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.
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!
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.
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.
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.