That Little Mexican Place

Rejoice… good Mexican food exists !!

Just recently I was lamenting as to the state of “Mexican” food in this city, or any city for that matter. I was musing that it would be a sad indictment on Mexican culture if the pinnacle expression of their cuisine was to be found in a greasy burrito smothered with sour cream and ‘tasty’ cheese, with an indiscernible concoction of meat and bean filling.

Alas, this was my experience of Mexican restaurants. I’ve tried Pancho’s, Acapulco Annies, Santa Fe, and numerous other places that can only really be described as Tex Mex nastiness, that no amount of cheap margaritas and dodgy sangria will ever wash down.

That was until we came across “That Little Mexican Place”. We got the hot tip from some friends who had been there recently and described it as delicious and unassuming, and definitely out of the ordinary when it comes to Mexican restaurants.

My interest piqued, it was time to pay a visit.

That Little Mexican Place is located on Fitzgerald St in North Perth, in what might soon become a small hub of restaurants and bars. It’s up the road from the Rosemount, and in amongst a couple of other Chinese restaurants and Kebab shops, and I’m certain if I didn’t know it was there I would have missed it.

The owners traveled to Mexico prior to opening the restaurant, and attended some kind of cooking school, which means that the dishes they are serving are at least based on authentic (there’s that word again) Mexican dishes, and where possible made with local equivalents or ingredients sourced from Mexico.

The restaurant itself seems a little awkward to me, the tables and cutlery are ridiculously big for the space they have, and it feels a little bit Ma and Pa’ish when you walk in and have to squeeze past people to get to the front to indicate you’d like a table, and then feels vaguely like the kebab shop next door when you need to loiter around outside waiting for a table to be free. Personally speaking (in my capacity as a completely unqualified restaurant consultant), I’d be making the tables much smaller, and arranging things better so as to make better use of the space, which I think could fit at least 12 more people at once.

Perhaps the number of people is how they’d like it for now though, as there seems to be an air of “still working things out” hanging over the place.

That’s not to detract from the food however. Everything we ordered was great. We started off with the nachos de napolita which were (from the menu) “an individual serve of tortilla chips topped with sautéed mushroom, chayote and cactus and oxacan style cheese”. It was in fact one big nacho with a tasty mixture of the cactus, chayote, and mushroom on top… and was not dripping with cheese or sour cream and sprinkled with spring onion (as I was dreading).

Along with the dishes, there is a complimentary trio of salsas served at frequent intervals during the meal. They were a roast chili salsa, a salsa verde, and another one I’ve forgotten that name of… but I think it was tomato based. They came in handy for dipping and spooning over basically everything… and as soon as we’d used one up a fresh bowl arrived to replace it.

For mains Sharon had the mole negro, which was “roasted chicken breast and a sweet, dark sauce of chilies, spices, nuts, seeds and Mexican chocolate, served with banana chips”. I got a few tastes of that before it was devoured and it was nice. Great flavours combining together with the chocolate and the chicken were not strange at all.

I chose the barbacoa de Borrego “slow roasted lamb in oregano and mexican chilies”, another fantastic dish, combining the lamb and spices together beautifully.

We finished up the night with some churros, and sopapillas. Both great Mexican desserts of deep fried dough dipped in cinnamon and sugar and served with chocolate sauce.

All in all we had a fantastic meal. I’m not sure if it was because I couldn’t get over how non “Tex Mex” the food was, and how sincere and unpretentious the service was, but I was left with a definitely impression that these guys are trying their hardest to distinguish their food apart from the greasy masses of deep fried cheese topped Mexicana slop bucket places.

Definitely go in and give them a try if you want to experience something a little different.

That Little Mexican Place
382 fitzgerald street
North Perth

phone: 08 9227 5755


Ria: Authentic Malaysian

This is restaurant review in as few words as I can manage.

I went to Ria recently with my fellow bloggers from Perth Norg, for a bit of a get together and to see what we could see. I had previously heard some quasi Malaysian friend of a friend bagging it out for not being ‘authentic’, which made me wonder if it was any good or not. What I’ve since realised after going there is that the only thing that probably wasn’t authentic enough was the price, and the fact that some actual care has gone into the food rather than just throwing it onto a plate and grunting in your general direction (ala many of the Malaysian restaurants I’ve been too).

Now I’m not going to put myself up to be some kind of expert on Malaysian food, or curry, or really anything to do with original authenticity of ethnic dishes… personally the ‘authentic’ debate doesn’t interest me. It’s tired and is constantly pulled out as a reason to dislike a style of food or restaurant for unjustified reasons. Just because someone makes a style of curry in a different way than your great great great grandmother who originated from the very village where it was FIRST CREATED EVER… it doesn’t mean it is a bad meal. It just means it different. Funny little word that, but a very significant one. If uniformity in food was a good thing, then we’d all be eating at McDonalds and Han’s (and that’s a world I don’t want to have to imagine).

The nature of food in Australia is such that it is inherently a conglomeration (avoiding the word ‘fusion’) of many different types of food. You’ve got ye olde English roasts, your Irish stews, the huge Mediterranean influence of Italian, Greek, and French food, all manner of styles of Asian cooking, and most recently the middle eastern and African migrants bringing lots of lovely spices and styles for us to absorb into the ever growing organism that is the Australian diet.

So onto the restaurant. It’s kinda funky and relaxed, up market but not overly wanky. It is Leederville after all… If it was in Subiaco it would probably have turned out like Buddha Bar, which would not be a good thing. The restaurant is run by chef Deborah Ting and her husband Richard Serrano, who apparently got bored of cooking Italian food, closed up the shop, and reopened as Ria. She is Malaysian Chinese, and the food takes into account a lot of family recipes that she has given her own particular style. It’s quite hard to describe the food, but hearty currys and piquant flavours flow through the whole menu. Look up the style of cooking that is Nonya, and you’ll get a good idea of what some of the food is like.

Her signature dish is a braised caramelised duck called ‘Mum’s lok ak’, and its superb.
Other things we tried were the Chinese Shredded Beef and a Beef Rendang, along with some bok choy and tofu as a side. All very tasty and surprisingly moreish. So much so that I went back the next night to try a few more dishes.

Knowing Sharon would be keen to try this place out too, we headed back again on a Thursday night, after having just eaten there the night before. This time we ordered a chicken and chickpea curry, a lamb curry with star anise, the Nonya Acar Fish (absolute stand out), rice, more bok choy and a bottle of wine. Which was in fact more than we’d ordered the night before when we had 4 people.

Second time around it didn’t disappoint either. We also managed to do some star spotting with ‘HG Nelson‘ apparently in town, and stopping by for a casual dinner with his lady friend.
My only complaint about the place was that our waiter looked like had never carried more than one plate before in his life, and I was expecting to wear half of the dishes he brought over as he shakily fumbled them onto the table. That an the fact that he decided to finish his shift before asking if we wanted any desserts didn’t help either. But I’m not going to write off a place for a couple of oversights.

All in all the food was excellent, the vibe relaxed and happy, and the price just right to not break the bank while probably sending the majority of people who bemoan ‘newfangled’ upmarket restaurants that make traditionally based foods, back to food court land to get their fill of cheap eats with plastic forks. Most dishes are around $18 or so, and substantial enough so that you don’t feel ripped off.

So yeh…that’s all. Go try it, authentic or not, it’s intensely tasty… and keep your eyes out for some Nonya inspired meals coming to an Abstract Gourmet near you soon.

Ria Authentic Malaysian Food
Unit 1
160 Oxford St
Leederville 6007 WA
Phone: (08) 9328 2998

Sandcastle Organic

A lazy Sunday afternoon in Perth. They’re all lazy afternoons when I’m involved. I have a natural aversion to waking up before noon on the weekend, and today was no different. Wandering around the house in a barely awake haze, I was too lazy to even eat breakfast or (shock horror) make coffee.

So after a mild case of cabin fever, the eventual decision came… Let go out. Where ? Fremantle !

Now I don’t like to regionalist when it cames to where I eat. A lot of people in Perth get caught up in the whole North of the River vs South of the River thing… Not to mention the Western Suburbs vs Hills people. Personally I really don’t care where I am as long as the food is good and the weather is nice. Having said that however, I live a good 45 minutes drive from Fremantle (home of many a good restaurant and an occasionally decent football team), so it’s not like I pop down every day.

Sundays, therefore, are the day to conquer the distance and let the tastebuds soak up the quasi meditteranean vibes that Fremantle always seems to have on offer.

Restaurant of choice today was Sandcastle Organic on South Terrace in South Fremantle. I’d been told good things about the organic beef there and they were also given a write up in the most recent edition of Spice Magazine. I have to admit, I’m sometimes skeptical of organic food. Not because I don’t think it’s legitimate, or inherently good, but mainly because I see the term “organic” as a catch phrase bandied around by marketers with flagrant disregard for what it actually means. Most accurately illustrated by a type of “organic” flavoured yoghurt I was recently asked to try. In the end it’s my stomach (and initially tastebuds) that make up my mind about a place, and so it was with that in mind that we decided to go.

Sandcastle Organic

So after finally getting ready and making it down there it was 3pm, and we were the only people in the place. Lucky for us the kitchen was still open and we had our pick of the tables. We chose alfresco. The warm autumn sun is just about all my complexion can handle… So I make the effort when I can.

Hola ! We're in Italy !

After not having breakfast and it now being the late afternoon, we were pretty hungry. Sharon got a curry puff and I ordered some bread and olive oil. I think i subconsciously judge a place by the quality of it’s olive oil. Luckily they use some very nice organic stuff that was quite peppery and managed to hold its own against the balsamic vinegar.

Olio e Pane

On to the mains. I couldn’t go past the centre cut fillet of beef on oak smoked mushrooms… The decision was made and a glass of Grenache Shiraz Cabernet to go with it. The beef was excellent, although sadly, not cooked the way I asked. I asked for medium rare and it came out a most definite medium. Still tender, but scarcely pink as far as my eyes could tell in the glaring 4pm autumn sunlight. It was already late enough though, and it was still very edible, so I waived the offer to recook it, and instead was offered my drinks for free… a lovely compromise.
Organic Vino Rosso

Centre Cut Fillet

Sharon ordered the smoked tofu and roast tomato en croute (on cru), with cumin potatoes, which was also particularly tasty.

Smoked Tofu

Overall the food was great. Rich earthy flavours and complimenting textures from each dish we tried. Definitely a place to try if you’re looking for a healthy change or a tasty distraction from the sterile masses. The owners are very friendly people too, good service is always a delight.

Sand Castle Organic
11/396 South Terrace
South Fremantle
(08) 9335 2445


Hippo Creek African Grill

Lions Kill @ Hippo Creek

This is a semi review, mostly rambling, dramatic re-enactment of a visit I took to Hippo Creek Restaurant in Scarborough quite a while ago. It was previously on another blog that has since ceased to exist, and so it now gets rebirthed into a hopefully more appropriate environment.

Hippo Creek is an African themed restaurant on West Coast Hwy in Scarborough, that is run by some South African people. They have some really interesting meat on the menu, like Ostrich, Buffalo, Crocodile and a whole range of other african inspired dishes, and apparently some of the best steak in town. So being a self confessed meat lover and part time carnivore, I had to check it out.

So Dtm, Mabes, Sharon and I headed down there to see what we could see…

Once we got there I happened to find out that there was a 1Kg T-Bone steak on the menu, and that if I finished it all I would get my photo taken and put on the wall. This is the first restaurant I’d been to where they do that kind of thing (which I thought was normally reserved for Texan Steakhouses with an over supply of beef and no space in the freezer). My competitive instincts kick in, as never one to pass up the chance to show how manly I am by eating large quantities of flesh, I thought… why the hell not…

While ordering the 1kg T-bone, you are strongly advised to order it medium rare, or rare… If you want to be eating it that night. I have no idea how long it would take to cook something that size to well done, but it would be just wrong anyway. I chose medium rare.

In the meantime, Dtm and Sharon ordered this crazy dish called the Hunters Assaghai. Which was basically a huge metal stake with five (count em) fist sized chunks of meat stuck to it suspended over a plate of chips with garlic sauce dripping down it. This was definitely shaping up to be my kind of restaurant.

So the steak arrived and took up basically the entire plate, and was about 2-3 inches thick… It was served with chips that were tasty but uninspired, and salad that didn’t exactly rock my world either. Basically this restaurant is all about the meat. If you don’t like meat, then don’t bother going, because you’re really not going to get your moneys worth. My steak was huge… and I tore into it with all the fervency of a malnourished grisly bear who got left behind at hibernation. Unfortunately however… it wasn’t really a challenge worthy of my ability, and i flew through it… and managed to get through a bit of Sharon’s as well… I also made sure I ate all of my chips and the salad, because I didn’t want to miss out on getting my photo taken on a technicality.

The steak was good. On the outside it was perfectly medium rare, although when i got right into the middle it was very much on the rare side. People who order their steak well done might also be best to avoid this place, it’s not exactly designed for people who get squeemish at the first sign of pinkness.

All in all it was a good night, and although feeling massively bloated, we left feeling very satisfied… I left a “There’s nothing finer than being in your diner…” Seinfeld reference on my photo, which hopefully stay there for a while to come :)

I’ve been back a couple of times since, and it has always been a great night. Definitely one to check out. Take a bottle of big red wine (like a Cab Sav, or a spicy Shiraz), and you’ll be set for a carnivorous experience few restaurants in Perth can rival.

****hunters assaghaiLions killperi peri butter waterfallLions Kill**

Hippo Creek
251 West Coast Highway
Scarborough, 6019
Tel: (08) 9245 8004


Alt Heidelberg

Alt Heidelberg is on Beaufort St in North Perth, basically diagonally across from the Brisbane Hotel on the corner of Beaufort and Brisbane Streets.

It’s (suprisingly enough) a German restaurant, and apparently has quite a bit of history to it. The owners are a German husband and wife couple who moved to Perth quite a while ago and started it as a way of furthering their love of cooking, and filling the void of quality German restuarants in our fair city…

This is another place that i’ve driven past hundreds of times, and finally curiosity got the better of me. So one night after a work social function Sharon and I decided to stop in here for a late dinner. The place looks like a German pub (or what i imagine one might look like after reading Asterix & Obelix go to Germany)…with low ceilings, nice wrought iron lamps and light fittings and candles on all the tables.

The waitress was a friendly German girl who looked at me weird when i asked for “the most German thing” on the menu… But then suggested the ham shank on mashed potato for me and a beef olived sausage type thing with cabbage for Sharon. Must say the Germans love their meat… well at least pork anyway. When my meal arrived it looked essentially like half a pig slow cooked and then fried to make the skin crispy… served on a bed of mash potato… There was no pretense of other vegetables… and i was too hungry (and partially drunk) at that stage, so didn’t bother ordering any. Sharons meal looked like about 15 types of meat wrapped in other meat…and stuffed with meat… It was tasty for about three mouthfull’s, but then meat fatigue set in, and it was all over. Let’s just say that meat got the better of me that night… i never thought it would happen, nor that i would admit it… but sometimes there’s just too much meat on the plate. Perhaps if i hadn’t had to chew through a substantial amount of grisel to get to the meat it would have been a more rewarding experience, but i didn’t really have it in me… so i chalked it all down to experience and bid the owner adieu (or its equivant in German).

In it’s defence, this is a really nice quaint little restaurant. It obviously has a following or it wouldn’t have been around for as long as it has, and while we there it was full of a big mixture of people. The table next to us looked like a group of backpackers from an array of different countries… which gave way to one of my favourite people watching passtimes of seeing people who don’t speak English natively try and communicate in English with other people who don’t English natively either… comedy gold… but then love finds a way in the end.

Alt Heidelberg
283 Beaufort Street
Phone: (08) 9227 0988

Lava Stone Grill

I’m trying to catch up on the reviews to some of the places i’ve eaten recently… So here’s another one.

Lava Stone Grill is on Walcott St in Mt Lawley, it’s a funky looking place in a refurbished house… it looks pretty small from the front, but actually has two really big rooms inside.

Sharon and I had driven past this place all the time on the way in and out of the city or to Mt Lawley, and so one lazy week night we decided to try it on a whim and see what it was all about.

The concept is basically that they bring out these special hot “lava” stones… that have been in the oven for a while and are bloody hot (don’t touch them!). You then order your meat and/or vegetables, which are brought out to you raw, with an assortment of sauces. You then put your meat onto the stone and it literally cooks in front of you. When the meat or veges are done to your liking you cut bits off, or transfer it to another small plate, add the sauces and away you go.

I ordered the mixed grill which comes with fillets of beef, pork, & lamb and a chicken tenderloin…and is served with a pepper and brandy sauce, maple syrup, and a whisky and ginger sauce… which were really tasty sauces.

I’d have to say it’s a novel concept, but i thought it was pretty pricey… most of the meals are in the order of $25-$30… which is not extravagently expensive…but when im cooking the food myself i’d expect it to be cheaper. I also found the practicality of cooking and eating from the stone didn’t really add up to the novelty… My food ended up getting overcooked after a while and it was hard not to burn yourself on the stone every now and then while leaning over to pick up your glass etc.

That’s not to say it wasn’t a good meal, i did enjoy it, and the meat was excellent quality. I guess i’ll just put it in the nice to try once basket, but not the type of place i’d go to regularly. On another positive note, the wait staff were all really friendly, almost to the point of being quite casual, but then this is Perth :)

Anyway… Give it a try and make up your own mind.

Lava Stonegrill
155 Walcott St Mt Lawley, Western Australia, 6050
(08) 9328 6669


Cinnamon Club

After a tiring volleyball game on a dark, cold, late night, Matt and I decided to drop in to Cinnamon Club in Leederville to feed our empty stomachs. It was only a few weeks prior that we saw a sign on the vacant room advertising for “exceptional waitstaff” for this restaurant, so we were quite curious to find out what it would be like.

Well, unfortunately it didn’t meet my expectations as I feel that indian restaurants trying to be different and unique, have to ultimately achieve this goal – which I feel Cinnamon Club does not (well not yet anyway).

We ordered a couple of standard indian dishes including butter chicken, an eggplant curry and a lamb vindaloo. The food was nice, but didn’t differentiate itself as much as I thought it should have to match it’s pricing. I felt the food was not as cheap as what you could get at other indian restaurants but for the price you pay, I didn’t feel the food was that much better either.

The music didn’t set the appropriate mood for the restaurant as it sounded like a cheesy 80’s “best duets with a saxophone” CD. This was a pity, as the restaurant looks great with its stone walls, suede booths, and unique red lamps but this atmosphere is quickly destroyed by the music which made me cringe with memories of my Dad’s St Elmo’s fire and Kenny G music.

However, the waitstaff were friendly and attentive and the food arrived quite quickly, which still made it a pleasant dining experience.

To summarise, the restaurant wasn’t bad, but wasn’t exceptional either. You can try Cinnamon Club at:

228 Carr Pl
Leederville 6007 WA
Phone: (08) 9228 1300