Restaurant and food reviews from Perth, Australia

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Nao Japanese Restaurant, Perth

On a cold day or night, or just when I'm after something quick and warm to fill up my insides, I find it quite satisfying to have a nice ramen noodle soup.  Here in Perth, we've been fortunate enough to have at least a couple of home-made ramen places that make excellent real-Japanese style ramen - Arigataya (which I previously reviewed), and Nao Japanese Restaurant.

Nao is a not-too-big Japanese restaurant located on the East side of Perth city's Murray Street pedestrian mall that has been around for several years.  Nao serves a range of dishes in line with its advertised "sushi and izakaya" (or otherwise its menu contains dishes such as sushi, teriyaki, Japanese curry, and typical Japanese side dishes varying at around $4-7 for sides and $9-15 for mains).  However, Nao is also commonly known for specialising in soup based ramen (a type of Japanese noodle).  Given its specialisation, I really find it hard to go past choosing their ramen especially on a cold night to give me that warm kick to help me get by.

As I mentioned in my review of Arigataya (which also sells ramen), the “art” of making ramen comes with training and experience.  In common, Nao produces a ramen made with the principles of a flavoursome and properly made soup base, a varied and variable choice of stock base and toppings, and well prepared and home-made ramen.  Not so in common would be Nao's more diverse menu, as well as the taste and feel of the final product - and in particular the ramen.

 Chasu Ramen with Green Jade Ramen and Soy Sauce Base - $13

The Chasu Pork Ramen was the rolled pork option.  The ramen was topped with five slices of rolled pork, bamboo shoots, seaweed, and cooked green leafy vegetables (perhaps spinach?).  As far as the optional components are concerned, you have a choice of stocks such as soy sauce, salt, miso, and spicy (chilli), as well as the type of noodle such as normal egg based, spinach infused, and chilli infused.

The base price of this dish was $12.50, with a 50c additional charge for the Green Jade or otherwise spinach infused option.  The soup base I chose was the soy sauce option.

Though this ramen was the spinach option and did in fact look green in colour, I could barely taste the spinach in the ramen which though I thought was a bit disappointing, probably is right considering this is a soup based ramen and not a vegetable soup.  Perhaps the flavour of the soup and the whole dish also help mask the spinach taste.

The soup broth itself was quite light and even though it had the colour of a stock was quite clear, with a small amount of clear oil on top.  The taste of the broth matched the colour and clarity of the soup, but was still packed with ramen stock flavour.  Most ramens tend to have a high sodium content and whilst this one didn’t break the tradition, it didn’t seem excessively salty.

The pork was rolled, with distinct layers of meat and fat and skin rolled into a round slab, cooked and sliced thinly.  Its taste was also quite moderate, and the texture was quite soft and light but matched into the saltier soy sauce based soup broth well.

Spicy Chicken Ramen with Green Jade Ramen - $11

Similar to the ramen above, this dish had the green spinach ramen option.  The difference was in the topping (this ramen had chicken pieces in it) and the soup base which was the spicy option (for an additional $1, making this ramen $11, or $9.50 base cost plus $1 for the spicy soup base and $0.50 for the green spinach ramen).

The spicy soup broth was reasonably spicy as far as Japanese food goes, with a chilli like flavour and colour running through the soup.  The chilli wasn’t overpowering though, allowing you to still taste the soup stock base under the chilli flavour.  I found myself wanting to keep drinking more of the infused flavour soup broth and if you like chilli based broths, this was quite a nice option to go with the ramen.

Being the chicken option, the ramen was topped with chicken – which was pretty standard chicken (perhaps teriyaki chicken) and not a great deal of chicken at that.  However, as an overall dish, the spicy option made for a good spicy change to the “standard” ramens.

In summary, Nao is a great little Japanese restaurant offering authentic Japanese cuisine at reasonable casual meal dining prices.  Specialising in ramen, but also offering other Japanese dishes, Nao is a great option for a quick affordable Japanese meal.

Given everyone’s taste is different, I will try and avoid categorically rating one restaurant against another unless clearly necessary.  However, I found the ramen at Nao to be lighter than Arigataya in its stock, serving size, and price.  In my opinion, both venues make great ramen though so it’s up to personal preference which you prefer.

Points to note: This is a casual restaurant which specialises in home-made ramen - from the soup base, through to the ramen noodles as well as the toppings.  I found the serving size to not be too great so if you're hungry you may want to order some other things to go with your meal.

Go for:  Trying out their home-made ramen, and the different varieties and combinations available.

Nao Japanese Restaurant
117 Murray Street
(08) 9325 2090

Trading Hours
Monday to Thursday - 11:30am to 6pm
Friday - 11:30am to 9pm
Saturday and Sunday - 12 noon to 5pm

Nao Japanese on Urbanspoon

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Sundays Everyday, Myaree

You know those days when you can’t be bothered cooking, you want something filling and tasty, or perhaps even a good fry up… but you want it cheap!  Maybe this is the time to say “fast food chain” but although they certainly have their place in society, it’s good to go out and see what else is on offer – especially since there is a lot to choose from that doesn’t necessarily involve “would you like fries and a coke with that?”

Some time ago a friend, who has a very diverse and discerning palate for someone from a spit roast and oversized outdoor home built oven background, asked me to meet up at this “local” Japanese joint in Myaree called Sundays Everyday.  My initial thoughts to the name were a bit of confusion – which gets even more confusing considering it isn’t even open on Sundays, but perhaps they were trying to give the impression that their meals make every day seem like a Sunday.  Arriving for Saturday lunch and immediately getting the glorified lunch-bar feel, the clientele was a mixed crowd from families with kids, to friends hanging out as well as individuals in for a quick bite.  Also noticeable were the big Kara-age udon and rice bowls that my friend had been talking about in his bid to sell the place.

Despite the mention of kara-age, Sundays Everyday also sells other well known Japanese dishes such as teriyaki and sushi packs for around or just under the $10 mark.  However, not exactly matching the rest of the Japanese oriented menu in my opinion, Sundays Everyday also sell sandwiches - possibly to cater for the workers in the area since it is located in an industrial area.

Whilst Sundays Everyday has an ordering and pick-up system like a lunch-bar, there is a fair amount of seating both inside and outside the venue to make it like a small restaurant.  But note that it can get busy at times and the limited seats can fill up – though you would expect table turnover to be relatively fast.

Kara-age Udon - $8.90

The udon was cooked nicely, not being too soft but also cooked enough to not be floury.  The soup broth was light yet very flavoursome.  I found the combination of the udon with the soup was quite light yet for an udon (which normally has a lighter stock than say a ramen) it was flavoursome without being salty.  The udon was topped with shredded spring onion.

Kara-age Chicken with a dollop of Japanese Mayonnaise

The chicken in the kara-age was tender and moist, and the coating was slightly sweet and deceptively light.  The amount of kara-age was quite generous with the udon for the price, such that it gave you a nice fried chicken feeling that got a bit heavy for the health conscious individual.  The chicken kara-age was also topped with a generous dollop of Japanese mayonnaise that seems to go well with a lot of Japanese food.

The Kara-age Chicken coating

OK… so perhaps this isn’t the epitome of traditional Japanese cuisine nor the culmination of true-and-tried dishes meshed with contemporary flair and technique, but it tastes good enough and fills me up for $8.90.

Sundays Everyday also offer a Kara-age that goes with rice.  Though I did not order this dish, the Kara-age with rice is also $8.90, comes in a big noodle sized bowl and consists of steamed rice topped with a lot of kara-age chicken (seemingly more than with the udon) such that it's practically overflowing.  Whilst this makes it seem like very good value, in hindsight the amount of kara-age chicken might have sent me overboard with good fried fattiness that would have put me out for the rest of the day.  Well, maybe an hour or so.

In summary, if you’re looking for a cheap fix and especially if you’re looking for a good filling fry-up you might like to give Sundays Everyday a go.  It’s not fancy, nor does it sit at the cutting edge of food, but it is a good value lunch-bar type place if you want to stuff yourself with say fried chicken.

Points to note: Despite its name, it’s not open on Sunday.

Go for: Cheap meals, filling chicken kara-age.

Sundays Everyday
43 Hulme Court
Myaree WA 6154
(08) 9330 2911

Sundays Everyday on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Tom's Kitchen, Perth

Who is Tom?

Perth city is filled with cafes and restaurants offering a range of international and local cuisine, many targeted at office workers and visitors to the city alike. One area of concentration that has seen a few restaurants and pubs is Shafto Lane, where you can get food from cheap Japanese through to cafes and pub meals.

Cue Tom - or rather his kitchen. Tom’s Kitchen is situated in Shafto Lane and offers casual dining for breakfast through to dinner with what seems to be food with a European emphasis. With the inclusion of a small amount of indoor dining, and more bench-style outdoor covered al fresco dining, Tom’s Kitchen makes for café style dining complete with friendly and attentive wait staff.

Aiming to be above café food in terms of menu choices, the menu options include not too unusual but Tom-tweaked breakfast options followed by lunch and dinner food that seems to cross French, Italian, English, and to some extent modern Australian bounds including the likes of gnocchi, coq au vin, osso bucco, cassoulet, risotto, and ragout. To accompany the food, Tom’s Kitchen has all the usual coffees, and is also licensed and offers a local and international range of wines and beers.

Crispy skin pork and a chucky apple sauce with mash - $23

Crispy skin or pork crackling really does it for me. The taste, texture, and crunch in a good pork crackling can get me coming back.

Tom's Kitchen's crispy skin pork was aimed to give that crispy pork skin goodness. Did it deliver? Well, parts of the skin gave off a nice crunch and flavour, but other parts were tougher and barely crunchy from what I could tell.

The crispy skin formed the top layer of a deconstructed pork dish, where underneath the skin were pieces of seasoned pork that overall meant the pork dish wasn't so bad. Though not very groundbreaking, the chucky apple sauce's sweetness complimented the pork, whilst the mash was reasonably smooth and completed this dish.

Coq au Vin - $24

This dish was described as “Chicken, mushrooms and smokey bacon braised in red wine, with green beans.”

The chicken was cooked such that the chicken came off the bone reasonably easily. Being a coq au vin, there was also the distinct red wine taste mixed in with the sauce to give the chicken the nice coq au vin flavour. The chicken pieces were also wrapped and covered with bacon, thus adding additional flavour and interest to an otherwise simple dish.

Short macchiato, topped up

Tom's Kitchen uses Essenza beans. The coffee produced was mildly bitter but had no noticeable level of acidity or sourness which from my experience seems pretty normal for Essenza. I felt the taste of the beans and resulting coffee was within my preference enough to say this was a decent coffee.

In summary, Tom’s Kitchen tries to break away from the typical common café in the city by offering more fancy and classy dishes without being fine dining. The food isn’t bad for the market it is aimed for along with the prices, and I found the coffee to my liking to accompany some food.

Points to note: Tom’s Kitchen sits in between the typical café and fine dining in terms of food and prices on offer. It is fully licensed and has indoor and al fresco dining producing a casual and relaxing dining experience.

Go for: A nice but not too fancy meal in the city.

Tom's Kitchen
Shafto Lane
(08) 9321 0345
Trading Hours
Monday to Thursday: 6:30am to 9pm
Friday: 6:30am to late

Tom's Kitchen on Urbanspoon