30 July 2014

Bagels and burgers at La Veen, Perth



Recently I took advantage of the sunny winter's day for a lunch date with my mum and my boy Jeremy. Mum's friend's daughter (try saying that quickly!) owns the new hotspot La Veen on King Street, and we'd promised her friend that we'd come by soon to try it out.

On the day in question we arrive around 1pm, missing her friends as they're about to fly off on holiday but we didn't mind - we were there to eat our little hearts away.

La Veen

La Veen

Situated on the corner, La Veen is small and intimate. Exposed brick and black tile accents, plus a line of coffee drips and machines. It's times this like that I really wish I drank coffee because the aroma is just wonderful. 

We're handed menus to peruse, with instructions to come up to the counter when we're ready to order. Looking at the options on offer, the menu is limited in options which I actually prefer (do a few good things right) and the prices suitable for lunchtime in the city. Gone are the days of spending $30 on lunch - thank goodness!

La Veen

It takes us a few minutes before we all decide on our lunch meals. Jeremy's always too nice to us so he jumps up to place the order for us all. I'm too busy creeping on everyone else's lunches - I love looking at food that gets delivered to other tables. I always think I must look like the biggest perve!

Pulled pork bagel

Pulled pork bagel

It's not a long wait at all before our food is brought out to the table. Mum's ordered the pulled pork bagel which has a crisp coleslaw inside, plus chips and salad on the side. She's kind enough to let me have a bite, which I'm pleased to see that the pork is juicy and flavoursome. It's soft and tender, though a little on the messy side.

Having a bagel rather than your standard sandwich roll or bread is a really nice change of pace - making the portion a lighter, and more appropriate size for lunchtime. I love the chips - shoestring - with a satisfying crunch to every bite. I think I eat at least half of her chips! Whoops!

Double wagyu cheese burger

Double wagyu cheese burger

Jeremy's choice from the Chef's Special section of the menu is the double wagyu cheese burger ($17). I'm not quite sure where the 'double' comes into it since there's only one beef patty, but it's a great size and topped with pickles, ketchup and mustard sauce. Like mum's bagel, there's also a side salad and shoestring fries.

Love this dish! The beef is pink inside and well seasoned, with each bite juicy and moorish. The flavours are classic, with no deviation required from the tried and true cheeseburger formula. Like the pulled pork before, the burger is on a toasted bagel bun which is soft, sweet and pillowy goodness.

Risotto

Risotto

Typically when I spy the truffle risotto ($18) on the menu I find myself unable to consider any other options. It's sunny outside but I'm always cold in winter so heartwarming Italian dishes are right up my alley.

It's a small dish presented on a beautiful plate. Al dente arborio rice with parmesan, truffle oil and shaved Monteil truffles, plus some herbs to garnish.

Jeremy and mum tease me quickly since I'm such a sucker for congee and risotto. It's a go to for me! This one is tasty and simple - creamy, full of truffle flavour and with a nice salty kick from the parmesan. I finish it quickly, so I am glad that I had mum's chips to finish munching on for that extra carb hit.

Lunch

La Veen is a lovely addition to King Street and the emerging foodie front in Perth. Bring a laptop or book down and sit by the window, soaking in the chaos of the foot traffic outside and the tasty goods on offer. Rumour has it there's a bar opening next door too which means there's going to be even more reason to hang out on King soon.


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29 July 2014

Familiar flavours at Nine Fine Food, Northbridge



Life is a little crazy. I guess we all have those times when roadblocks can happen and our set plans or goals deviate from what we originally thought. Sometimes it can feel really scary when such moments occur, but I like to think that everything happens for a reason and that ultimately things will always work out. 

Lately things have felt a bit pear-shaped for me, but I'm a really lucky person in that I have an amazing boyfriend, plus friends and family. And of course there's always my blogging. Food can be so cathartic and remind you that whatever is happening in your life, there's a great constant in our need for pleasure of the senses - particularly our tastebuds. 

This might sound a little weird, but I guess what I'm getting at is while I know emotional eating is never a good thing, treating yourself to a great meal now and then can really de-stress you. 

Nine Fine Food

Some of my closest girlfriends and I have decided that we shouldn't worry with presents anymore when it comes to birthdays, instead opting to treat one another for a delicious dinner as the "gift". I love this as a means of celebration because what greater gift is there than dining out!

This year my lovely friend Linda took me to Nine Fine Food for my belated birthday dining out. I didn't know the venue until the night of - and was really pleasantly surprised. I've been making some great progress lately, finally visiting some restaurants that have been on my wish list for so long. This Japanese fusion spot caught my eye quite a while ago but I was yet to make it down. Cue excitement!

We arrived for our booking at 6.30pm, immediately shown to a little corner table along the back wall where one side is a long cushy bench and the other functional seats. It's dark, simple and intimate. Surprisingly it's BYO alcohol rather than offering wine for sale. We decide against walking to the nearby bottleshop and instead order some non-alcoholic drinks.

Linda chooses an agrum and I opt for an apple juice, though I'm delivered an orange juice instead. I don't bother sending it back though, our waitress tells us it's her first night and while maybe it's a disservice to her, I love orange juice just as much.

Pork & pork

Looking at the menu we decide to have the tokutoku, which is a 3 course meal at $55 per person. You get the choice of 1 entree (from 5 options), 1 main (from 5 options) and 1 dessert (from 3 options). It takes us a bit of umming and ahhing, but eventually we navigate our way through the delicious sounding options and place our orders.

Soon enough entrees are served, with Linda choosing the pork & pork, whereas I get the beef tataki. The pork & pork is a dish of pork belly, grilled pork fillets, tempura bacon and apple mango chilli sauce.

It looks like a very simple dish and immediately Linda's a bit shocked by how much fat is on the pork belly. I'm quite used to that as my house is a bit pork belly crazy and my mum always made it with big hunks of fat - all the better for grossing people out, and of course providing delicious flavour in dishes.

But when she starts eating it becomes clear that the pork belly is just perfect - unctuous, tender and melt in your mouth. The fillets neither of us are that fussed by, they taste okay but don't have the impact that the pork belly does. The bacon tempura is amazing - salty, crunchy and a great spin on your standard fried items list.

Beef tataki

Beef tataki

My entree of beef tataki comes to the table as slices of rare tenderloin beef fillets with spring onion, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, lemon, grains and a lotus chip. The yuzu ponzu dressing on the side offers a good hit of acid with your familiar Japanese flavours.

I love this dish and how it looks like a happy celebration on the plate. The combination of flavours work in harmony, as do the textures. The beef is so delicious, and I really like the use of the lemon slices which are so fine and fresh. There's a really great balance of sweet, sour, salty and umami notes in this dish.

I'm feeling like I'm off to a great start!

Tenderloin steak

Linda's main dish is more on the fusion side than your traditional Japanese - the tenderloin steak which comes with mushrooms, creamy mash potato, green beans, dukkah and creamy sake rice wine sauce. It's pretty amazing, like a spin on your classic steak with mushroom sauce. She's asked how she would like her beef fillet cooked, and opts for medium rare.

While I like my steak rare, having a bite of hers I really appreciate how they've managed to cook it correctly with still a nice layer of red on the inside. The meat is soft and juicy, evidently well rested to give it that nice plump feel. The mushroom and creamy sauce are rich and well seasoned, complimenting the steak like they're a match made in heaven.

Confit duck

Confit duck

My main is the confit duck leg with grilled scallops, tempura onion, creamy mash potato and duck jus. Ah I love duck, and confit duck is especially delicious - flaky, juicy and packed full of flavour. I really like the onion tempura that sits underneath, it's like a fritter with green beans throughout, offering bursts of sweetness combined with mouthfuls of crunchy goodness.

For me, I love new age surf and turf. The sweet, delicate nature of scallops goes well with the richness of the duck leg meat. I love the jus which is sumptuous and full of layered flavours. I also really like the little pops of freshness from the edamame and sultanas dotting the plate.

Kuro goma gelato

Kuro goma gelato

After our mains are finished I'm actually feeling really quite full which I hadn't been sure I would initially given the great value in the $55 price tag. But there was still dessert to go and after seeing some of the plates going out to other tables I was expecting big things.

Sadly it was around this time that a couple was seated next to me in the restaurant, bringing with them a bottle of champagne. While normally this wouldn't be something to say "sadly" about, the waitress went to pop the bottle, and the cork smacked me right on the forehead. Ouch! She laughed at first until the table on the other side pointed out that it had hit me, at which stage she promptly apologised. It didn't ruin our night at all, though I did wake up the next morning with a lump on my head. Needless to say, I wasn't really in the mood to linger around much longer from that point on.

Luckily for us, dessert was quickly placed in front of us. It seemed like a huge juxtaposition between mine and Linda's dishes. Hers was the kuro goma gelato which is black sesame ice-cream surrounded by the most amazing array of fruit and herbs. She's opted for the additional choco banana roll ($5.00) for us to share.

In the dish off I think I won the entree and Linda won the main. I had hoped for a draw (or a win!) for dessert but her's was the clear winner. That creamy, almost savoury ice-cream with the smears of sweet beans and banana. I love strawberries and grapes so I'm quick to snag a little bite of those. The spring roll sections on the plate are a great addition - full of melted chocolate and hot banana in between those shatteringly crisp pastry layers. Yum.

Matcha brulee

My dessert looks a little tiny in comparison! I've chosen the matcha (green tea) creme brûlée which is actually a great size given I'm pushed for stomach room. The toffee layer on top of the creme brûlée is thin and gives way to my spoon with a satisfying crack.

Sometimes matcha flavouring can be really dominant but in this case it's just the right amount included to make sure you know it's green tea flavoured, without ruining the balance or texture. It's soft, wobbly and oh so creamy. Tasty, but not as impressive as the black sesame gelato option.

All up I really had a nice dinner trying out Nine Fine Food for the first time (other than the bump on the head!). While I had expected traditional Japanese food, this is more of your fusion style which is a great way to showcase some traditional flavours with Australian produce. I can see why this place continues to be a popular restaurant in Perth, with all my friends who have been saying how lovely it is.


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26 July 2014

Spending a winter's night at Varnish, Perth



As a blogger and also a genuinely food obsessed individual, my wish list of places to dine at seems to grow and grow ever longer. It seems that way in particular now more than ever, with new restaurants and cafes emerging all over the place, and social media making it so easy to find out about such venues.

A place I've heard so much about but had never made it down to try was Varnish on King Street in Perth. An underground whisky and tapas bar that is dark, intimate and war, in it's wood textures.

Seasonings

I finally had my chance to try Varnish when my best friend Vee took me out for a belated birthday dinner there last week. Somehow I managed to find parking literally out the front which meant a great start because it was damn cold outside and I wanted to quickly run into the heated comfort that this place had to offer.

We're seated in the restaurant at a cosy 2 seater table with low light. When Vee made the booking she'd asked for the $55 per head Chef's choice menu but as we're seated our waitress informs us they aren't offering that option on that night. What a shame!

But never mind, we're happy to browse the menu and look for some delicious options to share. As we do so, our waitress brings out a board of specialty house seasonings - I believe there was a citrus salt, pepper and celery salt. A really nice alternative to your standard salt and pepper shakers.

Mac and cheese

After placing our orders the wait wasn't too long before food starts to come to the table. In suitable share food fashion it comes out as it's ready, which means we can make decent progress on each dish before moving on to another.

Our dinner starts with the mac and cheese, bone marrow and spec ($14). I love a good mac and cheese, and when my mum makes her version for us it always have bacon in it so this was very much comfort food to me. Al dente macaroni and salty, delicious spec work hand in hand together. I do find the bone marrow undetectable which I had hoped I might find some creamy pockets of since I adore it so much, but the dish itself is tasty as you could hope for. I like the crusty top of the pasta - mmm-mmm!

Sweet potato

My favourite dish for the night is the sweet potato with goats curd, brussels sprouts, burnt butter and maple ($14). There's something truly delicious about sweet potato that resonates with me. That soft, slightly smoky vegetable is enhanced with the creamy but slightly tangy goats curd.  I love every ingredient on the plate, and every bite I take.

Pork belly

Pork belly

Vee's most excited about the pork belly dish which comes with prawns and baked quince ($26) so when it's placed on our table there's a bit of a hushed delight between the two of us. Pork belly is a protein that surfaces quite often in my household but I know for my bestie it's more of a rarity.

We dig in and it doesn't disappoint. The meat is fall apart tender; juicy and flavoursome. I love quince and it's really great to see it emerging more and more on menus these days. But definitely the hero for me on the plate is the prawns. Perfectly cooked, they have that wonderful almost 'snapping' sound as you cut into the flesh. They're sweet, yet salty from the seasoning. A perfect play on the tastebuds and a great showcasing of the beautiful produce used.

Scallops

After our pork dish is finished we both decide we're still a little hungry so we add on an order of the cured Esperance scallops with smoked mussel, coconut milk, cucumber and salmon roe ($21). While not a cheap dish for the size of it, I really loved this, especially after squeezing the lime over the top.

It's tangy and well balanced in intensity, with the flavours never dominating the delicateness of the scallops. The salmon roe pops under my teeth in a delightful manner. It is cool, refreshing and just plain yum.

All up our dinner at Varnish at King was so good! I am really keen to go back because I've heard since my visit that the ribs, duck and venison are all the stars of this place. I guess that means this restaurant has gone from being on my wish list, to being enjoyed, to back on my wish list for more!


Varnish on King on Urbanspoon


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23 July 2014

High tea at Rochelle Adonis, Highgate



When it comes to celebrating my birthday I prefer to keep things relatively quiet these days - dinner with the boy, plus my girls and I usually forgo presents and take one another out for dinner instead. This year with so much happening in my life it was a nice deviation from my standard approach to have a girl's high tea at Rochelle Adonis.

Recently my best friend Carly and I attended a contemporary designs flower class with Twigged by Tali which was held at Rochelle Adonis's new premises on Beaufort St. It was such a fun night (I love flowers - though if you follow my instagram you'll know this) and the icing on the cake was the delicious snacks provided. It was enough to pique my interest in Rochelle Adonis for sure. 

Veuve

Having a birthday in July can often feel a little limiting. It almost always rains on my birthday, and it's just so damn cold that most of the time I just want to curl up in bed and laze the day away. But one perk this year is that Rochelle Adonis were waiving the corkage for champagne during the month - which meant we could enjoy a lovely bottle of Veuve that Carly brought with her.

Sitting down at a high table with my three closest girlfriends Carly, Vee and Linda I already felt like it was the cherry on an amazing weekend. It's not often I get to hang out with all of them at once so it was a real treat and we all dove into the experience, chatting happily as we place our orders for tea.

Queen of Hearts

With adorable china our tea comes to the table. We've all chosen different options including Earl Grey, English Breakfast and Apple and Cinnamon. I opt of the Queen of Hearts tisane which is berry and vanilla, and spells just like heaven. It's light and sweet, just what I felt like!

Savoury course

Before long the savoury course for the afternoon is presented. Starting from the left and moving clockwise there's:

  • a smoked cheddar croquette with pickled relish (I can't remember the substitute for this)
  • a cucumber and dill aioli finger sandwich (Carly's substitute has same fillings but GF bread)
  • a goats cheese and beetroot tart (Carly's substitute goats cheese and beetroot tart)
  • an orange glazed ham cube, and 
  • a pepper roulade (Carly's substitute caramelised onion tart).

Carly's gluten intolerant and suffers from fructose malabsorption so her plate is a little different - I've put them in brackets above. It was great to see that Rochelle Adonis cater for dietary requirements, though I did notice that they didn't seem to have a grasp of what fructose malabsorption is since Carly was given a caramelised onion tart - onion is one of the worst things you can eat when you suffer from this intolerance. She didn't mind though, instead swapping some bites with me so she could try the croquette and I could have some of the tart. 

Croquette and finger sandwich

The croquette is crunchy but a little colder than it should be. I like the smokiness of the cheddar and the tang of the pickle underneath. Starting off with the only hot item I then move onto my favourite of the day - the cucumber and dill aioli sandwich.

How on earth can something so presumably simple taste just so delicious? I actually can't comprehend it - and the girls are quick to sing out their agreement. Delicious, thin slices of cool cucumber go hand in hand with the soft fluffy bread (sans crusts) and the herby creamy aioli. Yummy!

Goats cheese and beetroot tart

Goats cheese and beetroot are such a classic flavour pairing so this is was a guaranteed good bite. I was expecting the pastry to be crisp when I bite down but it was more of a soft pillow like dough. Definitely took me by surprise!

Honey cured ham

The honey cured ham is deliciously sweet and well infused with flavour. The meat is tender and juicy, and I love the little segment of fruit that accompanies it. Just the right element to lift the bite in my mouth.

Pepper roulade

Sadly due to my capsicum intolerance couldn't try the roulade but I was happy to offload this onto Vika who gobbled it up. Shame because it looked really tasty!

Strawberry popsicles

After the savoury course plates are cleared we get a top up of tea and then are presented with a frosted bowl of strawberry popsicles. They're so pretty and they taste amazing - chocked full of strawberry freshness with a sorbet like consistency.

I've seen so many photos of popsicles from Rochelle Adonis online and these ones looked just as good - and taste better!

Sweet course

The sweet course comes out as a big share plate stacked full of goodies including:

  • Rochelle Adonis signature sundae with brownie and chocolate fudge sauce
  • Chocolate jaffa cake
  • Hazelnut nougat (I think) tart
  • Vanilla meringue with strawberry


Gluten and fructose free dessert plate

Carly's dietary requirement friendly dessert plate has:
  • Rochelle Adonis signature sundae with brownie and chocolate fudge sauce
  • Chocolate marshmallow
  • Chocolate caramel balls
  • Chocolate vanilla cupcake
I'm pleased to see that she doesn't miss out on the sundae that we're all completely falling in love with bite after bite. It's like a McDonalds hot fudge sundae on speed. So utterly moorish and decadent - I never wanted it to end. The best of all the desserts by far. 

The rest of Carly's plate looks good but I can see that it's all chocolate and nothing fresh like our meringue with strawberry. Fructose malabsorption does limit natural sugars like honey and most fruits, but berries are fine so I give her half my strawberry to provide some much needed freshness to her palate. 

Signature sundae

As for our desserts on the standard plate, I liked the sundae and the meringue the best. I'm not the biggest fan of jaffa as a flavour but the cake itself is soft and ethereal, just the right amount of sweetness included in the creamy icing. The hazelnut tart is a bit too tough for my tastes and teeth so I end up abandoning that bite halfway. 

At the end of the meal the girls and I are still a little peckish so Carly jumps up to ask the waitress if we can purchase some extra cucumber sandwiches. She's given the simple answer of 'no' to which she then asked if we could buy some take away treats - again with a 'no'. While I understand the core business is high tea and they might have only enough portions to last the seating, it would have been great for them to be a little more accommodating. 

The same waitress actually told us off earlier in the afternoon for talking when she put the plates down - granted she was about to explain the dishes in the savoury course, but it felt a bit like we were in school and the naughty kids!

Outside of that though, I did enjoy our afternoon at Rochelle Adonis. The setting of the restaurant is just lovely and for the most part the food was delicious. I definitely will be trying to replicate those finger sandwiches at home - they're so addictive! Part of me does wonder if the price tag of $55 each is worth the amount of food we were served though... I haven't decided. But for a birthday day out, it was a beautiful place to visit and added a specialness to the weekend. 


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