Intimacy and sustainability at Co-Op Dining, East Perth
I've recently discovered Dimmi, which is an online reservation system for restaurants that rewards you with earning points that translate into free meals. There's a heap of restaurants involved in the system and luckily for me, one of those is Co-Op Dining which Jeremy and I went to eat at this weekend.
This place is a beautifully laid out venue in East Perth that boasts paddock to plate and sustainable cuisine in the form of a 5 or 10 course degustation. The 5 course gives the diner the choice of their main, whereas the 10 is a complete surprise - which is something that very much appeals to me! So the 10 course it was for us both at a $120 price tag. You have the option of wine pairing but we opt not to on this occasion since we're going to see one of my friends sing at the Ellington later in the night. Too much wine and I'd probably fall asleep!
We arrive and have the door opened for us, shown straight to our table which is tucked away in the back half of the restaurant. This place has a real cozy, intimate feel to it. Curtains separate one half of the restaurant to the other; tables lit by flickering candles. It's hard to get a really good photo here but boy do I love the simplistic and warm ambience. Aesthetically, I feel like they've hit the nail on the head.
House made bread and butter
The staff here are really lovely; friendly in an unobtrusive manner. I like that they dive straight into things and before we know it we're kicking the night off with a drink each and a warm bread bun. They offer the choice of sourdough, olive & basil pesto or tomato. I choose the sourdough and Jeremy opts for the olive & basil pesto, which we enjoy with the home churned guernsey butter on side which is light and delicious. I enjoy sprinkling a little salt on top to bring out the flavour even more. But then again I am quite the fan of a salty butter!
We've barely swallowed our last bite of bread when our first course for the night is delivered to our table. Atop of a salt block (very funky presentation) sits a square of fresh made tofu with marron and radish.
I am a massive tofu eater - to the point where it is probably one of the things I consume the most. And I have to say, this was one of the best I've ever had - it's warm inside and soft; basically melting in my mouth. The marron is chilled and incredibly fresh - the flavours left to shine with the simple use of the radish accompanying it. It's a great way to get my tastebuds energised and revved up for the night ahead!
The next dish that comes out is called 'Wild' on the menu we're presented with when we leave. It's my favourite for the night! Local, sustainable herring which is caught on the line and topped with tiny cubes of fingerlime (which is like citrus caviar!) and celery. It has little balls of fried bone marrow sitting in a slick of dill cream which is jam packed full of flavour.
The herring is incredibly fresh to the point that I completely fall in love with the first bite. There's a great zing to the dish and a lot of different textures that compete for my attention. Love (love love loveeee) the bone marrow which is crunchy on the outside and oh so gooey on the inside. Yum!
My glass of the 2011 Circle of Life Chenin blend from South Africa is the selected paired wine for this course so I'm happy that I chose this as my drink to enjoy during the night. It really compliments the seafood.
Air dried suckling pig
The next course is the 'Air Dried Suckling Pig'. It comes out as a combination of Swan Valley mushrooms (enoki, field and oyster in a mushroom reduction) with 18 month dried jamon and guernsey milk cheese.
This is very (and I mean very) delicious. The jamon is salty and completely moorish; the mushrooms earthy and flavoursome. I really like the guernsey cheese which adds some creaminess to the other ingredients and lifts each bite. It's actually almost hard to believe how much flavour they have managed to pack into this tiny bowl - but I happily enjoy each bite.
Free range yolk
The 'Free Range Yolk' course comes out as beautifully presented as the others before. It's a scattering of morcilla, which is a Spanish blood sausage that has a great combination of spices. Along side it is a congealed golden egg yolk, poached quince, mustard powder and mint jelly.
As a big fan of blood sausage, I am completely hooked on this dish and it's definitely up there as one of the best for the night. The egg yolk is almost like a jelly, and the delicate flavour works well with the punchiness of that sexy morcilla. The mint jelly on hand is very funky and I love the fruit segments which are soft to the touch but still retain their shape when attacked with my knife and fork. And the mustard powder on top is so deceivingly great - it looks like a crumbled feta but is completely all things mustard when it hits your tongue. Very cool!
The 'Bridgetown Chestnuts' course is a soup much to my surprise and delight! It comes out on a lovely wooden board that has a pile of crispy fried root vegetables on side to add. While chestnuts aren't a flavour I'm overly accustomed to, I really enjoy this soup, especially when I get to crunch away at the well seasoned ribbons of parsnip and carrot.
On a cold night like this one, soup is exactly what the doctor called for!
The Open Range Organic Pork comes out sliced and spread out atop of preserved lime and cauliflower with ajo blanco dots - a garlic like paste. There's migas crumbs on the plate which are breadcrumbs made with spices and oils. They have a great crunch to them and have so much flavour to them. I like the little addition of nasturtium (watercress) leaves, it adds a little freshness.
The pork itself is extremely tender. I love the fact that despite the accompaniments being diverse and innovative, they have kept the protein quite true to itself. It is just a piece of pork - though a very delicious one!
Our second 'main' course for the night is the Baldivis Rabbit which comes with kimchee and jerusalem artichoke puree. The rabbit is presented two ways - two rounds of loin meat and three little croquettes of leg.
Kimchee is a type of Korean fermented cabbage which if you've seen Anthony Bourdain's special on the making of it, is basically stored for months and months to induce that intense flavour its famous for. I'd assume this hasn't been made the traditional way at Co-Op Dining, but it still packs a punch. It's crunchy and lightly spicy. It works very well with the rabbit and offers a nice play on traditional flavours.
The rabbit itself is so moorish - the loin falling apart in my mouth and the meat sweet. The croquettes are deliciously sinful, and they taste particularly good with that silky smooth puree. A complete and utter winner of a dish.
Our final main course for the night is the Blackwood Valley Organic Beef is accompanied by roast beetroot, beetroot puree, beetroot discs and eucalyptus cream. I can't quite remember what the crumb was that accompanied it but it tasted nice and added some crunch!
The beef is slow cooked and flakes apart with a gentle touch of my fork. I'm actually getting a little full at this stage but I soldier on and enjoy the sweet but subtle taste of the beetroot while falling in love with the eucalyptus cream. I would have loved some more on side to go with my beef but that's just the sauce fiend inside me!
Optional cheese course
Optional cheese course
We decide since we don't go out to a degustation too often that we'll add on the optional cheese course ($36 for both of us) which comes out with a cheddar, blue and camembert. The blue (I wish I could remember the name) is the perfect cheese for those who aren't quite into the incredibly rich blue cheeses normally offered. It's creamy without being bitter, and works well with the muscatels onside.
The cheddar is really good too - crumbly and sharp. But my favourite for the night is definitely the camembert which is creamy, slightly aged and rich. I love my soft cheeses so I find myself returning to this one over and over again.
Though around this time I would normally expect a palate cleanser, our pre-dessert arrives instead. It looks as pretty as a picture! It's lime marshmallows, basil ice-cream and extra virgin olive oil cake that is more like a crunchy biscuit.
I am a big fan of that basil ice-cream! It's full of basil flavour but still creamy and dessert like. It sits atop of a lemon curd that is sweet and decadent - and the marshmallows are fluffy and citrusy. It's a perfect few mouthfuls in my opinion and I'm so disappointed when I finish it off. I wanted more and more!
Our final dish for the night is a very beautiful looking dessert with local pistachio nut, coconut ice-cream and sichuan pepper. There's a pistachio souffle like round on one side which is creamy, sweet and fluffy. The coconut ice-cream is really lovely and enjoyable, working well with the abundance of nuts. It coats me like a velvety, decadent blanket and whispers sweet nothings in my ear. I love the almond cake that comes out with it and soaks up every drop that has escaped onto the plate. Just wonderful - and a perfect ending to our night out.
When we've finished up for the night we relax in our chairs with our full bellies. Our lovely waitress stops by with a glass of Kombucha Tea for each of us to cleanse our palates and mark the completion of our meal. We clink our glasses and swallow.
I hadn't ever heard of kombusha before that meal so when we get home I looked it up and learnt that it's a fermented tea which is a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast. The taste is a bit confronting at the start, but I do find my mouth completely neutral afterwards so it looks like it's done the job. Call me a little old fashioned, I think I might have preferred a petit four or after dinner mint!
All up, I loved Co-Op Dining. I've only been to a couple degustations so far, with my favourite being Amuse (my first too!) but this place really did wow me and is up there with the most impressive meals I've enjoyed. The food is delicious, the ingredients local and respected. It was inspiring and a wonderfully special night out!