Restaurant and food reviews from Perth, Australia

Friday, April 30, 2010

Shanghai Tea Garden, Northbridge

Shanghai.  The modern and striking architecture; the massive retail outlets, and huge selection of places to go visit; the bustling city streets in one of the world's most populated cities; the aromas from street food vendors; traditional Shanghainese eateries to world class international cuisine; quaint Chinese eateries that don’t speak or have any menus in English to cosmopolitan and funky restaurants; these are but some fragments of my memories from a previous holiday to Shanghai.

But what if you don't live in Shanghai but want a taste of Shanghai without boarding a plane or boat? Well, for those of you on a limited travel budget or limited annual leave there’s a way of trying some Shanghainese dishes right here in Perth. As a bonus, the place is a bit of a collector’s gem of Shanghai too.

Recently, one of my Chinese friends recommended that I tried eating at Shanghai Tea Garden. She told me that the food was similar to food from "back home". What she also said was that the food would be less salty and possibly blander when compared to Westernised Chinese food or many other popularised Chinese restaurants. Not being a fan of dishes that rely heavily on salt, this did the opposite of deterring me.

Shanghai Tea Garden has recently been transformed by the owners of the former Mozart Bakery to a restaurant serving Chinese restaurant food as well as retaining some of its in-house made cakes. The décor at Shanghai Tea Garden was packed with a host of Shanghainese twentieth century memorabilia including photos of Shanghai, Chinese ornaments, an antique record player, draping oversized film with pictures of Shanghainese actors, and pictures of Shanghai including the infamous European style Bund. The restaurant’s décor pretty much screamed “Shanghai!”, and brought back fond memories of my previous holiday to Shanghai without actually going there.

The menu at Shanghai Tea Garden contains a variety of dishes that reflect Shanghainese as well as Chinese food generally, with most main courses in the $20-30 range. Rather than the typical Westernised local Chinese restaurant food such as sweet and sour pork and boneless lemon chicken, the dishes reflect Chinese cuisine such as Shanghai dumplings and pork belly dishes. However, some items on the menu can be a bit hard to decipher where the name doesn’t really provide a good description of what the dish should or would taste like. But I’m adventurous. Well… at least a bit.

Shanghai dumplings - $10

The Shanghai dumplings were served in a bamboo steaming basket and best eaten hot. The soft rice dough pastry was nicely thin, and inside was a meat filling and some soup or stock-like liquid that made these nice but light to eat.  The Shanghai dumplings were served with a light vinegar that added a light sour acidity that gave the dumplings a nice flavour that was lighter on the palate.

Onion beef stone pot - $24

The stone pot this dish was served in seemed pretty impressive – it was a relatively attractive thick walled bowl shaped pot, and kept the sauce in the dish bubbling for some time.

The beef was chunky but not dry, and there was a large amount of sliced onion in the pot. The sauce was moderately thick, dark, and very generous such that it almost seemed like a soup that was simmering whilst the pot was hot. The beef tasted best when the pot was sizzling away. If you order this dish, it's recommended you eat it straight away but make sure you don't burn your tongue!

Crystal prawns - $24
The "crystal" up close

The prawns were peeled, deveined, crunchy and cooked in a close to clear sauce that gave the prawns a bit of a shiny glaze. Despite the relatively transparent nature of the sauce, the prawns had a fair amount of flavour without being salty.

The prawns were served on a plate with no vegetables or garnish, and were served lightly warm (and not hot) which may or may not be a good thing depending on your taste.

Fragrant chicken - $16

The fragrant chicken consisted of half a chicken cooked, and cut into pieces with the bones intact. The chicken was marinated and had a caramelised flavoured glaze to it.

Due to the marinade/glaze, the chicken was tastier than your average "crispy" chicken that was slightly sweet and savoury but also not salty. The chicken was also not dry but also not completely moist either. It also was cooked through such that there were no red bits near the bones.

Garlic spinach - $12

The spinach was blanched till it was completely soft, and cooked with a garlic and oil sauce to make it soft and not dry. The garlic sauce was a simple way of cooking the spinach that didn't drown out the taste of the spinach, but enhanced its flavour.

Salted pork, bamboo shoots, and pork ribs soup - $7

This soup was served in a nice looking cylindrical bowl. Despite the use of salted pork, the soup was not too salty, and the pork gave the soup substance and a nice meat flavour, whilst the bamboo shoots added extra texture.

Rice - $2 per head

The rice was charged on a per head basis and came in an attractive bamboo container.

In summary, Shanghai Tea Garden offers well prepared food that isn't too salty for my taste. Even though I was subsequently told that the dishes I ordered weren’t the most typical Shanghainese dishes – Whoops! – the food on offer is still reasonably authentic.

Points to note: The décor reflects the “Shanghai” in the restaurant’s name. Even though the portions of food aren’t the largest for the price, the food is pretty authentic and doesn’t rely on being salty for flavour. There are also house-made cakes on offer.

Go for: Shanghainese food in a neat little “Shanghai” restaurant filled with memorabilia from Shanghai.

Shanghai Tea Garden
1/399 William Street
(08) 9227 7066

Trading Hours
Lunch - 10am to 3pm
Dinner - 6pm to late

Shanghai Tea Garden on Urbanspoon

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Restaurant Amuse, East Perth

Restaurant Amuse review; Restaurant Amuse Perth review
Sydney has Quay Restaurant, Tetsuya’s, Marque and est. – all of which live up to their name.  Melbourne has Vue de Monde and Jacques Reymond – big dining experiences.  But for Perth, when it comes to an overall fine dining experience, Restaurant Amuse has been named by many as Perth’s best restaurant.

Restaurant Amuse is situated in the quieter residential side of East Perth.  The restaurant looks like a former house that has been renovated and transformed into what makes the charming venue it is today.  Whilst not “stuffy”, the atmosphere at Restaurant Amuse is not casual either – offering a true fine dining experience without being pompous.  Many of the tables are geared towards intimate dinners between couples and the whole night geared towards an “experience”.

According to Restaurant Amuse’s website, Restaurant Amuse has won many accolades including Two Hats from The Top 50 Restaurant Guide 2010, Two Stars from Australian Gourmet Traveller 2010 Restaurant Guide, as well as many other industry and awards for being best WA restaurant and/or chef.

Restaurant Amuse is run by husband and wife Carolynne and Hadleigh Troy.  Chef Troy has a long list of credentials including Perth's The Loose Box and Jackson's Restaurant, as well as Michelin star rated restaurants The Greenhouse in Mayfair, London and La Noisette in Knightsbridge.  With a resume like that, and the awards previously mentioned, this does create a high expectation.

Restaurant Amuse’s menu only offers a degustation, including a vegetarian option.  The full degustation is $120 or $185 with matching wines.  For ten courses and in comparison to other similar style degustations, I think $120 is quite reasonable.  Alternatively, if you dine on Tuesday to Thursday, you have the option of taking the Petite Degustation instead for $85.  Given I had nothing else better to do that night, coupled with my seemingly insatiable appetite, I elected to graze on the ten course full degustation to occupy my quiet weeknight dinner.

Even with ten courses in the full degustation, Restaurant Amuse’s menu is in a state of constant change, with courses continually being updated by various modifications or new creations.  Over the course of a month, you can expect all courses of the degustation menu to change.  I am a big fan of surprise degustations or ever evolving menus that capitalise on available fresh produce or continually improving and changing global culinary techniques.

The service at Restaurant Amuse is also matched to the style of dining.  The staff are well groomed, attentive, and knowledgeable about the menu and wine list.  Another plus is that the staff have tried every course on offer and are able to describe and provide personal insights and comments on each dish.  To top that off, the staff are also friendly and personable.  In my opinion, this helps create a more pleasant and friendly dining experience, and the ability of staff to have a quiet chat or laugh makes me feel more at ease.


The snacks were light and included crostini sticks and wagyu prepared like proscuitto.  These were served on a plate made of stone and were a nice light starter before the meal to come.

Olive, caviar and foie gras

This dish included a soft white chocolate base topped with two types of caviar (or fish roe for those who believe “caviar” should be reserved only for sturgeon), foie gras and olive.  The flavour combination worked very well with the subtle sweet white chocolate matching the fresh tastes from the subtle caviar, slight olive saltiness, and hint of foie gras.

In particular, I thought the soft white chocolate’s mild sweetness gave the dish extra flavour to compliment the subtle caviar taste without masking it.  The caviar, which included salmon roe, was more subtle flavoured and textured than sturgeon caviar which probably made this dish work that much better.

 Kingfish, watermelon and horseradish

The raw kingfish was cured and sat on a slice of dried watermelon and topped with a powdered horseradish.  The strong sweetness of the dried watermelon gave a big contrast to the cured kingfish and light horseradish that made me want to have a bit of every ingredient in each bite as the sum of the parts tasted better than each part individually.

Marron, chicken and parmesan

The marron was topped with chicken skin, and mixed with pickled cucumber and a bit of sliced onion.  As the course was served, the wait person poured a tomato parmesan consommé into the plate to finish off the dish.

The marron was fresh and slightly crunchy and the chicken skin was light in flavour and crunchy.  The tastes of the consommé were light with notes of smooth tomato and less distinct parmesan.  The pickled cucumber was a good refreshing additive that made the dish more interesting.

Barramundi, corn and crab

This dish consisted of barramundi accompanied by a crab ravioli and topped with a corn and crab froth.  The barramundi was cooked right such that it was not tough or overcooked.  The crab ravioli consisted of fresh, soft textured, and light flavoured crab covered by a “pastry” that tasted more like a soft and light omelette.  I did like the subtle and well matched texture of the overall ravioli.

The froth was light in texture and flavour and the dish was accompanied by pieces of corn kernels and peas.

Pork, pineapple and brandade

The pork was tender and seasoned which included a reasonable amount of salt thus bringing out the flavour of the pork and making it far from being bland and dry.  The pork was accompanied by a light tempura battered ball of soft barramundi, and pineapple.  Shaved pork crackling was also sprinkled over the top of the dish.

Being a fan of nicely done pork, I was glad the pork was done well without being too fatty.  The soft barramundi tempura ball was also really smooth and subtle tasting with only a slight hint of the “fish” taste of the barramundi.

Lamb, ricotta and eggplant

The lamb was very tender (I am a fan of rare/medium-rare and tender red meat) and placed on a small bed of pureed eggplant.  A piece of gnocchi that was light and fluffy with a slight lemon taste sat beside the lamb, and then the dish was sprinkled with a light, crumbly ricotta.

Beef, bordelaise and carrot

Starting to get quite satisfied with the amount of food already served, the next course was another red meat.  Its main beef component was an aged and grain fed sirloin that was cooked rare to medium-rare and tender.   The beef was topped with thin slices of bone marrow and topped with a beef filled and rolled pastry.  The dish was served with nicely peeled, carved, and shaped baby carrots, bordelaise and topped with a potato sprinkle.

Lemongrass and lime

The palate cleanser was light and fluffy lemongrass and lime sherbet that was very refreshing and not as temperature contrasting on the mouth or teeth as say a frozen sorbet.  We were amply refreshed and cleansed enough after this to say “Bring on the dessert!”

Cheese course (Optional) - $10-15 per 25g

To accompany your meal, Restaurant Amuse offers servings of cheese from its trolley of carefully pre-selected cheeses.  Each cheese is picked for its own distinctive taste and to offer diners a good variety – from creamy, to light, to blue vein and heavy strong cheeses.  The cheeses on offer varied from Australian and imported.

An Australian goats cheese - $10

At this stage, knowing I had a pre-dessert and dessert to come, I didn’t think I needed the extra course of cheese… but I knew I wanted it.  So after much discussion and indecisiveness over the cheeses on offer, we made two choices – the Taleggio and an Australian goat’s cheese.  The Taleggio was a very “meaty” cheese with a strong cheese flavour.  The goat’s cheese was in comparison mild and light but had a distinct but light goats milk taste.

No, the cheese course was not regretted!

White chocolate, vanilla and walnut

The pre-dessert was smooth vanilla and walnut ice-creams topped with light white chocolate and surrounded by shaved walnut.  The dessert also had drops of a light, soft and creamy chocolate and small little lemon flavoured soft jelly drops that added some contrast and a refreshing taste to the overall pre-dessert such that I could easily have more knowing I had a main dessert to come.

Honeycomb, caramel and malt

The dessert consisted of honeycomb parfait and a malt ice cream quenelle on a base of salted caramel and decorated with aerated chocolate.  The taste combinations between the very sweet but also salted caramel and the smooth, soft parfait and ice cream matched very nicely.

At this stage, reflecting on the meal, I have the impression that Chef Troy does like to dabble a bit in contrasting and complimenting flavours.  I do respect chefs that think outside the box, and even more so when they pull it off well.

Petit four

The petit four consisted of 3 items: a dark chocolate filled with a creamy and soft white centre, a Baileys truffle, and a light moist honey flavoured cake on a chilled plate made from granite.  I am pleased that Restaurant Amuse uses matching temperature plates for the courses (e.g. to prevent ice cream and chocolate prematurely melting).

Cafe Latte

The petit four was also served with a choice of coffee or tea.

By the time we finished our meal, which was about 3.5 hours after we began, our bellies were very satisfied and I was ready to hit the hay.

In summary, Restaurant Amuse’s degustation is an experience of expertly prepared food and great service.  My experience is that weeknight dining at Restaurant Amuse is more relaxed than the busier weekends.

Points to note: Restaurant Amuse only offers a degustation menu.  The dishes that comprise the degustation menu are constantly changing – after a month you can expect all the courses to be different.  The full degustation takes approximately 3.5 hours, is quite satisfying and can be matched to 7 tasting pours of wine, or if you prefer there is a wine list.  Remember to make a reservation.

Go for: One of the best overall restaurant experiences in Perth.

Restaurant Amuse
64 Bronte Street
East Perth WA 6004
(08) 9325 4900

Trading Hours
Tuesday to Friday: from 7pm

Restaurant Amuse on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Globe Wine Bar and Restaurant, Perth

Restaurants in five star hotels often provide a mix of international cuisine, and usually the quality is pretty decent.  The Parmelia Hilton in Perth is an example of a hotel that has more than one attached restaurant, one of which is The Globe Wine Bar and Restaurant.  Its location is of course well suited to people staying at the Parmelia Hilton but also, as in my case, great for catching up with friends after work in the city.

As its name states, Globe Wine Bar and Restaurant has both a wine bar and a restaurant.  The wine bar is up the front, separated by a bar and a dividing shelf-wall, and offers casual seating and sofas where you can relax and mingle with friends or business associates.  I had previously caught up with an interstate friend in the wine bar one night and been quite satisfied with the modern casual atmosphere, and on another occasion dined there for a friend’s birthday dinner.  With that in mind I knew my intentions of coupling courses of food on offer with good wine would be catered for.

Globe Wine Bar and Restaurant has a modern design with stylish lines and décor.  Inside, the ambient lighting is warm and the kitchen is open and the staff well groomed, well mannered, and friendly.  The restaurant definitely caters to the fine diner, but in a casual and relaxed way (which personally I feel more comfortable in).

The menu looks like a seasonal menu and has a range of entrees, mains, and desserts including vegetarian options.  Prices are pretty normal for hotel restaurant food ranging on average from $30 to $45 for most main courses.  To accompany the meals, an extensive wine list is available by the bottle and some by the glass.

Coconut Tempura Prawns (entree) - $21

This dish was described as having celeriac remoulade, saffron and black caviar emulsion, mizuna leaves.

The prawns were coated with what seemed to be a desiccated coconut batter which had a distinct coconut taste.  The batter was not heavy and had a light crispness to it that did live up to the coconut tempura batter in its name.  The prawns inside were cooked just right and the batter was tightly coated around the prawns.

The dressing/emulsion decoratively placed around the coconut tempura prawns was creamy but subtle in flavour.  It was also not overdone so that the flavour of the coconut tempura prawns would still be prominent.  The caviar was a nice touch to the dish both visually and giving it that bit of extra classy taste.

The celeriac remoulade bed was a nice combination to place the coconut tempura prawns on but was very (intentionally) salty for what I would have preferred.  The celeriac was otherwise well matched to the creamy remoulade sauce.  Overall this was a well composed dish.

Scallops seared in ginger and coriander (entree) - $22

This dish was described as having crisp wonton, potato puree, trio of capsicum salsa soy dashi dressing.

The scallops were nicely cooked through and were visually appealing in presentation with the other ingredients.  Overall, combining the ingredients worked well together giving it a slight Asian flavour.

Cinnamon salted duck breast - $42

This dish was described as being served with: fondant, potato, ginger bread, with orange infused duck farce white bean puree.

The duck was cooked well and not fatty (nor oily).  It was cooked about medium and was tender and accompanied with a light sauce.  Thus overall the duck dish was a light dish that had no strong additives to mask the core flavours.

The gingerbread was soft, not crumbly, and an interesting addition to the duck dish.  The potatoes were cut into neat cylindrical shapes and were soft on the inside and golden on the outside.

Angus sirloin - $43

This dish was described as being served with smokey barbecue jus and honey mustard hollandaise.

The steak was ordered medium rare and it came out cooked just right.  The steak was juicy and coated giving it a natural yet enhanced flavour.  The steak was also served with a honey mustard hollaindaise sauce that was a nice non-standard sauce to go with the steak.

The dish also came with fries that were neatly cut into thick blocks and tidily stacked like a two per layer Jenga that gave an attractive presentation.

Unfortunately for us, our appetites ran only as far as an entrée, main and wine so we didn’t get a chance to sample any desserts.

Overall, Globe Wine Bar and Restaurant is a worthy five star hotel restaurant.  The atmosphere isn’t pretentious and rather is more stylishly casual, and the food and wine is matched to the setting.

Points to note: The food options are in line with international hotel restaurant standards, and made with thought through ingredients and combinations.  My experience showed the food tends to rely on the subtle core flavours of the varied ingredients whilst also providing individuality in the presentation and make-up of most dishes.  The wine list is also quite extensive.

Go for: Fine dining in a relaxed and casual atmosphere in Perth city.

Globe Wine Bar and Restaurant
Parmelia Hilton Perth Hotel
14 Mill Street
(08) 9215 2421

Trading Hours
Monday to Friday - 6:30am to 12 midnight
Saturday and Sunday - 7am to 12 midnight

Globe Food | Wine | Coffee on Urbanspoon

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Flying Taco, North Perth

Tex mex?  No way!  There has been a rise in the number of more authentic Mexican food establishments.  One of these establishments is the happily named "The Flying Taco".  This casual restaurant is set in the small cafe strip on Angove Street in North Perth and has quickly become a regular joint for some locals.

The restaurant is small with only a few tables inside, and a few tables outside.  The atmosphere is very casual and makes a good easy and quick meal out, or a casual place to catch up with friends, or a quick meal after a night out (as The Flying Taco closes pretty late).  However, saying that it is a casual meal doesn't really go to explain that all the tacos, corn chips, salsas, dips etc are handmade and more authentic than tex-mex.

I have been told that the owner, Anna, has spent time in Mexico where she learnt her Mexican cooking skills and thus further giving the greater Mexican cuisine authenticity.  When you eat the food you will notice the difference between the way they make their food and your typical tex-mex fare.  For example, the taco is a soft shell taco rather than your hard corn based variety and the fillings contain specially cooked fillings with herbs and vegetables that are not your typical tomato and lettuce.

The food menu is not huge, but there given the way the menu works, there are a lot of combinations (including gluten free, celiac friendly and fish and vegetarian options for the discerning patron - and easily caters for the diet of one of my friends who is friends with the owner).  The menu (which is available on their website at works by making you select a base (e.g. taco, quesadila or burritto), a filling (e.g. steak, fish, chicken or pork), and a salsa which ranges from a chunky light salsa to a chilli hot salsa.  There are also sides such as house made gluten free tortilla chips, guacamole, beans and Mexican red rice.

Taco Pescado with Salsa Verde - $12

This was the taco with fish filling.  It contained 2 soft shell corn tortillas (and in true Mexican style the "ll" is pronounced like a "y" and therefore it's pronounced more like "tortiya"); garlic, spices and orange juice marinated fish; and the blended tomatillos, coriander, garlic and jalapenos salsa.

The taco had a soft, light "shell" that doesn't resemble your tex mex style hard corn chip shell.  Instead they were a softer tortilla that was folded over into the typical taco shape (though is malleable and doesn't hold a special shape well like say a pita bread) and then filled with the fish and topped with onion and coriander.

A closer look at the pescado

The fish was diced marinated white fish, and felt lighter and relatively healthier than a cut of meat.  The addition of the vegetables rather than the normal tomato and lettuce was a nice difference that in my opinion tasted good.  The sauce tasted quite light but definitely had the coriander and garlic flavour and a mild jalapenos spice.

Taco Carnitas with Salsa Verde - $9

The Carnitas was described as "traditional slow-cooked crispy pork with grilled fresh pineapple".  The pork was definitely was not dry nor bland, and some parts had a slight pork crackling crunch to it.  The pork filling was topped with coriander and onion which, in this taco, complemented the pork taste and texture of the pork.

Quesadilla Carne Asada with Pico de Gallo salsa - $12

The quesadilla is a flour tortilla.  It comes in cut up hand-sized pieces filled with (in this case) diced steak pieces and cheese.  The quesadilla is light and freshly made, and doesn't fall apart or break.

The Carne Asada is described as "grilled sliced steak marinated in fresh lime juice, garlic and oregano".  The steak is tender and tasty with a large amount of cheese.  Due to its open nature, picking up the quesadilla at times did cause the filling to fall out a bit.

The sauce was very fresh and had chunky pieces of tomato and onion in it, as well as garlic, onion and jalapenos.  This sauce was more mild than the salsa verde.

Taco Carne Asada with Salsa Verde (a different combination) - $9

The meals above and the sauces are not served with any cutlery, however you can obtain a plastic spork if you wish.  This may make it easier if you prefer to spoon the sauce on or use it to pick up pieces without using your hands.

 Corn chips - $6

The chips were very crunchy and were coated in a light amount of salt.  The only thing that could have made this better was a dipping sauce of some sort but would this have made it less authentic?

Overall, The Flying Taco offers light meals that are freshly made and in my opinion taste better than a lot of the tex-mex offerings or pre-bulk-made Mexican with less fresh ingredients.  The menu is not large, but the combinations give a bit of variety.

Points to note:  More authentic casual Mexican food compared to the popular tex-mex offerings.  Offers home and hand-made, gluten free and celiac friendly food, as well as fish and vegetarian options.

Go for:  Reasonably quick and authentic light meals of Mexican tacos, quesadillas and burritos.

The Flying Taco
40 Angove Street
North Perth , WA 6006
(08) 9227 6393

Trading Hours
Wednesday to Sunday: 12 noon to Late.

The Flying Taco on Urbanspoon