hedonistic roman orgy but mainly from the way we gorged on the food and not the other things that are usually er...practised at an orgy. Dang! 

We kicked things off with roast lamb, tortilla wraps, tabouleh and a cheese platter. There was a wonderfully tacky apricot cheese, when eaten with a Ritz cracker reminds me of Julie's cheese sandwich biscuits. Lovely! I must remember to ask FBB for the cheese. I like my junk food tacky! The lamb was lovely with the tabouleh but I saved room for the smorgasbord to come. So much food, so little stomach came to mind. After putting on weight from Perth and working hard at the gym this week, I was reluctant to indulge. Having said that, I still managed a small portion of nasi lemak with the added flavour of crispy siu yoke, creamy chicken pie and four different desserts. Thank you Allan for saving me some calories! Nigel and Allan brought some meringue nests and filled it with mango, lime juice and basil. It was sweet and refreshing. FBB's failed pavlova was still lovely. I didn't mind the chewy texture and I love the slivers of jackfruit among the passionfruit and strawberries (cut expertly by Lyrical Lemongrass) which was a nice surprise. The youngun's left disappointingly early, leaving me and Kenny to represent the under 30's (err, I'm just a couple of years over, so it still counts). Thank you FBB for being such a gracious and biatch of a host. 

Thursday, April 17, 2008

A Day At The Beach

The view from Blue Duck's balcony

I like the seaside although I have developed a phobia about the sea in recent years. I blame it on my lack of confidence in my swimming ability coupled with one too many horror flicks involving grisly deaths in the ocean. I may not spend much time in the sea but I love sitting (under the shade of course, to protect my perfect porcelain complexion) on the beach and listening to the waves lapping by the shore. What could be more relaxing? Cottesloe beach is a lovely white sandy beach located about a half an hour's drive from the city. We couldn't have chosen a hotter day for the beach. There was not a cloud in the sky and we quickly abandoned our plans to sit on the beach. There were a number of rather charred-looking people tanning recklessly under the mid-day sun. I didn't fancy getting a sun burn so what else could we do but eat of course!

The Blue Duck came highly recommended by Leems. It was very busy and we were lucky to get a table on the balcony overlooking the beach. Looking around, we were the youngest people there. Actually it did have a very "country club" sort of feel to it. The menu offered a variety of modern Australian fare with an emphasis on seafood. We ordered a dozen oysters to start - half dozen au naturel and the other half with palm sugar, lime and lemongrass dressing. There were fresh, plump and sweet. Delicious! Hunky zoomed in on the slow roasted pork belly immediately. Leems ordered it as well despite her "allergy" to pears. It arrived with crispy pancetta, wilted spinach, a glazed pear and cauliflower puree. Hunky quoted on the flight back to KL much later that "it was the most disappointing pork belly of the trip". The problem with it was the skin was not crispy and the meat was rather dry. I wouldn't say it was bad, it just wasn't as good as the other three pork bellies Hunky had during our trip.

CW ordered The Blue Duck Caesar Salad for her main course. It was a huge portion of baby cos, bacon, anchovies and parmesan! I'm not a big fan of caesar salad. For me, the caesar salad defeats the purpose of eating a salad ie. light and healthy. Its even worse when served in a gargantuan portion. Okay, I exaggerate a little. This was a proper caesar, very lightly dressed and sprinkled liberally with crispy pancetta. Here you go, a perfectly healthy caesar. I guess I am just jaded by the salad cream doused "caesar salads" back home. The winner of the day was my Thai-inspired salt and pepper squid salad with Asian greens, lime, coriander and chilli dressing. The squid was cooked to perfection! It was exactly what I wanted, the appetiser portion was just right. I think ordering the main course portion would've been too much of a good thing. A picture speaks a thousand words, I'll let you immerse in the beauty that is my salad.

After lunch, we took a walk along the beach in search of icy cool ice cream to cool down. This was how hot it was - Hunky only put sunscreen on his face and in the 20-30 minutes we were in the sun, he had developed a tan line at the arms. Hmmm, not the best look.

For more information, menu and opening times on the Blue Duck, click here.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Night and Day in East Perth

I've tried to google the following cafe but to no avail. Situated in the plush suburb of East Perth, Baa Baa Black Cafe is a small corner cafe that dishes up super sandwiches. The day after we arrived, Lems took us out for lunch. The initial place she wanted to take us to was shut so we ended up driving around East Perth and chanced upon Baa Baa Black instead. Hunky zoomed in on eggs benedict immediately while I mulled over the array of delicious-sounding fillings in the sandwich section of the menu. Lems and I decided we would swap half our sandwich so I was glad that she chose one of the two I was thinking about. I ordered chicken with chermoula and avocado while she had the ham, bacon, beetroot, cheese and onion jam sandwich.

It took awhile for our drinks to arrive. Fortunately when it did, it was prettily decorated. Latte art is lovely and all but its not going to matter if the coffee is shite. I was pretty disappointed with the coffees in general this trip but that will be a different blog altogether. The latte at Baa Baa Black was very average for AUD4. The coffee wasn't strong enough but thank goodness the milk is so fresh and lovely. Hunky's eggs benedict with smoked salmon arrived precariously on our wobbly table. The ciabatta bread was overwhelmed with spinach, thick layers of salmon, perfectly poached eggs and a river of thick creamy hollandaise. Pretty darn good as far as eggs benedict goes. Have I mentioned that Hunky put on 2kgs?

I really enjoyed the delicate flavours of the chermoula and avocado in my sandwich. It tasted light despite the generous helpings of mashed avocado. It had a slight tang from a squeeze of lemon and the aromatic flavours of coriander and parsley made me believe I was eating something very good for me. Which was why I was surprised when Lems and I swapped our halves and she said it was a tad on the bland side for her. I was about to defend my sandwich like a socialite defends Tatler when I took a bite of her ham sandwich. Ahhhh. Where mine was subtle, hers was the opposite extreme. The perky unabashed flavours was like a caffeine hit after detox. Wow! It was salty, dense, sweet, rich all at the same time. It was super satisfying and my sandwich did taste like pretty mild after that.

Lems paid for lunch but I remember the bill was over AUD50 for the three items, a latte and juice. I don't think this cafe opens for dinner as most of the cafes in the East Perth cater to the office crowd. Not to worry as there are a couple of fantastic restaurants hidden in this suburb for dinner. One such place was Cream. It was the day before the tea ceremony and the three of us had conspired to avoid the bride-to-be. She had been pretty stressed but being the gracious person she is, she still insisted on meeting us and taking us around despite being absolutely fatigued. Anyway, she refused to take no for an answer and promptly arrived at our hotel to whisk us off to dinner at Cream. I would never have found this place if I was just walking around the neighbourhood. Tucked away in some back street, its easy to miss the dimly lit restaurant with its retro signage.

We had a very early reservation (7pm!) but within half and hour, the restaurant was almost full. We stood out like sore thumbs as almost every other table were occupied by couples. Despite the fine dining menu (and prices to match!) and restaurant location, there is still something casual about the ambience. Maybe its because the wait staff are dressed like fellow diners or how a basket of cutlery and napkins was left on the table for us to help ourselves to. Whatever it is, its obviously popular with the locals. The fur-cladded walls is a nice effect, I felt warm and cocooned. The menu at Cream is Modern Australian and this was definitely in the Top Three meals I had during my trip. Unfortunately, the "romantic" lighting was not conducive to picture-taking so I don't have any pictures of the superb food to share on my blog. I know! One must start to use one's imagination! Heaven forbid!

At that point in time, my jeans was already feeling tighter. I was quite worried that I wasn't going to be able to fit into my jeans. I didn't have much of an appetite which was such a shame because the food was so good! We shared a homemade cognac pate with onion confit to start. Sublime! Pate? All I could taste was sweet, mellow cognac. The onion confit provided a sharp contrast to the mellow pate. I could've sworn I wanted a salad but somehow I ended up ordering the baby beef braised slowly in red wine with horseradish mash. Yes, baby beef not veal. How can I begin to describe this tender, tender morsel? Fanbloodytastic! I barely touched it with my fork and it just fell apart! I didn't care much for the horseradish mash but who cares? The beef was delicious enough on its own.

I thought CW's chilli crab and king prawn risotto was fantastic! The natural sweetness of the crab and fresh springy prawns complimented the spicy and perfectly cooked risotto. Hunky's crispy roasted pork belly with caremelised apple, leek and fetta strudel was very tasty too but all of us felt the apple, leek and fetta strudel, though delicious, was too heavy for the rich pork belly. The whole dish felt extremely rich and fattening. The biggest surprise of the night was Laura's choice which was roasted breast of free range chicken, porcini mushroom jus, truffle potato mash and crispy pancetta. I'm usually weary of chicken dishes especially when it involves dry breast meat. Now, thats an oxymoron! Anyway, not only was this dish moist, it was flavoursome too! After that fantastic meal, I was ready to pass out. The buttons on my jeans groaned in protest when Laura suggested dessert but I was outnumbered. We then headed off to Northbridge for dessert but thats another post. Did I mention that I put on 2kgs too?

Cream Restaurant - Suite 2, 11 Regal Place, East Perth WA 6004. For more details and sample menus, click here. Expect to pay - main course between AUD33-39, starters AUD20 onwards. Expensive but worth a visit!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

44 King Street

Back in the day, King Street was the place to shop in Perth. Well, the only place to shop really. Fast forward to present day, its still the place to go for designer goodies. Today Gucci, Tiffany's and Louis Vuitton have chosen to open on this street. Its no wonder that the prices at 44 King Street Cafe are a little inflated. It remains as charming today as it did then. I love the wooden floors, the huge wooden bar and the smell of freshly ground coffee as you walk in.

Hunky and I had been there the day before for coffee and a slice of blueberry and white chocolate tart. It wasn't too sweet and the blueberries were juicy and tart. We caught a peek at the breakfast menu and Hunky decided that we were coming back with CW the next day. We caught the free CAT bus from our hotel and took a nice walk down Murray Street down to King Street. The weather was perfect the whole time we were there except for that one freaky Monday when it rained from morning til the evening. It rained so much that day, it made the whole month's quota! The rest of the time it was warm with blue skies and plenty of sunshine.

It did not start off too well as our waitress was Eastern European and not particularly friendly. I asked for low-fat milk and she did not understand me. She offered me a decaf instead. CW nearly thumped her on the head when she had to repeat her order three times. Huh, and people complain about service in Malaysia. Hah! Hunky ordered mushrooms on brioche with Swiss cheese while CW had bacon, mushrooms and eggs. I liked Hunky's brioche, the mushroom and cheese was the perfectly indulgent way to start the day! CW's bacon was massive. I love that the bacon here is not streaked with fat. Its good to be able to taste the actual meat.

I had eggs benedict with apple smoked salmon fillet. I hadn't read the menu properly and was expecting slivers of smoked salmon. Imagine my astonishment when a slab of salmon arrived on my plate smothered in hollandaise. Golden creamy goodness oozed from the yolks increasing my chances of heart disease by 60%. The smoked salmon, as with most other smoked salmon fillets I've had, was very "smokey". It was detracting and reminded me a little like eating out of an ashtray. It wasn't entirely unpleasant but it was definitely something that takes a while to get use to. Overall, its worth a visit just to watch people walking by. Be prepared to pay.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

My Best Friend's Wedding

I've been in Perth for over a week now and I've eaten far too much. I suddenly remember last night that it was in Perth two years ago that I experienced heart burn for the first time. Did that stop me? Yes, I didn't have gelato that night. I have many delicious posts to catch up on once I am back home but for now, a special post to mark a very special occasion. I'm here for a wedding and its my fourth time as a bridesmaid. Fortunately, I am not superstitious. My bestfriend from school is getting married. Funnily enough, none of us thought she would be the first among us to get married. She never participated in the conversations the rest of us had about our respective fairy tale weddings. Not long after we graduated, she was adamant that de facto was the path she preferred. Everything changed after she met Peter. It was clear from the start that they were each other's missing halves. Peter is kind, patient and laid back while Laura No, I'm just joking. They compliment each other in every way possible.

The day of the wedding, the sky was clear and the weather was warm and breezy. Perfect. The exchange of vows at church made me choke up a few times but I had promised Laura that I wouldn't cry and set off a chain reaction among the bridal party. She looked so beautiful and was radiating with happiness. We then spent the whole afternoon taking pictures in East Perth. All the groomsmen were tall and dashing, that made smiling for 2 and half hours a lot more bearable. The wedding reception was held at The Sheraton. Despite a few bumps, which included Sheraton giving away the bridal suite therefore we had to have our r & r at the lift foyer(!), the night kicked off with much love and warmth.
I have to blog about dinner of course. We started off with a roast duck salad with saffron gnocchi and baby spinach in a tomato and red wine sauce and a drizzle of truffle oil. The duck and salad was quite nice but the gnocchi was clumsy and firm. To wash our palates, a lime and tequila sorbet was served. I enjoyed the sorbet but could not taste even the barest trace of tequila. I enjoyed Hunky's chicken confit which I exchanged with my steamed salmon fillet. It sounds lacklustre but who knew salmon fillet could taste so nice steamed? It was served with sauteed scallops which were overcooked and a cannelini bean and leek puree which was lovely with the fish. I just prefered the chicken because it reminded me of Red Rooster. I don't know if the Chef would be insulted but for me, it was lurvely! Dessert was a soft baked limoncello brulee garnished with fresh fruit salad and mascarpone ice cream. Again, it was definitely lemony but I think they forgot the cello. I was a bit concerned that the ice cream wasn't melting but then I realised it had mascarpone in it. I thought it was a too heavy with the brulee. Then again, knowing Laura, she would've insisted as creamy and rich as possible!

In between, Laura's dad brought the house down with his entertaining account of the blossoming of the bride and groom's relationship. Followed by Peter's dad's somewhat saucy speech! I think the 5 speeches were the best I've heard in a long time. Everyone kept it short and sweet and kept to the subject matter ie. the couple. With my feet aching and sides splitting, we took the final few snaps, bid the happy couple good night and fell into exhausted slumber back at our hotel.

Thank you Laura and Peter for letting us be apart of your special day. Congratulations and bon voyage!