African Mesob

African Mesob

Want something to try some food that’s a little different ? Want it to come from Africa ?(but not involve quantities of meat larger than your head ). Want it to be run by food and coffee loving people eager to please ? Well it looks like African Mesob may be just the place you’ve been looking for.

African Mesob is run by Simon & Julie Teshome. Simon is Ethiopian, and after meeting Julie in Ethiopia and moving back to Perth to live, they decided that there was a definite need for a restaurant that could express the love they both had for traditional Ethiopian food (and coffee!). Not finding anything that suited their needs… they took the bull by the horns and opened their own.

Mesob

African Mesob is a unique restaurant. From the time you walk to the sound of African drumming you know that this is going to be a little out of the ordinary to the standard Perth restaurant.

A mesob is a tabletop on which Ethiopian food is traditionally served. It’s a style of eating whereby you are served a big basket of food and you use your hands to tear up a special bread called Injera (a slightly sour kind of bubbly dough bread made from sorghum flour) and wrap the different food in it. At the risk of being pithy, it’s almost like African tapas… you get given a variety of dishes in small servings on top of the Injera and you use the bread and your fingers to scoop it all up. It’s a great way to eat, the waiter washes the hands of everyone before the meal and couples are encouraged to feed each other.

Sharon and I went along on a Friday evening a few weeks back, on a complete whim, just hoping to find something different to the usual pizza/pasta/stir fry quick and easy meals that are so easy to resort to on a Friday night when noone can be bothered cooking. We were pleasantly surprised by what we found.

We both thought the idea of the hand washing and feeding each other was a great idea… that was until I started stuffing pieces of food into Sharon mouth faster than she could eat it, at which point the novelty wore off and she decided she could quite easily feed herself. I personally love eating with my hands… something many cultures do without a care in the world, and a great counterpoint to the alarming rise of germophobes out there who won’t touch anything that hasn’t been sterilised first. I think it’s a great way to get in touch with what you’re eating, and adds an extra sensation of tactile sensation when you’re picking up all the different pieces and combining them together. Plus it’s almost expected that you’ll make a mess… which is right up my alley :)

African Mesob

We ordered a beef mesob… which came in the basket with the Injera and an assortment of meaty stew dishes (wat) that I’m told come from a range of African countries. African Mesob aims to be a kind of focal point for African culture and cuisine in Perth. They have staff from many different parts of Africa, all adding their own flavour to the unique dishes of their homelands, and trying to raise the reputation of places that are so often lumped together with little regard to the cultural diversity of complexity of each one.

Most importantly however, the food was beautiful. Maybe I was biased by the simple but enticing style of eating, or the ridiculously cheap house wine ($3.50 a glass), but It was all delicious. The soul of Ethiopian cooking is Berbere, a rich spice mixture abounding with chilli that fuels many of the stews and adds depth and complexity to the dishes. When eaten with the Injera it was a wonderful combination that was both interesting and fulfilling.

Vegetarian Platter (by Greencolander)
[a better photo of a mesob taken by Greencolander

So, having had our fill of a great meal, our hands washed again, and on our way out to pay. What did I spy behind the counter but a coffee roaster. As any self respecting coffee geek with be happy to tell you, Ethiopia is the birthplace of coffee.

Stories tell how a goat herd named Kaldi noticed that his goats would become frisky after eating the leaves and berries of a certain bush. He decided to try some himself and so discovered the exhilarating effects of coffee. Kaldi then took the berries to a monastery where the monks, believing them to be the work of the devil, threw them into the fire. This released the aroma of the coffee and the berries were hastily rescued from the flames and the monks learned how to make coffee.

Skip forward a thousand years or so, and coffee is one of the worlds most traded commodities, but still has strong roots in Ethiopia, being used in many cultural and religious events and having a special significance to many Ethiopians.

Roasted Ethiopian Coffee

So the idea of having a coffee roaster in an Ethiopian Restaurant, and roasting a variety of African coffees fresh each week, is not such a strange concept. Simon holds his love of coffee quite dearly, and it was a natural step for him to want to bring his love for Ethiopian coffee to the people of Perth. They are also hoping to bring in the traditional preparation methods… which is serving it in a little earthenware pot in small cups… heated over an open fire… but the logistics of doing it in a restaurant may prove difficult. Still I think it’s a great initiative, and the smell of fresh roasted coffee wafting through the restaurant is another lovely thing to have.

So, in my typical fashion of not being able to think of suitably succinct way to end these rambling review/experiences, all I can say it go and try this place out. If you’re anything like me you’ll love it. If you’re not…then why are you reading this blog ?? ;)

African Mesob
100 Lake Street, Northbridge. (Cnr Lake & Newcastle Street)
Open for Lunch 12 to 2pm and Dinner from 6pm til late. Closed Mondays.

Phone: 9228 1544
http://africanmesob.com.au/
Full Licenced

Nine Fine Food

Nine Fine Food

Friday evening in the city (Perth that is)… a group of news friends and acquaintances gather to catch up, drink wine, talk coffee, and listen to some great Jazz (with accompanying impromptu tap dancing) and ease their way into the weekend with some quality dining. The scene is set for one of the best restaurant experiences I’ve had in a long time.

The venue for the rest of the evening was Nine Fine Food, a modern Japanese restaurant on the fringes of Northbridge that is doing some excellent food at the moment. They are tucked away in a relatively nondescript area of Northbridge on Bulwer St, not particularly close to the rest of the Northbridge scene, but equally far away from North Perth or Highgate, and certainly not somewhere I’d expect to find a restaurant of this quality.

So Sharon and I, and our dining companions, laden with bottles of wine, whetted appetites, and great expectations, made the short trip down from Hotel Northbridge to Nine.

On arrival we were greeted cheerily by the waiter who remembered our dining companions from the last time they came. It’s nice that even in a place where they must get a lot of new people coming through all the time, they can still add a personal touch by remembering names and faces.
The waiter then seated himself casually at the head of our table and proceeded to take the order.

The menu all looked interesting. The modern Japanese theme is worked through almost every dish, each having it’s own unique take on traditional style Japanese ingredients, in beautifully presented combinations and what could be called a European style setting.

We started off with a couple of tasting plates that were mostly little morsels of deep fried goodness. Tempura fish, spring rolls, karaage chicken, with 3 different dipping sauces, a wasabi cream, a chilli soy, and another mayonnaise… Now with a taste of things to come and rapidly moving our way through the first bottle of wine, it was time for mains.

Cooked Special Pierro Pinot Noir

As is generally the case when you get a group of food lovers around a table, there was much tooing and froing of ideas and opinions on what we should try, who should get what, and how best we could suitably get to try a bit of everything on the menu. That was until we saw the specials board, of which almost everything sounded more intricate and alluring than the last. With great difficulty I finally settled on one of the cooked specials… basically a tasting plate (mental note: remember names of dishes next time) consisting of scallops, duck, prawns, octopus, mussels wrapped in chilli seaweed and fried tempura style. Sharon had the spider crab and tuna, Marhsall and Linda had the sashimi salad, Daniel had a sashimi tasting, Alex I think had a steak dish (?) and Cathy… crushing all my hopes of thoroughly enjoying my meal… ordered the Wagyu rump.

Wagyu rump

Now all of the dishes I sampled were fantastic, beautiful clean flavours that effortlessly combined the best of Japanese and European cooking, with wonderful presentation. But the waygu was something else entirely. Cooked medium rare the way any steak should be, it literally melted in my mouth as I savoured the morsel Cathy was nice enough to let me try. Combined with an excellent choice of wine in a Glaetzner Shiraz, it was heaven in a mouthful… and made it that much harder to go back to my own plate… however lovely it was.

We finished off the evening (and a few more bottles of wine) with dessert, choosing the Azuki bean and chocolate pudding with ice cream. Another taste sensation and a perfect way to round off a great meal.

Perhaps it was the wine talking, perhaps the fact that the company was so enthusiastic, but I can’t remember enjoying a restaurant experience as much in a long time. I can now easily see why Nine Fine Food won “Best Asian Restaurant” at the 2007 Restaurant and Catering Industry Association Awards. An accomplishment only detracted from by the the fact that the term “Asian” is relatively vague, and to my mind means about as much as “meat” when you’re reading through a menu wondering what to order. Though I suppose that’s more of an indication of the lack of variety in the Perth scene when it comes to “Asian” restaurants that are pushing the envelope in terms of taste, quality, and presentation.

Still, credit where it’s due… this place is a welcome addition to trendy dining in Perth, and deserving of it’s status.

Fully satisfied, and a little merry, we stayed long past the time when everyone else had left… getting an impromptu piano recital from one of the staff, while the rest of them cleared up. Not even a hint of stern “will you just bloody well leave already” look was seen, which is a credit to their commitment to their customers.

Definitely a place to go back to soon.

Nine Fine Food
227-229 Bulwer St (corner of Bulwer and Lake St)
Northbridge
Phone: (08) 9227 9999
BYO

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Video: Milk Texturing and Latte Art-ish

So this is the video I said I would put together for a few people who seemed interested in the latte art side of the coffee making process I posted recently. I should state formally and for the record that I am no expert or professional when it comes to milk texturing or pouring latte art… I practice the Jeet Kune Do of coffee… formalising my routines by taking the essence of understanding from as many different sources as I can find.

I’ve been playing around with my little coffee machine (the Rancilio Silvia) for the last couple of years now, and have picked up tips and tricks from all over the place. Most notably Coffee Geek, and Coffee Snobs (both of which I’m pretty sure I qualify for).

Music is ‘Woo Hoo’ by the 5,6,7,8’s which you can find on the Kill Bill soundtrack if you’re so inclined :)

For a few more indepth explanations of latte art, check out these links:
www.coffeegeek.com/guides/frothingguide
www.xpressivo.com/theespressoguide/recomended_latte.asp
www.xpressivo.com/theespressoguide/recomended_latte_art.asp

W.A Barista Competition wrap up

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Well the competition is over for another year. There were highs and lows, excitement and disappointment, showmanship and shakey hands, and in the end, quality coffee was the winner.

Well coffee and Nolan Hirte, showman and barista extraordinaire from Lemon Espresso in Claremont.

Nolan’s performance was funky yet refined. Getting the crowd going the way only he can with some old school beats (I can’t even remember the last time I heard Ini Kamoze – Here comes the hot stepper, but it worked so well ) and then wowing the judges with excellent technique and most importantly the flavour in the cup.

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The rest of the event was a showcase of Perth’s best baristas. Those willing to put their time, money, and reputations on the line in order to compete for the chance to make it into the national finals of the Australian Barista Championship, and then if successful, on to the World Barista Championships, this year being held in Tokyo – Japan.

The format is a set list of requirements that each competitor must accomplish in their allotted time, as specified by AASCA (The Australasian Specialty Coffee Association), an independent body that exists to promote knowledge of and further excellence in coffee in Australia.

So each competitor has 15 minutes practice time, 15 minutes competition time, and 15 minutes clean up time. During the 15 minutes of practice they will adjust the grinder to suit their blend. Arrange ingredients and warm cups, set up the area the way they want it. During the 15 minutes of competition time, the barista must make 4 espressos, 4 cappuccinos, and 4 signature drinks of their own creation. The signature drink must be espresso based, and show all of the baristas creativity and understanding of the flavour profile of their blend, in order to combine it with other interesting components.

After serving all 3 types of drinks, the competition time is over, and the sensory judges go off to collaborate their scores and assign marks to each drink in a number of very specific areas. Technical judges are assigned to look at all aspects of the baristas routine, and to ensure they are using hygienic practices at all times during the competition.

The technical score and the sensory scores are then put together to form an overall score for each barista. The only other thing affecting scores is time. If a barista goes over time they lose points for every 15 seconds they are over, up til a maximum of 2 minutes, at which point they are disqualified.

If any of that sounds like a walk in the park… let me tell you it isn’t. These guys are the top people in their field, used to turning out hundreds of coffees a day in their respective cafes, but with the spotlight on them and the time on the clock, it’s a whole other experience entirely. Sweat beading on brows, shakey fingers trying to arrange delicate ingredients into glassware and ferry them smoothly over to the judges tables… it’s a stressful thing. Which makes me glad that all I had to do was sit around and take photos :)

So the list of place getters was:

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1st Nolan Hirte (Lemon Espresso)
2nd Jen Murray (WA Barista Academy)
3rd Jeremy Hulsdunk (Epic Espresso)

Each of the winners were extremely deserving, but in truth there were a number of other excellent competitors who would have also been deserving of a place, and whose coffee I would happy to drink any day of the week.

So congratulations to all involved, it was one of the best competitions I’ve been to, and the audio/visual setup and camera work were second to none, ensuring the everyone in the room got a great view of all the action, whether they be at the judges table, or right down the back of the room.

The event was also a great way for many different people in the Perth coffee scene to get together and talk about how to make the industry better. Representatives from such local companies as Five Senses, Fiori, European Foods, Aroma Cafe, Rubra Coffee, and many other local cafe owners and baristas joined with interstate and overseas judges and officials to promote quality coffee.

Much love to Ben Bicknell for his tireless efforts at organising the event, and to all the other judges and volunteers who pulled everything together when it counted. Congratulations to Nolan on the win, and to all the other competitors for making it such a great event. Lets hope WA has the next Australian, nay WORLD barista champion amongst it’s ranks.