My work colleagues always seem a little bemused when I talk passionately about food, or predictably respond with 'dinner plans' when I'm asked what I'm doing this weekend. For some its the fact that I'm 'mad' enough to pay fine dining prices for a meal, while others think of food in such utilitarian concepts that even just using Urbanspoon to find good places to eat nearby is a strange, alien concept. Still, as much as they think me a little odd, they can be quite supportive. Knowing I'm always on the lookout for new places to try, one colleague handed me a menu to a Malaysian Chinese restaurant called Hometown's Kitchen, located in the middle of suburbia in Parkwood. He hadn't eaten there himself, but he grabbed a pamphlet as a hot tip for me to follow up on since they claimed to have the best Laksa in Perth according to SBS. I don't go out for Laksa very much as my mother makes a killer version of the dish that is far better than most I've tried, but such a major claim as 'Best Laksa in Perth' had to be investigated.
The restaurant is a fairly large, deep space with the middle and left side of the room filled with large round tables...
...while the right side is populated with two-seater tables. Note the funky green chairs.
We ended up visiting Hometown's Kitchen twice before writing this post, and on both occasions we went with a starter of Chinese-style Salt and Pepper Squid. A dish commonly found in Chinese 'Combination Plate' eateries either hard and dry from being in a food warmer, or soggy and lacking crispness due to sweating from being covered in a food warmer, Home Town's version was delightfully crunchy and fresh tasting, with a nice saltiness. One thing I find with badly made Salt and Pepper Squid is that it can be outrageously oily, but thankfully this version did not suffer from this problem. The garlic, chilli and spring onions tossed with the squid was addictively tasty, leading Alissa to ask; 'why is it so nice?'
For our first visit, we decided to go with a bowl of the Laksa each. There are a lot of really weak Laksa's in Perth with a feeble yellow colour and watery consistency, so its was heartening to see Hometown Kitchen's version was a fiery orange-red. Tasting the Laksa gravy, I was happy to find that it was indeed a very good, very hot Laksa; having a good balance of coconut and prawniness, and brimming with prawns, chicken and sliced fish cake. Though I consider the thick Laksa mee to be the most authentic noodles, as a fan of yellow mee I was happy with the yellow mee and bee hoon combination served. What I did think was missing from the dish was a decent garnish of daun kesum, something I have fond memories of my father liberally piling onto his bowl. I mean, its use is so synonymous with this dish that its even known simply as laksa leaf, so its omission was a little disappointing.
We were pretty full by this stage, so we decided to share a Red Bean Pancake with Ice Cream for dessert. This was excellent; better than a similar dish we had eaten when we went for Xiao Long Bao in Singapore. The pancake was nice and crispy on the outside but had that nice chewy texture on the inside, with a lovely red bean filling on the inside. As with the Salt and Pepper Squid, it wasn't super oily tasting either. Served here with a simple but effective scoop of vanilla ice cream, Alissa and I were both very satisfied with our meal.
So much so, we decided to come back for a second visit to try their main dishes. For our entree we again had the Salt and Pepper Squid, with the first main being a sizzling plate of Spicy Pork Belly from their 'Hometown's Special' menu. This was reminiscent of the Pork Spare Ribs in House Black Vinegar Sauce that we had at Monogamous Chinese in Hong Kong, though less vinegary. The pork belly slices were deliciously unctuous as expected, and we both liked the thick, treacly sauce and the abundance of dried whole chillis in the dish. It was a nice enough dish, however it was a little heavy-handed in the onion department; a typical Chinese restaurant bulking technique that I'm not a huge fan of. In the end, Alissa and I agreed that while we liked this dish, the Pork Spare Ribs from Monogamous Chinese was a better variation on this basic idea.
Alissa and I are fanatical about Sizzling Tofu with Chicken and Salted Fish, so we decided to try the Beancurd-Tofu, a dish of Japanese tofu served with spicy chicken mince with homemade sauce. As with everything we've had here, Hometown did not hold back on the chilli content, making for another hot dish. As with the previous dish, there was a lot to recommend it - the tofu had a nice crispy outer coating that gave way as soon as you even moved it, and the chicken mince was tasty - but in comparison to the usual Sizzling Tofu with Chicken and Salted Fish we had to admit it just was not as good.
I was pretty full by this stage, however Alissa was feeling greedy for dessert and wanted to try the cold Bobo Cha Cha as she had not had it before, and has a deep-seated fear of missing out on something that could be amazing. I'm not a fan of Bobo Cha Cha so didn't try any of it, however as much as Alissa liked it she said she would have preferred the Chendol that would have been her second choice.
The Verdict: Very Good
I'm not sure if I would call Hometown's Kitchen's Laksa the best in Perth as I haven't ever had a bowl that I find quite as satisfying as what my mother makes, however it definitely is one of the better Laksas in town - especially when you consider how many place serve up terrible, watery versions of this dish. Their Red Bean Pancake and Salt and Pepper Squid were amongst the best versions of each dish that we've had, however while the main dishes we ordered during our second visit were very good and satisfying in their own right, they were simply outclassed by similar dishes Alissa and I have had elsewhere. Still, in spite of these lesser dishes, there was enough good here for us to come back with a larger group to try something else from the extensive menu, as well as a repeat of our first Salt and Pepper Squid, Curry Laksa and Red Bean Pancake meal.