31 August 2014

Balls and BYO at The Meatball Bar, Leederville



When a new restaurant opens in Perth, you're pretty much guaranteed it's going to gain a great deal of attention and that there'll be big lines forming most nights until there's been enough friends of friends to tell you if it's worth going to try. Only opening a week or so ago is Leederville's new eatery, The Meatball Bar.

Walking past a few times while it was being built my intrigue was mounting. While meatballs can, on occasion, be tasty enough - would there be enough substance and lure here to have people coming back over and over again? After hearing some rave reviews from friends who went down one night for dinner, my boy and I decided to give it a go for lunch over the weekend.

The Meatball Bar

The Meatball Bar

We arrive at The Meatball Bar just before 11.30am since Jeremy has a SJA shift that day. It's long hours with St John's so we always try to make sure he eats well to get him through to the dinner break. The restaurant hasn't opened yet so we pop across the road to the Hunter shoe sale (yay! 50% off boots - and yes of course I bought a pair!) then trot back once we see that the open sign has been flipped over to the affirmative status. 

The staff are all really friendly here. They offer to explain the menu to us, and give suggestions on how many dishes to order which I always find really helpful when you haven't eaten at a place before. As we sit to peruse the menu we're given a complimentary bowl of wasabi peas and fried broad beans. Talk about a moorish snack! Before we know it we've devoured the bowl and they're swapping it for a fresh one. I need to get my butt to Kakulas and make my own snack mix with these items, the crunch, slight burn and saltiness make the best kind of snacking food. 

Complimentary snacks

The menu is broken into several sections - with snacks, meatballs, sexy meatballs etc. There's a pencil inside the menu allowing you to circle in your order choice. The process is a little confusing - I quite like this style of writing it down since it eliminates room for error, but I noticed the table next to us ordered directly with their waiter whereas we took our tear off paper slip to the counter. As we did so Jeremy was also told we'd pay at the end which means we needed to make two trips to the counter. Not an issue, just a little strange - I guess different to your standard formula where if you order at the counter you pay at the same time. Never mind though, it didn't detract from the experience at all.

Ordering menu

Our drinks come out quickly. I've chosen a D&H sparkling apple ($4.00) and Jeremy's picked a D&H organic ginger beer ($4.50). My apple drink is delicious - bubbly, tart and extremely refreshing. Often I find soft drinks way too sweet but this one was really lovely, I'd definitely order it again. Jeremy really likes his ginger beer too, gulping it down quickly and nodding his approval. He's such a fan of ginger flavoured beverages!

Drinks

Currently the restaurant is BYO for alcohol while they wait for their liquor licence. I think it says a lot that they don't charge for corkage considering some places charge so much these days. Getting a liquor licence can be such a delayed process for some restaurants from what I hear, so I'm glad that they have this BYO in place to allow customers to enjoy a drink with their meal should they choose so. There's even a bottle shop not too far away in Leederville that people can walk over to should they feel a little alcohol thirsty.

Wall art

Knowing the food won't be too far away I take a minute to eye the decor appreciatively. Like Pinchos and the newly renovated Jus Burgers next door, The Meatball Bar is long and skinny - with tall tables and stools down one side, and the bar/kitchen down the other. It's definitely the most economical use of space for these skinny shops. I love the light fixtures and the mural down the very end of the restaurant. Cute!

Falafel balls

Falafel balls

The first item to come out is a serving of the falafel balls with saffron aioli ($12.00). I LOVE falafel and as a frequent take away customer from The Prophet in Victoria Park, the benchmark is set pretty high. The Meatball Bar's version are extremely crunchy on the outside - my fork struggles to penetrate the surface initially but once I bite through I like the contrast between the crust and the inside.

They're not as fluffy as The Prophet's (which I often describe as little clouds of heaven, they're so light) but the saffron aioli is absolutely delicious and offers a nice punchy flavour injection to enjoy with the balls. The squeeze of lemon over the top brings some acidic cut through too.

Polenta chips

The parmesan crusted polenta chips ($12.00) come topped with a napolitana sauce and a pesto sauce. They're so yummy - steaming hot with a salty outside from the parmesan. Very moorish and lots of bold flavours happening in each bite.

The unsauced parts of the parmesan chips I also use to dunk in the leftover meatball sauces as recommended by our waiter. So happy we tried these, I'm falling more and more in love with polenta these days, it's becoming a staple in our household. I do question the price a little seeing as in the past I think I usually pay around $8 for the same serving size, but I guess with the addition of the sauces it may be excusable... maybe? But if the proof is in the taste, then it definitely passed the test.

Steak and cheddar meatballs

Steak and cheddar meatballs

The first meatballs we choose are from the "sexy meatballs" section of the menu. Love the name! They're basically jazzed up meatballs such as butter chicken with pappadums, jumbalaya etc. We choose the steak and cheddar meatballs ($24.00) which come with candied bacon, soft fried egg and tomato sauce.

They smell divine! I always worry when I eat meatballs that they're going to be tough or stodgy, but these are light and flavoursome. I'd read online in a review that the diner found these lacklustre but I think they had a great balance taste-wise, with the sauce both sweet and sour, and the egg yolk sumptuously coating the other ingredients in the dish. The candied bacon is a real treat - crunchy, sweet and salty. The meatballs could have used a little more seasoning but thankfully the bacon made up for this.

Pumpkin and ricotta meatballs

Pumpkin and ricotta meatballs

Our final dish is from the standard meatball section of the menu - the pumpkin and ricotta meatballs in a parmesan cream ($18.00). These were my choice, and I'm so glad I picked them! The texture is soft like mashed pumpkin, the seasoning perfect to bring out the ingredients in a strong light. I love the parmesan cream sauce - so much I dunk part of my steak and cheese meatball in it to make sure I'm not wasting any. 

For a vegetarian dish, it really does fill us up and tip us over the edge! It's a big lunch for us both but if we weren't so full after eating these four dishes, we definitely would have order the truffle scented focaccia bread to dunk in the leftover sauces. Liquid gold! A real throw back to what I can imagine would be "Nonna's sauces" or secret recipes. 

So what did I think of The Meatball Bar? Well I loved the staff, how friendly they were and the way they continually checked up on us. It's really valuable having great service when you're out, so much so it's a big point of difference that will have people coming back time and time again. Food wise, I enjoyed our lunch, the flavours were much better than I probably would have guessed if someone told me I was going out for meatballs. 

The price is a little more than I would have expected given meatball dishes come with only three meatballs, so this will be a sometimes place rather than an all the time venue. It's not fine dining prices, but paying nearly $40 each for lunch was more than I would have predicted. That said, did I feel ripped off? Not at all, I left extremely full and ready to curl up and be completely unproductive the rest of the day (if only this had been the case!). Definitely could have had a "fat nap" (as I call it when you sleep on an empty tummy) but I managed to push through. 

Looking forward to going back to try some of their other menu items like the butter chicken meatballs, pork with barbecue sauce meatballs or even the bocconcini fritters. This place is a nice point of difference to your standard Italian offerings in Perth for sure. 


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A busy Saturday night at Good Fortune Roast Duck House and The Imp, Victoria Park



Nights out with my girls are always the best. Linda and Vee love eating as much as I do, which means there's never any shortage of places we want to eat at together. A recent Saturday night saw the three of us hanging out at Linda's house, brainstorming on where to go for dinner. I didn't have too much of an opinion - all I knew was I was hungry!

After piling into the car and heading to Victoria Park, we narrowed our destination down to two places - Good Fortune Roast Duck House and an Indonesian cafe near the Prophet. Our longing for duck won the battle, so we joined the mammoth queue and got our number with confirmation we'd be waiting around 40 minutes. Wow! Luckily we're all regulars at Vic Park's funky book store Crow Books, so we spent some time there and walked away with a couple purchases too.

Returning back to Good Fortune after around 20 minutes we found ourselves waiting around another 10 before our number was called out. If you're committing to waiting never stray too far because the three numbers in front of us weren't there, which meant we were seated instead. Always best to stay near so you don't miss out and have to requeue.

Kangkong with sambal

Sitting down at the table we all scan the menu, deciding that we'll pick a dish each to share with some steamed rice. It's smelling great, and the restaurant is completely bustling. When we place our orders, our waiter is a little impatient, writing down instead of answering questions so we have to ask him to repeat our order since we're sure it's not quite right.

At 8.20pm on a Saturday night we're told they've run out of roast pork. Devastating! Our plan to order a BBQ combination is slightly adjusted so instead we pick half a roast duck to go with kangkong with sambal and salt & pepper squid. It doesn't take long for our food to come out, and in the mean time we're happy chatting and creeping on the tables around us as their food is delivered. Loving the look of the steamed perch that the table behind us orders, it is wafting the most incredible aroma our way.

Roast duck

The kangkong is really good, fresh and with a little bite still in it's texture. I like my veggies cooked as they should be, keeping a little firmness and highlighting just how fresh they are. I love sambal and that salty, mouthwatering burst of flavour it brings to a dish. This is one of the best ways to enjoy Asian vegetables for sure!

Roast duck in Perth seems to be a bit contentious to devout addicts. I know in my circles, Hong Kong BBQ is the only option. But for others, Good Fortune is the one and only. I have to admit, it's been years (maybe 5-7?) that I tried Good Fortune in Northbridge where I found the duck dry and heavily flavoured with aniseed. I wasn't a fan. So going to Good Fortune in Vic Park was a risk for me - but I was interested to see if it was a one time bad incident and I was actually missing out all along.

The duck here is actually quite good! Juicy, tender and just the right amount of fat to inject that addictive tastiness that comes with a good piece of duck. It doesn't have the same flavour that Hong Kong BBQ's version does, but it's nice to see a different offering for different tastes.

Salt and pepper squid

The salt and pepper squid comes out golden and steaming hot. We had wanted salt and pepper prawns but sadly these weren't on the menu, but the squid was still fantastic. So much garlic and chilli that you could scoop up the topping and add it to your rice for a guaranteed yummy bite.

The batter is light and crisp, highlighting the taste of the squid rather than a heavy coating. I really enjoy this dish in all it's simplicity.

So while I haven't been converted to Good Fortune's duck over my normal stomping ground, I have to admit I really liked their offering. It is a shame that because they're so busy on a Saturday night (and assumedly other nights too) that their service is so rushed, but it's good to see that the food still is presented as it should be - fresh, tasty and piping hot. I would have liked to try their roast pork but I guess that'll have to be next time.

Sticky date pudding

Finishing up at Good Fortune we could have stayed for fried ice-cream but the menu tells us it's sold out currently - and Linda's keen to go to The Imp for their sticky date pudding. We don't take much convincing!

Grabbing the last table out front we place our orders at the counter and then before we know it our desserts are delivered. Linda and I share the sticky date pudding, which is a huge serving! Definitely a share dessert otherwise it would be way too much to handle. Vee orders a chocolate fudge muffin which is heated up and served with ice-cream - there's melted chocolate sauce everywhere and it looks divine! It tastes pretty good too from what I can tell from my little spoonful.

The sticky date pudding is so good! It's sweet but with the vanilla ice-cream it's paired back to stop it from being cloying. There's not quite enough sauce to get through the whole pudding but nearing the end we're both super full anyway so we give up and proclaim ourselves done. Food comas all round!

I love Vic Park and the way it's continually on the up and up. There's so many places to go and so many great little shops to visit before or after eating. It's definitely a hotspot to visit these days for sure.


Good Fortune Roast Duck House on Urbanspoon

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30 August 2014

Old world dining at Opus, West Perth



Nearly two years ago my boy bought me a surprise gift of a hot air balloon ride via voucher on Red Balloon. I was so excited since it's on my 'bucket list' but time passed by and we missed out on the season for these rides which meant I needed to transfer my voucher credit to use on something else. The hot air balloon would have to wait!

I chose a makeup voucher with Napoleon for some product and makeup application before a night out, plus a dinner voucher for Opus, a restaurant at the Richardson Hotel in West Perth. Nearly 9 months passed before I remembered we had the voucher to use - whoops! But never mind, an impromptu degustation is always great so into the car the boy and I piled on Friday night to make our way to this highly rated, but relatively unknown restaurant. I wasn't sure what to expect since no one I'd spoken to had heard of it, but the ratings on Urbanspoon seemed quite favourable so fingers and toes were crossed!

The only bad thing was the weather - that horrible storm held us up in traffic so bad we were nearly half an hour late. Thankfully the restaurant was really sweet about it when we rang up to let them know - in fact they thanked us for advising them. Off to a good start!

Freshly baked bread

Butters

Arriving at Opus it's plushy and comfortable. Brighter lights than most fine dining places but since I had my trusty camera with me to capture the night's meal, the lighting was great. The staff are all really polite and charming, helping us to choose wine for the evening before we start to eat.

When our red wine comes to the table (Hither & Yon Tannat Grenache, McLaren Vale SA 2012) so does the most aromatic bread, setting off a series of rumbles in my belly. Two little olive bread buns and two multi-grain, warmed, with accompanying butter - plain and salted with grated truffle. Both are lovely, though a little too cold for my liking - I like when butter is easy to spread. But the warm bread finally gets the butter into a more malleable state, and I get to really appreciate the creamy, earthy truffle butter and the fluffy bread with crunchy crust.

Bread is such a treat - only ever eaten when I dine out, and this one definitely did not disappoint. It definitely got my tastebuds into gear for the meal to come. I had to stop myself from taking up the waiter's offer for more. It was too yummy!

Amuse bouche

Amuse bouche

Before the degustation menu commences we're served an amuse bouche - salmon ballotine with crab inside, mushroom and pickled onion on the side, crisp bread and citrus mustard mayonnaise sauce. Yum. Seriously, yum.

The salmon and crab are a really lovely combination - the oiliness of the fish combined with the creamy crab offer a nice contrast. The sauce has that wasabi reminiscent effect where you feel heat but then it gives way to the mustard flavour that is unique and pleasant. I really enjoyed this amuse bouche and could imagine that it would be a very well received dish on a permanent menu as well!

Wild mushroom consommé

Wild mushroom consommé

As the first official course of the evening is placed in front of us I realise on the menu that this is a truffle degustation. Yay! I finally made it to one, though accidentally. I always feel like I don't get enough out of truffle season, and being the absolute fiend for all things truffle and mushroom that I am, it was cause for celebration.

The wild mushroom consommé placed in front of us is clear and beautiful. Inside floats two perfectly formed truffle tortellini, with a selection of mushrooms, shaved truffle, asparagus spears and fresh herbs.

The consommé is flavoursome, deep in layers of mushroom. I find the tortellini a little harder than I was prepared for in texture, however they're really tasty - full of garlic and truffle. The asparagus is nice and firm, with a satisfying crunch when I bite down - I find too often this is a vegetable overcooked until it becomes stringy and sloppy. You can really tell the freshness in Opus's serving.

All up this is a good solid start. Tasty, but perhaps lacking that real wow factor that you normally anticipate from a degustation.

Pan fried Broome barramundi

Pan fried Broome barramundi

The second course is my favourite for the evening, even though it's very simple. It's just perfectly executed and would be a great main at any restaurant - perhaps not your normal degustation style dish but as we go through the dinner I start to realise Opus don't follow your standard dego rules which could be considered a nice point of difference.

This course was the pan fried Broome barramundi with fennel, artichoke, trompete de mort, broad bens and haricot blanc.

Foam sauces are a bit dated in fine dining these days, but I suppose that's Opus's charm - it's very old world French. Very technical and classic cooking styles and ingredients, which is something that isn't as easy to find these days.

The barramundi is steaming hot, the flesh flaking away with the simple prod of my fork. The skin is melt in your mouth good - crisp, satisfying and just salty enough to make you pay attention. I love broad beans so they're a really nice addition, working well with the crunch of the fennel and the softness of the artichoke.

Mt Barker poularde

Mt Barker poularde

Seeing chicken on the menu left me feeling a bit unsure. It's such a basic meat, easily overcooked and very plain. A poularde is a young hen that has been spayed for fattening which leaves the meat (if treated with respect in cooking) tender and juicy. And theirs was very much in this category.

The Mt Barker poularde comes to the table with swiss chard, prune confit, asparagus and bacon truffled jus. Our waiter offers for us to have fresh truffles shaved on top which we happily accept. Truffle everything I say!

The plating is deconstructed as opposed to the avant garde plating we'd seen with the amuse bouche. To the unassuming eye it looks very random, but it's all about playing to the strength of that chicken. Which, I'm pleased to say was one of the juiciest I've ever eaten. Hats off to the chef on managing to impress me with a meat that I often say would easily be the first I'd give up if I ever needed to make a choice. 

The prune confit is dark and sticky, an intense flavour to work with that I quite like. The jus is the star of the plate, rich and intense. Underneath the meat also sits a surprise stack of truffled mash potato. It's silky smooth, just the way mash should be. 

Beef fillet

Beef fillet

Our final savoury course for the evening is my boy's pick for the evening. It's a beef fillet that comes topped with a béarnaise foam and side of sauce, leek and truffle dauphinoise, prawn croquette and smoked quail egg. We once again opt for truffles to be grated on top (of course!).

At the start of dinner we're asked how we both would like our meat cooked for this course. We both pick rare, which I'm pleased to see has been successfully achieved when I cut into the beef. It's wonderfully tender and juicy, though could have been rested a bit longer as red juices spill out when I cut into it. Never mind though, the taste is still there.

Béarnaise sauce is classic with beef, creamy and decadent. I really like the dauphinoise, with it's sweet leeks and starchy potatoes offering a match made in heaven partnership. It is a little hard to cut into without the layers all slipping everywhere but that doesn't bother me so much. I love the little onion jam that sits on top for even more sweetness.

The prawn croquette has lost a little of the crunch where the foam sits on top, but the outer untouched parts are crispy, and the inside is definitely creamy. I like surf and turf but I'm not so sure about the combination in this instance. Everything tastes nice, but I feel like the croquette was a little out of place.

Palate cleanser

Before we move onto dessert, we're given a palate cleanser to enjoy. It's a shot glass with citrus jelly, watermelon jelly and crème fraîche. I'm so used to granitas or sorbets as palate cleanser so I really liked seeing something different. This one did the job - the jellies are sweet but not cloying, the crème fraîche like a foam on top so it's light and a little tart. I like that in the middle of the watermelon jelly sits a scooped ball of fresh watermelon which is sweet and crunchy. I love watermelon!

Souffle

Souffle

Dessert in the truffle degustation is Grand Marnier and truffle souffle, with truffle ice-cream and orange crème anglaise. Our waiter prepares the dish in front of us, dropping the ice-cream into the centre of the soufflé and pouring some of the anglaise on top.

The ice-cream was quite melted when it reached our table which meant that it turned completely to liquid when it was inserted into the soufflé. Luckily you could still taste it, and to my surprise truffle in ice-cream is actually really nice. It reduces the sweetness but doesn't detract from the creaminess. Very nice!

The soufflé is lighter than air, and so soft inside which is really impressive. The anglaise is sweet and a subtle flavour of orange, which I think works well. It's a really nice dessert, and another demonstration of the classic French cooking styles Opus exhibits.

Petit fours

Petit fours

We finish off the night on a round of petit fours which you can choose to have with tea or coffee. We're actually pretty tired after a long week so we opt for no drinks, with me just finishing off the wine I've been so slowly drinking.

Our waiter accidentally drops two of the petit fours (the marshmallow and macaron) so these aren't pictured. He kindly replaces them for us on a side plate to enjoy - we got too greedy and gobbled them up before I could snap a pic.

The petit fours are a mixed bag. Sometimes I find it frustrating when you go for dinner and you're given all different petit fours to share. I know this sounds weird, but I love trying everything so most of the time I need to bully the boy into biting only half of each so we get to sample all we're presented with.

The best on the board at Opus is the milk chocolate truffle, the white chocolate cluster and the strawberries and cream macaron. I love a good macaron! I'm not so crazy about the marzipan bee (though it looks cute!) and the citrus marshmallow which is too sticky and not quite the right texture to how I personally like them to be.

Our night at Opus was enjoyable and full of classic French cooking. The produce is beautiful, and the service is fantastic. I had a great time, though I did feel that the dinner didn't quite reach the wow factor highs of other degustations I've enjoyed in Perth like Restaurant Amuse and even the more similarly priced No 4 Blake Street. But for the price of $85, I have to say I was impressed by the generosity of truffles used and it is definitely one of the cheapest degustations in our fair city right now.


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27 August 2014

Soaking in the sunshine at Northbridge Brewing Company, Northbridge



Weekends this time of year are my favourite. Sunshine, not too much heat and the option to choose from both your summer and winter wardrobe wear. Planning a lunch catchup with my favourite girls Linda and Vee for last weekend we weren't sure where to go initially - just that we wanted to take advantage of the sun, and that alcohol was needed.

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