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Saturday, January 14, 2017

Bites: the Il Capo @ Lalla Rookh Bar & Eating House, Perth.

December babies are a cheat when it comes to their age.  And I’m one of them.  I turned 28 in 2016 but I know that for the rest of 2017, I will still be telling people that I am 28 :P!  My birthday venue was at Lalla Rookh and if you are looking for a place for drinks with great food, look no further. Famed for its good food in the CBD, I think it can now add “service” to its title as the waitress who served us that night did a stellar job.  

That we ordered the Il Capo or Chef’s Menu, which gives diners a chance to taste the dishes that makes Lalla Rookh the establishment it is today.

We had an array of dishes spanning 6 courses long.  First up were three credible starters:

The tartare was first up.  Super stylish, tasty and the textures on the plate was sensational. Crisps topped with tartare that was so finely balanced was amazing. They also had this cheesy sauce that the dish sat on that made the whole thing even better!

The quail was a table favourite! Shame the meat did not fall off the bone as easily as I had expected it to!  Other than that, it was perfect.

The burrata paired with a grilled stone fruit salad.  I cannot remember what it was now but to me this was a decadent appetiser!  A little rich for those who are not into cheeses but I liked it!  The creaminess of the burrata on point.  Pair it with the grilled fruit salsa for added flavour bomb.

After the appetisers, a dish of pasta ensued.  The pasta tossed in braised tender beef was super hearty but for those who prefer tomato based pasta, this felt a little too heavy!  But who have time to worry about that when the mains came almost immediately after.

Alright guys I love my pork.  So when this bad boy hit the table with some grilled leeks, I was salivating.  Unfortunately the looks did not match my expectations with the meat let down by the mediocre crackling which was more chewy than crunchy!!  This is normally the best part of a classic pork roast! Perhaps they should have crisped it up separately while resting the meat? The good part?  Pork was still super tender and the veges were caramelised sensationally!

To finish was a dessert that was pretty much any Nutella fan’s dream come true.  It was ice cream, berries, crushed nuts and generous amounts of Nutella! All I can is that I loved it.  Its rare that I enjoy something so sweet but this time I did.  The berries, the nuts, the Nutella and the ice cream all did its job in keeping us eating it despite being filled to the brim.  Lalla Rookh was really enjoyable that evening.  Paired with the service, impeccable.  Food wise, the Il Capo was good though I reckon due to several seafood allergies around the table, they did not bring out the staples like Lalla Rookh's popular grilled squid and crab pasta.  Definitely one of the things I wanted to try!  One thing for sure, is that I will be coming back to give those a try :P!

Lalla Rookh Bar & Eating House Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Monday, January 9, 2017

Bites: Classic Thai Dining with a Modern Touch @ Itsara, Nedlands.

We finally got our ex-colleague Win out to eat with us.  This time, at Itsara in Nedlands.   The bloke who previously dined with me at Nahm Thai reunites for a whole new level of Thai dining!  His reluctance to join us  is understandable as he was not keen on being a victim of high spec Thai dining.  At Itsara, diners a choice of indoor sitting or outdoor sitting in the garden.  Typically, I would not like to sit outdoors in summer because it is stinking hot!  Fortunately, both choices of sitting are air-conditioned!  That evening we were given the option of the group dining menu or the ala carte. We opted for the set menu as it guarantees the complete Itsara experience for the table.  

After ordering some drinks to start, a host of appetisers made their appearance.  The betel leaf wrap and chive dumpling on a spoon.

While the dumpling was pretty decent, I enjoyed the Betel Leaf Wrap better.  Filled with prawns, roasted desiccated coconut, and Thai spices, it was super refreshing.  

The next dish I believe is called the Fleeing Fish.  Catchy as is, the flavours of this dish send me on another roller coaster ride.  On first bite you get the saltiness of the fried fish.  As you chew, the freshness of the mangoes and acidity of the lemon juice all of which mellowed nicely with the sweet sauce made for a perfect appetiser! 

Crispy fish of the day with fresh mango, lemon grass, kaffir lime, ginger, lime zest and cashew nuts tossed with complex homemade sweet and tangy chilli dressing.

Initial impressions of the duck were very positive with its tender flesh and perfectly cooked outer bit means the fat was perfectly rendered. This gave each bite a hint of smokiness.  Then you have the “full-flavoured” pineapple dressing which was nice, though I would question the full-flavoured portion of it ha ha.  Another dish that despite being a meat dish was extremely refreshing!

Pretty Duck; Char-grilled marinated duck with fresh green mango, shallot, cashew nut and homemade full-flavoured pineapple sweet chilli dressing.

Believe it or not, we were already feeling pretty full at this stage and the mains were not even out!  But as the kind host started bring rice out, we knew it was time for the mains. 

Green Curry w/ Chargrilled Chicken.

Itsara Island; Bite sized pieces of barramundi drizzled with caramelised tamarind lime and fish sauce on a bed of crispy Thai herbs

Besides the 2 mains above, we also had a delicious prawn dish and the Itsara Mignion Curry which tasted similar to a Massaman. Each dish were worthy of praise without doubt.  The Mignion Curry was a pairing between tender beef and a rich curry sauce while the chicken was perfectly grilled on the outside with a fragrant green curry paste.  Also, who does not like crispy fish with a tangy dipping sauce?!  The best part of it all?  Fresh plump prawns cooked spot on, and the sauce was super good.  Heaps of chilli and garlic! Not quite sure what sauce was used but I could not stop putting spoonfuls of it on my rice.  Very nicely done.

Feeling very full, we decided to skip dessert and go to Koko Black for dessert.  So how did my friends and I feel about Itsara that night?   While the upscale Thai food at Itsara was every bit enjoyable, I have to question the vibe I get.  My friend who’s part Thai thought the food’s sugar level was a notch too high while the rest thought Nahm Thai ranked better.  Did it?  I really wondered because I felt Itsara had better balance on the tasting plate by alternating the curries, and the palm sugary sauced dishes. Presentation the food at Nahm Thai made a much better statement though!   Unfortunately its closed now!  Putting comparisons aside, there is a good reason why eating Thai food always has a special place in my earth.  The service of is a notch above the rest.  Then comes its flavours, I do not think there is any cuisine in this world better at balancing its flavours than Thai food.  It is the pinnacle of multi-flavoured balancing!!

Itsara Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Bites: Picturesque Vineyard Dining @ Millbrook Winery, Jarrahdale.

WA is filled with quality vineyards but little did I know that hidden amongst the plains South East of Perth is a boutique winery called Millbrook Winery.  If the wineries in Swan Valley have become a weekend norm, then a trip to Millbrook Winery might just do the trick!  Only problem? It located in Jarrahdale which is a lot further if you live near the city. So was the 1 hour drive worth it?

The drive to Jarrahdale was a little far but the views were pleasant once I got off the freeway.  Just mile and miles of pleasant greenery and rolls of hay!

The vineyard?  Even better.  The vineyard was simply spectacular with its restaurant positioned by the lake surrounded by the rolling hills!  But enough about how nice this place was, time to get on to the food!  That afternoon we had the set menu as we had a large group of 10.   For $79, it was quite a lot that we got. 

To get us started, we were served some crusty bread, and liver pate.

Bread felt really ordinary, but honest and humbly good.  Not spectacular but still pleasant to taste.

The luxury of having Pate is not something that site serves.  While my friends were apprehensive about the richness of the dish, I enjoyed every bit of it.  Smeared on the little crostini and topped with the perfectly caramelised onions, it was heaven on taste! Delicious!!

Following that, we were served a trio of appetisers to share:

They were pretty decent! We had the fish wrapped in grape leaf, chickpea hash and duck rillettes! 

Over all, the appetisers were nice! But I struggled with the fish a little as it was a little fishy for my liking.  On the other hand, the rillettes were pretty yums but I found it a waste of the duck flesh because they were not moist and juicy but a little dry! So, the surprising favourite on the table that day was the chickpea hash!  One friend even commented jokingly that it was like “Vegetarian luncheon meat!”.  True enough I reckon.  Put some of the cheese on top and oh my! Yummy!

We could choose our mains and enough said we ordered pretty much everything on the menu!  This was Jim's Fish of the day from Exmouth with smashed peas.

Sauerkraut, pork, apple, rejected potatoes.  

A cheesy Risotto!

Lamb chop with white anchovies and bean salad.

Honestly?  I did not get to taste everything.  In fact, I was so busy talking that afternoon that I did not even get a photo of my dish haha.  In saying that, the general feel about the dishes that afternoon ranged anywhere from average to good.  Mine was the Vegan Gnocchi (not pictured) and it was decent.  But I reckon Mason & Bird does it better :P.  I tried some of the pork and hey it was pretty good!  A very simple and humble dish that was not extravagant but simple and enjoyable. With tender pork, crispy crackling and perfectly cooked potatoes what more could you ask for right?

Moving on to the desserts, we had a choice of three dessert of which two I had pictures for:

The nut strudel with white chocolate & ginger ice cream:

This was surprisingly good! I found the strudel a little sweet on its own but when paired with the ginger ice cream, there was a surprising chemistry between the nutty strudel, lightly pungent ginger and the cool ice cream!

Mascarpone parfait, berries, crostoli.

Berries and ice cream.  What could go wrong right?  Generally, the chances of going wrong is pretty rare so it was safe to say that I was not disappointed in anyway.  My complements was how the Mascarpone had this slight cheesiness but it did not overpower the purpose of the dish as a dessert.  Instead, it was this lingering cheesiness that balances nicely with the acidity of the berries and sugar content on the plate.  But could it have been better? I reckon it could.  First things first, serving temperature.  Something as delicate as the mascarpone parfait could have been served a little more elegantly at a better temperature where it was on the brink of melting rather than frozen cold.   Who do I reckon did it better?  Well, Relae of Copenhagen!  Maybe its time for me to get bags packed and start travelling hey?!

Millbrook Vineyard played host to an enjoyable afternoon with some good friends.  The could not be a cooler spot to have lunch than Millbrook Vineyard.  The vineyards food is over all, above average compared tot he usual fare. But if you come here looking for molecular degustation, this might not be the right place.  Instead, look for good, humble, and honest cooking with wines and views to match.  Would I do another 1 hour drive?  Perhaps I would!

Millbrook Winery Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato