When it comes to dining, I often find myself torn between trying new places and going back to my favourite spots. While I love discovering new dishes, flavours and destinations, there's something so soul comforting about returning to a restaurant where you're guaranteed a great meal.
For me, there's definitely a couple of venues in Perth that meet this brief. Duende, Beaufort St Merchant, Sayers, Old Crow and El Publico. And of course, my beloved Cantina 663 which not only has created an unhealthy parfait addiction, but also has shown me just how great a panfried gnocchi dish can be.
Luckily my girlfriends Vee and Linda love this place as much as I. So on Friday night when I needed to kill some time before picking my boy Jeremy up from drinks at The Brisbane, we decided on a girls catchup dinner (even though we were all hanging out the following night).
She orders a freshly squeezed orange juice which comes out really quick. It's pulpy, sweet and has just the right amount of sour tang to it. I order a white wine from Argentina - I can't quite remember the name but it was recommended by our waitress and was lovely. Floral and just a tiny bit sweet. Perfect to wrap up my working week with.
Duck liver parfait
As soon as Vee arrives, we place our orders. We're so hungry! And while we want to pretend that we don't order the same thing each time, there's no going back the Duck Liver Parfait with Onion Jam ($15).
If you haven't been to Cantina 663, please do yourself a favour and order this from the shared plates menu. It's easily considered the best parfait in Perth - light, creamy and so, so flavoursome. Perfectly seasoned, it's accompanied by grilled slices of toast and a pile of sweet, sticky onion jam. I honestly crave this dish more often than I'd like to admit.
It's the kind of menu item that brings offal into the realm of everyday acceptable. I have so many friends, who unlike me, do not eat everything in sight. But they all love this parfait and don't seem to cringe when I mention it's duck liver. It's too good to refuse!
Braised lamb shoulder
Braised lamb shoulder
After our parfait and extra toast is cleared from our table, we get a small breather before our mains get delivered. Both of my girls have ordered the Braised Lamb Shoulder on White Polenta ($26) and I have to admit I have a moment of order envy when I see it come out.
The white polenta is so creamy and fine, the lamb piled high and swimming in a rich tomato gravy. They both look so excited and are kind enough to offer me a bite. It's delicious! So flavoursome that my tastebuds feel like they're going to explode, and the lamb is extremely tender and fall apart. It's the perfect dish for colder winter nights so I hope I see this on Cantina's menu again next season.
Just like the duck liver parfait, the pan fried gnocchi at Cantina always seems to win my order vote. There's so many other dishes on the menu that sound incredible, but I know that the gnocchi is always going to satisfy me. So as usual I order it!
What I do love, is that I've never had the same gnocchi flavour combinations here and I've ordered it many times! This time around it's Pan-fried Gnocchi with Cauliflower Puree, Roasted Cauliflower, Pesto, Almonds and Mozzarella.
Yum. Yes, predictably I love it. The cauliflower puree is sweet and silky, with no graininess or lumps. It's a little thick but in a good way, coating the ingredients and working well with the starchy and satisfyingly buttery gnocchi. I love the crunch of the toasted almonds and the stringy balls of mozzarella. It's a dish that covers all angles of textures and flavour.
Towards the end of the dish I start to feel my stomach protesting but I manage to let my greed get the best of me and I continue chowing down. Though I'd been keen to try the desserts at Cantina, as usual I couldn't get over the line. But would I change anything? Of course not! And knowing me, next time I come back to my favourite restaurant I'll order the same things all over again. I can be such a creature of habit sometimes!