Restaurant and food reviews from Perth, Australia

Friday, October 28, 2011

Dragon Palace, Northbridge

Dragon Palace Chinese Restaurant reviews and photos; Dragon Palace dim sum reviews and photos
Dim sum has become an institution in Perth, with many restaurants to choose from and many of them being packed full of people on weekends further supported by queues at some of the more popular ones.  People who enjoy dim sum generally have a few or a single favourite they like to go back to time and time again.  Though personally I have found places in Hong Kong and even Sydney that have made me almost weak at the knees for dim sum, Dragon Palace has probably become one of the most well known for serving some of the best dim sum in Perth.

(I'm going to assume you know what dim sum is, otherwise think of it as a breakfast/lunch place that serves Chinese dumplings of all sorts where you get to pick and choose a variety of tapas like dishes to eat - generally sight-seen as you order them from waitperson manned trolleys that stroll up and down the restaurant)

Although Dragon Palace is a Chinese restaurant that offers typical Chinese cuisine (eg rice served with various Chinese sharing plates such as stir fries, deep fried dishes and steamed dish), it is most known for its dim sum.  Though if you're after something a bit different, Dragon Palace also has a late night karaoke bar upstairs - one I haven't been to, but one I can say I've heard some drunken tunes emanate from late on weekend nights.

Like most dim sum places, each dish is categorised into a size - a size which then corresponds to a price.  In Dragon Palace's case, this equates to: Small - $4.20; Medium - $4.90; Large - $5.60; XLarge - $5.90.  Sounds simple enough, and in a way similar to a sushi train with those coloured plates - and interestingly the "Dragon" chain of Chinese restaurants (which currently consists of three restaurants run by the same hard working family who started Dragon Seafood Chinese Restaurant many, many years ago) has recently branched out into a dim sum train under the Woodside bulding, offering the same quality of dim sum in the CBD.

Prawn dumplings - $5.60

These prawn filled dumplings, the first item listed on the written menu and one of the most popular dishes of dim sum, were pretty good.  The prawns, wrapped in a thin and light layer of rice flour pastry that didn't distract from the filling, were crunchy and overall seasoned mildly.

Inside the siu mai (left - and see below) and prawn dumplings (right)

The dumplings were a moderate size and all up, each dumpling was like a bite sized burst of prawn goodness with hints of sesame oil.

Steamed crystal dumplings with scallop and sweet corn - $5.90

Similar to the prawn dumplings, these dumplings were steamed with a rice flour pastry enclosing the filling (it said with scallop but I mostly found prawns - unless we got the wrong one).  The dumplings were also topped with fish roe before steaming.

The filling, consisting largely of prawns, was also mildly seasoned, bringing out the inner seafood taste though the sweet corn kernels added further sweetness to the dish.  The taste was quite similar to the prawn dumplings above, but with a lighter taste and a tad less crunch.

Siu mai of prawn and fish roe - $4.90

The siu mai (or shumai), which is another very popular dim sum dish, was filled with mostly pork wrapped in a wonton pastry (perhaps the closest dish to the "dim sims" we get at other places including fish n chip stores).  Added to the pork filling was prawn, and the dumpling was topped with flying fish roe before being steamed.

With the pork and the heavier egg (as opposed to white rice flour) pastry these dumplings were meatier and less delicate than the dumplings above but felt more substantial in the belly.  The pork fat in the classic pork-lovers dumplings did help to keep the whole dumpling moist and gave it a slight crunch.

Chicken feet with spicy sauce - $4.90

I didn't actually try these - I am not a fan of chicken feet as the combination of chewy skin and fat flavoured with that pungent chicken feet taste doesn't really do much for me.  But don't let me stop you!

Steamed spare ribs in black bean sauce - $4.90

These fatty spare ribs (though not more fatty than the next dim sum/yum cha restaurant) were steamed with black bean and had a savoury taste mixed with a slight acidic taste.  Given they were basically chunks of meat on bone, you would expect this to be quite filling - but it isn't really.  This dish seems to be more about the flavours coming from the fatty pork, infused with sauces and flavours from the black bean, sour preserved vegetables and chilli.

Shanghai steamed dumplings in chicken broth - $5.60

These small steamed dumplings were dumplings surprises filled with a small amount of meat and soup-like chicken broth.  A little small compared to other Shanghai dumplings I have had before but nonetheless they were still enjoyable with each dumpling giving not only a pork filling but also a burst of well seasoned chicken broth that oozed into the mouth (as long as you manage to get the dumplings into your mouth without breakage and thus leakage of the chicken broth).  Quite unique really.

Bean curd rolls with oyster sauce - $5.60

These steamed rolls had a bean curd exterior enclosing a filling of pork mixed with some vegetables such as carrot and mushrooms.  This was then steamed with an oyster based sauce.

The bean curd exterior had a tofu like taste to it, only cooked and coupled with the sauce which for me made this tastier than any ordinary tofu.  The rolls, being largely a meat filling with a bean curd/tofu like wrapping, were in themselves meaty and dry so the sauce really made this dish all the much better.  By allowing the whole roll to be soaked in the sauce before eating, I have to say these rolls make an almost staple non-dumpling dim sum.

Chilli pepper squid - $5.90

Another extremely popular dish at many dim sum places is this chilli pepper squid dish.  Squid tentacles were battered and deep fried in this dish, and then tossed with the chilli pepper and salt seasoning.

Unfortunately the oil used to cook the squid in this dish seemed a bit unfresh - this caused the battered squid to have an unfresh oil taste with various flavours infused (which detracted from the core flavours of the dish and reduced the lightness of the batter), and the batter was not as crisp as it should have been.

Barbecue pork buns

Served on a plate of three, these barbecue pork filled buns were brown on top with a shiny sweet sticky glaze on top, sticky enough to be annoying on your hands.  Apart from the browned upper part, the dough was white and uniform, sweet, and a softer texture than your typical wheat bun.

Inside the bun, after consuming a large amount of bun and no meat as yet

The bun I had unfortunately was mostly bun and only a tiny portion of barbecue pork.  This spoilt my impression of this dish as most mouthfuls were just slightly sweet dough with sweet glaze.

We liked: The generally (and usually) high quality of the dim sum which has made this one of the most popular and talked about dim sum places in Perth.

We didn't like: The use of unfresh oil for the deep fried food on this occasion; given the prices, if you order a lot you can expect to pay a lot quite quickly; given how hectic it gets (especially on weekends) the service can get somewhat lacking.

Other things to note: The weekends are very busy - go early or expect to have a long wait before you are seated; licensed.

Dragon Palace
66 Francis Street
(08) 9228 2888

Trading Hours
Dim sum: Monday to Friday - 10:30am to 3pm; Weekends - 10am to 3pm
Dinner menu: 7 days - 6pm to late.

Dragon Palace Chinese Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Kailis Brothers Fish Cafe, Leederville

Kailis Brothers Fish Cafe reviews and pictures; Kailis Bros Fish Cafe Leederville reviews
Once upon a time, oysters were abundant and cheap making them a common meal amongst the working class.  Many years later, after increasing demand resulting in reduced stocks, oysters are now less common, not cheap, and somewhat a delicacy.

For many, many years Kailis Brothers has been providing West Australians with fresh seafood at its fish market.  Whilst Kailis Brothers Fish Market has become renowned for a huge selection of fresh seafood, Kailis Brothers' Fish Cafe (which sits in the same building as the fish market) has become renown in its own right (voted Australia's best seafood restaurant in the 2010 National Seafood Awards) as a high quality seafood restaurant bolstered by direct supply of fresh seafood from the fish market.

The menu at Kailis is unsurprisingly dominated with seafood.  No steaks, chicken or other meats in sight.  However, there’s still a good selection available from seafood platters, to seafood pastas, deep fried goodies such as calamari, fish burgers, choose-your-own-fish from the fish market and they cook it for you, and of course – oysters.

Complementing Kailis' seafood menu, is an extensive drinks menu offering everything from wine by the bottle (including some nicely priced Grange) and glass, beer, spirits; to juices and milkshakes; and of course tea and coffee.

Grilled seafood platter for one with seasonal vegetables - $58

The grilled seafood platter came with "grilled snapper fillet, jumbo king prawns split and grilled with garlic butter, herb crusted scallops, grilled squid with 'latho lemano' dressing and char grilled octopus 'ala Grec'".  It came served with aioli mayonnaise and a choice of salad, chips or seasonal vegetables.

Being a fish cafe attached to a fishmonger, you would expect Kailis to know how to cook seafood perfectly.  The fish was tender and juicy (perhaps a tad overcooked for my liking), the seasoned octopus and squid/calamari were tender and in no way chewy, and the prawns were cooked just right.  Finally, we asked if we could change the scallops for oysters and they had no problem with that.  The oysters were as fresh as the oysters you get from next door in the fish market.

The seasonings in each of the dishes were all done lightly, with the octopus' savoury marinade with generous olive oil having the strongest 'added' flavour.

Seasonal vegetables accompanying the seafood platter

Overall, I was impressed with the way the whole seafood platter was done with the seafood all seeming as fresh as from the shop joined to the cafe.  Enhancing the quality seafood, good moderated seasoning was used to complement the aioli, and the seafood was cooked excellently - no overcooking, no dryness, and no chewiness.

Herb & garlic crusted scallops with fresh chilli - $34.50 (8 pieces)

These scallops were served in shell and grilled with a herb and garlic crust, along with some chilli.  The crust had a light but distinct crunchiness along with the herb garlic and a light cheese taste to it.  The scallop itself was cooked a little rare.  All up, the scallop packed a lot of flavour from the crust that made this dish delicious.

Lobster mornay with Blue Cow 3 cheese gratin & served with sauteed asparagus - $59.50 (whole lobster)

The lobster, with the meat cut into chunks and mixed with mornay sauce before being reinserted into the lobster, was cooked moist and nearly drenched with creamy and cheesy mornay.  The grilled top added a nice brown layer on top, and overall I thought this was a very good lobster mornay.

Bowl of chips - $7.90

The chips were thick cut chips, though seemed pretty ordinary - the chips were not really crunchy at all and seemed like stock standard chips.


The tiramisu had layers of coffee and alcohol soaked biscuits surrounded by large amounts of mascarpone.  The biscuits and mascarpone had good flavours including the nice coffee and light alcohol kick that goes into a tiramisu but the biscuit levels were of various textures.  The bottom layers were soft and deliciously melted in the mouth, whist the middle and upper levels were a bit more hard (almost crunchy).  Though a bit inconsistent and the harder levels being a bit disappointing, I am told they usually make great tiramisu so perhaps this is a once off batch.

Chocolate bread and butter pudding - $12.50

The richness of bread and butter pudding, add chocolate, and dress it with sweet custard and icing.

This bread and butter pudding sounded decadent but was actually a good 'moderate' example that was still a sweet and filling dessert.  The chocolate wasn't overdone, and the combined sweetness of the pudding with added sultanas and the sweet custard seemed to blend into one rich, moist and almost heavy dessert.

Affogato with Frangelico

Though I didn't try this, I am told that this was a great affogato.  A generous serve of creamy vanilla ice cream was served with a shot of espresso and a shot of frangelico to make this dessert with a kick.

We liked: that the seafood seemed fresh from the adjoining fresh fish market; the variety of seafood available as meals; one of the better places in terms of well cooked seafood; service experience is mostly very friendly and very good.

We didn’t like: There isn’t much but seafood on the menu – but if you don’t eat seafood, why are you here?

Others points to note:  You can buy fish from the adjoining fish market and get them to cook it (at a cost); licensed; best to book on busy nights.

Kailis Brothers Fish Cafe
101 Oxford Street
Leederville WA 6007
(08) 9443 6300

Trading Hours
Breakfast, lunch and dinner - 7 days a week

Kailis Brothers Fish Cafe on Urbanspoon

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Clarence's Bar, Mount Lawley

Clarence's Bar Mount Lawley reviews; Clarence's Perth reviews
Perth's increasing trend of small bars, each with their own individual charm, reminds me of the bar scene in Melbourne.  Not to say that the big pubs are a thing of the past, but these bars give us a choice (and choice is always great!) for when you're seeking something different, something more intimate, or even something a little more classy.

As one of those modern local bars, Clarence's Bar has for some time made its mark on the vibrant cafe, restaurant and pub strip on Beaufort Street, Mount Lawley.  Clarence's has the basics of a bar with beers on tap, a healthy selection of wine, and groovy music; the workings of a restaurant, restaurant grade food offerings with table service across tables and booths both inside and out the back outdoor area; and a suave atmosphere that merges different elements such as classy black wallpaper, wood grain finishes, the building's original red brick, and dim warm mood lighting at night.

Cider (foreground) and beer (background) served in Clarence's mugs

The menu of Clarence’s is written on one page.  The handful of main courses (of which only one out of five was vegetarian) is complemented by a handful of entrees and side dishes mixed in with about a dozen tapas dishes.  Where the menu shines though is through the selection of drinks including wine – with about a page for each of white and red by the glass and many, many more pages of wine by the bottle sourced from Australia and around the world.  That’s not to say that Clarence’s emphasises wine over all else, with many other drinks available including a bottled and on-tap beer range as well as a back-in-fashion cider range.

Barbecued chermoula spiced squid tentacles, coriander, lime - $13

The squid was cooked till it was still lightly crunchy yet tender and not chewy in the mouth.  Though the squid was seasoned, I felt this dish had too strong a barbecued/charcoal flavour that covered much of the taste.  Squeezing the lime onto the squid helped take some of the charcoal taste away, but overall the flavour was still too overpowering for me.

Pan fried fish of the day, fennel, celeriac, chorizo, orange - $35

I couldn’t have asked for the white fish to be cooked better.  The fish had a crispy skin and was cooked tender and juicy.

The fish was served on a bed of thinly sliced fennel, celeriac, and small bits of chorizo and orange.  The flavours were subtle so as to complement the fish, the sweet and refreshing orange gave a nice sweet tang, and the light texture of the salad with hints of crunch made the fish more enjoyable.

Confit chicken leg, puy lentils, chorizo - $28

The chicken was cooked till the meat nearly effortless tore away from the bone.  This meant that the chicken was tender and not dry.  Being a confit, the chicken was prepared with a fair amount of salt that was infused into the whole piece of chicken.

The skin of the chicken had the texture of roast chicken skin, and in fact the chicken tasted somewhat like a nicely roasted chicken that had been generously seasoned with salt.

Accompanying the chicken, the puy lentils were cooked well, till they were soft and getting close to being mushy.

Sous vide & char grilled lamb leg, herbed yoghurt, harrisa - $65

At $65, this sous vide lamb initially stands out as being expensive.  However it is intended to serve two and came with two sides chosen from their normal sides normal (see below) - so not as expensive as it originally seemed when you take that into account.

The lamb pieces were cooked to varying degrees with most being medium to medium rare, the sous vide helping it retain its juiciness that helped it be very tender.  The lamb was also seasoned with a nice base Moroccan spice flavour that really brought out the lamb.  The only question mark for me was that the lamb has a fair amount of fat in it, which no doubt helped it retain moisture and flavour but leaves one to decide whether to eat it or carve it out.

The harissa added another layer of spice sauce (without being overpowering) to the lamb as well as some colour, and the side sauce of herbed yoghurt completed the taste of the dish.

Apple, walnut, fennel, basil salad - $8

This salad was very enjoyable.

The combination of sweet yet refreshing granny smith apple, candied walnuts, vinegar dressing and basil in this salad created a very nice and balanced "sweet and sour" combination.  The freshness of the salad ingredients with an almost crispness furthered this salad into something light, refreshing and delicious to eat.

Mushroom confit - $6

This mushroom confit was a bowlful of mushrooms cooked in seasoning such that the mushrooms were cooked just right - tender and not overdone, and a light yet distinct butter and herb flavour throughout.

We liked: Though a limited menu and a bar setting, we found the food to generally be excellently cooked; great range of wine with beer and ciders; trendy and classy bar atmosphere.

We didn’t like: Though up to personal preference, it can get a little too dark at night time for a meal.

Other points to note: Make a reservation during normal peak times; if you are vegetarian, your options may be restricted to one main course dish unless you are happy to mix it up with tapas style dishes; cider specials on Sunday, as well as parma Mondays and shank Tuesdays.

566 Beaufort Street
Mount Lawley WA 6050
(08) 9228 9474

Trading Hours
Monday to Thursday - 4pm to late
Friday to Saturday - 12pm to late
Sunday - 12pm to 10pm

Clarence's Bar on Urbanspoon