Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Little Bird Café - Northbridge

The Little Bird Café in Northbridge sports an in-vogue menu of gluten free, dairy free, and paleo friendly menu items. It's situated on a serene part of Lake street, away from the chaotic centre of Northbridge. The café sports indoor and outdoor seating, and on a fine Spring Winter Sunday the atmosphere was perfect.

When confronted with the choice, I tend to opt for the added-gluten, extra-cruelty and doubly-processed option -- more concerned with the pragmatism and flavour of food than its politics. I'm forced to admit that the lack of nefarious glutens and pernicious dairy products did not in any way impinge on my enjoyment of the food at The Little Bird.

My smoothie was one of the best I've ever had; I didn't even regret the $8 price tag. The Peanut Butter and Chocolate smoothie was touted as dairy free, with almond milk, dates, raw cacao and banana. If you've ever had that fancy peanut butter - you know the kind - nothing but peanuts and oil (no added sugar), you'll recognise the taste. It wasn't salty, oily or overly saccharine, like a home-made Kraft peanut butter milk shake tends to be. The balance of ingredients and interplay of sweetness with the savoury peanut flavour was just right. It was suitably thick, too.

Buckwheat Pancakes with Cashew Cream, Banana and Mint.

They lied to me! I only got one (large) pancake! The buckwheat pancake was large and fluffy, but it was let down by a raw flour taste, as though the starchy flavour had not been adequately cooked out. When the pancake was combined with the moist Banana, the slightly sweet and nutty cream, Maple syrup, and the Bacon I borrowed from C, the floury taste was shrouded from prominence and the dish became more enjoyable. This isn't a raging endorsement, as I think Cream, Bacon and Maple syrup added to just about anything will bring a smile to my face. The Mint was a clever touch flavour-wise and helped cut the sweetness. The decorative flowers were cute, however I'm not sure if they were edible. I didn't eat them.

Sweet Potato Hash with Pancetta, Pear and a poached Egg. With extra Bacon.

This didn't quite resemble the hashes of breakfast past, but the flavours were spot on. The Pear contributed a subtle note of tartness to the oily sweetness of fried Sweet Potato and the saltiness of the Pancetta. I enjoyed the whole grain mustard too, and who doesn't like a poached egg?

Little Bird Cafe on Urbanspoon

Monday, June 2, 2014

Bib and Tucker - North Fremantle

Bib and Tucker impressed me with their Ocean Trout Tartare with Harissa Aioli and crunchy capers at the Taste of Perth Festival. Negative reviews of poor service and price aside, we visited on a wintry Sunday for lunch. The restaurant was fairly full, so we were seated at the bar, away from their most venerated aspect - the view. We could still get ocean glimpses if we looked sideways, but another, rarer treat was entirely ours: watching the chefs prepare the food. There should be more restaurants in Perth with the opportunity to see your food under construction. It's theatrical and highly entertaining, and made the long wait for our food a lot more bearable. 

Soft Shell Tempura Crab Slider

The creamy Avocado somewhat overwhelmed the Crab, and the toasted Sesame bun was nice, but I feel the Crab would have benefited from a supporting cast that didn't outshine it so brightly.

 Hand cut chips

I love that they left the skin on. The accompanying Aioli was very light and not at all oily.

Ocean Trout Fettucini with Mascarpone, Peas, Lemon and crunchy Capers.

The Mascarpone added a sweet and elegant creaminess without being heavy handed. The Trout was beautiful and fresh and complemented the sweetness of the pasta sauce. The acid of the Capers was somewhat dulled by being cooked, and they had absorbed some of the moisture of the pasta and weren't all that crunchy any more, but weren't in any way objectionable. An excellent and balanced dish, it managed to be hearty and satisfying without being too heavy.

Rotisserie Chicken 

The Chicken skin was crispy and delicious, the Spelt Risotto and Pumpkin with Chestnuts was well cooked but sadly under-seasoned. 

Our food was reasonably good, but didn't really leave anything to rave about or a burning desire to return. The views were spectacular, and would surely be admired if you took people from out of town. 

Bib & Tucker on Urbanspoon

Fuku - Mosman Park

Fuku is a small small restaurant in Mosman Park with no windows, and access is granted only via an intercom. Once indoors, feeling like you've been accepted into the sanctum of a private and exclusive club, the the space is very warm, inviting, and intimate. The back wall is lined with Sake bottles, of which the venue claims to have the largest range and collection in WA. Everyone sits around two Teppenyaki grills with uninterrupted views of the two chefs plying their trade with flair and grace. I love the theatrical aspect of seeing your food prepared, speculating on what's coming next, who's-getting-that-dish and I-hope-that-one-is-ours!

The menu is served Omakase style (chef's choice), akin to a degustation, and there are three options (good, better, best). We opted for the "Best" menu - 10 courses: abundant fresh seafood, Wagyu beef, Quail, and dessert.

Fuku also has an impressive alcohol menu, with a gigantic range of Japanese single malts, wines, and Sake. I couldn't pass up the opportunity for a Sake Pairing. Being novitiate Sake drinkers, this really allowed us to distinguish between the different types and flavours - the lighter and heavier, fruity and sour, warm and cold. The last serve was an amazing Plum wine, very smooth, subtle, sweet, and well matched with our dessert. Being the curious nerd I am, I would have appreciated a little more description or back-story behind each of the courses, but probably wouldn't have remembered much of it anyway. 

Beef Tendons

Our Amuse-Bouche: hot and cold Beef tendon. The warm Beef Tendon was soft, juicy, and well flavoured. At the risk of sounding inarticulate, it was just plain old yummy.

Fried Whiting, deep fried Edamame, a mixture of raw fish (Ocean Trout, Tuna), fried Nori (seaweed), Chawanmushi with Foie Gras

We were instructed to use the seaweed to dip into the fish Tartare, which was cold and refreshing. The deep-fried Edamame came with a fish-roe sauce (the small blob pictured, bottom left) which when mixed tasted a little of fish fingers. The Chawanmushi - a type of steamed custard - was bestowed a decadence by the presence of Foie Gras, and had a rich taste with subtle eddies of the meaty Goose liver.

Sashimi: Sweet Prawn, Salmon, Toro (fatty tuna belly)

I love raw fish, and the chance to eat it without it being spoiled by trails of Mayonnaise or mixed in with Avocado or drowned in Soy Sauce. The ethos when serving seafood at Fuku is to let the freshness and delicate flavours of the fish stand on their own and be appreciated. And appreciate this I did. In spades.

Toro. The fatty belly of a Tuna. One of my favourite foods. I can't help but close my eyes and let out a little sigh of ecstasy as I allow the room temperature piece of fish to dissolve in my mouth. The butterfly carved out of a single piece of carrot was also quite cute.

Nigiri: gently seared Toro, Wagyu with Foie Gras, Sea Eel, Red Emperor with tomato salsa

Glorious! A second serving of Toro! It wasn't ruined at all by the light searing from a blowtorch. The Wagyu was also bursting with flavour, however a little chewy. I adore the combination of seaweed and meat. The eel was salty and firm. The Red Emperor and Tomato Salsa was a surprising hit; we cleaned the plate.

Charcoal grilled free range organic Quail

My experience with the flavours in this dish don't really let me describe the profile of what I tasted with the justice it deserves. Some other blogs describe the Quail as having been prepared with a Pomegranate sauce, but I don't believe ours was. The best I can do is issue an array of gushing superlatives and clichéd adjectives like "luscious", "sublime", "exquisite", and so forth. 

The Quail was seated on a bed of Oyster Mushrooms, with I think even more mushrooms on top. The charcoal grill gave a beautiful smokiness to the soft meat. Moist, juicy, flawlessly de-boned, and unbeatable. Sourced directly from farmers in the Hunter Valley.


C was a little nervous about the white sauce we saw being prepared for other diners, concerned it may spoil the taste of her Crayfish. Her fears were unfounded, as it was a fluffy Miso flavoured sauce rather than a cheesy Bechamel, and it teamed up well with the ample amount of sweet flesh from the Crayfish. Mouthwatering.


Fresh catch of the day - Swordfish with green Beans and a perfectly seared scallop (still raw in the middle). I don't remember much about this dish, other than it being spectacular.

One of our chefs who performed a number of tricks - juggling utensils and salt and pepper shakers, flipping eggs and cracking them mid-air and making a volcano out of a flaming onion. Fortunately there was no flipping of food into our mouths, however one stray piece of fried rice did come flying our way. No harm, no foul. A few times during the night he had the entire restaurant applauding with his showmanship.


Wagyu 9+ marble score Beef. I mistakenly asked for this to be served rare, which doesn't allow the fat in the beef to melt properly and reveal its full depth, but it was still flavourful and well enjoyed. We didn't use any of the sauces provided - the beef didn't need it. 

Plum Wine, Matcha Ice Cream with Adzuki Beans and Rice, Sweet potato tart
Mountain peach.

I can't remember what the dessert with the strawberries was - it was cream cheese something? The best out of the three was definitely the ice cream with red beans and rice. 

If I had one complaint for the night it would be that our food was served a little too quickly - often food would appear as the previous plate was being cleared. We were there however for almost three hours, and once we asked for the service to be slowed a little our request was honoured. Fuku does require a deposit for bookings made in advance, but that's understandable. 

Fuku definitely rates among my top dining experiences. It offers a complete package: a unique ambience, extremely high quality food, showmanship, service, and great drinks selections. If you're looking at the price and asking yourself if it's worth it, I highly recommend it.

Fuku - Omakase and Teppanyaki on Urbanspoon

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Lunch at Mat's

Mother insisted that I host the family for her birthday this year. Not one to disappoint:

Mimosas for everyone!

Home made no-knead bread

A nice chewy crust, perfect for dipping in soup...

...Or liberally applying home-made butter with garlic and then grilling
also pictured, "sugar snap pea cappuccino"

 Chilli Mussels to share

 With lots of fresh Basil from my garden

Pedro Ximinez Beef Cheek with cauliflower puree and a Japanese Cucumber salad

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

No4 Blake Street - North Perth

No4 Blake Street first entered my consciousness when we visited the Taste Of Perth festival, which was a great opportunity to sample the wares of different restaurateurs around Perth. The chocolate garden on No4's menu intrigued me, and I'm highly susceptible to gimmicky desserts, especially where chocolate is concerned. It was an enchanting little dish; the first layer is an edible chocolate soil with edible flowers. Below this was a delicate chocolate mousse. As we picked away at this delightful little pot, we uncovered myriad surprises! First off was a great big gob of peanut butter, little chocolate balls, and another vice of mine, Macadamia nuts. The chocolate garden was eminently delightful and evoked a sense of childish wonder. 

Chocolate Garden

Taste-buds well and truly whetted, we gambled on a late lunch visit on Mother's day, where the restaurant/cafe was surprisingly not-that-full. 

Confit Duck Maryland, Israeli Couscous & Date, Zucchini ribbons, Mint and preserved Lemon salad
I really enjoyed the heartiness of this sweet and game-y Duck dish. It was perfect for a torpid winter day.
The dates weren't readily apparent but their sweetness permeated the dish in an understated yet adequate manner. The couscous was packaged in some sort of thin crisp pastry which was visually appealing and imparted a crispiness to the otherwise soft carbohydrate. The preserved Lemon, along with the Mint, provided an almost effervescent counterpoint to the heaviness of the Duck and Couscous. The generous serving of duck was soft and fell apart on my fork. Creative, novel, and masterful. 

Pan fried Barramundi, sushi rice cake, pickled Radish and toasted sesame dressing.
I didn't really like this dish; the flavour of the fish was just something that didn't really pique my interest. It doesn't help that I'm not a fan of Barramundi and I was fixated by my gorgeous Duck. The fish was quite summery and light, which didn't suit my craving on the day. My dining partner who ordered this dish remarked that "the crispy skin and sesame dressing were the highlights of this dish".

Belgium Waffle, Chocolate Parfait, Passion fruit curd, Passionfruit clay and Honey
The chocolate Waffles were very dry and crumbly, suspiciously like they were pre-packaged. I'm not a Waffle connoisseur, but when I picture a good Waffle, it has many the same qualities as a pancake: fluffy and moist, but with a... Waffle-y shape! The Passion fruit curd and Chocolate mousse however was divine and worked well together. Despite my complaints neither of could resist licking the plate clean.

No4 at Blake St's dinner menu looks amazingly creative and varied, and we can't wait to try it.

No4 Blake Street on Urbanspoon

Monday, May 5, 2014

Breakfast: it's what's for dinner

You're not a real bachelor unless you've had cereal for dinner. Being low-carb diet fad neophyte, I don't have any cereal in my house. But I do have eggs and myriad other left-over ingredients, so "quiche" was on the menu for tonight.

Enoki Mushroom Truffle Quiche

Enoki mushrooms are my new-found favourite fungus. They're sweet, buttery, a little nutty, and a little earthy. Discard the base, soften them up in butter and garlic, and they're ready to go in the egg mix.

Truffle Oil can be a little insipid, but this stuff from Pukara Estate is exception. It's the only condiment I allow myself to defile a steak with. Pour a little bit in to the egg mixture and it adds a wonderfully earthy flavour.

Garlic Chives. One of the few survivors of the inattention I pay to my herb garden. They serve the dual purpose of adding colour and flavour. 

Version 2: Wilted spinach, charred pickled capsicum and Mascarpone cheese

It's Spinach. It's wilted. It looks sad. I think that means I destroyed its spirit adequately, and it wilted under the pressure of my menacing words. Maybe the laws of thermodynamics had something to do with it too.
This is charred pickled capsicum, the regular variety you buy in a jar. I chopped it up so it looks like an aborted foetus, or something.
Left side: Mascarpone and Spinach.  Right side: Enoki.

The verdict?

The Enoki quiches were my favourite. The earthy, nutty taste permeated the entire Quiche, coupled with the truffle oil and the large amount of Garlic in there made for a rich tasting earthy Quiche.

The Mascarpone, Spinach  and Capsicum Quiche was a little subtler, and I had to work to identify each of the individual flavours. Had I not known what was in it, I might have missed the complexity, but the sweetness of the peppers and the charred flavour and the smooth creaminess of the Mascarpone was quite pleasant indeed.

Presentation wise, well, left a lot to be desired. The quiches were kind of flat, and they stuck in the pan, so I mutilated them upon extrication. They also suffer from not having a crust, and from being compared to my Mum's Bacon and Egg quiche. You win, Mum.

Dinner for One: Mussels at Mat's Man Cave

I once read that the pursuit of heaviness is an inherent and inalienable right to every man. At least I think that's how the quote went. My personal quest for corpulence has been a little delayed as of late, and a free Monday night alone coupled with a flyer for a new local seafood store urged me down the path to redemption.

Enter, "Chilli" Mussels.

When it comes to Chilli, I'm a pathetic, mewling white boy, clamouring for the nearest tissue and block of ice for succour. One whole green chilli, seeds and all, was just about right for me. It was only mixed in with a kilo of Mussels, a bunch of white wine, a tin of tomatoes... you get the idea, I'm a wuss.
Mmm, Garlic. Finely diced. This was all I had left. What is this, a pile of Garlic for ants?!
I'm a little Olive Oil pourer, short and stout.

Does anything smell quite as divine as frying Garlic?

One kilogram of Mussels. I thought I might have bought too much. I was wrong. These were plump, juicy, succulent and fresh.

Add some Lemon rind. I think this really transformed the dish from your classic "Chilli Mussels" into more of a citrusy and fragrant dish.

And a few Capers. These really brought a beautiful zest to the Mussels. I don't think they would have been the same without these little beauties.

The finished product!

8 minutes later (I looked at the clock...)

This was, like most of my cooking, a conflation of recipes. It was unlike typical restaurant Mussel fare; I really enjoyed the herbal zing, complemented by the sweetness of the tomatoes. It's kind of like getting the "Lemon and Herb" flavour from Nando's instead of the Peri Peri.

Who needs a crusty slice of bread to soak up the juices when you're reppin' the bachelor style? Just raise that Pyrex bowl to your gaping maw, tilt, and revel.