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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Bites: Spring Time Decadence @ Harvest Espresso, Victoria Park

The last time I dined at Harvest Espresso, I felt happy but not quite the rockstar feeling I got from their menu in the past.  Coincidentally, Heston Blumenthal the world’s most popular gastronomy celebrity has priced his Fat Duck degustation at Crown Melbourne at a jaw dropping $525.  This had me thinking of Harvest Espresso’s Spring Menu just released last week and I soon realised that you can feel awesome for some really small dollars.

Just look at this beauty.

It did not take long for XL to decide what she wanted.  Spending the last few months in Melbourne did not lure her away from the temptation of re-visiting her favourite brunch place in Perth while she was in town last week.  The mushrooms were her choice.
Perfectly sautéed Mushrooms ($19.50) served with two slices of rye arrived looking exceptional.  Each mouthful had the juicy mushrooms bursting in flavour with the a mild sweetness from the tarragon cream.  Absolutely stunning.  Just what Spring needed.  

I decided to call the melt-in-your-mouth Beef Tongue ($21.50) served atop a creamy Polenta cake, all of which came dressed to impress.
It looked so damn refined sitting there.  I will be honest. I get bored when something is too simple and when its complicated like that I really enjoy it although I do not understand what I am eating.  But was I buggered?   Hell no.  The textures from the crumbs to the creamy polenta with the jus of the beef tongue, it all simply worked.

At the end of the meal, I feel the same like I would have felt after a degustation.  Filled to the bream, and  extremely satisfied.  This time around, with my pockets still full.  Harvest Espresso’s spring menu certainly adds colour to Spring with their great flavours and sophisticated pairing.  It is probably close to 2 or perhaps 3 years now since Harvest Espresso first started.  No signs of complacency.  Truly a great brunch spot!

Harvest Espresso on Urbanspoon

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Bites: My Malaysian Feast @ PappaRich, Northbridge

When I was younger, mom and dad got me most of the thing I wanted as a kid. I had the Donkey Kong on my N64, Sonic to go with the Sega MegaDrive and all the PlayStation games I wanted. In exchange for good results of course which involves hours of text book grinding.  This was what an invitation to PappaRich, Northbridge felt like after being hard at work for a long time, and by long, I mean really long.  Walking into PappaRich, I witnessed familiar sights that quickly got my senses excited.  Finger pulling roti action followed by curry dipping.  Damn it was good.

Both my sister and I have not gone back to Malaysia for over a year now but seeing the many varieties listed on the menu did not send us into a limbo because we already knew what we missed from home. In this instance, I was definitely choosing things I wanted rather than the poor marketing Malaysia does in making the world think we only drink Teh Tarik and eat Roti.
For our drinks I called the Milo Dinosaur while my sister had the Soy Bean milk with Cincau.  Malaysia makes some of the best Iced Milo and this was no different.  My drink definitely brings back all the adolescent memories where Iced Milo was a staple at the breakfast table or as a beverage before bed.  Needless to say it was delicious.  The Iced Milo was richer than usual which meant calorie alert but who can resist drinking this with the little bits of biteable Milo Chunks!  Sister's drink was also yummy with PappaRich blending the Soy Bean milk with ice giving it a slushy style treatment.

First up were the chicken satay, our first appetizer.
The lure of this chicken pieces marinated in lemon grass, and Turmeric is easily a global phenomenon.  I doubt  there is any other food on a stick that drives a crowd as crazy as satay in Australia.  The satay at PappaRich was a very close imitation of the product back home.  Perhaps even better then some stalls in Malaysia.  The only criticism was not in its taste but rather, its texture.  In Malaysia, you get layers of lean meat and skin making the whole eating experience juicy and tender with little juicy explosion of  seasoned lard.  PappaRich makes it a lot leaner which, as a healthier alternative was a bloody tasty treat.  While eating satay I usually take turns between cucumber chunks and onion slices before dunking it into the yummy peanut sauce.  Did it the way I do back home.  Yums!

Whatever healthy benefits I got from the former was all lost when I decided to call this cheeky little creation PappaRich had.  Deep fried chicken skin, the second appetizer.
What is there to say here?  So damn good.  Crispy, and salty with a mild peppery note.  One little warning, it takes two person a lot of skill and capacity to finish one serve!  My sister and I barely finished half.  Also, this is something to be eaten quickly as starts becoming chewy once cold!  So grab a couple more friends to come and this would be an absolute table favourite.

Sister's dinner that night was Pappa's Special Briyani.
There is a lot to take in when you see the plate arrive.  In the middle, you have the fragrant rice so carefully prepared with cardamon, cloves and other herbs.  Meanwhile, the side sports some perfectly grilled egg plants, delicious chicken and sambal prawns.  Sister was extremely satisfied with the egg plants and grilled chicken which she happily finished.  But when it came to the prawns she asked me to "try".  An evil trick to have me finish things she does not like.  So where did it go wrong?  Closing my eyes and re-winding back to my last awesome Sambal Prawn.  I remember how all the Mak Cik preparing this at the stalls in Malaysia never lacked the essential Malaysian ingredients which enhances the flavour of the prawn.  At PappaRich, perhaps all it needed was more tamarind and maybe more shrimp paste/belachan to give the sambal coating a rich and more flavourful consistency.  Was this a big disappointment to the dish as a whole?  Definitely not.  In fact, most would probably just ignore it altogether.

My main was the Nasi Lemak, a staple food of mine back in Malaysia.
The most important component of this dish lies in the name itself, "Nasi Lemak".  Rich and fragrant, the rice which is cooked in coconut milk has to be prepared to perfection to pass my test.  The rice test?  Each grain is whole, firm and fluffy. At PappaRich, the rice was prepared with enough respect to be liked.  The sambal was good. It felt more Malay rather than Indian or Chinese.  But then again, every sambal in Malaysia is different up to a level where it is not based on district or region but rather the chef itself.   Curry chicken was yummy but I was hoping for maybe a piece or two of potato with it because curry chicken with potato is yummy!  The half an egg was ok, but I was hoping to get maybe two halves because egg and Nasi Lemak are like two peas in a pod.  An awesome pairing that feels incomplete without each other.

To end the night we ordered a dessert which was something totally random which we just hmmm felt like it?  Banana fritters with ice cream.   The fritters were a little unripe for my sister's liking but I thought that it was OK.  As the Vanilla Ice Cream was out of stock, we opted for the premium chocolate for an extra dollar.  I have to say, it was every bit worth that extra dollar especially when you see hints of gooey chocolate fudge sitting between the creamy ice cream.

My cravings for proper Asian Malaysian food has been satisfied.  PappaRich is a quality addition to Northbridge replacing an EXTREMELY hideous Vietnamese place called Saigon.  Its quality was pretty damn close to home and I really hope it stays the same because everything we ordered was really quite nice.  Is this home?  Perhaps not, but considering I am thousand of miles away from home, I cannot complain for sure. Visit any day to see a snaking queue goes on to say a lot about PappaRich in Northbridge.  Expectations is one, and the other is the number of people who love Malaysian food.   Compared to PappaRich in Malaysia, the fit out in PappaRich Northbridge is a class above the rest and the ambience was really good although the noise is deplorable.  Definitely a new hangout place should they decide to open till late on Fridays and Saturdays! I would be there for supper at 1am :)!
Also, if it is true, a little bird has told me that another branch will be opening in Carousel Mall in Cannington.  True or False?   Only time will tell.  Thanks for the invite PappaRich Northbridge.

Papparich Northbridge on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Bites: Bento Feast @ JBento, Victoria Park

Its my 4th time back in Perth only to be greeted by gloomy clouds and torrential rain.  Nevertheless, this was a good opportunity for me to be at home and get updated on the eateries in town which I have yet to dine at.  Naturally, the eateries within the vicinity of my area was my first search which landed me at part-time/pop-up eatery called Jbento. Operating 5 days a week, Monday to Friday from 11.30-2.30pm, Jbento serves Japanese/Korean inspired lunch boxes. Scanning the menu from top to toe, Jbento offers a whole array of Japanese delights like the all time favourites the Kaarage, Teriyaki, and Tempura with some even more premium traditional Japanese food like the simply grilled mackerel and miso butter steak.  If you are a big fan of the Korean culture, be delighted to see the likes Bulgogi and its spicy pork rendition the Jaeyuk Bokkum on the menu.
For the penny-wise, JBento happily takes the pinch of the pocket by catering free tea, so rock up the counter, pay for your food and start mixing your very own drink of macha.  Have it strong or subtle, I was happy that it was a premium free unlike Taka’s infamous brown tea which was back then, a varsity staple.
After ordering, the food does not take long to come and we got ours after about 5-10 minutes.  Initial impressions were positive.  I found that the dishes might sound very typical or simple if you would like, but came out with enough swag to impress.  It felt complete.  A serve of meat, three simple salads; one green, a marinate seaweed and a potato salad with two mounds of rice shaped and topped with rice seasoning.  Packed in a neat bento box, it was a beauty.

YH’s choice, the Spicy Pork Bulgogi or Jaeyuk Bokkum ($10.90) was first out.  Thin slices of pork coated in a sticky sauce that is sweet, spicy and salty had Korea written all over it with a personal touch of the chefs at JBento.  Least to say, I was happy.  The Bento Boxes at JBento also has three little salads on the side to cool the heat down while keeping the meal balanced. These together with the customary Bento shaped rice made this very nicely composed meal.
My choice of meal at JBento was the Miso Butter Steak Bento Box ($14.90).  While more pricey that its Teriyaki and Kaarage counterpart, the Miso Butter was a good enough reason for this order.
Expect tender pieces of chunky steak cooked to medium and topped by a knob of tantalising Miso butter.  Just watching it melt over the steak was sensational.  The whiff of butter through the dish made the end felt a little oily but the taste of Miso Butter was so rich and yummy.  I really enjoyed this.

Ever since Fuji closed in Victoria Park 4 years ago, I spend much time looking up and down the Albany Highway strip for a good Japanese only to drive away empty handed or go home disappointed.  I daresay that the quality Jbento bring to the table is superb despite only eating here once.  Do not get me wrong, nothing here reinvents the old but a touch of class in its presentation while acing the basic fundamentals make this a great quick bite.  In addition to that, the Bento Boxes are well priced and moderate in size but high in satisfaction.  Definitely a place that will join my list of places for a quick bite within the precinct.  Great stuff!

JBento on Urbanspoon