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Friday, October 3, 2014

Bites: A Meal at the Vineyard @ Lamont's , Swan Valley

After a hectic week involving a car service, catching up with the ex-colleagues, my mentor and just getting through the chores around the house, I was in Swan Valley for a day trip.  More importantly, I discovered a whole new place of happiness in the Valley.  It is the famous Lamont’s Vineyard.  While the whole menu looked all very decadent, I was a little cautious after my last attempt to fine dine at Lamont’s Bishop went pear-shaped leaving a huge hole in my pocket.  Needless to say, a few queries at the counter to ask about the waiter's favourite dishes as well as her other recommendations soon had me decide on the dishes I was going to order.

The first to arrive was the crispy pork belly, cauliflower puree, and caramelised onions.
The puree was silky smooth and the pork was the crispiest.  Salad at the top was refreshing, and the onions were caramelised till sticky-sweet.  While most techniques were aced without question, it was the simplest detail that was left out.  Salt.  Spices.  I felt that the pork could do with more salt-marinade as it was a little bit bland and did not standout from the lot.  Still, it was a decent eat.

Deep fried prawns, grated coconut, and avocado soba was the next dish.  Splendid.  This was my dish of the day without question.  Prawn so amazing you thought you were at the seaside and soba so well modernised it felt just right.  Drizzling the lemon over the soba, you are left with a silky smooth soba with a creamy avocado coating.  This normally gets a little cloying but when you have the diced bits of onions and coriander playing with your senses where it was a little bit pungent, a little bit herbed and it all felt very interesting especially towards the end with a citrusy note from the lime juice.  I truly enjoyed it.  Despite being deep fried and having bits of creamy avocado, I did not feel overwhelmed at any one point!

Steak, croquette, caramelised root vegetables and salad, with a side of chips with truffle oil.  While it was hard to fault with the steak dish, it more -standard than special.  Still, there was nothing wrong.  The steak was well-cooked, croquettes crisp with a fluffy inside and over all just very nice.  But when you have a side of chips cooked so bloody amazing, you soon disregard everything else.  The chips at Lamont’s Vineyard soon became a highlight.  Yobi who was with me commented that why do most places do chips so bad.  This is amazing he says!  True enough, I was thoroughly impressed by the humble potato.  If you ever come to Lamont’s Vineyard, this is definitely worth ordering.  Even if you are here just for the drinks!

To end was a caramel tart that came highly recommended by the waitress. On the first bite, you might feel like you have had enough because it was so very rich but there always seemed to be a taste that had me come back.  The gooey texture topped with some crunchy nuts with its crumbly base made the tart a very yummy.  In the end, it was never quite enough to share for three. 

But having called too many dishes to share earlier means I was left to bring the macaron’s back home.  These were made by the famous Jean Pierre Sancho Patisserie.  Crunchy top with a chewy centre, there was nothing much too praise for a person who is not a fan of sugar.  Admittedly though, the macarons were very visually impressive.

Comparing the Vineyard to the fine dining establishment at Lamont’s Bishop, I really adored the former more.  Lamont’s Vineyard on a Saturday afternoon is a lovely place.  It was just so relaxed.   Food is simple, honest and not overly complicated.  The environment was relaxed and it all felt very comfortable.  Being with my old buddy and his girlfriend also meant that it was time spent well.  A lovely end to a long week I have to say :)!

Lamont's Swan Valley on Urbanspoon

Monday, September 29, 2014

Bites: Plain Bread @ Bread In Common, Fremantle

Bread In Common on Pakenham Street is a name I often hear where iconic dining is concerned in Fremantle along with the likes of Cicerello’s and Little Creatures bar.  It actually surprises me to hear that this fairly new eatery had already achieved a reputable status in Fremantle over a short period. Just before Yobi and his girlfriend headed to Cicerello’s I decided that we should all have some light brunch here to understand what the hype was.  

Walking in, I liked the interior which was quite simple but carried a lot of substance.  I noticed how well the wood on wood combination and the light bulbs presented in a minimalistic cable X bulb combination worked nicely together!


To start, we could go no further than the homemade bread with two dips.  One was a sausage dip while the other was a zucchini sesame one.   I had also asked the other bread staples which was butter and olive oil.  It was an all out affair on this one.
The bread here have all the perks of a homemade bread but unfortunately that was where it all ended.  It was simply nothing outstanding and felt all too plain.  The centre of the bread was not as expected.  But more disappointingly were the dips which were really quite mediocre.  Between the two, the zucchini one was more outstanding than the other sausage one.  Taste wise, I would not be such a hard critique but considering the price we paid for what I perceive as “1 large table spoon” of each, it was really quite disappointing.  I think Brika does a better deal with their dip when you have size X price X taste considered in the equation.

Our shared meal was a poached salmon with cauliflower, goji berries and some herbs scattered around the top.  While the salmon was poached to perfection, everything else in this dish could not be anymore boring than white paper.  The salmon carried little seasoning which was good to enjoy the delicate protein, but when it came to remainder of the plate, that cauliflower finely diced to act as a staple carbohydrate was absolutely terrible.  In fact, a little too raw for my liking.  I preference would be to have it blanched longer to make it soft and fluffy.  Basic seasoning of salt and pepper would have been much appreciated.

But hey, it was not the end of the world.  The duck fat roasted potatoes was probably the second best dish I have had this weekend.  It was bloody good.  Loved the bits of caramelised garlic that came with the potato.  Bloody sweet.  Homemade ketchup was a nice touch that did not carry the same artificial sweetness the bottled ones do.  Over all, this had to be my biggest like walking away from this place ;0!

The service here was OK but hardly commendable.  On that not so busy Saturday, we asked two different waiters thrice for a refill of bread to come with our non-existent butter and olive oil with a constant reminder that an order had already been placed before.  It took them a long time only to appear with two orders of bread which we could not finish.  With more than 80% approval and 800 odd likes, I was expecting a whole lot more from Bread In Common.  I do not believe that I am asking for  a lot.  Simple plating  with a balance between substance and value would definitely have sufficed.  Yay or Nay?  Definitely nay for me.

Bread In Common on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Bites: A Malaysian Brunch @ the Sarapan, Victoria Park.

My week home was a very Asian one.  Starting with a yummy lunch at JBento, I was then invited to try out PappaRich, Northbridge and on Sunday, I ended up at Sarapan in Victoria Park with my ex-colleagues.  This was my second time here at 1 Leonard Street, Victoria Park and this training ground is easily the Silicon Valley for upcoming food entrepreneurs.  This pop up named Sarapan which translates to breakfast in Malay, operates every Saturday and Sunday from 7.30am until 12pm for late brunch.  Wake up early and step in to the basic staples a Mamak place in Malaysia would have like Roti, Nasi Lemak, Soft Boiled Eggs and toast.

The front counter was filled with all the little Malaysian snacks from biscuits to chocolate but I ultimately  settled for the one I liked best, the “Kuih”.
Served as a duo of Kuih Lapis and Kuih Talam, I was happy to see them here.  A rare treat down under if you ask me.  More importantly, the Kuih Lapis had all the lovely colours and the richness of the coconut milk.  Meanwhile, the Kuih Talam had the fragrant Pandan flavour  it should always have. Taste wise, it ticked all the boxes but felt firmer than what I would have back home.  Eating this brought back memories of my childhood where I would normally peel our layer by layer :)!  Unfortunately, it did not happen here as I was unable to peel either of the Kuih out layer by layer as I would back home.  Perhaps it is time to grow up lol.

After having the Milo Dinosaur at PappaRich, I decided to have something else.  This time a warm Teh Tarik for breakfast.  Just what I needed on a cool Sunday morning.
A little short on the bubbly froth but down right delicious in flavour.  At times, it lacked the potency of the red tea like the ones I usually have in Malaysia but being so far away, it was easily something I could live without.

My brunch here was a serve of pipping hot Nasi Lemak.  The good news is, the Nasi Lemak at Sarapan came out looking like a champion.  A massive drum stick marinated in their special spices and deep fried sat alongside the hardboiled egg, some crisp anchovy-peanut combination, sambal and a mound of rice.  

This $11.50 Nasi Lemak might not look like much from the photos.  But believe me, it really fills.  Comparing the various Nasi Lemak I have had in town, the one at Sarapan aces its rice in every category.  Fragrance, cooking, and  taste.  Comparing the rice at Sarapan and PappaRich, the former wins hands down with each grain not only full in shape, but perfect in moisture.  On the other hand, the one at PappaRich was respectable but a little damp for my liking.  Moving on, the sambal at Sarapan in Victoria Park was full on Malay with pieces of anchovy in the sweetish chill concoction and more importantly, the pairing as a whole was very authentic.  I as a Nasi Lemak snob could not ask for more. Satisfied!

Last shared dish was a serve of Roti Telur (Egg) and plain Roti.  I liked the way the Roti came out with all the authentic sauces I would usually get in Malaysia.  A sauce of curry chicken and dhal served with a spoon of sambal.  However, I would not mind a last bit of "slap and slam" treatment the locals usually give the Roti back home as it normally crisps up the Roti.

Happy?  Definitely.  This little pop up gets my vote for several things including a fuss free - queue-less meal with a quality that is hard to beat.  Operating in this little indie training ground also meant that the dishes came out feeling more home cooked than its other commercialised kitchens.  While I am less strict when visiting places like this, Sarapan is a sound contestant for unique brunches in town.  Some of you might question my judgement here ahahaha especially with the Nasi Lemak.  But Nasi Lemak in Malaysia is not a dish dominated by a single race back home, rather, it is something perfected by every chef who loves the dish in a different way.  With the countless rendition of this classic staple, one Nasi Lemak can differ significantly from another but have equally amount of fans.  Such is the story of this humble rice dish.  More importantly, Sarapan like JBento might be the starting of something big in town.  Victoria Park, you have done it again ;)!

Sarapan on Urbanspoon