When it comes to Valentine's Day, Jeremy and I tend to spend the annual cheesy holiday of love at some tried and true favourites such as Bonsai and the Subi Hotel. But this year we changed it up a bit, instead deciding to go somewhere we hadn't been before.
Was this risky? Yes definitely. Valentine's Day is a tricky day for restaurant goers - prices are usually higher, menus set. And sometimes you can be rushed through the experience instead of taking your time to savour the moment of being out dining.
But risks aside, my boy and I felt confident in our decision to go for a fine dining experience at the esteemed and ever popular Red Cabbage in South Perth. It's one that's been on my wishlist for what feels like forever, and I found myself counting down the days until Feb 14th.
We arrived for our 6.30pm booking on time, walking up the stairs to the restaurant already had diners seated and eating.
The menu at Red Cabbage is normally both ala carte and degustation but on this occasion they had a set menu called 'The Full Monty' and was priced at $95 or $155 with matching wines. Since I'm still sick from this awful lingering summer flu, we decide to go with just the standard menu and have a drink each. Neither of us are quite in the mood for a boozy night since we've been so busy all week.
Watermelon and lychee cocktail
Jeremy chooses a Matso's Ginger Beer for his beverage and I opt for a Watermelon and Lychee Cocktail. They come out quite quickly and I can see my boy's pleased with his choice - he loves anything and everything ginger!
My cocktail is strong but sweet. I love the flavours but I do find the small "floaties" of lychee a little strange - it would have been better left whole as a garnish and then the juice used to flavour the drink. But that's just my thoughts, I'm sure some less picky people wouldn't mind at all!
The bread is delicious and light, with an addictive flavour that pulls me in. This was definitely not a waste of carbs in my opinion! The butter is a little hard which tears the bread when you spread it, but I do like the infusion of harissa into the creamy texture and flavour. It's a really nice start to the night.
The amuse bouche for Jeremy and I is a little different. He gets the standard Full Monty offering of Gazpacho, which is a Spanish cold soup that is mainly flavoured with tomato. Red Cabbage's version has a twist though with a heavy capsicum infusion which while making it delicious, makes it inedible for me sadly due to my food intolerance.
I have to look on in wistful jealousy as my boy devours his glassful and proclaims it sweet, rich and refreshing.
Tomato and goats curd
My amuse bouche is a lovely alternative that doesn't disappoint. Confit tomatoes with goats curd and black olive crumb. The tomatoes are cool and sweet, popping in my mouth and delivering a refreshing burst of flavour. I love the use of goats curd in any dish since I am a cheese addict so this is the perfect accompaniment in my eyes - creamy, salty and so, so satisfying.
Scallop, serrano ham and romesco
The next course comes out ten minutes after the amuse bouche plates are cleared. Throughout the night we start to realise that Red Cabbage has the timing of dishes down to fine art here, operating like a well oiled machine. It's very impressive to see just how well they work.
Our second course is written on our menu as 'Scallops, Serrano Ham and Romesco'. I love scallops so I'm pretty excited by this and am pleased that the chef has taken my capsicum intolerance into account and replaced my romesco with a carrot puree that looks exactly like the sauce on Jeremy's plate.
Scallop, serrano ham and romesco
There's one plump scallop on the plate which while it looks incredible (and tastes just as much), the menu did lead me to believe there would be more than one in this dish. That said, the scallop presented is a decent size and cooked perfectly, complimented by the sweet and silky carrot puree that is out of this world. I love the use of the compressed rockmelon cubes, fried bocconcini and salty serrano ham.
This is my favourite dish for the night by a long shot! The only thing that would have made it perfect was having that promised additional scallop on the plate (or am I getting confused over my plurals? It almost makes me doubt my knowledge of the English language!).
Marron, cucumber and radish kimchi
The next course is South West Marron, Cucumber and Radish Kimchi with a sheet of Nori. For my boy and I, this dish created a bit of a divide.
We both agreed that the marron itself was prepared and cooked with respect, keeping the flavours true and simple. The kimchi is what lost me but delighted my boy. I found the cucumber and radish fresh but a too crunchy, with the strong flavours overpowering the delicate seafood. While I didn't dislike it by any means, it unfortunately wasn't my kind of dish to really rave about it.
The fourth course offered diners the choice between steak or fish. As we usually like to do, we each pick something different so we can get the best of both worlds and have some diversity in our meals.
Jeremy chooses the Flank Steak. It's cooked sous vide, sitting atop of beetroot puree and topped with little batons of pickled cauliflower. There's a delicious fried cube of beef brisket and also a drizzle of ssam sauce, which is a spicy Korean sauce that is explained to us as being similar in flavouring to miso.
The flank steak is tender and juicy. It's a chewy cut of meat since it's the belly muscle of the cow, but cooking it sous vide showcases it in a different way than your standard offering. I really like the flavours on this plate, they're earthy and true. It's a really smart dish.
My choice of fish is revealed as Crispy Skinned Barramundi, Spinach Puree, Peanuts, Asparagus and Squid Ribbons.
This dish is vibrant on the plate and on the palate. The skin on the barramundi is a crispy as you'd hope for; the flesh soft and delicate. The standout is definitely the squid ribbons which are thin and sweet, without being chewy. I love the addition of peanuts which gives each mouthful a good crunch and some saltiness.
Pumpkin, white chocolate, cashel blue and cheddar
Before we know it we've passed the halfway mark and we realise that it's the sweeter end of things to come. I have to admit I'm a little worried because I know I'm still feeling pretty hungry and in no way do I ever eat as much as my boy.
The next course is the "cheese course" - Pumpkin and White Chocolate Ganache, Pear Sorbet, Castel Blue pieces and Cheddar crumbs.
After discovering the joy of sweetened pumpkin with cheese at The Beaufort Street Merchant, this dish was extremely appealing to me. This version is extremely smart, and suited to even those amongst us that don't like blue cheese. I have to admit, I'm a bit of a novice when it comes to what I used to call "mouldy cheese" as a child. I love Tuck Shop's beef and stilton pie, and have enjoyed a blue cheese dressing with steak. But I was a little apprehensive about eating it with Red Cabbage's dish as I wasn't sure how strong the flavour would be.
By itself, castel blue is quite strong - at least for my novice palate. But when I mixed in the sweet and moorish ganache and the crunchy cheddar it was an absolute winner. As my boy said, it was one of the best flavour combinations we've ever had. Very smart, very satisfying. I love the use of the pear sorbet which is icy cold and velvety in texture - it's a great introduction into dessert.
The Pre-Dessert is a cut of white as snow meringue topped with cherry sorbet, pistachio sponge and crushed pistachios.
The meringue has a satisfying crunch and is nice and sugary, offering some wonderful contrast in texture to the soft sponge-like pistachio. The flavours are interesting - the cherry sorbet is extremely powerful and quite intense. For me, I love cherries so this is no problem at all for me, but for my boy he's not so sure about it. He loves the pistachio sponge whereas I find it quite bland compared to the sugar rush of the sorbet.
Funny how we can often love the same thing and then be in complete opposition other times!
Chocolate, peanut parfait and salted caramel
Chocolate, peanut parfait and salted caramel
Our final course for the evening arrives and it's not even 8pm. The courses have been spot on in consistency of spacing, but I did at that point feel like we had rushed through what could have been a long winding dinner. I do so like to sit and chat forever while picking at food - I'm probably the kind of customer restaurants hate!
The dessert for the evening is Chocolate, Peanut Parfait and Salted Caramel. Yum. Let's just summarise this dish with that one joyful word - yum!
The salted caramel has that perfect balance between sweet and savoury; the consistency smooth and thick. I love the scoop of chocolate mousse in the centre which is dark and rich, working well with the peanut parfait crumbs. There's also shards of caramel and actual peanuts scattered throughout giving you different temperatures, intensities of flavours and textures. This is the kind of dish that the hype behind Red Cabbage led me to expect and I'm so happy that our night finished on this. I'd definitely order it again!
All up, I definitely enjoyed my night at Red Cabbage - but I do think that going on Valentines Day might not have been the best idea for my first time at this esteemed restaurant. While the ingredients used were impressive and so were the dishes produced, the serving sizes left us wanting - so much so that my boy ended up getting a whopper on the way home. Maybe we're not so cut out for fine dining! We're much more the kind of people who love degustations but the kind where you can add on courses and order until you bust - the greedy kind of eaters.
There were definitely some standout dishes of the night - the scallop with serrano ham, the cheese course and that final dessert. I can definitely see just why it's one of the top rated venues in Perth and hopefully I'll make it back to try their ala carte menu next time.
And since this is a Valentine's Day post, I have to say a big thanks to my boy who made the day even more special with a surprise By Charlotte necklace as a present. Very spoilt by this one!