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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22 July 2014

New burgers and a new look at Jus Burgers, Leederville



Recently I received a lovely email from Jus Burgers and Pinchos owner Justin Bell, inviting me to come to the newly renovated store in Leederville to try their new menu. Seeing as it has been just about forever since I last visited Jus Burgers, I was pretty keen to see what had changed.

Justin and the Jus crew


Arriving on a Sunday for lunch Jeremy and I step in to what looks like a completely different store to meet Justin. Gone are the days of graffitied walls and loud music. Instead, in it's place is a beautiful fit out by the same team behind Cantina 663 and I believe Ace Pizza too. It's clean, modern and simply gorgeous. I really like the combination of exposed brick, timber, white space and just bursts of blackboard and greenery accents throughout.

Justin tells us that at night the space transforms into a warm, intimate venue lit simply by candlelight. I definitely need to come in one night to check it out I think! The vast refurbishment investment has been worth the money in my opinion.

The new look

Hearing about the decision to refresh the Jus brand, stores and burgers on offer was really interesting. While I can appreciate other burger stores offerings, there's something quite special about this locally owned venue. While Justin has five stores under his belt, he still is spends shifts at them all, cooking and chatting with customers. He is one hard working man who puts his heart and soul into his restaurants!

New menu, new salts

Justin walks us through the new menu, pointing out that there's still the old favourites present but now there's a section of diner style burgers, sliders and even some new sides. In order to be a pack leader and showcase a different side to their menu, they're offering a selection of upmarket burgers that have great produce and flavours. Kind of like your Huxtaburger in Melbourne.

And the best part, the new diner style burgers (four different types) all come on Jean Pierre Sancho brioche buns. I was already sold before the food hit our table.

Organic lemonade and still water

It's meals like this that I really love. Literally the only thing we need to choose is a drink each - the food is sent out by our host for the afternoon. It's a blissful way to spend a Sunday!

I go for a still water since I know there's going to be lots of food to eat, and Jeremy opts for the organic lemonade which I quickly steal a sip of. It's tart and lightly sparkled, separating itself from some of your more mainstream lemonades.

Sides

The sides are the first to hit our table, a mouth watering array of delicious goodness. I know they're not new to Jus Burgers but I'm so pleased to see that their famous onion rings with garlic aioli ($6.00) have still been included. For me, they're something I can't get enough of and I think Jus Burger's version are easily one of the best I've ever eaten. Jeremy bites into one and nods his approval quickly - he's definitely in agreement!

Onion rings

Spiced chips

There's now several different chips you can choose from. In this instance we're given the spiced salted chips ($5.00) with a creamy chipotle sauce to dip them in. I really enjoy the texture - soft, fluffy and hot all the way through. There's just enough of a chilli flavour to make you sit up and pay attention.

There's also shakers of spiced salt and farmhouse salt on the table to customise your chips with different flavours. Very cute and a great idea. Next time I'll have my eye on the parmesan and truffle oil fries - mmm-mmm!

Slaw

The slaw ($5.00) is a light and creamy side salad that has a punch from the underlying vinegar flavouring. It's a nice alternative to your standard fried offerings.

Americano

Americano

Instead of choosing one diner style burger to eat, Justin sends out a slider version of each of the four on offer. There's a collective hush between Jeremy and I as we take in what looks like some of the best sliders we've seen. Those brioche buns really do lure you in! So buttery and glossy...

We're handed a nice pile of napkins with a smile and a warning - these can get messy - but that's where the fun lies!

I'm quick to dive into the Americano ($13 for standard burger size) which is char grilled beef, pickles, Kraft cheese, salad, mustard and ketchup. It looks just like a cartoon version of a burger - pretty as a picture! One word is all I really need to say - yum. Soft, pillowy buns with well seasoned, well cooked beef and all the right flavours that make this a household classic. I particularly like that they use Kraft cheese, it's familiar and comforting and just a little melty. This and the next slider are my favourites for sure. 

Pulled pork

Jeremy hands me the pulled pork ($14.50 for a standard burger size) once he reaches the halfway point. It's definitely the sloppiest of the bunch but the aroma wafting from it is enough to make my mouth water. Is there anything in the world better than pulled pork?

Stacked between the charred brioche bun halves is Linley Valley free range pork with chipotle, balsamic onions, slaw and melted cheese. I love the sweetness of those onions and the creaminess of the cheese which is balanced by the tang of the slaw. The marinade on the pork is good enough to be bottled - which Justin tells us is the plan, they're going to sell it in store soon. Great idea!

Diner style sliders

Jeremy's favourite of the sliders is a toss up between the pork and the Shark Bay prawn. It's a crisp prawn patty with chilli relish, Asian slaw, salad, crispy shallots and garlic, and coconut lime dressing. The Asian flavours are really punchy and well balanced which is often problematic. I like the zing of the citrus which is a natural compliment to seafood. So tasty and full of contrasting textures.

Diner style sliders

The final slider is similar to the prawn, known as South East Asian ($14.50 for standard burger size). It's the same burger but with the option to chose your protein (or opt for vegetarian). While normally I'm not a chicken person, it was nice to try this protein given I wouldn't usually order it. By now I'm starting to feel like I just might spontaneously combust with the amount of food we've eaten!

Sweet potato wedges

To finish things off we tackle the new menu item of sweet potato wedges with sour cream and sriracha chilli sauce ($8.00). I adore sweet potato and these wedges are long and finger like, glowing orange and smelling pretty damn good. They're not as crunchy as I had suspected they might be, but the flavour and freshness on the inside is spot on. 

Having the combination of hot sriracha (which we use a lot in our house!) and the cooling sour cream is a nice change to your usual sweet chilli and sour cream combo. I can see these fast becoming a favourite amongst regulars. 

The feast

You can check out the new look venue and new menu at Leederville now, and it will be rolled out at the other Jus Burger stores over the coming weeks. I also discovered when writing this that you can preorder your burgers for pickup online, which is a handy option if you want to beat the queue.

A big thank you to Justin Bell and the team at Leederville Jus Burgers for hosting Jeremy and I for lunch. We definitely waddled out of the restaurant and were full for a loooonnnnggg time after!


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