Restaurant and food reviews from Perth, Australia

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Rockpool Bar & Grill Perth, Burswood

Rockpool Perth review; Rockpool Perth blog; Rockpool Perth pictures and photos
It's finally here!  The official opening of Rockpool Bar & Grill Perth was surrounded by much hype.  But this is Neil Perry bringing one of his signature (steak house) restaurants to Perth so rightfully it deserves a bit of attention.  Having been to Rockpool Bar & Grill Melbourne several times, as well as Rockpool in Sydney, I confess I was already a fan.

The grand entrance

Having made a reservation before their booking system was up, I managed to get a table on opening night (unfortunately missing out on an invitation to the "friends and family" night, as well as the "soft opening" but I'm no celebrity).

The grand hall

Much like its Melbourne sister restaurant, the entrance to Rockpool Bar & Grill Perth is impressive.  The massive door followed by a long hall lined with candles amidst modern artwork and glimpses of the steak aging room and wine bottles immediately creates an inviting feel with a bit of exciting anticipation.  The moderate walk through the hall ends with the large open main restaurant - with the bar on the right and the grill/restaurant on the left.  The decor is warm and inviting with many finishing touches of modern design and modest elegance giving an upmarket yet relaxed atmosphere reflecting the millions of dollars spent on the fit out.

The open and well lit kitchen made for nice viewing of the food preparation process.  There were many staff busily preparing meals both in hots and larder, each with their station and distinct function to fulfil.  This is a world class kitchen.

Part of the interior

The service, as expected for an opening night for a restaurant with a staffing level of around 100 people, had teething issues.  However, forgiving the relative inexperience of the wait staff, if Neil Perry's eastern states counterpart restaurants are anything to go by this should improve and the service should become impeccable.

A sample table setting

The menu, which comes out on an A3 sized daily printed sheet, has main meal prices starting from the twenties and then goes past the $100 mark - offering a bit of something for everyone's budget.  There is a good variety of dishes with much steak to offer, as well as white meat, seafood, pasta and a few vegetarian options that should just about cater to everyone's taste.

The wine list is very extensive with selections from around the world and indeed prices that go all the way up.  To top that the serving ware is excellent with the use of many modern plates and cutlery, as well as glassware including our large balloon goblets.

Charcoal roast squid and pork belly - $28

Squid pieces combined with skinless pork belly, red onion, red capsicum and red chilli make up this delicious and substantial entree.  The tastes are subtle with the tender squid and pork pieces each having subtle flavours.  Although it added to the taste of the dish, watch out for the red chilli pieces if you can't take spicy food.  The dish was also served with a couple of crispy grilled pieces of bread that you could eat with the squid and pork or use to soak up a bit of the sauce that contained a fair amount of light and quality oil.

Fried calamari with romesco- $28

This lightly coated and salted calamari was served with romesco and on top of a salad (I am told that Rockpool Bar & Grill uses an ozone water treatment machine to wash their salad which cleans and kills bacteria and other unwanted substances on the vegetables).

Well balanced in tenderness of calamari and balance of seasoning, the addition of pieces of red chilli spiced up this dish.

 Traditional Garlic Prawns - $24

I must say I don't normally go out and order garlic prawns.  My past experiences at some other restaurants in Perth haven't really given me much confidence in good quality garlic prawns and I find I enjoy just making them myself instead.

The traditional garlic prawns we ordered were deshelled (though retaining its tail) king prawns of a good consistent size, cooked in the traditional garlic butter way. Cooked with dill, these garlic prawns were cooked just to a nice level and texture, though didn't seem overly garlicky although I'm sure my breath would suggest otherwise.  Served with a lemon wedge and bread, these garlic prawns were a good example of well made 'traditional' garlic prawns.

Mussels steamed with chilli, peppers and vermouth - $21

These mussels (coming in great looking and no doubt expensive cookware) were very fresh and meaty. The broth was very flavoursome with chilli and vermouth flavours mixing into the savoury broth that was good enough for me to spoon and drink up like a tasty soup even after the mussels were gone.  The green and red peppers cooked in the broth were very soft and equally I consumed every last piece.

Alaskan king crab cocktail - $35

Light and fresh, this king crab cocktail had nicely tender crab meat and lettuce each seasoned with a light lemon flavour.  The cocktail sauce, too, was light with a small amount of spiciness and the overall entree seemed light and refreshing for an entree.

Wood fire grilled Fremantle octopus with hand pounded pesto and tomato - $24

This salad was better than I thought it might be. I don't normally enjoy octopus dishes but I was told the octopus was very tender so thought I would give it a try. Was it tender? Yes.

The octopus was tender and soft, not at all chewy and pretty much melted in your mouth as much as octopus can (I've never had octopus like this before).  It also had the residual taste of the wood fire grilling process.  The pesto, which seemed a little creamy, gave the octopus and cherry tomato quarters a lot of additional flavour although it was a tad spicy.

David Blackmore's dry aged full blood wagyu fillet - $110

Probably the highest grade of the steaks on offer in Rockpool Bar & Grill Perth, and currently the most expensive, this wagyu fillet was cooked medium rare.  With all steaks being cooked in a wood fired grill, the slightly sea-salted steak's exterior had a slight charcoal taste and feel which wasn't overbearing.  The inside on the other hand was a red medium rare which for this fillet meant a lot of (good) tender redness.

Medium rare wagyu fillet up close

At 200g this wasn't a huge steak but it didn't need to be as it was definitely adequate.  The steak was very tender, flavoured from the (15 day) aging process, and the marbleisation of the grade 9+ wagyu steak added to the melt in your mouth centre of the steak that put this cut above many other steaks on offer.  At this price it's probably only a special occasion meal (or for those who don't know what to do with their money) but you can taste the difference.

The wagyu came with a lemon wedge and the steak condiments service offered a range of sauces including horseradish cream (pictured), harissa, barbecue sauce, hot English mustard, and dijonnaise.  I just wish they had the wagyu rib eye on offer!

Rangers Valley dry aged 300 day grain fed rib-eye on the bone - $70

One of my favourite cuts of steak, this rib-eye is a good contender for my favourite all-rounder steak here (but admittedly there are other ones I need to try).  The 57 day aged rib-eye was done medium rare - tender and full of flavour. So much so that I felt that I didn't need the supplied Bearnaise sauce (in the sauce pourer, pictured in the background) nor the horseradish from the condiments service.

Della gola prime grass fed sirloin on the bone - $39

At 400g, this 32 day aged steak was a decent sized serving.  Also cooked medium rare, this steak was tender and a nicely flavoured and aged steak.  Along with the price difference, this steak wasn't as melt in your mouth as the wagyu, and had a chewier sirloin texture.  However, given the price, it was a great steak.

Cape Grim dry aged 36 month old grass fed rib-eye - $60

Another rib-eye though a tad chewier in texture, cooked at the chef's suggestion (generally medium-rare) it was quite red on the inside.  However, I still enjoyed the tender steak.

David Hohnen's Jarrahdene pork - $29 (now $39)

Pork crackling!  I have always had good experiences with Neil Perry's pork.  The crackling on this steak was well crisp and crunchy and the meat cooked tender and retaining flavour.  With two pieces of pork this was a decent serve.

That crunchy pork belly skin 

The pork was served with pieces of fruit which were like sweet candied fruit jellies that matched the pork excellently.  I will be back for more.

 Seafood stew with spicy mussel and saffron broth - $45

This was no ordinary stew - though with seafood I don't think you really could make a good traditional stew.  The seafood (like all seafood dishes) was served with a herb salad and aioli.

Herb salad (and aioli in the background)

The seafood were pieces of king prawns, squid, fish, clams, and spicy mussels cooked in the saffron broth which tasted a bit like a light creamy tomato base but with the flavours of saffron infused.  The "spicy" in the spicy mussel was probably due to the chilli in the mussels/dish that thankfully wasn't too spicy.  Also, the base of the stew was just a base to have with the seafood and not of a soup like stew quantity.  However, I gladly devoured all of the stew base.

Including dill, spring onion, and red onion in the herb salad, I was pleasantly surprised by how refreshing this salad was.  The ingredients (as with what you expect from Rockpool's standards generally) were very fresh, and with a vinegar base I thought this small side to the seafood stew was good in itself.  Not to mention the vegetables and herbs were most likely washed with that ozone machine.

Free range chicken with Tuscan white bean, tomato and bread salad - $29

The menu stated that this dish takes 50 minutes.  Whilst this may be offputting to some, I like the idea that the 50 minutes suggests that this chicken is (hopefully) not preroasted and just reheated.

Well, the chicken meat itself was not dry at all, with even the chicken breast pieces still being relatively moist.  Normally I dread dry chicken breast but this was actually moist such that it made it easier to eat.  With the combination of nicely roasted chicken, and a wood fire rotisserie, this $29 half a roast chicken with a nice salad was great value considering where we were.

Wagyu chuck braised in red wine with gremolata and potato puree - $39

Despite the wagyu on offer mainly being based around the ones cooked in the wood fire grill, this braised wagyu chuck made its way onto the menu.  Unlike the recommended medium rare (or less) steaks, this braised wagyu was cooked pretty much well done.  However, the braised wagyu was lean and meaty and cooked with some spices giving it flavour as a beef rather than a steak dish.

Crispy red emperor fillets with "crazy water" - $45

I had to ask what "crazy water" meant, to which I received the response "it's cooked in salt water rather than fresh water."  Whilst to me this took away the intrigue and potential anticipation of some completely unusual technique, the actual dish didn't disappoint.  The crazy water was a salt water base with tomato and herbs that was light and consequently really complemented the lightly battered fresh fish fillets.  And the fish was unsurprisingly very fresh.  In the light and crispy batter, the taste of the fresh fish seemed to suit the light crazy water so well that the accompanying aioli seemed completely unnecessary and I felt it masked the freshness of the fish.  Not to say the aioli didn't suit the fish as it certainly did, it's just that I personally preferred to enjoy how fresh the fish was with its subtle tastes.

Wagyu bolognese with hand cut fettuccine - $25

A recurring theme at Rockpool Bar & Grill seems to be freshness and quality of ingredients. The hand cut fettuccine was freshly made and hand cut making it in my mouth very special against most other pastas (and forever destroying my thoughts on pre-packaged pasta) I have had. The texture was great, being perfectly al dente and very flavoursome without the sauce.

The wagyu bolognese was meaty and the tomato based sauce was thick and the bolognese tasted chunky and distinct in flavour.  The serving size wasn't visually huge compared to say an Italian cafe, but for me pastas shouldn't be as they get too heavy.  Plus this would make way for entrees and dessert.

Wood fired grilled white rocks veal cutlet - $49

Despite being done more medium/medium well, the veal cutlet was still quite tender - perhaps as this was a good cut of veal.  The veal was served with the usual steak condiments as well as bearnaise sauce.

David Blackmore's full blood wagyu hamburger with bacon, gruyere cheese and zuni pickle - $22 (available at the bar only)

The best burger in town?  This burger started with a brioche bun filled with the wagyu beef patty, bacon, gruyere cheese, red onion, zuni (zucchini?) pickle, and (I think) a salsa.  Placed on the side so you could optionally put them in the burger or eat separately were a couple of slices of seasoned tomatoes and baby cos lettuce.

Lifting the lid off the wagyu hamburger

Despite intentionally having no mayonnaise nor butter, for me this was a great burger.  Every component was full of flavour from the brioche bun through to the fillings.  The wagyu hamburger meat was full of flavour and cooked medium rare (though you have the option to have it cooked to your own liking).  To add more welcome flavour, the red onion was pickled sour and sweet and the zuni pickle also helped lift the burger.  Combined with lean bacon and the gruyere cheese I found every component in the burger worked really well for me, and made this quite a special burger compared to any other burgers I've tasted.  On top of that, there was barely any drip of sauce or any other liquids.  The only (very) minor amount of liquid was from the hamburger patty but even then the burger was never soggy and held together very well.  Nice.

On the side the tomato and crispy cos lettuce further showed how fresh the ingredients are at Rockpool Bar & Grill and I have no doubt I couldn't replicate this burger to the same standard at home.

So what does that say about this burger?  Well, for me it's in a league of its own.

Onion rings - $9

Large, thick rings of red onion were coated in a light and slightly salted batter making this side dish a favourite for everyone on opening night.

Boiled mixed greens with extra virgin olive oil and lemon - $9

The greens dish was the "health conscious" choice for the night.  With broccolini and cabbage, the greens were cooked enough to make them soft whilst still retaining texture and flavour.

Hand cut fat chips - $12

A popular dish with many tables that night, these chips were cut "fat" and cooked enough to get through the entire width.

 Sauteed mixed mushrooms - $25

There were at least a few different types of mushrooms in this mix of mushrooms dish including fresh shiitake mushrooms (yes, that reportedly health benefitting variety).  I found the way they were cooked worked really well, with a decent amount of oil (and maybe some butter?) and garlic amongst other spices, and the mushrooms tasted great for being otherwise simply sauteed.  The mushrooms also hadn't been cooked enough to bleed water making the mushrooms retain a good texture making this an all round good mushroom side dish.

Cauliflower and cheese gratin - $12

I'm sure cauliflower is good for you, and the creamy cheese base isn't that bad?  Well, I don't normally enjoy cauliflower a lot but the creamy cheese base helped it a lot.  Grilled (or maybe put into the wood fire oven?) this side dish was everything you expect from taking cauliflower and cooking it in a nice creamy cheese mixture.  That's if you like your veggies in a creamy cheese sauce.

"Mac and Cheese" - $11 (large)

Mac and cheese, or macaroni and cheese, this side dish was filling in a large sized serve.  The pasta was mixed with a cheese sauce and bacon bits, and topped with more cheese before grilling (or was it put in the wood fire oven?).  The cheese wasn't overdone and the grilling process made this nice and consistent, and nearly a meal in itself.

Charcoal oven roast pumpkin and sweet potato with burnt butter and garlic yoghurt - $12

I enjoyed this side dish.  I like roast pumpkin and sweet potato, and although I have my own recipe for roasting vegetables this dish was a very welcome change.  Not only were the vegetables roasted till they were soft yet still held a nice form and texture, the taste of the burnt butter made the dish all the much better.  The combined flavours of sweet, savoury and butter made every mouthful easy to eat and combining it with the garlic yoghurt gave it an even more creamier flavoured taste (though I would have been quite happy to eat it sans yoghurt).

Lemon curd doughnuts with Vanilla Apple and Ice Cream - $23

These doughnuts started with a fine-sugar coated and lightly crispy outer layer encrusting a thin but airy and light wall of doughnut.  Carefully injected inside each doughnut was an acidic and rich lemon curd - the acidity brought back by sweetness, but nonetheless still packing an acidic citrus taste.

Accompanying these doughnuts was a vanilla flavoured apple that had a further, but not quite so pronounced granny smith apple acidity; as well as vanilla ice cream.

Bar & Grill's cheesecake served with sheep's milk yoghurt sorbet - $20

I haven't had a cheesecake like this before.  The very composed yet easy to slice through base was topped with the cheese mixture which was creamy, consistent, light in texture, well balanced in cheese taste, and very smooth when compared to most other cheesecakes.  Topped with sorbet and surrounded by berries, this cheesecake was rightfully called "Bar & Grill's cheesecake".

Black forest trifle - $20

I read "black forest trifle" and thought this is going to be decadent.  Served in this patterned bowl that only emphasised the presentation of this dish, the trifle was indeed decadent.  The trifle had layers of rich chocolate cake, liqueur cherries, a jam that tasted sour, chocolate mousse, and rich slightly sweet marscapone cheese on the top.  The combination made for a rich and sweet dessert, where the cherries gave it a bit of a kick, and the jam-like layer gave the whole dessert some considered and well matched depth.  Not to mention the delicious marscapone cheese layer.

Fresh strawberry tart - $20

Fresh this was - with a nice buttery and crumbly tart base, light custard layer, and very fresh strawberries.  The tart was topped with what seemed a light chocolate sorbet and surrounded by  crispy strawberry specks.

Cashew and sesame chocolate bark - $8

A petit four, the cashew and sesame binded together with caramel added into this chocolate "bark" to make a crunchy seed and nut chocolate dish.  Best shared with the table.

Caramel popcorns - complimentary

These caramel covered popcorn sweets were light as an after dinner sweet with tea or coffee.

 Pre-meal drinks

It's always nice to have pre-meal drinks... The Bespoke Mule (foreground, $18) contained Rockpool's own ginger beer, whilst the Old Cuban (background, $18) was refreshing and contained a good balance between lime and sugar.

Cappuccino - $4

This cappuccino, using Vittoria coffee beans, was a good strength with hints of bitterness and very smooth creamy milk froth.

Dragonwell tea - $7.50

In summary, I am excited that Perth has its own Rockpool Bar & Grill.  Although it is not Rockpool (the fine dining restaurant) the food is excellent, and the multi million dollar fit out gives the restaurant a classy atmosphere.  In time, I expect that Rockpool Bar & Grill Perth will only improve and become one of my regular favourites.

Points to note: Although this is a "bar and grill" and steak is the feature, there are many meals that don't involve red meat (think seafood, pork, chicken...) including a good selection of vegetarian options that isn't just "mixed vegetables".  The quality of these meals deserve a mention in their own right such that not consuming steak in your meal doesn't make your meal any less special.  On top of that, Neil Perry always ensures that the ingredients are fresh and of good quality with daily deliveries of fresh essentials such as fish and vegetables that pretty much put your local grocer to shame.  Prices for mains start in the twenties and go all the way up - with the caviar peaking around the $600 mark.  The serving sizes for dishes including entrees and sides are also quite large (we over-ordered and didn't finish everything).  There is also a very extensive wine and alcohol list selected from around the world. Also note that the above photos were taken over the course of several meals at Rockpool Bar & Grill Perth.

Go for:  Neil Perry of course - if you go in the first month, you may even get to meet Neil Perry who is here busily working in Rockpool Bar & Grill Perth's kitchen.  Otherwise the food here is up to the Rockpool Bar & Grill standard, and the decor and atmosphere is something worth experiencing.

Rockpool Bar & Grill Perth
Burswood Entertainment Complex
Great Eastern Highway
(08) 6252 1900

Trading Hours
7 days a week - Lunch and Dinner

Rockpool Bar & Grill on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

(A)lure Restaurant and Bar, Burswood

I’m not a gambler.  Honest.  Though heading to Burswood Entertainment Complex there is more than just gambling to be had, and for me often it’s about taking a gamble with a restaurant and what to eat.

Walking through the Burswood complex, and making sure you make the right turns, you get to (A)lure Restaurant and Bar - one of Burswood's fine dining restaurants.  The interior is warm and modern, though the hard surfaces don't help much for reducing ambient noise.  The service is friendly, though on a busy night we felt that it was unfortunately not very attentive.

The menu shows a decent selection of dishes for a fine dining restaurant, having oysters, red and white meat as well as seafood options, but not so friendly for the vegetarian or vegan.  The prices also reflect the type of dining with prices of mains generally in the forties.  Wine-wise, the largely Australian selection of wines by the glass, bottle, and even half-bottle should cater for most tastes.

Crisp pork belly - $41

This pork belly was served with bubble and squeak, apple marjoram, and seared scallops.

Upon being served this dish, despite the excitement that pork belly can bring me, my first impression of this dish was unfortunately not a good one.  To me “crisp” pork belly in means the skin should be crackling or at least crunchy, but on first examination of the pork belly I thought this would have to be the most unique “crisp” pork belly I have had or “crisp” should have been omitted.  So to bury the nail in the coffin so to speak, I made my way straight to the alleged “crisp” part of the pork belly.  Alas, it was indeed soggy.

Apart from my pork belly not being “crisp”, the pork meat was also moist (at this point I am wondering if the pork belly was steamed), but the rest of the meal including the scallops and bubble and squeak was ok.  Probably the best part was in fact the scallops that were seared nicely.  However, maybe I’m being unduly negative due to my earlier disappointment.

Ferguson Valley chicken - $40

This chicken breast dish was made with garlic, porcini puree cream, spinach, and ricotta dumplings.

The chicken was a little dry, both in looks and taste, but otherwise the meal had a good overall taste helped a bit by the sauce.  I guess chicken breast is often dry though, which is why I usually prefer it with sauce unless the chef knows how to cook it right to keep it moist.

Roasted red emperor - $41

The red emperor was served with Margaret River venison chorizo, risotto, espelette pepper aïoli, and red pimento crust

I didn't get to try this dish out myself, however I was told that it was pretty good.

Potato gratin dauphinoise - $8

This potato gratin dauphinoise was (A)lure’s own layered potato and cream base that had a golden roasted top.

Grilled asparagus, garlic and parsley butter - $8

The asparagus was nicely cooked and the garlic and parsley butter taste was not prominent.

In summary, (A)lure provides a fine dining experience in the Burswood Casino complex.  However, I feel like the meal I had this round didn’t live up to the standard of my previous visit.  For now, I'm excited that Rockpool is opening very soon.

Points to note: Not very vegetarian/vegan friendly.

Go for: Fine dining at Burswood.

Burswood Entertainment Complex
Great Eastern Highway
(08) 9362 7551

Trading Hours
7 days a week – Lunch: 12pm to 3pm; Dinner: 6pm until late

(A)LURE Restaurant & Bar on Urbanspoon