Popping my degustation menu at Restaurant Amuse, East Perth
When you ask others around Perth which restaurant is their favourite for a special occasion dinner, you're often met with a slight swooning reaction as they dreamily stare off into the distance once uttering one simple word. Amuse.
Hidden away in East Perth amongst blocks of housing and apartments sits this family owned venture, which is run by married couple Carolynne and Hadleigh Troy. Their vision for a fine dining degustation menu restaurant has translated into a creature with a reputation that results in awe and respect. It's revolutionary and constantly evolving, to the point where it is now not just one of our fine state's top eateries, but has won national acclaim.
And naturally, it's been on my wishlist to eat at for what feels like forever.
Jeremy and I decided to save Amuse for a special occasion like our anniversary. So months in advance I placed the booking and excitedly counted down for the day that had two reasons to celebrate.
For those who haven't been - this place does not offer you a menu before you dine. Simply, you arrive and are presented with a folded card with the night's courses. It's a tempting blue card that sits on the table oh so temptingly, but somehow despite our utter curiosity, we managed to resist. We liked the element of surprise and wanted to add even more wonder to the night.
As we're shown to our table by the delightfully polite and efficient staff, we settle in and peruse the drinks menu for something to start the night off with. We've decided to skip the $80 per head wine pairing on this occasion since its a Tuesday night and we'd rather not be completely hungover the next day. But that didn't mean that a glass of sparkling wine wasn't in order. With interest in the Fraser Woods ($12/glass) I asked the waitress for a glass and she smiled quickly, advising us that it had recently won a new award and would be a lovely way to start our night off. Jeremy, though initially interested in the cider, decided to join me for a glass to toast the occasion.
The decor is beautiful here. It's very organic and simplistically elegant. There's light colour woods, white bloomed orchids and flickering candles on each table. The seats are wide and white, comfortable and easy to relax in as you soak up the ambience.
Before long, our waitress brings out some snacks to start us off on. We start off with a hollow piece of bone that has two strips of cured pork on top. They're salty and fatty, and they melt in your mouth. While they lack a real wow factor, they're definitely a nice start to the night.
Next up we have three other snacks to enjoy. The bright orange crisps were sweet potato with a salt and vinegar sour cream on top. It's zingy and vibrant - and definitely packs a punch. My favourite of these is the rye cracker with rosemary dust, garlic cream and edible flowers. It's crunchy and beautiful in appearance - and tastes just as great. Jeremy's preference is our last snack which is Tasmanian ocean trout and dots of sweet mustard with a sprinkling of dill. The gravlax is soft in texture but firm at the same time; the mustard pungently appetising.
We're not even into the actual meal yet and we're already impressed. One thing I particularly like about this place is that with each course a different member of the wait staff or from the kitchen bring the dish to your table and explain the ingredients used and the cooking process. It makes you respect what they're doing all the more - and appreciate the flavours of each carefully constructed course.
Bread and butter
Next up we find a warmed bowl of bread brought to our table - two slices of rye and two slices of sourdough. They come with a side of olive oil butter and kitchen made fluffy butter with lime salt on top.
The bread is wonderful - crusty on the edges and soft and fluffy on the inside. The olive oil butter spreads like a dream, offering that aromatic velvet-like texture with each bite. But that kitchen made butter is definitely the winner here. Though I know I am a massive butter fan, this is just incredible. It's light, rich and has just the right amount of creaminess. I definitely had to keep my cool here with this so that I didn't fill up before the meal actually started. The offer of additional bread was regretfully turned down as we started our actual dining experience with the arrival of the first course.
Tomato, courgette and goats cheese
On a beautiful and well suited plate arrives a serving of tomatoes (red, purple and yellow) with shavings of courgette and cubes of goats cheese pannacotta. They come with a nice little scattering of cous cous pearls and is topped with a courgette flower. This dish is piquantly delicate. The tomatoes used are acidic and fresh; the strips of courgette flavour neutral which works well when you take into account those lovely goats cheese squares which are cool, wobbly and packed full of taste. I like the light use of the tomato oil that the entire dish sits in.
Yabbie, citrus and samphire
Our second course is a serving of Blue Ridge marron. It sits in a seafood bisque, with samphire, edible flowers and trout roe. I could have eaten this all day! The roe pops in your mouth with a tantalising burst of juice; the marron fresh and cool to the palate. The bisque it sits in is like tasting the sea itself; it's thick and a lovely consistent hue of light orange.
Egg, mushroom and pine nuts
The third dish is the one I'm particularly excited about. It's a dish that they do ask you about when you start your meal since it involves a partially cooked egg - lucky for us, we're not bothered by anything really so we definitely did not veto this course. It was awarded tie with Quay for the best dish in Australia for 2012 is what I've been told and it's no surprise as the little smoke filled jars arrive at our table.
Egg, mushroom and pine nuts
As soon as the jar lid is opened, a heady cloud of hickory smoke rises before us. It smells unbelievable - just like the flames of an open fire in winter. Inside is a partially cooked free range egg which is runny and has a vibrant orange yolk to look down at. Accompanying it is fried chicken skins, Bunkers mushrooms, pine nuts, coriander in melted butter and a stick of fried brioche.
It is so clever. It encapsulates utter magic and wonderment. The egg drips down with each spoonful that is combined with the thin layer of butter. The combination of mushrooms used as soft and moorish; the chicken skins crunchy and wickedly fatty. And with that stick of brioche, it's like a Wonka version of soldiers and eggs. Yes, it is very easy to see why this is a dish that has taken the world by storm.
Cuttlefish, pork and nettles
Our fourth course is also our first main course for this degustation. It's a tender strip of Berkshire pork which has a nice strip of fat attached, sitting in a salsa verde with 24 ingredients. A normal salsa verde comes with 23 - so the difference with this one is that it includes stinging nettles! But don't be alarmed, you can taste the nettles but you feel no pain thankfully. They add a really great lift to the sauce and transforms it into something I've never tasted before. The dish is finished off with fresh cuttlefish and a sprinkling of sweet potato crumbs for some added crunch.
Rabbit, carrot and buttermilk
The fifth course for the night is Baldivis Rabbit done two ways. The strip is grilled in a light brown rectangle, and sits in a carrot oil. There's slices of heirloom carrots in orange, yellow and purple, plus thin slivers of broad beans. The rabbit wrapped in silverbeet is definitely the best of the two cuts - it's soft, flaky and juicy, and comes sitting on a prune puree which offers a sweet offset to the savoury elements of the dish. This dish was definitely my least favourite of them all for the night - the strip was just a bit too dry for my taste and didn't really celebrate this choice of meat. But that said, it still tasted really enjoyable so you can only imagine how phenomenal the other dishes were by comparison.
Duck, sweet corn and buckwheat
For both Jeremy and I, our favourite course of the night was definitely our final savoury dish. It was a perfectly (and I mean perfectly) cooked piece of duck. It has just the right amount of fat between the flesh and the skin; the meat melting in your mouth as you savour the natural juices that are evoked from the proper amount of cooking.
I love the buckwheat that sits on top, offering an exciting crunch that contradicts the texture of the duck. Underneath it sits on a puree of cauliflower and kim chi which is slightly spicy but oh so incredibly silky. The broccoletti present looks great on the plate but doesn't actually add anything to the flavours of the dish. It's cooked to perfection too, yielding to my knife with ease. And then that sweet corn - well my heart was definitely sold on this. Lightly charred, with a slick of yoghurt, it lived up to its name in its sweetness, but it also offered a juicy element to the dish.
To mark the completion of our savoury dishes for the night, our waitress brings out some curious looking palate cleansers for us. While other restaurants offer sorbet to do this job, Amuse had a freeze dried lychee, sitting on cubes of grapefruit with thai basil powder scattered over the top. It's neither sweet nor savoury, which is really curious. But it is definitely delicious and renders my palate neutral as intended.
Our waitress approaches us as we sit comfortably, reflecting on the night so far. The chef has an optional additional course on offer tonight - a cheese board which is $10 per person. We look at one another and quickly say yes please!
Though I can't remember them all, I did find myself steering clear of the blue cheese (even Jeremy who loves blue cheese found it very intense). The triple cream was the best of them all (middle of the board), especially when paired with the rhubarb jam or slices of juicy apple. It was a nice pre-dessert course even though we probably didn't need it!
Jersey cream, berries and rhubarb
The first dessert was definitely my favourite. It arrives as a bowl of double cream which has been whipped to an almost mousse like consistency, with rhubarb granita on top. On side is a jar of stewed blood orange, pickled rhubarb, strawberries and mulberries.
Jersey cream, berries and rhubarb
This dish has some engagement. Once you open the jar, you pour the contents over the top and then the kid inside you takes hold. Mix, mix and mix!
Jersey cream, berries and rhubarb
Though the final product doesn't look that great, believe me the taste is something of epic proportions! The cream is airy, light and decadent. The use of different fruits offers different levels of sweetness and tartness. The mulberries are rich, the strawberries sugary. And the blood orange is acidic and cuts through all other flavours with dominating flair.
Our dessert message
As our final dessert course is laid out before us, our waiter very sweetly places down a plaque before us bearing an equally sweet message. It's a lovely touch that demonstrates how customer focussed this restaurant is.
Chocolate, wattle and honeycomb
This dessert looks bizarre I know! It's blobs of chocolate jelly which taste like chico lollies, with miniature walls of beetroot meringue that is crunchy and not overly sugary. There's wattle dust and icecream made using liquid nitrogen. It feels very mad scientist! There's a lot going on in this dish and though I can appreciate how it tastes, I definitely preferred the simplicity of the first dessert.
When we've finished our degustation for the night, out comes a tray of complimentary treats with an accompanying cup of steaming tea. There's sunrise limes dipped in chocolate which fall a bit short of the mark for me. They're a bit too crunchy and lacking of any wow factor. The pineapple jube is lovely though - it's soft in texture and jelly-like without being stiff. It holds a good amount of flavouring and leaves a resonating pineapple taste in my mouth. I like the sugared blueberries the most out of these all, though it's quite a simple process. They pop with the right balance of sweet and sour.
The complimentary cup of tea is made from a local peppermint and mint, and comes complete with a fragrant leaf floating inside. This is not a normal tea flavour I enjoy, but I really liked this! Relaxing after a delicious meal, we found ourselves sipping away and letting this wipe any residual tastes hanging around in our mouths.
I have to say, Restaurant Amuse definitely lived up to my expectations - and surpassed them! It is just such a special restaurant, with the most amazing dishes to enjoy. I can see why people rave about this place over and over - and I can safely say I will be back. It truly is too good to stay away.