As a little window into the length and breadth of my dining experiences, I present a not particularly succinct summation of some of the more memorable meals I’ve had in the past month or so. Please feel free to add your experiences of the same places in the comments, and let me know where I should be trying out next. Please bear in mind that these are all very much my opinion, and should no way be construed as having anything to do with reality or objectivity :)
Star Anise, 225 Onslow Road, Shenton Park
Another dinner with the lovely Clotilde (and the ever lovely Sharon… I am so spoiled). Marron for the ladies entrees, Jamon Iberico and 1 hour poached egg for me… The marron was delicious, the egg interestingly textured, the jamon tasty but overrated given it’s considerable reputation. Mains were a black angus steak with some amazingly meaty oyster mushrooms and a cauliflower puree, an ocean trout with eggplant purée and roasted vegetables, and the ubiquitous duck with gai lan. All very satisfying and worth the price. Washed down the lot with a 2005 Joseph Cabernet Merlot Moda (one of my favourite wines, but not the 2004 listed on the wine list). Service left a little to be desired in an overtly fine dining establishment, but that could be because I ask a lot of annoying questions and point out things like the wine being the wrong year. Worth it if you’re up for an experience you don’t mind paying for, and have great company to share it with like I did.
il lido – 88 Marine Pde, Cottesloe
Love the atmosphere of communal dining. Everyone sitting on long benches next to groups of other people. Sadly the people sitting next to me didn’t feel the love, and just kind of looked at me strangely when I inquired how their dishes were. The food is simple / rustic (for want of a less abused word) Italian food. Nothing regionally specific as far as I can tell, and far from the “peasant food”, they claim to be making, but all our dishes were delicious. The wine list is extensive and interesting, and remarkably well priced. A bottle of Pio Cesare Barbera D’Alba set me back around $32 (if memory serves me). A shared antipasto plate of vegetables and dips with bread was a nice way to start the meal, and my beef shin parpadelle was exactly the fall apart texture and stringy meaty richness I was after. Mains are definitely on the small side, but I had expected not to enjoy myself, so I was pleasantly surprised by the whole place. Again the service left a little to be desired, I think the waiters were getting into the communal side of things as much as we were, and expected us to order our own desserts.
Piccolo – 44 Angove St, North Perth
My second trip back to this little suburban gem was supposed to be much better. The new Scottish chef Graham Stewart definitely has a thing for the number three. There’s pork cooked three ways, beef cooked three ways, and salmon cooked three ways. I guess I’ve discovered that I’m just a monogamous kind of guy… because after the first three way it all got a little too much and the excitement was over far too quickly, and I really just wanted one dish done really well. The dishes at Piccolo also bely the name. The entrees are huge ! An order of squid was enough to feed everyone at the table alone, and the crab tian in gazpacho could have swum back to the ocean on it’s own. Still, the food is generally good, well priced, and with no wine list, it’s a byo paradise. I’m hoping at my next visit it will spring back to it’s best.
Ha-Lu – Unit 4, 401 Oxford St, Mt Hawthorn
Simple and tasty Japanese food. Ha Lu has done a great job at making a relatively soulless / odd shaped little restaurant into a warm, inviting space. The menu is set out like an izakaya in that the dishes are small plates designed to be shared. Unlike most izakaya you will find in Japan however, it isn’t full of salary men getting morbidly drunk after a hard day pretending to work. Rather they focus on the food, and the clean flavours that make Japanese food so good. We started with fresh sashimi of tuna, salmon, and kingfish, moved on to pork belly kakuni, sliced duck and eggplant, agadashi tofu, dorper lamb cutlets with fried camembert, ramen, and rice. “I think you have ordered… a little bit too much”, our waitress politely but insistently suggested… so I cut the ramen to make her feel better. All the dishes were superb…the sashimi fresh and succulent with just a dash of wasabi and soy, the standouts for me being the pork belly (in which I have a vested interest), and the duck. Word of advice though… DO NOT ORDER DESSERT. I was foolish enough to order a chocolate parfait (I know, I know… what is a parfait anyway??). I could see our waitress toiling for a good 10 minutes before presenting me with a monstrous concoction of (I kid you not), ice cream, cream, crushed oreo biscuits, cocoa pops (!), pocky sticks, and ice magic… Such a sad way to finish an otherwise great meal.
Basil Leaves – 82 Royal St, East Perth
Proof that you can not take friends to a restaurant you plan to review. Good friends will improve the experience of any bad restaurant by an amount completely undeserving of certain establishments. Brad and Nat are such friends, and Basil Leaves is well and truly one of these restaurants. The atmosphere was non existent outside of the sparkling repartee of our group of comic geniuses (and Brad). The toilets a near hazardous waste area, the food a clever mixture of every kind of Asian you can think of. At last count there was a total of 6 separate ethnic regions represented in all their generic glory. As Nat so aptly put it… It’s not often you come across a restaurant bold enough to put all their faith in iceberg lettuce. But Basil Leaves perseveres. If you’re feeling like Indian/Thai/Vietnamese/Chinese/Malaysian/Japanese or “other”, it may well be the place for you.