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).
The first of his recommendations that Alissa and I followed up on was Bateman Eating House, an unassuming restaurant that is literally a 3 minute drive away from our house and in a complex that we've passed many times on our way to Kai but never even knew was home to a Chinese restaurant. We ended up visiting the restaurant twice in July, with our fist visit on a Saturday night that was so busy there were literally crowds of people out the front and milling around the carpark (see first photo), and our second for a quieter, early meal midweek during which I took the above photo of the restaurant's fairly utilitarian interior during a brief lull in service.
For the first meal we ordered the Black Bean & Chilli Pork Ribs, after seeing WenY (friend of the blog and the blogger behind WenY Wonders Why) had enjoyed the dish when he visited the restaurant a while back. The rib meat itself was well cooked - juicy, succulent and flavoursome as you'd hope, however the balance of the Black Bean Sauce seemed off to both Alissa and I, as it was way too salty, even when mixed in with rice. The acidity from the tomatoes helped to lessen the salty impact somewhat, but we still felt that the salt level needed to be lower or for another element to be ramped up for a counterbalance. We both found the dish quite mild on the chilli front, and wondered if they usually put more chilli in the dish but toned it down upon seeing Alissa was an ang mo, thinking (incorrectly) that she/we couldn't take the heat. Perhaps with that extra chilli kick this might have been better balanced, however having eaten this dish within the same two week period we at terrific Lamb Ribs at Public House and equally impressive Beef Short Ribs at both the Old Crow and a repeat dinner at Varnish on King, these Pork Ribs were definitely not in the same class.
Thankfully, the Fish Head Assam Curry we also ordered fared better - a lot better in fact. Bateman Eating House are evidently quite famous locally for their signature Fried Fish Wing dishes, and having tried it I can see why.
The Fish Wings were skilfully fried, with a salty-spicy dusting of flour that made it taste as finger lickin' good as KFC's Original Recipe, with crispy skin and seriously crunchy fins contrasted by the succulent meat within - especially that little oyster of tender fish meat just behind the wing itself. Fish Heads and Fish Frames are of course commonly used in a lot of peasant cuisines or by cooks who recognise their value in making stocks, but considering how tasty this dish was it really goes to show how wasteful most of us are when we just buy the fillets - in essence, Bateman Eating House have made gold out of what is ostensibly our scraps. All the more power to them.
The Assam Curry that the Fish Wings came with was good, having a decent balance of sourness and sweetness that you'd expect from Assam curry. I'm not usually a big fan of fish curries with pineapple as too often all I can taste is an overload of canned pineapple flavour, however the pineapple in this dish was well integrated, working well with the other flavours instead of overriding them. Dipping the fish in briefly to absorb the curry but taking it out before it lost its crispiness made for a very tasty dish - although as with the ribs I thought it could do with more chilli. Also included in the curry were pieces of tofu, tomato, beans and okra. All were cooked well - something I was especially grateful for considering overcooked okra has a snotty texture that can be a little off-putting.
Having tried one of their two Fish Wing signature dishes, Alissa and I decided to make a return visit a little over a week later. For this second visit, we decided to start with their Fried Wantons as an entree. It may seems a strange thing to marvel at, but Alissa and I were very impressed by how skilfully fried they were - like good quality fried Japanese food, these Wantons didn't taste oily at all. The filling was good if not exceptional, and I've had better overall Wantons at other places, but rarely have I eaten a Wanton that tasted as clean and non-greasy as these.
Alissa felt like something gingery, so we ordered the Ginger, Shallots and Onion Chicken. The Chicken had been well marinated, with a strong infusion of ginger flavour and a good level of salt having been absorbed deep within the meat. It was also stir fried perfectly, with the meat in that perfect sweet spot just over the line of being cooked and before it starts to dry out. The vegetables were likewise cooked just to the right level, having a bit of snap to them without being too undercooked. It wasn't exactly an incredible 'must order' dish, but there was little to complain about in its execution (except perhaps for the heavy-handedness of the onion, but given this dish was called Ginger, Shallots and Onion, it was hardly surprising).
But of course, we were here mainly for their other famous fish head dish - the Fish Head Mee Fun. The Mee Fun came in a nice clear Chinese-style broth, and due to the tomato and pickled cabbage had a slight acidity to it; not Tom Yum Soup level of sour, mind you, but enough to give it a bit of additional interest. I'm not a huge fan of thin rice noodles like Mee Fun or Bee Hoon to be honest, but these were nice enough. With some chilli added to the broth I was happy with the simple, honest flavour.
However, it was the Fried Fish Wings that again made the dish, and it was a pleasure to be tasting these again. For my tastes, the Assam Curry probably had the edge on the Mee Fun - if I could order a bowl of egg noodles to go with the Assam Curry and the fish, I'd be in heaven. In fact, considering you can order the Fried Fish Wings separate as an entree, I think I might try making my own combination of Fish and Noodles next time I am in.
The Verdict: Very Good
Bateman Eating House was a nice surprise - its the kind of off the beaten path, totally unhip looking restaurant with impressive food my friends in the dining group the Occasional Dinner Surprise are on the lookout for (see the post for Thai restaurant Galangal for more info). While not every dish was incredible, the delicious, spicy-salty flavour of the Fried Fish Wings is definitely reason enough to visit this restaurant, and for locals such as ourselves to make repeat visits. It won't exactly be replacing Kai as our go-to on a lazy weeknight, but its always nice to find a solid performer to add to our local restaurant rotation.