Paris Days

C˘te de boeuf, gratin dauphinois, marrow!

Most days it seems like it didn’t happen. It was an aeon ago and I was a different person then. So many things have changed now. I had grand schemes of coming home and writing up my adventures in luscious flowing prose that would transport you all to the exact cafe I was standing in when I ordered my first coffee, or to the crepe vendor who rolled my first real Parisian crepe. Picturing the look of intense fascination on my face as nimble hands carefully poured a thin layer of batter to the hot plate, smoothed it over, flipped it gently, and applied a generous helping of nutella before folding corner over corner and handing it to me without pomp or ceremony. Imparting the feeling that it was truly something special, not because it was the most amazing thing I’d ever eaten, but because for once I wasn’t living someone else’s experiences. It was me, and I was there.

Of course the natural thing happened. I came home, got back to the reality of work and life in Perth, and besides a few lazy uploads of photos, didn’t ever expand on the great time I had, the people I met, or the scenes of Parisian life I had acted out before me on a daily basis.

Which is indeed a great shame, because as short as my time was in Paris, I feel like I squeezed every little bit out of it that I possibly could. And I still think back very fondly of my time spent wandering aimlessly down Rue’s and Boulevards and trudging through Jardins… Being asked for directions by other hapless travellers and the occasional local, and being laughed at by old ladies who realised I was completely lost.

I could tell you about Berthillon ice cream and sorbet, drinking many a caraf of Provenšal RosÚ, street side crepe vendors of every description, duck confit, tart tartin, roasted Camembert drizzled with honey and slices of apple, steak tartare, bone marrow, cheap but expensive champagne at the top of the Eiffel tower (that I didn’t order), macarons, jamon sandwiches, foie gras shops, wild dogs, being bored out of my mind in the Louvre, loving the Pompidou. Being taken to dinner by famous food writers to 200 year old brasseries.

marrow !C├┤te de BoeufLamb with beansSteak TartareHaricots VerteWhitebaitEscargotThe view from my windowParis metro chicPont Marie MetroFoie Gras storeDo Not Enter with your delicious ice creamCheese !*Crepes MaisonA creamy salute to Notre DameI wish I was a touristEccentricity*Life by the SeineBerthillon Ice creamBerthillon ice creamBBerthillonPont Marie avenuesRumination on the Pont MarieCoq au vinThe Maitre dRose from ProvenceThe place settingLe Regent, BistroJardin du Palais Royal*SplitColonnes de BurenBig TriangleDescent to cultureHermesSome fairly elaborate cornice worklights and shadowsSome painting of a smirking chickThe Hallwaygateways*CaesarAnother magnum worthy shotNaked chicks always draw a crowd*Jules JoffrinNutella Crepe !Nutella Crepe !

I could also go on about the providence and connective powers of the internet. How friends across the other side of the world put me in touch with lovely local dining companions, suggested restaurants for me to try, and showed me some of the hidden sights of this city that holds so much potential.

But really, the images can speak for themselves. So please have a look through my little slice of the life Parisien.

SandraRoast CamembertThumbs up for camembertConfit of Duck with roast potatoesSalad with goats cheeseTart TatinCrepes SucreDimples for milesChocolate fondant cakeUne CaffeWhy you should never let amateurs take photos of you with hot womenHow i eventually hope to spend my daysFuzzyflowerLuxembourg HouseBarges on the SeineGathering gloom over the SeineMemorial de la DeportationMemorial de la DeportationA solemn momentMemorial de la DeportationLouis XIIIA very lovely looking red doorH├┤tel de VilleFountains near H├┤tel de VilleThe PompidouIrresitible escalator shotThe view from the top of the PompidouMaking art relevantBlue abstract tree thingSquiggly caveThis was all actual things stuck to the wallBeware the infinityNail textureAlien invasion wiresBig red rhinoIt took me 5 minutes to get it like thisMy masterpieceCafe Zephyr, rose de provence*Cafe Zephyr, steak & fritesCafe Zephyr, rare steakChocolate fondantCafe Saluna, clouds of smoke from the roasterYadh Elyes inside Cafe SalunaMaking espresso at Cafe SalunaYadh Elyes @ Cafe SalunaJeremy chillin at Cafe SalunaThe roast cools at Cafe SalunaWorlds Best CoffeesSaluna CafeSaluna Cafe menuJeremy in ParisAlto Cafe BaristaAlto CafeAlto Cafe macchiatoAlto Cafe menuParis street fashionBellota BellotaFormidable jamon, cheese, and mustard rollGalleries Lafayette fruitsLaduree MacaronsLa Vigna - vin dispenserSancerre @ La Vigna - ParisChateau Haut-Brion25 euros for a taste, 400 for a bottle.1917 Chateau Le Puy30,000.00 euro a bottle.  bargain********************At L'Homme Tranquil******Cornichon !**********Perhaps the best sandwich ive ever eaten

Pata Negra

Jamon serrano from Pata Negra restaurant Spanish red wine from Pata Negra

David Coomer is about as close as Perth gets to food royalty. His Star Anise restaurant in Shenton Park has been a mainstay at the top end of the dining scene for many years, and his reputation for sourcing great quality produce and making beautiful dishes out of them has placed him at the top of his game.

Which is why there’s been such interest in his latest venture, Pata Negra. When the announcement was made that David Coomer was going to be opening a Spanish restaurant in Nedlands, a great thrill ran through the collective stomachs of the greater dining community of Perth, hoping perhaps, that someone would come and pull us up from the quagmire of mediocre tapas restaurants.

Imagine my surprise then, to run into David at my favourite Spanish providore (article coming), buying much of the same ingredients as I do for said new restaurants launch party (though perhaps in slightly larger quantities than I ever have). I took some delight in the fact that he had to put up with as much, if not more hassle dealing with Rosa the feisty Spanish providore as I ever have. Who’s opinion on food and all things Spanish is undeniably parochial, and ultimately final. Regardless of whether she’s talking to a novice or an award winning chef.

After chatting for a while David kindly invited me along to the media launch the coming Sunday evening, a chance to explain the concept and demo some dishes before a full restaurant opening the following Tuesday. I wandered around chatting to wait staff and chefs Matt Stone (former sous chef from Star Anise) and Kurt Samson (previously of the Builders Arms and Momo in Melbourne), who will be heading up Pata Negra while David controls the reigns at Star Anise. It was a great night and a chance to sample some of the menu in it’s infancy, which had the immediate effect of whetting my appetite for the real deal.

Now I’m not prone to rhetoric as much as other writers in the food game in our fair city, but I will say that despite the build up, and all the hype, my first meal at Pata Negra was fantastic. So forgive me if I leave out details of the rustic mismatched furniture and glassware, and the warmly arcane lighting fixtures. I’ll also also brush over the unexpectedly icy dash to the bathrooms via the outdoors, and the unexplained mineral water that was poured into the next door tables glasses. Which are not all superfluous, but didn’t detract from the experience.

The review starts here

It was Friday night and the place was packed. Open since Tuesday, this was their 4th night of service. I’d booked for 8:30pm, ringing the day before to make sure I could get a seat, but was reassuringly told by the manager that tables would be set aside every night for walk in traffic. Lazy diners of Perth unite ! You should be able to stroll into Pata Negra at any given time with no forewarning and land yourself a table. The tables in question are a series of small communal spots at the front. The rest of the restaurant seems to run with two sittings, one at 6:30pm (the early bird special) and the later at 8:30pm.

A quick peruse of the wine list while we waited for the table to be ready showed an interesting mix of Spanish and Portuguese wines, and Australian wines in the same vein. New world Tempranillo blends mixing alongside Douro and Rioja. It was nice to see some decent cheaper options amongst the mix too. The cheapest bottle of wine being $35, which is not bad for a restaurant of this nature. Though it’s immediately apparent that the style of this place is meant to be warm, fun, and casually intimate. We settled on a bottle of Portuguese Douro that I know virtually nothing about. It was medium bodied and fruit driven and was a wonderful match to many of the dishes.

So the food.

The menu is split into sections. Tapas at the top, which are all small dishes. Working down through different sections based on the type of dish. If I recall correctly it was Sea (seafood things), Earth (vegetable dishes), Land (meats), Queso (cheeses). I know I’m forgetting or mislabeling them, but will clarify at some point when I go back. All the dishes are designed to share, thought not necessarily as individual pieces. But the concept of the shared table seems to be a central theme. The dishes are predominantly Spanish in feel, though there’s a strong Moorish / Middle Eastern influence coming from Kurt Samson’s background in running Momo with Greg Malouf and his own personal style of hearty tagines.

We started with some of the pork crackle. To call it pork crackle though is almost a misnomer. It’s essentially lighter than air pork rind fried to puffy crunchy perfection, served with a yoghurt dipping sauce and paprika. The joy of crunching into them is a must for any true lover of the pig.

Pata Negra: Pork crackle Pata Negra: Kingfish Ceviche

Next up was some Jamon Serrano. At half the price of the restaurants namesake Jamon Iberico, it makes for a deliciously rich, salty indulgence. The fat is lovely and supple (though not as melt in your mouth as the pata negra), and it’s a generous portion of 40 grams for $15. A massive ham slicer sits atop the stairs in the entrance to the kitchen, which will no doubt get a considerable workout over the years as this place shaves many a leg of ham to it’s salty end.

A small anchovy fillet laid across a rich tomato salsa on a thin wafer was next. A wonderful combination of textures and flavours as it all came together in a satisfying bite.

Now a brief respite and a chance to collect thoughts, enjoy the wine, schmooze with other local food illumenati and choose some more dishes. The only problem so far is that there are far too many to choose from, that all look good.

So after some wrangling we settle on some wood roasted portobello mushrooms and the one dish it seems most food writers can’t go past… fabada. Fabada is a rich stew with confit duck, chorizo, ham hock, and beans (in this case lentils), quite similar to cassoulet… a lovingly rich rustic dish of epic proportions.

Let’s not get ahead of ourselves though. The wood oven at Pata Negra is a legacy of the pizza shop that used to be there a while ago. As a lazy university student I fondly remember walking past Sol Pizza on the way to somewhere else other than university. Hopefully my lack of patronage wasn’t why it closed in the first place… but regardless the wood oven works well, and is used to great effect by Pata Negra to create a number of their dishes.

The wood roasted mushrooms then, were an explosion of earthy joy. Juicy, dense, perfectly cooked… I could have had just that one dish and been completely satisfied. Shavings of parmesan over the top only enhanced the depth of flavour. How good they were, yet how simple, was quite simply astounding.

The Fabada came served in a cazuela. The confit duck consisted of one large maryland piece split in half, that fell apart at the mere thought of a fork. The lentils mingled with Rosa’s intensely spicy chorizo and smokey ham hock. It was exactly what I was hoping for. Homely, hearty, soul restoring.

For dessert, we couldn’t go past some of the house made Pedro Ximenez ice cream. Served with a sweet doughnut made from brioche and deep fried, then rolled in cinnamon and sugar. All I can say is thank God for a complete absence of churros, I miss you not. I also tried the poached persimmon, with yoghurt ice cream, sadly reaffirming the fact that I really don’t enjoy persimmon. The yoghurt ice cream rich and creamy, although I’ve been told I need to include in this review that my initial reaction was: “Wow, this yoghurt is really yoghurty”. Such is the brilliance of my observatory powers.

Pata Negra: ice cream churn Pata Negra: pedro ximenez ice cream, spanish doughnut

I finish the night with a glass of Pedro Ximenez and a smug expression on my face at a fantastic first meal in a new restaurant destined for great things. Is this Perth’s answer to Movida ? Only time will tell. But with what I’ve seen so far the sky is the limit. The team behind Pata Negra is committed to bringing great food to Perth. The service was quick and attentive, and you can tell they care about giving people the right kind of experience.

Get there soon and tell me what you think.

Pata Negra
26 Stirling Hwy, Nedlands
Phone: 08 9389 5517
Fax: 08 9389 5519
http://www.patanegra.com.au

Pata Negra on Urbanspoon

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Kefta Mkaouara (Meatball Tagine)

Kefta Mkaouara - donea curvy moroccan

Since it’s been so long between posts here, I figured I’d give you all a two for one. So this is a restaurant review and a recipe all rolled into one.

So recently while dining with a dear friend in Subiaco we ventured into Meeka. It’s a relatively new restaurant, having been around for a year or so now, down the not so business end of Subiaco’s Rokeby Road. The menu is middle eastern in appearance, with a hat tip towards Morocco, serving a number of classic Morrocan dishes and a series of tagines.

Unfortunately the names of the dishes on the menu were about as close as Meeka got to ever giving us a North African experience. We ordered a chicken pastilla (bastilla, bisteeya, b’stilla – take your pick), and a meatball tagine. Some Israeli couscous as a side dish and a bottle of wine.

Sadly the chicken in the pastilla was dry to the point inedibility. We picked at it like disinterested vultures might at 3 week old roadkill. Hoping to find at least one juicy morsel worth eating. Sadly, there was none. The meatballs on the other hand, were a whole different story. Simultaneously raw on the inside, and completely devoid of moisture, is not something i thought was actually possible. They came presented in a tagine with a tomato sauce of nondescript origins, and defied all attempts to be enjoyed.

The couscous however was tasty and refreshingly edible. A small bowl of hope in an otherwise desert of a meal.

Somewhat incensed by how something that should have been so good, wasn’t. I went home and started looking up meatball tagine recipes. I love cooking with a tagine and I love Moroccan flavours. The combination of sweet and savoury elements coming together to confuse the palate and build layers of complexity is always rewarding when done well. So I was glad to be able to find this dish that completely restored my faith that it was indeed just a miraculously bad experience.

Kefta Mkaouara

For the meatballs

Minced beef or lamb (I used beef, but a combination might be good)
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp hot paprika
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 onion chopped finely
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 egg to bind
salt and pepper to season
sprinkling of finely chopped parsley
ghee for frying

For the sauce
1 onion, finely sliced
2 cans chopped tomatoes (or equivalent passata)
2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp hot paprika
1 tablespoon honey
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
salt to taste
4 eggs (or more)

How I made mine

Combine the meatball ingredients together in a bowl. Mix the meat and spices through thoroughly with your hands, add the onion, garlic, and parsley and crack the egg in. Mix the egg throughout the mixture well so that it binds together well.

Then start to form small balls by taking a palm full of the mixture, flattening it out to remove air pockets, and then rolling between your hands to make golf ball sized meatballs. Obviously you can make them as big or as small as you want, and at this point I often start playing around with the seasoning to add more of a particular spice if I think it needs it.

Now get your tagine (you can just use a regular frying pan with a lid if you don’t have a tagine, but then you have to call it meatball frypan dish, which is infinitely less sexy) and add a little ghee to the bottom, then fry the sliced onion til it’s mostly cooked through.

Add the meatballs on top of the onion and fry them til just browned all over. Turning them over every few minutes to make sure they’re cooking evenly.

Once the meatballs are browned, add the tomatoes (or passata) over the top til it’s mostly covered. At that point sprinkle in the other spices and drizzle over the honey. Give the whole dish a gentle stir mix the spices through. Now put the lid of the tagine on, and turn the heat down to quite low to let the flavours infuse and the sauce to soak into the meatballs. If the level of liquid in the dish is a bit low, then add some more tomato passata.

Now give this ten minutes or so to simmer and for the meatballs to cook through, and then the master stroke of this dish is ready to happen. Take the lid off and crack the eggs into the sauce (in between gaps in the meatballs). Add a sprinkling of fresh parsley and perhaps some coriander over the top, and another good seasoning with salt and pepper, and then put the lid back on the tagine. Now basically you’re poaching the eggs in the sauce until they’re cooked to your liking. I left mine in for a few minutes til they were just soft and still runny inside.

To serve, either get authentic and make up some couscous, or just do what I did and gingerly spoon the meatballs into a bowl while trying not to break the eggs, and then devour with thick slices of crusty bread.

Bliss.

Meeka on Urbanspoon