There's something really exciting about trying a new restaurant. That tingle of anticipation, that (if you're like me) sense of wonder as you try to decide what to order, what to expect and you cross your fingers hoping that you'll fall in love.
Whenever I catch up with my best friend Vee and our other friend Junior, we tend to go out for Japanese - usually sushi. However I was keen to try a new place outside of our regular stomping ground, Mr Munchies. So after a quick browse on Urbanspoon, I suggested Jun in Perth and they were all too happy with this.
This week has been hot. Damn hot! So we all decided to catch up early for a 'nanna's special' dinner at 5.30pm. Unfortunately the restaurant didn't open until 6pm so we milled around outside in the dodgy looking alley while waiting until finally we could go inside. We almost didn't make it, it was getting pretty sweaty just standing around!
If you haven't been to Jun, don't be fooled by the exterior or even the simplistic interior. It's a hidden gem and boasts some pretty outstandingly cheap dishes to feast on.
The restaurant is situated downstairs; a basic fit out of tables and chairs and tables built into the floor in that traditional Japanese style. The staff all shout a happy greeting when you enter and leave the building, which gives it a nice friendly and welcoming touch.
In 39 degree plus weather though it is definitely not cold enough down there, but eventually I started acclimatising even without some deliciously cool air conditioning - particularly thanks to the icy water that's delivered to our table as we browse the menu.
I'm the kind of person who struggles with long menus - there's always too much to choose from and I end up wanting everything. I definitely took my time choosing at Jun - in fact we all did! But eventually we ordered and food started to come to the table pretty quickly.
First up was Junior's pork salad which was thin slices of pork, spring onion and rocket, with a light soy sauce to drizzle over the top. It's a nice fresh start to the food that continues out to our table and a little different to your standard Japanese restaurant menus.
Junior's second dish is a small serving of the salmon sashimi, which I have to admit I was eying off myself. It's lusciously bright orange with sweet subtle flavours and firm but somewhat buttery texture. There's a generous glob of wasabi on the side to give you that nice elevated kick, clearing your nostrils but enticing you to take another bite.
My best friend Vee has just returned from travelling and volunteering overseas for six months, which has been an amazing reunion to be catching up over the last couple of weeks. This was our first time eating Japanese since she went away and I have to admit I'd almost forgotten just how much she loves teriyaki chicken.
True to form, she orders a serving of the teriyaki chicken salad. It comes as a basket of paper thin pastry encasing shredded cabbage and slices of juicy chicken. It looks pretty good, and I like the texture that the pastry adds to the dish - same as the delightful pop of the salmon roe on top.
Fried pork and onion
When I order Japanese food, I often find myself (though I wish I wasn't) drawn to the fried side of things. I love, love, love sashimi, but there is something so enticing when it comes to a great tempura or karaage.
On this occasion, I find myself drawn in by the fried pork & onion skewers. Two rather large skewers encased in a light crunchy crumb have layers of pork and white onion and a side dipping sauce.
The pork inside is tender and flavoursome, though there is a couple of tough bites here and there. The onion is plentiful, which offers some sweetness but it is a little too much for me, overpowering my palate. That said though, I did enjoy these skewers - just wish the balance of the ingredients was a little more skewed towards pork.
Junior's final dish is the chicken kara-age which for all of us is the dish of the night. Light, succulent chicken that is crisp and barely any batter. I would happily return for servings of this over and over again - and enjoy the pieces that Junior offers us dipped in the thick creamy mayonnaise on the side.
Vee's final dish is the butter grilled squid. It's a small serving size but looks delicious - a slight char on the squid pieces that suits the seafood. It's not too rubbery which can be the case with squid, but it could have used a bit more of that promised buttery nature.
My final dish is the soba noodles with sweet potato paste and quail egg. Doesn't it just look amazing!
My boy Jeremy introduced me to Soba a year or two ago and I have fallen in love. It's the perfect kind of dish for summer - cool, refreshing and delicate in flavour. Jun's offering is one of my favourites I've sampled. The light soy sauce that you can pour over or dip each mouthful in offers a nice salt kick, working with the sweetness of the spring onion and the creaminess from the quail yolk.
The wasabi works well when you mix it in - but only if you're a bit crazy like me and love the mustard burn!
All up our meal totalled around $75 - $25 for my dishes, $17 for Vee and the rest for Junior. Considering the variety of dishes we got to try, it's pretty great value at Jun. Is it high end food? No way, but for me that's not an issue at all. I love finding cheap eats of a good quality so I know for sure I'll be back, ordering more of that chicken kara-age.