Mama Tran – Claremont – Saturday 2 January 2016 – Dinner

IMG_4547There is a significant amount that has changed about the now Claremont Quarter since my childhood going to Big W, and my uni days going to The Conti/Red Rock/The Claremont, and of course, Club Bay View. There is certainly a different atmosphere about the whole Bay View Terrace strip which is accentuated over the Christmas break.

One thing I cannot remember having access to in those earlier days was a cheap (but tasty) option for a sit down meal. And no, Hungry Jacks does not count. Tonight we get to try one of the branches of Mama Tran, which is a Vietnamese hawker cafe.
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There is nothing unusual or different about Mama Tran. It has the rice paper roll, bahn mi and pho options you would expect amongst a smattering of other dishes incorporating one of either rice or noodles. It is clean and tidy and there is a decent crowd eating for this time of year.

Catherine and I try the prawn rice paper rolls and a pho each; Catherine with her usual choice of chicken and me with the rare beef option. Everything is good with that freshness that you expect from Vietnamese food. The serves are generous and the beef broth I’ve tried has a good amount of flavour, along with rice noodles that have a nice firm texture. Really, for the price it is a very good feed.

This style of Vietnamese is one of the biggest trends in recent times with dozens of restaurants opening up across Australia. It is a trend I’m pleased with as the competition, both within the theme, and with similarly priced options, is only going to make everyday dining better for the consumer. Bring it on Mama Tran!

Mama Tran Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Nunzio’s – Fremantle – Sunday 3 January 2016 – Dinner

Tagliatelle, porcini mushrooms, sundried tomatoes

Tagliatelle, porcini mushrooms, sundried tomatoes

Italian dining in Fremantle. How Fremantle is not nicknamed Little Italy I’m not sure, but the “Cappuccino Strip” on South Terrace is testament to how closely this area is related to Italian dining and culture.

At times it has been more cheap and cheerful, than anything else, but across Australia diners tastes and preferences have been changing over the years, and this extends here. Think places like Little Creatures that took up the challenge and won by incorporating their ideas in a manner consistent with the breezy Freo culture. Bread In Common is another good example of the growth and I’m told The Mantle complex is another good addition.

Skewed grilled prawns and squid

Skewered grilled prawns and squid

One thing I have always been skeptical of is the Italian restaurants in Freo and whether they are resting on their laurels. When you naturally compare to my new home (of seven years) in Melbourne, you have no choice but to be skeptical because the pastas are homemade, and cheaper, and better quality pizzas are available in most suburbs. However, an excellent meal at Nunzio’s in the old Essex shows that things are changing.

Take the tagliatelle and spaghettoni that Catherine and I tried respectively. Both homemade, both served perfectly al dente (mine a bit firmer due to the thicker nature of my pasta), and both served with simple, but delicious accompanying sauces. On the spaghettoni I had a lamb ragu, cooked for a good amount of time and quite deep in flavour. Catherine had porcini mushrooms that were glorious, along with sundried tomatoes, which is a bit old school, but worked.

Spaghettoni, lamb ragu

Spaghettoni, lamb ragu

Before this we had shared a starter of skewered prawn and squid, which featured fresh lightly cooked and crumbed seafood. They were good, but the side salad on the plate was a little awkward (and yes, quite old fashioned).

Honey cake

Honey cake

Dessert is ordered from a selection on the trolley. While there is a theme to the traditional, quite old fashioned dining experience, there are aspects from that time that are charming and enticing. The dessert trolley epitomises the charming side. Knowing we are eating Catherine’s Mum’s tiramisu in a couple nights, we had liberty to order outside of the favourites and went with the honey cake, and the apricot jam tart. The honey cake is simply outstanding, and the tart was excellent though overshadowed by the cake.

Apricot jam tart

Apricot jam tart

Another aspect in this heritage restaurant, converted from a house that has stood for over a century, was the friendly and well organised floor staff. It would be easy for such a beautiful white walled, linen clad restaurant to fall into a certain stuffiness, but the staff were down to earth, eager, and importantly, well versed in the menu.

At one stage one of the waitstaff mentioned to a table that they were the third table from Yorkshire he had served that week. The tourist element must be one of the reasons for the wine list being tailored to no one in particular, yet very well priced, and with just enough by the glass to get by.

Reflecting on a great meal, walking away from Nunzio’s on a balmy Perth evening, there isn’t a great deal I would change about our experience. A place where you can dine slightly off the busy strip, and continue to go back to without hesitation.

Nunzio's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Must Wine Bar – Highgate – Thursday 31 December 2015 – Dinner

Twice baked Blue Manna crab soufflé, crab bisque sauce, soft herbs

Twice baked Blue Manna crab soufflé, crab bisque sauce, soft herbs

New Year’s Eve may be just another night, but it is one of the few dates in the year where you generally remember what you did, even if only for the past few years. It is an excuse to celebrate and it is an excuse to indulge.

After particularly impressive pre-drinks across the street at The Queens, we ventured the short distance to Must Wine Bar to see what was about to be served in the lead up to 2016. We were in good spirits from a combination of the ten dollar prohibition cocktails on offer, and the enthusiastic performance of the staff, all dressed in prohibition theme, and genuinely enjoying their night, albeit at work.

Starters included Gin cured salmon fillet, cucumber remoulade; and oyster natural with pickled carrot salad

Starters included Gin cured salmon fillet, cucumber remoulade; and oyster natural with pickled carrot salad

While we are on a high, over the road at Must it is a different story with the staff. It seems they’ve had a difficult time getting the first sitting away from their tables, meaning they are about fifteen minutes behind time for our 9pm sitting, and you can tell that they are stressed. In fact, they keep their head down and not once in that prevailing fifteen minutes are we given a quick “sorry” and a shrug, or even a joke to lighten the wait. In fact, this would have been the perfect time to serve the “on arrival” glass of Perrier Jouet.

Once seated, the offerings we read on the menu are enough to quickly forget the greeting, or lack thereof. There are great options for entrée, main and dessert, making it difficult to decide, and requiring some coordination. In the end most of us have the crab soufflé or the pork belly for entrée; the Harvey beef or barramundi for main; and the pavlova or cherry dessert.

Slow cooked pork belly, chick pea & chorizo braise, apple & radish salad, pork crackle crisp

Slow cooked pork belly, chick pea & chorizo braise, apple & radish salad, pork crackle crisp

To begin we are all served with an oyster with a carrot and dill dressing, a corn croquette, and a spoon of gin cured salmon. None of the starters is remarkable, but they are all quite okay. The bread is amazing though, and it always has been since opening over a decade ago.

Grilled barramundi fillet, heirloom tomato, basil & chat potato salad

Grilled barramundi fillet, heirloom tomato, basil & chat potato salad

Quickly the food ascends to excellence, with a twice baked Blue Manna crab soufflé that is delicate, showing off the crab filling and its subtle flavour. The small amount of bisque surrounding the soufflé is tasty in itself but we expect the small amount is to ensure the soufflé is not overwhelmed. The pork belly is also very nice, and well executed, but not quite as different and exciting as the soufflé.

Slow roast Harvey beef fillet, beetroot risotto, feta whip

Slow roast Harvey beef fillet, beetroot risotto, feta whip

I was second to order my courses, and had ordered duck initially, only to immediately change to the Harvey beef such was the tension in my choice. But I think I did the right thing. The beef fillet is superbly cooked medium rare, consistent across the three of us who ordered it, and complimented by a robust beetroot risotto. The barramundi is beautifully cooked too, a staggering job by the kitchen keeping in mind that we have a full restaurant, and all of us have sat down at the same time.

The food had eclipsed any issues with the initial service, though it was a theme that the staff were not really very engaging, or friendly throughout. With great company and excellent wine, it really didn’t matter in the end. In particular, a 2013 Devil’s Lair Cabernet Sauvignon was absolutely delicious, with the classic notes you get from Wilyabrup Cab Sav and plenty of layers of dark berry fruit. It was a sophisticated way to see out 2015.

Vanilla cream, Weiss chocolate crumbs, Manjimup cherry sorbet

Vanilla cream, Weiss chocolate crumbs, Manjimup cherry sorbet

As we approached midnight we enjoyed the dessert and petit fours which were terrific chocolate truffles. My vanilla, chocolate and cherry dessert was excellent providing beautiful tastes and textures, without going to far outside the box. When the clock struck midnight we entered the new year with a full belly and a nice alcoholic glow!

Much is made of new year’s eve because we make much of it. To me, the recipe for a great new year is to do what you enjoy during the rest of the year, and Must put on a show that I would go back for on a more ordinary night, hopefully with happier staff.

Must Winebar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Brika – Perth – Wednesday 30 December 2015 – Dinner

IMG_4502There is definitely something comforting about Greek food. Like most cultures, food plays an important role in everyday life, with a style of dining that easily evokes convivial memories from places like Santorini, through to places far closer to home.

The script at Brika casts the Greek style beautifully as a first impression. Open air, making use of the famous Perth weather, with lots of dishes on each table, being shared by large groups of families and friends. Tonight we have a table of eight celebrating a friends’ birthday.

Leaving ourselves in the hands of our host, we were happy with the variety and amount of everything being ordered. If you have an idea of what the table loves, likes and dislikes, it appears to be a much better idea to order from the menu, rather than taking the banquet option.
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We tried a lot of dishes during the evening, starting with some pita and hummus, zucchini fritters, wood fired sausage and the village salad. From the more substantial dishes we tried the chargrilled octopus, swordfish skewers, pork belly and lamb; and to finish we had the Greek donuts, and baklava with halva ice cream.

Everything we ate was good, or much better. The pork belly was a highlight as it was perfectly cooked, and the honey glaze added to the flavour without overwhelming. The lamb was equally impressive. My dish of the night was the halva ice cream and baklava combination, showing the kitchen has some innovative flair.
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While the more substantial dishes and dessert were the highlights, the starters were not merely dishes to whet the appetite, though they were not noticeable different to what other Greek restaurants offer.

Looking around at a full restaurant both inside and out, there is huge enthusiasm for what Brika is providing. More than that, the leg work to get the space looking attractive, using the outdoors to full effect, is something that oozes confidence in the eventual end product. Perhaps that is why we finished with a bottle of ouzo to cheers the birthday girl!

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