Sunday, 28 December 2014

The Court (Summer Menu Launch), Northbridge, Western Australia (Alissa and Don Eat Australia)

I have to admit a slight prejudice; I'm not really a fan of the kind of 'Parmi and Pint' food often served at old hotel pubs. Chicken Parmigiana is alright and all, its just a little too safe and easy for me; its the kind of food favoured by an older and conservative generation who would never try sashimi or sweetbreads or anything remotely adventurous, and its something I could easily whip up at home with very little effort at all. So when Alissa and I were invited to the launch of the Court's new Summer Menu, we accepted the invite with a little trepidation - would they deliver their pub style menu with enough panache to allow it to rise above the usual pub grub fare? Given the progressive nature of the venue and the behind the scenes effort that had apparently gone into the new menu, we had high hopes that it just might. 

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Steak and Food Concepts 2, Bull Creek, Western Australia (Alissa and Don Eat Australia)

As much as I sometimes have a craving for cheap and greasy combination plate/food court Chinese, the sight of Sweet and Sour Pork is always a signifier that the food is most probably not going to be very authentic. It's not that I'm being fussy - I'll still eat it as I sometimes crave its trashiness - but I'm always aware of the fact that this is Asian food bastardised for Western tastes. Sweet and Sour Pork is an easy target for derision since it seems more loved by people of European descent than Asian, however what is not as often acknowledged in the criticism of Westernised Asian food is the lack of authenticity in Easternised European cooking. In my early years growing up in a first generation Australian household, my parents often cooked European food the way they learnt to make it in Singapore because they just didn't know any better at the time. They wouldn't cook like this anymore of course (my Mum is a devoted disciple of Jamie Oliver), so its been a long time since I last tried anything like the home cooked 'European' food of my early childhood. That was until Alissa and I visited the oddly named Steak and Food Concepts 2.

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

The Standard, Northbridge, Western Australia (Alissa and Don Eat Australia)

With a seemingly one a week rate of notable restaurant openings, its been interesting to see a common framework emerging as a model for success in Perth's burgeoning dining scene. Conceptually, its fairly straightforward: put together a great drinks list, combine it with a kitchen headed up by a chef with fine dining bonafides cooking technically proficient but accessible share plate food and serve it all up in a room with a hip and inviting mise en scene. The underlying formula may be predictable but the specifics are so open-ended that the permutations are seemingly endless - a whiskey bar with an ex-Vue de Monde chef (Varnish on King), Asian/American inspired 'dude food' from a guy who used to serve up fine dining food at Harvest in Fremantle (Pleased to Meet You) and a fortified wines specialist and artisanal bakery/charcuterie also staffed by Vue de Monde alumni (The Flour Factory) are but a few examples scattered around the future Perth City Link. Located next door to the Bonsai on Roe St and conveniently located facing the future Queen's Square precinct of the City Link, the recently opened Standard is quite possibly one of the best yet.

Sunday, 7 December 2014

MoG @ Home #4 - Attica (Ministry of Gluttony at Home)

Earlier in the year Alissa and I were lucky enough to dine at Attica, the Melbourne restaurant hailed by many to be the best in the country. Located south of the CBD in Ripponlea and featuring a stark black and white fit out, Attica does not have the incredible views, opulent decor and central location of a Vue de Monde or a Quay to fall back on; more than both those esteemed restaurants, the success of Attica is largely the result of the incredible food of head chef and co-owner Ben Shewry. Terroir driven, hyperlocal, ethical and deeply personal, the unique and often autobiographical nature of Shewry's food marks him as a culinary auteur, and our meal at Attica was one of the most artistically satisfying of my life. Shewry has fast become one of my culinary heroes.

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Darlings Supper Club, Northbridge, Western Australia (Alissa and Don Eat Australia)

A few months ago, Alissa and I tried the original menu of Darling Supper Club, a new Asian Fusion themed restaurant and sake bar in Northbridge from the Andy Freeman and Sam Astbury-led creative team behind the incredible Varnish on King, as well as the recently opened Flour Factory. A surprising appearance in the Good Food Guide notwithstanding, the early reviews for Darlings were mixed to say the least, and we sadly had to agree that while the drinks list was characteristically commendable, the food was clumsy in its execution with a seemingly poor understanding about what makes good Asian Fusion food work. This was a real shame as what made Varnish on King's food so impressive was how it over delivered for a place that is ostensibly a whiskey bar, whereas Darlings paradoxically under delivered in spite of being more food focused.

That was in early September. A little over a week ago in mid-November, we received an email inviting us to a bloggers' Sunday lunch at Darlings to try their new menu. Realising that things were not working, Darlings had gone through some major changes; we would learn this included the firing of 5 chefs in three months(!) and the hiring of a trio of new talent in the form of Joel Robert as the new head chef,  an Iron Chef Thailand alum nicknamed 'The Chopper' and Youngwoo from South Korea bringing his sashimi skills and knowledge to the Darlings kitchen. Seeing how seriously the creative team wanted this place to work, Alissa and I immediately said yes. Coincidentally, the event's date - Sunday 23rd of November - marked our first wedding anniversary, providing a lovely opportunity for a celebratory Sunday lunch.

Monday, 24 November 2014

Tatami, Bateman, Western Australia (Alissa and Don Eat Australia)

In spite of being adventurous eaters who are always on the look out for new and interesting places to eat, Alissa and I can be very much creatures of habit. On a regular week night when we're too lazy to cook or to go anywhere too far from home, Alissa and I will invariably go for 'Japanese'. In spite of a few Japanese restaurants within 5 minutes from our house, we both understand that going for 'Japanese' means going to Kai - a tiny, always packed restaurant in Bull Creek that serves up one of our favourite bowls of tonkotsu ramen in Perth as well as excellent renditions of others classics like teriyaki chicken, gyoza and udon (both hot and cold). With Kai's ramen being as good as it is, it took us a while to follow up on a tip to try the ramen at the relatively new Japanese restaurant Tatami.

Sunday, 9 November 2014

The Flour Factory, Perth, Western Australia (Alissa and Don Eat Australia)

The last time the Google Streetview Car drove down Queen St was in November 2007. Although the Queen St of today is still dominated by the imposing power of the Brutalist carpark located where the road meets Wellington St, the grainy, low fidelity images seem to come from another time. While its heritage building proudly displayed its year of construction, 1907 was not yet the name of a fine dining restaurant and bar, the corner of Queen and Murray St was a construction site and the building that would house Venn Gallery was the home of WA Hospital Supply.

Clearly seeing the future prominence of the streets that surround the area of the Perth City Link, some of Perth's most savvy restaurateurs have obviously seen an opportunity to get in on the ground floor of the new Perth, with none perhaps being as wildly ambitious as Andy Freeman. Opened last year on King St, Varnish on King's focus on whiskey, wine and some of the best, more refined bar food in Perth had us gushing so positively that it remains the most read post at the Ministry of Gluttony. Others obviously agreed as Varnish was recently awarded Best Small Bar in Australia by Australian Bartender Magazine. To follow this up, Freeman and business partner Sam Astbury opened the late night Sake and Dumplings themed Darlings Supper Club on the Northbridge side of the future link earlier this year. More food focused in appearance than Varnish, Alissa and I found Darlings' food paradoxically less impressive, so when we heard about the opening of Freeman's third opening in the area - the bakery, butchery and fortified wine focused Flour Factory - we were interested to see how it fared.

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

MoG @ Home #3 - The Fat Duck (Ministry of Gluttony at Home)

Before I really knew much about Modernist cooking, I knew about Heston Blumenthal. Unaware of the pioneering (and arguably even more impressive) work of Ferran Adria and his peers, watching Heston's Feasts for the first time was a true eye opener. Fresh as I was out of art school when the first season aired, I saw someone working with food in a way that seemed closer in spirit to early 20th century Modern Art than any cooking that I'd seen before. Like the optimistic visual artists of the pre-war era, Heston's belief that anything was and still is possible was a comforting thought in an art world that to me at the time seemed jaded and cast adrift into a cycle of pastiche. And the fact all the new technologies, techniques and ingredients meant anything truly could be possible made it all the more impressive.

Saturday, 1 November 2014

Ah Mei Cafe, Canning Vale, Western Australia (Alissa and Don Eat Australia)

Back in June, Alissa and I dined at Formosa Vegetarian Eating House in Kardinya. During the meal, a regular of the restaurant recommended a dish for us to try. From this chance encounter he later got in touch with me after seeing the Formosa blog post appear on Urbanspoon, eventually sending me an email with a list of places to check out. His good leads resulted in satisfying dinners at Bateman Eating House and Silver Sushi, as well as a few we have yet to get around to. As much a fan of noodles as I am, he sent us a second round of leads in October, informing us that we had to try the Bakmie noodles and Chicken Rice at Ah Mei Cafe.

Cafe 140, Bunbury, Western Australia (Alissa and Don Eat Australia)

During the Queen's Birthday weekend, Alissa and I joined a group of friends for a getaway in Dunsborough to celebrate the birthday of our friend Annaliese, as well as personal milestones like the end of Alissa's teaching prac, and my joy at seeing the end of the WA Day to Queen's Birthday public holiday drought. On our way home on the Monday, Alissa, our friend Ben and I decided to stop into Bunbury for lunch. In the past, Alissa and I have always popped into Benesse for our breakfast pit stop on the way Down South, but after walking to see the birds in Anzac Park we decided to have our lunch at Cafe 140, located nearby at the end of the Victoria St main drag.

Monday, 27 October 2014

MoG @ Home #2 - Eleven Madison Park (Ministry of Gluttony at Home)

Regular readers of the Ministry may have noticed an almost month-long gap between posts between mid September to mid October. There were several reasons for this absence; moving offices, three birthday parties and a weekend away down south certainly contributed somewhat to a lack of writing time, however the biggest reason for the break was this cookbook.

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Riesling Rocks! Sunday Lunch - Burnt Ends x Restaurant Amusé, East Perth, Western Australia (Alissa and Don Eat Australia)

Alissa and I are big fans of Riesling. In spite of being a Noble Grape, its far less popular with the average Australian consumer than Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc; a real shame when you consider the quality of Australian Riesling and its flexibility in being able to produce wines that can range from deliciously crisp and dry to an excellent late harvest wine when under the influence of botrytis' noble rot.

Friday, 24 October 2014

Nao, Perth, Western Australia (Alissa and Don Eat Australia)

Recently, I was delighted to discover someone had done a Google search with the keywords being 'ministry of gluttony ramen'.
'We've made it!' I jokingly exclaimed to Alissa, 'our reputation precedes us!'
With this in mind, it was surprising then to discover it had been a long 5 months since our last ramen-related post, especially considering how strongly ramen figured up to that point. It's not like we haven't been eating ramen mind you - I eat a bowl at least once a fortnight thanks to our proximity to Kai in Bull Creek - however, timing and circumstance has prevented us from checking out many of the places we haven't been to, or to try some of our favourites yet again. 5 months is far too long a time, and a recent visit to Nao gave us an opportunity for atonement.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Arimia, Yallingup, Western Australia (Alissa and Don Eat Australia)

One of the peculiarities of Western Australia's public holiday calendar is how sparse the long weekends become in the second half of the year. While the first half of the year averages 1 a month, after WA Day its over three months before the Queen's Birthday long weekend provides some respite from the relentless working week. The Queen's Birthday then is a holiday we all look forward to, independent of whatever feelings we have for the monarchy. This Queen's Birthday weekend was particularly important for Alissa, as it marked the end of her prac for her university studies and a weekend down south celebrating the birthday of our friend Annaliese Hutchison. After heading down with our friend Ben on the Friday night, Alissa and I had some free time on the Saturday morning to explore. After tasting (and purchasing) wine from the cellar door at Flying Fish Cove, Alissa and I decided to stop in for lunch at the cellar door restaurant at the nearby Arimia Estate.

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Neighborhood Pizza, Mount Hawthorn, Western Australia (Alissa and Don Eat Australia)

I've always felt that pizza is one of those dishes that is easy to make at a half-decent level, but difficult to do exceptionally well. Perhaps part of the difficulty is that the standards for judging pizza are wildly divergent; is it all about interesting and inventive toppings, or is it about getting the most perfect wood-fired base? Rarely do the two come together in the one pizza, as progressives like Little Caesar's tend to make incredible toppings on largely unremarkable bases, while in their attempts to not mess with the formula, conservative wood fire traditionalists tend to rely on age-old classic combinations rather than dare to try new things.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Darlings Supper Club, Northbridge, Western Australia (Alissa and Don Eat Australia)

Edit: This is a review of the earlier, not particularly great original menu served at Darlings. For the more recent and vastly improved menu, check out the more recent review here

Alissa and I are massive fans of Varnish on King. Ostensibly a whiskey and wine bar, the quality of the food that they serve is as impressive as their drinks list, with their Beef Short Ribs and Sweet Potato dishes being some of the most memorable and satisfying dishes we've eaten in the last year. So when we heard that Varnish's owner Andy Freeman had just opened an Asian Fusion venue in the form of Darlings Supper Club, we quickly added it to our list of places to check out. With a Truffle Degustation at 1907 and the final service of Dear Friends taking priority due to their limited nature, our planned dinner at Darlings fell by the wayside. Additionally, with early reviews a bit mixed, we decided to give them a bit of time to settle in before we finally popped in for an impromptu dinner in early September.

Monday, 8 September 2014

Matisse Beach Club, Scarborough, Western Australia (Alissa and Don Eat Australia)

It's been quite a while since Alissa and I headed out to Scarborough. When Alissa lived in North Perth, we used to include walks from City Beach to Scarborough as part of our regular walking route repertoire, however since moving to Bateman our visits have been much more sporadic. So when we received a surprise invite to attend a blogging event at Matisse Beach Club, we were delighted by the chance to return to an area of Perth we probably haven't visited for a year.

Located along the Esplanade in Scarborough's main beach precinct, the first thing one notices about Matisse is the immense scale and ambition of this undertaking;  the Beach Club is a massive venue, and one that bucks the trend of the small bar boom. The intimacy and often 'bespoke' and 'artisanal' nature of the best small bars make a persuasive argument that smaller is better, however Matisse avoids the impersonal pitfalls of larger venues by having one of the most eye-poppingly colourful and boldly futuristic venue designs I've seen in Perth.

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Thach's Quan Restaurant (TQR), Nedlands, Western Australia (Alissa and Don Eat Australia)

When Alissa and I want a quiet Saturday night in but are ill-prepared or can't be bothered to cook, deciding on a place for an impromptu dinner out can be a real challenge. We invariably want something a bit more than just the regular local haunts, however having only just decided to eat out, the places that take bookings would be largely booked out already, and wait times at hip places with a strict walk-ins policy will be many times longer than the meal time itself. The last Saturday of August was one such night for us, and all the options didn't gel - I wasn't in the mood for pizza or Indian or Thai, and we'd just popped into Kai for ramen and udon the night before so Japanese was out of the equation. Having watched a Hanoi-oriented episode of Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations earlier in the day, I was craving Vietnamese food but couldn't be bothered facing the crowds in Northbridge or the long drive to our favourite Bun Cha restaurant Little Lang Nuong in Girrawheen. That's when I remembered Thach's Quan Restaurant (also known simply as TQR), a Vietnamese restaurant on Stirling Highway in Nedlands across the road from Pata Negra.

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Jamie's Italian, Perth, Western Australia (Alissa and Don Eat Australia)

Jamie's Italy was the first cookbook I ever owned. My mother, ever the rabid fan of all things Jamie, originally bought the book for herself when it came out in 2005. I soon became clear however it was I who really took to actually cooking from it, and she told me that when I left home the book was mine to keep. While my favourite cookbooks these days are more challenging works by people like Heston Blumenthal, David Chang, Daniel Humm and Ben Shewry, I cannot stress how important Jamie's Italy was for me in becoming a better home cook - my ability to improvise a pasta dish out of what is in the fridge or make Carbonara or Trapanese Pesto from memory is indebted to the lessons I learnt cooking from Jamie's Italy.

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Silver Sushi, Willetton, Western Australia (Alissa and Don Eat Australia)

Although Alissa and I have been living in the Bateman for almost two years, we have been slow to explore the suburban restaurants of Willetton. Perhaps owing to the close proximity of our regular local favourites Kai and Kitchen Inn combined with the fast food chain-centric nature of the shopping centre precinct but, Alissa and I rarely crossed Karel Ave until recently realising just how close Southlands really is. One of the instigators for this recent branching out was chasing down a lead we were given by a diner we met at Formosa Vegetarian Eating House in Kardinya, who strongly recommended that we try a Japanese restaurant in the Southlands complex called Silver Sushi.

Monday, 25 August 2014

Mama Tran, Perth & Ton Sian Grocery, Northbridge, Western Australia (Alissa and Don Eat Australia)

My father introduced me to banh mi many years ago, and from my first bite I was hooked on a dish I truly believe is the King of Sandwiches. My first banh mi was from the Ton Sian Grocery store located on Palmerston St in the city. Being a manager with regular meetings in the city, it became a bit of a running joke that my father simply could not come back from a meeting without popping in. This unassuming suburban outpost that began the Tran's Emporium empire may not seem like the most likely place to get an incredible sandwich, but they are so good it became clear just why my father just had to pop in here.

Sunday, 24 August 2014

MoG @ Home #1 - Momofuku Ko (Ministry of Gluttony at Home)

Something I haven't really talked about on the blog is home cooking. When I started the Ministry of Gluttony, I obliquely referenced cooking when I subtitled the blog 'gastronomic adventures at home and abroad'. Up until now 'at home' has meant dining out in Perth (or more generally Australia), but as a passionate and adventurous home cook I had always meant to include the meals that we make at home. I've been cooking since I was 5 or 6, and if I hadn't stumbled into Art School, I may very well have gone down the path of being a chef. As a student much enamoured with the avant-garde, new media and conceptualism while being decidedly unpainterly, I used to half-jokingly refer to myself as a failed painter, but when you consider I was for many years a member of an art collective named Spatula which interrogated and challenged contemporary food production, perhaps its more accurate to say I've always been more of a unrealised chef.

While I'm not really interested in a career change, in the last few years I've been really wanting to put more effort into upping my skills in the kitchen and challenging myself with recipes outside my comfort zone. I'm a confident home cook who is just as comfortable cooking from Heston Blumenthal at Home as I am freestyling a pasta of whatever is in the fridge, but as someone who is very much a product of my Art School education, the challenging modernism of contemporary fine dining restaurants is the kind of cooking I find most appealing. It is to this end that I've started Ministry of Gluttony at Home - a series of multi-course dinners for 8 (including Alissa and myself) focusing on recipes from challenging chef's books; the kind of cookbooks filled with multi-component recipes and esoteric ingredients that combined with time consuming methods and restrictive equipment requirements means most copies sold end up on coffee tables rather than kitchens.

Monday, 18 August 2014

Maya Indian Restaurant, Fremantle, Western Australia (Alissa and Don Eat Australia)

Revisiting a restaurant after many years can be like catching up with an old friend. With all the incredible openings in Perth over the last few years, dinner in Fremantle is a somewhat uncommon practice for Alissa and I. Combined with my general reluctance to go out and eat Indian food whenever I come back from a trip to India, its been at least 4 or 5 years since I last dined at Maya, a much lauded Indian restaurant and small bar located on Market St, just off the main drag of the Cappuccino Strip. When I dined here last it was between my first and second trips to India, and I recall thinking the food was some of the better Indian I've had in Australia. After a stalled attempt to book the Winter Dego advertised on their website in July (they weren't offering it at the time), I received an email informing me that they would be served their 'Winter Banquet' every Wednesday of August. At an extremely reasonable 10 dishes for $38, this is quite likely one of the cheapest tasting menus in town (albeit seasonal), and after conferring with a few friends eager to get in on the bargain, we made a booking for six for the first Wednesday of the month.

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Bateman Eating House, Bateman, Western Australia (Alissa and Don Eat Australia)

After a long day's work, there are those nights when you just can't be bothered to cook, and driving into the Perth CBD or one of Perth's major eat streets seems like something that is not worth the time and effort. On these nights you want something a). good, b). quick and c). close, and in desperation a). is almost optional. Every suburb has its local flavour for these kind of nights, and living in Bateman we're gifted with a plethora of excellent Asian restaurants to choose from. Want killer Japanese, especially a steaming hot bowl of tonkotsu ramen? Kai's just 5 minutes from home, and is one of our favourites in Perth. Or how about an excellent bowl of authentic Kolo Mee or Hor Fun? Kitchen Inn has got us covered. Even vegan-friendly faux meat Asian is represented by Formosa Vegetarian Eating House, and it was a result of our meal there that I was given a list of even more places to check out in the Melville area. Trying to decide what to order, a customer at a nearby table recommended that we try the Spicy Hou Tou Mushrooms. Seeing me pull out a camera and take photos of our meal, he assumed that I was a blogger, and waited to see a post for Formosa appear on Urbanspoon. When it was published he got in touch with me, and kindly gave me a list of a few nearby places I hadn't tried yet, including more ramen joints to check out (always a welcome thing).

Friday, 1 August 2014

St Michael 6003, Highgate, Western Australia (Alissa and Don Eat Australia)

In March this year, Alissa and I attended one of the 'Limited Edition Degos' at Jackson's before eponymous chef Neal Jackson closed his iconic Highgate restaurant after 15 years as a trailblazer in Perth's fine dining scene. Given the huge shadow its cast, I'd wondered what could possibly be bold enough to take its place; would it become another fine diner that would have to forever battle with the reputation of its predecessor, or would the new tenants go in the opposite direction with another casual and hipster-ready restaurant to add to the vibrant Beaufort St dining scene?

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Dear Friends (Last Supper Degustation), Caversham, Western Australia (Alissa and Don Eat Australia)

Earlier this year Alissa and I visited Co-op Dining, the East Perth restaurant owned and operated by chef Kiren Mainwaring and his wife Kelli. Impressed by their sustainable Farm to Table and Foraging-focused philosophy even before visiting the restaurant, the Tuesday special 5 Course Vegetarian Experimental Menu we went for remains one of the best vegetarian meals Alissa and I have eaten, and one that I frequent recommend to vegetarian and vegan friends due to the creativity of the menu; it changes every week (being drastically different when visited by friends a few months later) and the $69 per person asking price is excellent value for food of this calibre. As omnivores, Alissa and I have been meaning to visit Co-op again to experience their full 10 Course Menu, and with regular themed event dinners hosted by the restaurant, Alissa and I would have booked for their recent Canadian Roots dinner if not for a clash with Alissa's schedule and a decision to book 1907's Truffle Degustation meaning our fine dining budget was already allocated for the month.

Being on the Co-op mailing list, I received an email informing of Kiren and Kelli's decision to close Co-op Dining's sister restaurant Dear Friends in Caversham so as to focus their full attention on the East Perth restaurant. With their final service on July 19th themed as a 'greatest hits' Last Supper of their 7 years as a Swan Valley mainstay, this was both our last chance to visit Dear Friends and an opportunity to try Mainwaring's food again. Having already booked 1907 for earlier that same week, two degustations in such a short length of time was the kind of splurge we hadn't quite figured into our monthly budget, however given the limited nature of both menus we decided to make August a more frugal month to make the most of July's opportunities.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

1907 (Truffle Degustation), Perth, Western Australia (Alissa and Don Eat Australia)

Winter is one of the best times of the year. Sure, its cold and rainy, but it is also a season overflowing with opportunity. Unlike the oppressive searing summers of Perth, the cooler weather is conducive to dressing up to go out - instead of sweating even in t-shirts and shorts, it's time to step out comfortably in jackets and collared shirts, and to accept the warm embrace of jumpers and knitwear. During the season, I find myself increasingly drawn to the outdoors; rather than worrying about the rain I'm more likely to get excited about being able to push it on a bike without even breaking a sweat, and there is something about the cold air that fills me with nostalgia for childhood holidays in the forests of WA's south west.

For a foodie, wintertime in WA also holds one of the great seasonal gifts - Truffle Season. With the increasing global recognition of the Manjimup truffle industry, the unique flavour of the black truffle (tuber melanosporum) has well and truly cast its spell on Perth restaurants and diners, with truffle being featured on seasonal menus by everyone from Must Wine Bar, Lalla Rookh and even shaved on top of the barbecued meat of Old Faithful Bar! One could not have imagined this prized ingredient being used so liberally even 5 years ago, and as a self-confessed truffle pig its like Christmas in July for us antipodean gourmands.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

The Old Crow, Northbridge, Western Australia (Alissa and Don Eat Australia)

The Old Crow has been on our wishlist for, well, almost as long as we've had an actual written wishlist of places to try. In spite of being open for little over a year, this Northbridge restaurant has built up an enviable reputation for delicious, crowd-pleasing American-inspired Soul Food, and has been a consistent fixture on Urbanspoon's 'Talk of the Town' list (sitting at #1 at the time of writing). With glowing reviews from friends, other bloggers and professionals alike, Alissa and I were pleased a catch up with our friends Justin and Sarah (who joined us previously for a meal at Pleased To Meet You) served as a good opportunity to see for ourselves if The Old Crow lived up to all the hype.

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Public House, East Perth, Western Australia (Alissa and Don Eat Australia)

Public House was one of those new Perth openings that flew under the radar for Alissa and I. Perhaps it was because they opened in November 2013 while we were in the mad scramble leading up to our wedding, or because its East Perth location is far from being along one of our regular thoroughfares. Whatever the case, we were kicking ourselves when we realised we'd missed out on their Nose to Tail dinners as part of Eat Drink Perth, however we added Public House to our ever-growing list of places to check out. It took us about 2 months, but on a cold and wet Friday night in July, Alissa and I finally made our way to for a 7pm dinner.

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Galangal, East Victoria Park, Western Australia (Alissa and Don Eat Australia)

A few weeks ago, a few friends send me an invite to join their new dining group. Called 'The Occasional Dinner Surprise', the groups mission statement is simple:

The tiny Thai joint at the end of your street that's a bit dingy, but makes a bangin papaya salad. That weird place that serves up delicious plump pierogi, but you think the chef might be on parole. And the crazy Korean cafe round the back of the ugly squash courts, doling out wicked kimchi. That's what this is all about. We want to set ourselves a challenge, and try out the hidden suburban dining gems of Perth. 

1. It has to be on a back street somewhere, away from the main strips of Northbridge, Leederville, Subiaco, Vic Park, Freo etc. 
2. No trendy newcomers. Only hardy perennials that have been doing their thing for years. 
3. Bonus points for ugly exteriors. 
4. Bargain prices = happy.

A noble goal, and one that is close to my heart. As much as Alissa and I do enjoy trying out some of Perth's best and most beloved restaurants, there is something lovely about the Occasional Surprise of discovering one of Perth's best kept secrets buried deep in the suburbs. I mean, within a 10 minute radius of where Alissa and I live in Bateman (hardly the culinary epicentre of Perth), we've discovered one of our favourite ramen joints in Perth, the deliciousness of Hawaiian/Japanese Fusion food in quite possibly the ugliest restaurant in Applecross, a seriously good noodle house in the middle of no where and - before their move to Nedlands - the incredibly difficult to book restaurant Marumo (sadly, pre-blog days). I was immediately excited by the idea of the group, and although Alissa already had plans for the evening, I decided to partake in the group's inaugural dinner at Galangal Thai without her.

Sunday, 29 June 2014

Noodle Forum, Perth, Western Australia (Alissa and Don Eat Australia)

Though I'm glad I don't have to face the stress of peak hour traffic, there are times I wish I worked in the Perth CBD. With Alissa usually working on Saturdays and many restaurants closed on Sundays, many of the more casual eateries on our Perth CBD wishlist are a real challenge to get to. For this reason, Alissa having a Saturday off from work was an opportunity we just had to make the most of, and we went straight to the top of our list with a long awaited lunch at Noodle Forum.

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Formosa Vegetarian Eating House, Kardinya, Western Australia (Alissa and Don Eat Australia)

At the start of June, Alissa and I had the idea that we'd spend the month visiting as many of the vegetarian restaurants in Perth as we could fit in. One thing I'd noticed was that other than places like The Raw Kitchen which have crossed over into the collective consciousness, there is a great dearth of vegetarian restaurant coverage by mainstream food bloggers in Perth, with vegan lifestyle blogs largely being your only hope of finding interesting vegetarian places. I'm definitely not a vegetarian, but as an omnivore in the true sense of the word (ie not a carnivore who is a reluctant vegetable eater) I do feel its important that such restaurants get some coverage by non-vegetarians.

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Bollywood Spices, North Perth, Western Australia (Alissa and Don Eat Australia)

Whenever I get back from India, I always feel like I need a serious break from Indian food. Eating a food heavy on the ghee and spices everyday is decadent and delicious, but after a few weeks it becomes all a bit too much. Add to this the impossibility of finding Indian in Australia that can match the delicious seafood (and our all-time favourite naan) at Trishna and the refined quality of the food at Dum Pukht (our all-time favourite biryani) in Mumbai, and getting me to go out for Indian food can be a real challenge. With no dinner reservations on a Saturday night, and all the hip 'no reservation required' casual eateries likely to be packed, Alissa's suggestion that we visit Bollywood Spices seemed sensible. After some final cajoling to push me over the line, we hopped in the car and made the drive to North Perth for our first meal of Indian food since we left Mumbai last year.

Located in North Perth, Bollywood Spices is confusingly one of three Indian restaurants located near the intersection of Charles and Angove Sts, and unfortunately its not the most visible of the three from Charles St, as its the best rated on Urbanspoon. When Alissa lived on Angove, her and her housemates tried quite a few of the different Indian restaurants in the North Perth/Northbridge area, and Alissa and I felt that Bollywood Spices was probably our top pick. The restaurant is fairly small but it is nicely decorated and comfortable. When we arrived there were no other customers dining in. While there were more dine in customers as the even progressed, the kitchen was largely kept busy by a constant stream of take away orders.

Monday, 23 June 2014

Nine Fine Food, Highgate, Western Australia (Alissa and Don Eat Australia)

Alissa had had a stressful week. Having worked in theatre for the last few years, Alissa returned to her studies at the beginning of 2014 to become a secondary teacher. The week preceding had been her first exam week since high school (contemporary performance didn't have exams), so on the evening of her last exam I arranged a little light at the end of the tunnel in the form of a reservation at Nine Fine Food. Being massive fans of Japanese food, Nine had been on our list of places to check out for a long time. Located at the corner of Bulwer and Lake Sts in Highgate and serving impressive food for a decade, its easy to forget about an established gem like Nine with all the 'buzzy' new Japanese restaurant openings in the last few years (Nobu, Sushia and Marumo to name a few), however with its consistently strong ratings in the Good Food Guide the restaurant and chef Muneki Song have certainly earned their stripes amongst Perth's best.

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Red Cabbage, South Perth, Western Australia (Alissa and Don Eat Australia)

Being foodies, Alissa and I need little in the way of an excuse to eat good food. It is therefore something of an imperative that when a good excuse does come along that the meal be a particularly special one. Alissa once said that degustation was her favourite 'cuisine', and to that end we've made it a mission to try some of Perth's best degustations whenever there is a special occasion. For Valentine's Day we opted to celebrate a few days earlier at Co-op Dining's Tuesday vegetarian degustation, and for Alissa's birthday we enjoyed a truly memorable meal at Restaurant Amusé. For my birthday, it was a toss up between Clarke's of North Beach and Red Cabbage, with the closer proximity of its South Perth location to our home and chef Scott O'Sullivan's win as The Good Food Guide's Chef of the Year tipping us towards the latter.

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

MIX, Perth, Western Australia (Alissa and Don Eat Australia)

I'm nothing if not an avid fan of Anthony Bourdain. I watch his food and travel documentaries religiously, and when in Hong Kong enjoyed being a fanboy as I ate the Michelin-starred dim sum of Tim Ho Wan and the incredible roast goose of Yat Lok - two eateries that featured in Hong Kong episodes of either No Reservations or the Layover. When writing about the inaugural Food Truck Rumble in April, I mentioned Roy Choi whose Korean/Mexican fusion food has made him and his food truck business Kogi stars of LA's culinary scene. With Perth becoming increasingly hip to global trends, I assumed the Korean/Mexican trend would eventually find its way here; little did I realise at the time of writing that it had already arrived just a few months before, and that it was called MIX. After being hipped to its existence by some friends, it didn't take long for Alissa and I to find our way down for a Friday night dinner.

Thursday, 12 June 2014

el Publico, Highgate, Western Australia (Alissa and Don Eat Australia)

After a weekend of celebratory birthday meals that included Red Cabbage, Dosukoi Ramen and Alfred's Kitchen, the actual Monday night of my birthday was, for me, surprisingly loose and unplanned. Our initial thought was to pop in for dinner at Bollywood Spices in North Perth, however feeling like a heavy curry was not really what we were in the mood for but unsure about what we should do instead, we decided to try our luck with a stroll down Beaufort St. Parking near Veggie Mama, the sight of Salsa's at the corner made us crave for some Mexican however wanting to aim for something a bit more special for a birthday meal, we decided the much higher regarded Mexican of the nearby el Publico was just the ticket.

Sunday, 8 June 2014

The Merrywell, Burswood, Western Australia (Alissa and Don Eat Australia)

Having little interest in gambling and a dislike for the stop-start nature of East-West travel along Canning Hwy, Alissa and I rarely find ourselves at Crown Perth. With so many exciting restaurants opening in the massive Complex Formerly Known as Burswood Casino in the last few years, our wishlist of places to try within Crown has only been growing and growing, so a day spent with some friends in nearby Kensington served as a perfect excuse to finally get around to ticking one of those establishments off the list. With no reservation on a Saturday night and our fine dining budget already allocated to other meals, the likes of Nobu, Rockpool and Bistro Guillaume would have to wait, with an early dinner of Dude Food at the Merrywell proving to be just the ticket. Having eaten the Mini Burgers from the Merrywell's Dude Food on Wheels food truck at the inaugural Food Truck Rumble, as well a recent meal at Perth burger institution Alfred's Kitchen, I was interested to see just how good the burgers of their brick and mortar establishment would be.

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Varnish on King, Perth, Western Australia (Alissa and Don Eat Australia)

Before I even stepped through the minimally signed front door for the first time, Varnish on King had already impressed me. Being a typically congested Friday night in the Perth CBD, I had opted to use a combination of train and bicycle to get there instead of driving in. Unsure about the attitude Varnish might have towards cyclists parking their bikes out the front (even some casual restaurants in Melbourne can be a bit dickish in this regard), I decided to head a bit further down to the Wellington St end of King. As I was chaining up my bike, a man approached me.
"Hey mate, which way are you going?"
Uncertain of the guy's motives, I gestured vaguely up the street; "That way."
"There's been a lot of bike theft on King St recently. If you want you can chain your bike out the front of my bar and my bouncer can keep an eye on it for you."
The bar was of course Varnish on King. The guy (presumably the owner or manager) could not have known at the time that I was dining there, but the thoughtful and unpretentious attitude started everything off on the right foot, and set the tone for the entire evening.

Saturday, 31 May 2014

Alfred's Kitchen, Guildford, Western Australia (Alissa and Don Eat Australia)

What makes a great burger? Its a question I've ironically pondered far more often than I actually eat burgers these days, and one that I've thought a lot about in the lead up to writing about a burger joint as famous as Alfred's Kitchen. The burger is a dish so globally ubiquitous that it feels like there really must be a Platonic Form of what the ideal burger should be, and yet its something that is so apparently easy to put together high school students can be paid a pittance to make it. Compare that to the hours of work that goes into making a great tonkotsu ramen, and the burger seems almost too easy. In spite of all this, three star Michelin chefs like Gordon Ramsay and Heston Blumenthal have had a go at making their ultimate burger, suggesting that the quest for the perfect burger is indeed a noble goal, and one more difficult that the fast food production line would suggest. While I certainly have neither the culinary knowledge of the Michelin starred, nor do I claim to have the same level of connoisseurship in regards to burgers that I would claim in regards to ramen, I am intrigued by the idea that there is a burger out there so perfect it transcends its limits - must like how Banh Mi is greater than the sum of its sandwich parts.

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Dosukoi Ramen, Fremantle, Western Australia (Alissa and Don Eat Australia)

Dosukoi was the first ramen place I tried after being introduced to ramen at Arigataya. Back then, the quality of Arigataya's miso ramen was near untouchable, but Dosukoi's version was a close second favourite. Located in a tiny shop in the historic Fremantle Markets, the market's unfortunately odd opening hours meant getting my Fremantle ramen fix was limited to breakfast and lunch on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, with Friday night being the only option for a ramen dinner. Given these limited opening hours, I always made it a point to have a massively chillied-up bowl of Dosukoi's ramen as pre-gig ritual to help clear the sinuses before performing with my band.

Sunday, 25 May 2014

Estate 807, Denmark, Western Australia (Alissa and Don Eat Australia)

Just as a coffee at Dome before an international flight is a tradition for my family, Alissa's family have always considered a magazine for the flight a prerequisite air travel parting gift. Its a tradition we have continued whenever I have travelled interstate, and before our recent flight to Melbourne we each chose a magazine for our in-flight perusal. Though I usually pick up a cooking magazine, the Gourmet Traveller Wine issue had a lot of feature articles of interest, including one on WA winemakers 'daring to be different'. Of most interest however was an article on the magazine's Cellar Door Awards - especially useful since we were driving down to Denmark immediately after our trip to Melbourne. Many of our favourite wineries in Margaret River, Great Southern and Geographe got a mention, with Vasse Felix taking out the 'Cellar Door with Best Food' category in Margaret River. We were surprised to find Forest Hill not get a mention in the same category for the Great Southern region considering their cellar door is home to the excellent Pepper & Salt. Listed instead was Estate 807, a newish winery Alissa and I had never heard of before. Intrigued by this new lead, we decided to add lunch at Estate 807 to our Denmark itinerary.

Saturday, 17 May 2014

Pepper & Salt, Denmark, Western Australia (Alissa and Don Eat Australia)

In January last year, Alissa and I had the pleasure of dining at Pepper & Salt - arguably not just the best restaurant in Denmark, but in the entire Great Southern region as a whole. Owned and operated by chef Silas Masih and his wife Angela, and at that time located at Rockcliffe Winery, the interesting spice-driven fusion food had Alissa and I raving to both our parents. When my parents went down to Denmark later in the year they were similarly impressed with Silas' creativity, and he had spoken to my parents about their plans for a potential expansion. We were thus elated to pick up a copy of the Good Food Guide and discover that Pepper & Salt had made the move to the massive upper deck of Forest Hill's cellar door. Having been the head chef at the cellar door before striking out on his own, it's a fitting homecoming, as well as a reactivation of what was an underutilised space. Heading down for the Anzac Day weekend, a return visit to Pepper & Salt was something I pretty much insisted on.

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Vegie Bar, Fitzroy, Victoria (Alissa and Don Eat Australia)

Vegie Bar needs very little in the way of an introduction. A fixture of Fitzroy's vibrant restaurant scene, Vegie Bar has been cooking contemporary vegetarian food for over 20 years, and still draws crowds 7 nights a week (or at least every weeknight I've walked past). When my friends Jake and Tegan moved to Melbourne it was one of the first places they were taken to, and when I came over to Melbourne to see Prince in 2012 they passed on the knowledge for one of the most memorable meals of the trip. Alissa had also enjoyed a meal at Vegie Bar before we had met, so when planning our 2014 Melbourne trip it was one of the first restaurants locked in.

Monday, 12 May 2014

Friends of Mine, Richmond, Victoria (Alissa and Don Eat Australia)

I'm not big on going out for breakfast, so when I do I want it to be as worthwhile an experience as going out for lunch or dinner. In my hometown of Perth, there are far too many breakfast joints who treat breakfast like its a blank cheque to mark up simple dishes like Eggs on Toast without offering any particularly creative alternatives. During our visit to Melbourne, I was keen to give breakfast a fair go and see what the city had to offer. While researching places to go, I stumbled upon a list of Matt Preston's five favourite Breakfast spots from the Herald Sun online. The Herald Sun is a horribly right wing paper that I wouldn't normally be caught dead reading, but that first photo of the Banana Bread from Richmond's Friends of Mine had me transfixed. After reading what Preston had to say about the place, it was pretty much settled; Friends of Mine was on our list of breakfast places to check out.

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Wonderbao, Melbourne, Victoria (Alissa and Don Eat Australia)

It amazing just how popular the humble bao has become. I remember watching an episode of Play School when I was in Year 1 which included a multicultural 'through the round window' segment showing children our age eating dim sum. Pretty much the only person of Asian descent in the classroom, there were a lot of naive comments from the rest of the class that the dumplings and bao looked 'ewwww, gross!'. Fast forward over 20 years and love for the bao has exploded; the Momofuku bun elevated it into the mass public consciousness in the west, and the west even elevated Tim Ho Wan's brilliant take on the char siu bao to a Michelin Star. We've eaten a lot of bao in the last 6 months alone -the aforementioned Tim Ho Wan in Hong Kong and Singapore, Momofuku variations at TypikaIppudo and Shop Ramen, and a very interesting Beef Tongue Ruben version at Pleased To Meet You - so when I discovered there was a place specialising in bao in Melbourne, it quickly made the list of places we had to check out.

Saturday, 10 May 2014

La Panella Bakery, Preston, Victoria (Alissa and Don Eat Australia)

Local knowledge cannot be underestimated in the hunt for good food. Sure, picking up a copy of the Good Food Guide might help you find interesting places that even the average local may know nothing about, but there is a certain depth of knowledge that comes with actually living in a city; I know that my ability to find interesting middle-of-nowhere suburban gems in Perth is greatly enhanced by the fact I live there, and I have to resign myself to the fact that discoveries like a ex-Vue de Monde chef cooking at a Melbourne bowls club are the kind of surprise finds that a tourist is unlikely to just stumble upon.

When making arrangements to stay with our friends Jake and Tegan in the suburb of Preston, Jake informed me of a nearby bakery that we had to try. Prior to him becoming a vegan, I used to jokingly tease Jake's preference for burgers and junk food as being 'the rearguard of the culinary arts', in contrast to the avant-garde of Molecular Gastronomy. Its a term that has stuck - in spite of the Dude Food trend suggesting that he was perhaps just really ahead of the pack.
"It's a bit rearguard, but their vegan pies are very convincing... or at least we find them to be," Jake informed me over the phone.
Interested to see what local knowledge can uncover, I added La Panella to our schedule of places to visit. Located on Preston's High St, the tired and dated appearance of the bakery's facade comes complete with missing letters in the 'Hot [Br]ead' signage that adorns the wall. This place is vegan? Where's the green paint job that signifies healthiness and sustainability? Where's the hipster-pleasing industrial chic with the Edison-style light bulbs? It looks a lot like any old school no-frills run of the mill independent bakery, which makes the fact its food is largely vegan all the more remarkable.