Restaurant and food reviews from Perth, Australia

Monday, August 30, 2010

Amsterdam, The Netherlands

A quick transit stopover here. Amsterdam is famous for many things (some of which don’t need to be mentioned here) but the many intricate canals, interesting architecture, and being home to famous people like Van Gogh, Rembrandt, and Anne Frank make the visit more interesting. Not to mention just missing out on the World Cup title for 2010.

I had a couple of meals here which for some reason both involved steak.

The Grasshopper

Right up against one of the canals was a pub called “The Grasshopper”. There were two separate sections, being the pub and the restaurant – with the restaurant having indoor and al fresco dining. Given the view and the weather, I chose to sit in the al fresco area.

The view from The Grasshopper

The menu included items for breakfast through to dinner, but even with the variety I got the overall impression “this is pub food” and my experience there supported this. At least the view was good.

Whilst the location was quite decent for me, I felt that the wait staff were friendly (and good looking) but the service was quite slow (I had to wait quite a while before being given the menu even though there was no one sitting out in the al fresco area and I had gone back in to ask if I could order inside) and non-caring compared to what I’m used to.

Rib Eye – EU25

Ordering the steak medium rare, the steak came out a tad rarer than that but that’s not usually a problem for me. However, I am sure I asked for an eye fillet but the steak didn’t look like any rib eye I’ve had before (in a bad way). The steak was pretty average being a bit on the tough side despite being cooked quite rare, and not really standing out as being a good cut of beef in any way that I could tell.

The steak came with fries, an onion salad, and a whole basket of condiments such as salt, pepper, and tomato sauce.

Iced Tea – EU3.50

Though a refreshing drink, this was a standard off-the-shelf iced tea that tasted quite typical of a cold and sugary lemon tea drink. However, it was quite welcome after a lot of walking and exploring for the day.

On a side note, they do sell weed for those interested.

The Grasshopper
Oudebrugsteeg 16
1012JN Amsterdam, Netherlands
020 4287224

Argentinos Restaurant Gringos

I made my way down to an Argentinean steak house, with promises of that famous and great Argentinean beef. This steakhouse, though like most other restaurants I saw in Amsterdam, was only lightly lit inside giving a warm but also nearly uncomfortable dark atmosphere. Perhaps that contributes to Holland's reputation as a "green" country. The waiters appeared to all be Argentinian and all seemed to have mildly chirpy and loudly friendly personalities.

But doh I seem to have lost the photos for this place.

Argentinean Rump Steak with fries and salad – EU9.95

The restaurant obviously specialised in steak with various cuts of steaks in various sizes and with various accompaniments. Whilst there were other menu items available, I found it difficult to even look at anything but steak in this Argentinean steak house.

Reminding of my prior trip to Argentina, and specifically the Argentinean beef I had in Buenos Aires, the steak here was good. Though ordering the steak medium rare and coming out more rare, the steak was juicy and tender and was a good steak for EU9.90 (when other steaks seemed to start at nearly twice the price).

The only unfortunate part of the steak was its size, being relatively small and maybe only 100g or so. However, the steak’s size was complimented with a bit of iceberg lettuce based undressed salad, and chips.

Cassis - EU4 (large)

I saw this drink on the menu and wondered what it was. I was told it was like Cherry Fanta and apparently is very popular. So I thought, why not give it a try? The drink indeed had a cherry taste – it was sweet, quite dark in colour (or maybe it was the very dark lighting in the restaurant) and had a deep taste to it giving a fruity (artificial) cherry taste (not to be mistaken for Cherry Cola a la Dr Pepper etc).

In summary, Amsterdam is an ok place to visit - especially if you're into its "freedom" and liberties that give it a reputation in Europe. However, Amsterdam is also filled with a lot of tourists and within the city it can give off that tourist city feel.

A few photos to finish this blog off...

A view of a Golden Mile canal

A bridge off the Golden Mile canal region

Amsterdam city with part of the tram line

Dutch loyal soccer supporters stand proud despite missing out on the World Cup trophy this year

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Copenhagen, Denmark

If you ask around, many people would say Scandinavia is one of the most expensive places in the world. They’d probably be right, but I wouldn’t let that stop you as it's also one of the most beautiful.

I recently made my way to Scandinavia with the promise of amazing landscapes in Iceland and Greenland (but not to discount the other magnificent Scandinavian countries) and also to visit the rellies in Norway. Sure it was going to be an expensive trip, but it was well worth it. However if you ask me, though some things were definitely more expensive than Australia (or pretty much most or all other European countries) some things were actually cheaper than Australia.

First city, Copenhagen, Denmark: the home of Crown Prince Frederick who married Australian and now Crown Princess Mary.

Denmark (along with Scandinavia generally) is pleasantly filled with very friendly locals complete with an excellent standard of English-as-a-second-language that puts other nations (and especially the single-language English speaking nations) to shame. I argue some of them speak better English than some who speak English as a first language. On top of that, Copenhagen has a nice relaxing feel that makes me feel at home to stroll around the various canals, beautiful King’s Garden, longest pedestrian shopping mall in the world – “Torget”, or even to sit back and relax with some coffee and Danish pastries.

But enough about Denmark as a city and more about the food given this is a food blog. Apart from the obvious good connotations that Danish Pastries or “Danishes” in Denmark can bring, Denmark has quite a bit to offer. Apart from export grade produce including meat, seafood, vegetables, and the ever prominent and great tasting Lurpak butter, Denmark and specifically Copenhagen is a host to a range of restaurants and cuisine from around the world and even has the honour of being home to the San Pellegrino 2010 restaurant of the year “Nomad”. Unfortunately, the 90-day-in-advance booking process that opens at midnight each night is so quickly snapped up that I was unable to secure a booking. Sad. But no matter for this round, as I was still able to sample a few local dishes.


In the heart of the canal area in Copenhagen is the infamous and postcard-famous Nyhavn strip. Nyhavn (meaning New Harbour) is the home to the start of many canal tours for those wanting to explore a part of Copenhagen via the various canals, as well as being host to many restaurants. Here you have a large choice of European cuisine, of which most venues have an attached bar, or you can even get a takeaway beer and drink it along the walkway next to the canal.

Most restaurants on Nyhavn capitalise on the scenic views of the canal by offering well placed al fresco dining that is great on any non-rainy day. Restaurants tend to be quite casual and well suited to cater for tourists including the large amount of Scandinavian visitors from Norway and Sweden (and especially Norway where street drinking is illegal and alcohol costs a lot more). Service during peak periods can be quite slow here but the staff are still seem relatively friendly under the stress.

Whilst the amount of restaurants on Nyhavn may make choosing difficult, many display a menu at their front which may help tickle your fancy or let you know in advance whether they specialise in say fish or steaks or other seafood. On top of that, many of the restaurants have set course specials with two or three courses of an entrée, main and dessert. The going rate whilst I was there was DKK225 for two courses.

Doing what most prudent people would do (i.e. walk along the canal to see what’s on offer), I came across this Nyhavn Restaurant which not only had a DKK225 two course special but allowed you to choose any two courses from their menu thus increasing the available combinations exponentially. On top of this, the Nyhavn Restaurant accepted any Kroner on a one for one basis, which for my slightly weaker Norwegian Kroner base currency represented even more value.

Foie Gras Terrine served with Elderflower Gel – DKK105 (separately)

The slice of foie gras terrine came served with a bit of salt and pepper sprinkled on top. Accompanying the terrine was some bread and strawberries. I’m not really sure where the elderflower gel was unless it was mixed into the strawberries.

The foie gras terrine was a decent entrée with a definite but not very strong foie gras taste. Spreading it onto the rye-like bread allowed you to appreciate the taste of the terrine. The strawberries were a bit sour for my liking even as a palate freshener to compliment the foie gras terrine.

Tender loin with marrow pipe pepper sauce and roast potato DKK189 (separately)

I personally made a big mistake in ordering this dish. Given that the waitress didn’t ask me how I’d like it cooked, I assumed that it’d be done medium or even medium rare. Quick assumption – big mistake. The steak unfortunately came out well done which although goes completely against how I think a steak should be done, was surprisingly still tender and juicy for a well-done steak. I later asked the waitress about it being done well-done and she said that’s the norm there unless you ask for something different. I personally would ask for something different, which is a pity as I suspect the steak would have been done great medium-rare!

Accompanying the reasonable but well-done steak were roast potatoes which had a nice golden outer layer with a buttery taste, pickled cabbage to offer a palate freshening side, and a beef flavoured pepper sauce to go with the steak.

Det Rome Brod

I found this 100% organic bakery whilst walking along Kronprinsessegade but there are a few branches across Copenhagen. Det Rome Brod is a bit of a mix between a bakery and a coffee shop, serving (limited and casual) dine in or takeaway breads, pastries and cakes, as well as machined coffee.

Cinnamon bread, apple cake and cafe latte

For DKK51 I got a cinnamon bread, apple cake, and a café latte.

The apple cake was a recommendation from the very friendly and helpful (and quite frankly very attractive) girl running the store and my own tastebuds confirmed it was good. The cake had only a moderate density of apple (as opposed to say a typical apple heavy apple pie) and yet was reasonably dense. The moderate levels of sugar, freshness of the apple, and light crumbly and cake like taste and texture of this cake was a pleasant surprise to me as something different in a good way.

The cinnamon bread was like a typical cinnamon roll that you get in Australia, but was very fresh, didn’t feel too sweet (even with the sultanas and the icing), and had a crispness to it that made this taste all the more fresher. Overall, I found this nicely balanced and fresh.

The coffee was smooth, had a slightly nutty taste and only a slight bitter aftertaste, but the froth was pretty average – being a thick layer of inconsistent bubble sizes that created a foam that didn’t sit as well as better frothed milk.

Overall, and with the added goodness of being an organic bakery, I really thought the pastries (or *ahem* Danishes) were great. However, this is the home of Danish pastries.

Café Copenhagen

This café came recommended to me for the Copenhagen Burger. It’s situated in Hillerod, very close to Frederiksborg castle, so a visit to the grand and postcard-worthy castle warrants a visit to this café.

The café has a very casual and relaxing atmosphere, but feels clean and modern with indoor and al fresco dining. The waiter who served us was very friendly and accommodating but I found this not unusual in the places I went to in Denmark.

Copenhagen Burger – DKK110

The burger had a thick patty, bacon, red onion, gourmet lettuce, cucumber, tomato, tomato sauce, a creamy cocktail sauce, and was set in a crusty herb bread.

I was impressed. The burger tasted great with the marinated patty, mixed sauces and combination of ingredients creating a very big and filling burger that was fresh and tasted like an excellent gourmet home-made burger.

The burger was served with wedges and aioli. The wedges were crunchy and seasoned really well. To be honest, I was very impressed with the quality of these wedges and the aioli was also well made – creamy with a light garlic flavour – such that this tasted as good as some of the best wedges I’ve had in Australia.

Cappuccino – DKK30

The cappuccino wasn’t the best I’ve had and was the let-down for me at Café Copenhagen. Unfortunately the cappuccino was served only warm and the foam was quite poorly made in my opinion – being a very thick layer of foam that contained a lot of large bubbles. The cappuccino was topped with cocoa.

So all in all, Copenhagen is a great place to visit.  Though in no way able to capture the charm of Copenhagen, I leave you with a small selection of photos for a little taste of what you might expect if you visit Copenhagen.

One of the palaces of Amalienborg - where Crown Prince Frederik and Crown Princess Mary will reside

Frederiksborg Castle

Monument to Hans Christian Andersen

One of the Grand Halls in Rosenberg Castle

The Rosenberg Castle with the Three Lions

Danish Crowns on display at Rosenborg Castle

View of Copenhagen from Vor Frelser Church

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Thai Orchid, South Perth

Creamy Thai curries to saturate your rice? Sounds a bit indulgent but this is one of the things you can see me do when I eat Thai food. Not to say that I only eat fatty foods but I’m only human and Thai food is good for a delicious fix (including healthier options) every now and then.

Thai Orchid is one of those restaurants that some people I know have praised, and has some gold plate awards to back up this assertion. Thai Orchid is situated on the second floor of a building (be warned about steps) and this, along with the proximity to the Swan River, allows it to have some reasonable views of the Perth skyline.

Inside, Thai Orchid is decorated with …. The tables all have tablecloths which include a deeply coloured table covering which helps give it an upmarket Thai feel. To compliment the Thai feel of the decor, the restaurant has waitresses dressed up in pleasant Thai garments to further enhance the atmosphere.

Clearly supporting the fact that it is a Thai restaurant, the menu contains a lot of typical Thai dishes - including: Thai style entrees; green, red, and other curries with a choice of meat or seafood; stir fries that include of a host of ingredients used by the Thai including lemongrass; some Thai desserts; and a range of special dishes in a separate section of the menu. Prices for mains seem to average around $25-35.

Golden Bags - $8

This dish consisted of minced chicken, corn, and peas wrapped in pastry which was deep fried, and served with sweet chilli sauce. The pastry was thin and light such that it didn’t detract from the taste of the filling. However, I personally wouldn’t rave about the filling which was a very smoothly minced combination of chicken and corn with a small amount of savoury seasoning. The sweet chilli sauce gave the golden bags a bit more moisture and flavour to complete the light entrée.

Gang Keow Wan (Green Curry Chicken) - $25

The green curry came served in a bowl, filled with chicken, eggplant, red capsicum, and lots of green curry sauce. To be expected, the green curry sauce was rich and creamy (most likely with lots of coconut milk), as well as being quite a mild and sweet curry.

The chicken and eggplant were cooked nicely such that they weren’t overcooked and everything retained its form and a level of juiciness. Given I like eating creamy fat sauces (and I do like my tasty Thai curries), I found myself mixing this dish with white rice in large quantities.

Zest for Life - $36

This dish was described as marinated lamb cutlets with Thai herbs and spices, grilled and served with savoury chilli dip.

I’m not exactly sure why this dish was called “Zest for Life” – I don’t think I personally felt like I had any more zest for life after consuming it. There were four cutlets, each was marinated in savoury herbs and spices but I didn’t get much hint of anything like lemongrass or other “zesty” herbs. Each cutlet was then grilled and a small piece of aluminium foil was placed at the cleaned end of the cutlet for you to handle the cutlet with your fingers. Though each lamb cutlet was marinated, for those of you that have experienced it in the past there was a distinct lamb smell and taste through the lamb which was quite strong which can be offputting to people who are particular about their lamb.

To accompany the lamb cutlets, a savoury chilli dip was served which wasn’t very chilli hot, nor sweet chilli sweet. Instead, the sauce was a light chilli sauce balanced with sweet and saltiness to make it a thick savoury sauce to go with the lamb cutlets.

Flying Duck - $30

I'm not sure why the duck was flying but this dish was described as roasted duck topped with tasty plum and chilli jam sauce, on a bed of crispy noodle and broccoli.

The duck pieces seemed to mainly consist of duck breast that was roasted and came out with a red skin which was slightly crispy. The plum and chilli jam sauce went quite well with the duck, offering a good level of fruity sweetness (plum sauce) and a light spiciness from the chilli to add flavour to the otherwise relatively basic tasting duck. The crispy noodle wasn’t much to talk about (being a deep fried rice noodle) and the "broccoli" was a few pieces of broccoli, cauliflower and carrot steamed and placed on the side.

In summary, Thai Orchid offers some good tasting Thai cuisine. Sure it’s a little on the pricy side for the servings you get but not exorbitantly so, and for the nicely decorated and presented restaurant and food quality it’s able to attract a decent clientele.

Points to note: The restaurant also has views of the swan river which most seats will have some level of, but you may want to ask if that is important to you. The restaurant is also BYO and on busy nights you should book ahead – especially if you have a larger group.

Go for: Good quality Thai food in a semi-upmarket Thai restaurant setting.

Thai Orchid
Level 2, 35 Mends Street
(08) 9474 1888

Trading Hours
Dinner: Tuesday to Sunday

Thai Orchid South Perth on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Boatshed Restaurant, South Perth

Perth has an attractive night skyline. With colourful lights shining above the swan river, coupled with clean air and large open green areas, a walk along the South Perth foreshore or even Kings Park can be rather pleasant. This is prime location.

Cue The Boatshed Restaurant. Situated near the Coode Street jetty, the Boatshed Restaurant resides along a quiet-at-night part of the South Perth foreshore with an excellent view of the city skyline. The views possible from The Boatshed Restaurant are amongst some of the best in Perth.

To complement the great views, the Boatshed restaurant provides a fine dining experience serving modern Australian cuisine in an upmarket but relaxed environment. The interior is simple but emphasises the view with French doors lining the river side of the restaurant.

The Boatshed Restaurant’s menu is designed with the modern Australian profile in mind. Including many common base ingredients but then offering the chef’s own modern twist or enhancements, the menu is supported by a wine list that consists mainly of Australian wines with the odd foreign wine mixed into the list.

 Pan seared scallops, sushi rice, seaweed salad, wasabi mayonnaise $26

The dish started with some wasabi mayonnaise layered decoratively onto the plate. The dish had four serves of seasoned sushi rice wrapped in seaweed, topped with lightly dressed seaweed, followed by the pan seared scallops, and finished with salmon roe.

I guess this dish was in a way the chef’s own adaptation of Japanese sushi that, despite the otherwise blandness in a plain rice sushi roll, actually tasted alright when eaten together combining the tastes of the scallops, seasoning and sauce. However, personally I wouldn’t really order this dish as a substitute for sushi.

 Home made duck liver pate, toasted brioche, red onion, French gerkins $24

This dish was designed for sharing, and given the amount of rich duck liver pate I tend to agree that sharing is appropriate.

The duck liver pate had a definite pate taste, but was not very smooth compared to some other pates I have had. Combined with the toasted brioche, the pate was a good sharing appetiser but I feel that I have had other more refined and balanced tasting pates before.

Confit duck legs, Madeira sauce, red cabbage, risotto croquettes $44

The confit of duck legs was cooked completely through, and the skin had a slight crispiness to it. The Madeira sauce helped keep the dish moist for me, whilst the red cabbage added a good light vinegary acidity that helped keep the dish and palate fresh.

The risotto croquettes had a cheese taste and were crumbed uniformly and shaped well. The risotto rice was cooked enough to not have a prominent hard or chewy interior texture that you can get with some risottos – and is my preference.

Slow cooked lamb shank, bean cassoulet, potato fondant, rosemary jus $38

The slow cooking process of the lamb shank showed in this dish, with the lamb meat coming off the bone quite easily. The lamb was accompanied with a bean cassoulet, string beans and a potato fondant which was soft and reasonably smooth textured.

The dish was finished with a rosemary jus which added a complimentary flavour to the dish.

Chocolate heaven quattro $15.50

Mocha brulee, white chocolate and limoncello mousse, hazelnut macaroon, and Dutch chocolate sorbet.

This chocolate dish was great in that it offered a combination of different chocolate desserts in one. The mocha brulee was light and a bit like a cake or fondant; the mousse was very light in chocolate taste, wasn’t as fluffy as other mousses I’ve had, and had a light but distinct limencello taste; the hazelnut macaroon was also light in chocolate taste and was a bit dense like a biscuit; and the sorbet was more creamy like an ice cream rather than a sorbet, and had a strong chocolate taste complete with chocolate chips.

Rosabrook red and Momo White $9.50 (each)

Overall, the Boatshed Restaurant offers a fine dining experience with great city skyline views. However, personally I didn’t find the food to be a stand our or that adventurous or challenging for my palate

Points to note: Modern Australian food with some interesting interpretations and variations on common food. If you want a seat with a view, you may want to see if you can request one as not all seats are close enough to the windows with good views.

Go for: Great city skyline views in a fine dining experience.

The Boatshed Restaurant
Coode Street Jetty
(08) 9474 1314

Trading Hours
Monday to Friday - 7:30am to 10pm
Saturday 8am to 10pm
Sunday 8am to 4pm

Boatshed on Urbanspoon