Restaurant and food reviews from Perth, Australia

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Stones Pizza, North Perth

Stones Pizza North Perth review, photos and blog
I have to say that the number of times I hear "Perth's best pizza" or some other variation confuses me as to whether there really is a "best", different people with different tastes have just called it the "best", or perhaps it's just sales puff.  That aside, I guess there's no harm in trying different pizza places to work out your own "best pizza" place.

Stones Pizza in North Perth was the bronze medallist for the America's Plate in New York back in 2008.  It has also been a finalist of the Dairy Farmers Best of the Best Pizza Challenge between 2006 to 2009.  So with those sorts of credentials, you would be expecting some good pizza.

The menu includes a range of meat and vegetarian pizzas along with a gluten free option at an additional cost, and pizza sides such as garlic bread, a couple of salads, and Stones Wings which are chicken wings with a choice of hot sauce, barbeque, honey chilli garlic, or sesame maple soy.  The pizzas tend to range from about $10-25.  To finish, they offer a cheesecake or a cinnamon fingers pizza which contains maple syrup.

Over the many pizzas I have had from stones, I have found the quality to be good but it can vary.  One thing that sets Stones apart is that their pizzas are made with fresh ingredients (eg fresh cut pineapple as opposed to tinned pineapple, and real honey roast ham sliced up as opposed to ham that comes in a pre-cut caterers pack).  This already puts Stones Pizza above many of the rest of the pizza places and you can taste the freshness just to support that.

However, as a minor negative to the numerous Stones pizzas I have had, I found on the odd occasion that the topping proportions can be wrong or sparse leading to bland pizzas or on one busy occasion the pizza wasn't cooked right as the pizza dough was bready.  Though aside from that, the pizza quality is generally pretty good.

Similarly, service wise things can be varied.  Generally the service is fine for a pizza joint but I do recall one occasion of being told there would be a 15 minute wait on a pizza, only to emerge with a pizza after 45 minutes and no apology or acknowledgement that they got their "15 minutes" very wrong.

Garlic and cheese bread - $6

Thick slices of bread were coated with garlic butter and a thin layer of cheese, and grilled to get the cheese lightly brown.  It didn't have a huge garlic taste (though I'm sure my breath smelt otherwise), but the garlic and cheese bread had enough topping to leave you with a tasty entree.

Stones chicken wings with BBQ sauce - $14

This consisted of a dozen pieces of chicken wings that were thickly coated with BBQ sauce.  The chicken wings were tender and moist, and the addition of the BBQ sauce (which a good mix of sweet and savoury) made this a tasty treat.

Though chicken wings aren't something I normally associate with a pizza place, the juicy and well-sauced chicken wings were good though nothing out of the ordinary.

Coat of arms - $24.50

The pizza that Stones Pizza singles out as having won awards, the "coat of arms" pizza is named the coat of arms by its use of a Margaret River smokey emu and kangaroo chorizo (both of which are featured on our coat of arms if you didn't already know).  The nice chorizo was salty and meaty, dry but not too tough, and a great addition to pizza but personally I can't say that without being told I would be able to tell it was emu and kangaroo.

However, it isn't just that emu and kangaroo that makes this pizza.  On top of the pizza base is a thin layer of rosemary roasted potato that adds a lot of herbed and roast potato flavour that I personally think gave the pizza a great core base packed with a very nice roast potato flavour.  Adding to that were sundried tomatoes, fetta, spring onion, and garlic butter each adding even more complementary flavours to this pizza.

I really enjoyed this pizza, it's probably my favourite one from Stones Pizza (at least so far).

I should also note that the pizza bases are thin and not oily.  Personally, I prefer the thinner pizza base - it has a slight crusty/crunchiness to it and lets you eat more pizza without feeling heavy or worse still - greasy.  However, I personally think half a pizza is just about right for me for a decent but not overfilling meal - means leftovers for the next day!

Brie chicken - $22.50

This pizza is another favourite.

Pieces of free range roast chicken are added with brie and pesto to make a great combination that is the core of this pizza.  Fresh tomato is also added to the pizza and the pizza is finally drizzled with quince balsamic.

I have to say I think the combinaton of ingredients is unsurprisingly great on this pizza.  Delicious roast chicken with melted brie is almost always sure to be a winner and the pesto adds a great herb flavour to the pizza.  The quince balsamic also adds a sweetness to the pizza making an all round great chicken pizza.

Devine lamb - $22.50

Having a Greek feel to this pizza, the Devine Lamb pizza contains pieces of marinated lamb, tomato, olives, red onion and haloumi.  Of course, the pizza is finally drizzled with Tzatziki sauce.

A good combination of toppings (though the Greek style lamb pizza concept is not unique to Stones) the Devine Lamb definitely had a meaty Greek taste to it. My main issue with this pizza was the only time I ordered it, the toppings (largely the lamb) were too sparse for my liking resulting in lots of relatively bland mouthfuls.

The Carnivore - $22

For the chronic meat-eater, this pizza makes the top of the list.

Pepperoni, bacon, braised beef, free range chicken and honey ham are sure to satisfy most pizza loving meat lovers' tastebuds.  Add a bit of roasted red onion and a good amount of stretchy pepperoni cheese and you get one of the best meat pizzas out there that doesn't leave you with the same level of greasiness as some cheaper ones out there.

You can really taste each of the elements of quality ingredients that make up this pizza and the freshness and relative leanness of the meat really makes this meat pizza a good choice.

Sir Guinness - $22

With a name like Sir Guinness, one would expect Guinness beer to be involved in this pizza - and it is.  Guinness jus is one of the ingredients that make this pizza distinct, but Guinness alone can't be enough to make a pizza could it?  Braised beef, caramelised shallots and mushroom also top this pizza and all match the Guinness like a Guinness pie.

The taste of the pizza is that of a relatively meaty beef pizza, with shredded beef lined quite liberally along the pizza.  The Guinness jus adds a Guinness flavour that comes out bitter compared to the flavour of any other pizza.

I'm sure many people will love this pizza for the Guinness, but based on pure taste it didn't do a lot for me.

We liked:  The thin base, the use and taste of fresh and quality ingredients (as opposed to pre-packed catering packs), some pizzas with great combinations that help set Stones Pizza apart - all of these reasons help to make it one of our favourite pizza places in Perth.

We didn't like:  There are the odd occasions where the quality drops, toppings can be on the scarce side or slow service can leave you (or maybe just me) annoyed.

Other things to note:  The North Perth branch has a couple of al fresco tables but most people take-away; gluten free bases available at an additional cost; credit cards incur a surcharge.

Stones Pizza
400 Fitzgerald Street
(08) 9228 1877

Trading Hours
Saturday to Thursday: 5pm to 10pm
Friday: 11:30am to 11pm

Stones Pizza on Urbanspoon

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Chapels on Whatley, Maylands

When I get asked to go out for breakfast, I typically think of the Aussie (or variations of English) breakfasts that are becoming an increasingly popular pastime in Perth.  But what happens when you mix a bit of Asian influence into this Aussie tradition?

Chapels originally started out as an Asian furniture store, stocking many unique items from antique furniture through to very intricate and detailed furniture.  As Chapels renovated and turned part of the venue into a cafe, they cut back on the furniture floor space and created a fusion brunch cafe experience to set itself apart from other cafes in the area.

Chapels' heritage as an Asian furniture store is seen throughout from the furnishings (such as short seated chairs with straight-vertical backs), its Chinese tea section available for retail sale as well as in its menu, and some Asian inspired menu selections.

The menu offers a variety of breakfast/brunch type options sure to cater for many tastes.  You get your usuals such as a "big breakfast" right through to Asian influenced options such as kim chi pancakes - something which makes me curious to try.

Also available are a variety of European style cakes, devonshire tea, and even a tea appreciation experience.

 Ozzie Breakfast - $22.50

The plate initially seemed small for what was on it, with no room to manoeuvre - I found it difficult to move any of the ingredients around including the bread and I decided against trying to put the poached eggs on the slanting bread which were on the stack of mushrooms.  Not a big issue, but noticeable for someone like me who likes to move around what's on my plate and break my runny egg yolks on my bread.

Other than the logistical issues, this was a decent breakfast but on the higher end of pricing for what I would have expected for a breakfast (many big breakfasts tend to scrape in just below $20, but perhaps the ingredients such as the distinct sausage - see below - were justification for this).  Going through the elements on the plate, there were:
  • Princi bacon – the bacon was getting towards being crispy, but otherwise nicely cooked;
  • A sausage – fat and meaty, the sausage was a bit dry to eat by itself and not seasoned  as much as other sausages – perhaps this was a healthier sausage as opposed to the usual high fat content ones;
  • New Norcia bread – nothing too special about the taste and texture of bread but it was a nice normal sandwich bread that was toasted well enough to get that toasty crunch;
  • Eggs (I ordered poached) – the eggs were cooked perfectly, gooey inside – just unfortunate that without significant rearranging the egg yolks just ran onto the plate rather than say on my toast;
  • Mushrooms – sliced thinly and sautéed lightly;
  • Tomato – half a lightly grilled tomato; and
  • Condiments – butter and a sweet and sour salsa that tasted like barbecue sauce mixed with tomato chutney, which added a bit of welcome “sauce” especially to the sausage.
Bacon and egg flatini - $14.95

This 'flatini' which seemed like panini that had been flat-press-toasted was filled with bacon, fried eggs, and tomato.  I didn't try this but was told it was very nice.  The flatini did look and sound good in concept with the bacon, eggs and tomato combination conveniently constructed into a neat 'toastie'.

Cappuccino - $3.90

For someone who likes to buy organic coffee, I find it increasingly hard to find places that sell it these days with some places going out of business or reverting back to non-organic beans.  Chapels proudly states that they use Yahava organic coffee beans in their coffee which are roasted down South.  The price is on the high side of 'normal' coffee prices (actually, I think it's comparable to many other coffee shops as it's increasingly difficult to find places that do $3.50 or below these days) but considering organic fair trade beans cost more, the price is very reasonable.

The coffee itself seemed just ok - smooth, but a bit on the light side compared to what I'm used to.

White monkey tea

With the Chinese teas being served in a nice see-through teapot that appeared to magnify the tea leaves, Chapel's has a 'bottomless' tea policy.  Good for the tea drinkers, not so great for weak bladders.

We liked: The uniqueness of the decor, with oriental furniture; the healthier approach to the menu (but still far from being a health-food cafe); bottomless teapots.

We didn't like: Slightly pricier than other similar offerings around.

Other points to note: You can book ahead - weekend breakfasts can get very busy; Chapels is also an Asian furniture store.
Chapels on Whatley Cafe Maylands reviews and photos

Chapels on Whatley
196 Whatley Crescent
(08) 9272 7738

Trading Hours
Wednesday to Monday: 8am - 5pm

Chapels on Whatley on Urbanspoon

Dusit Thai, Northbridge

Dusit Thai Northbridge reviews, blogs and photos
You may have already noticed that when I go to a Thai restaurant, I am almost certain to order a Thai curry - a curry where I tend to ensure most if not all of the sauce is not "wasted".  On this occasion my Thai curry eating led me to Dusit Thai, a long standing Thai restaurant with a good reputation.

Dusit Thai has won quite a few awards since opening in 1988, including no less than 10 Gold Plate Awards since 1997.  The number of people I have heard talk about Dusit Thai as their favourite Thai restaurant in Perth or for being one of the best Thai restaurants in Perth only gave me more encouragement to try out this restaurant.

Dusit Thai's menu, unsurprisingly filled with a good range of Thai dishes, covers meats and seafoods, a variety of curries and non-curries, vegetarian dishes, and entrees and desserts.  As many of the dishes are spicy, Dusit Thai gives you the option of having it the standard way or else mild or extra hot.

To accompany Dusit Thai's fine dining experience is a wine list offering wines that range up into the Grange.  Other drinks are also available including some Thai named beverages, a small selection of cocktails, and there is also an option to BYO wine at $10 per bottle (which is the welcome option I chose).

Ma hor (Galloping Horses) - $15

Forgive my food-cultural ignorance - I don't know about you but "galloping horses" gives me thoughts of something big and something that packs a punch.  When this colourful dish arrived I realised this wasn't the case.

These galloping horses started with a slice of fruit (strawberry, orange and kiwi fruit) which was then topped with the savoury-nutty mixture of ground chicken, shallots, peanuts, palm sugar and coriander roots.  The mixtures' ingredients were finely ground; the taste was a combination of sweet and savoury infused into a nutty mixture; and the texture was a pronounced crunchiness of the peanuts.

Overall, this was quite a different and light entree.  It didn't pack a big flavour punch as an entree for me, but the flavour and texture combination was interesting.

Satay chicken sticks - $15

These chicken satay sticks were pretty standard fare in so much that marinated chicken was grilled on sticks and accompanied by a satay sauce.  An addition to this was a cucumber relish that was a sweet and vinegary sauce that had diced cucumber and red onion.

The satay sticks were good in so much that the chicken was decent and grilled quite well, but it wasn't grilled like those Malaysian or Indonesian satay sticks I've had where you get that yummy grill-infused taste and texture to it.  The satay sauce was also comparatively not as nutty and full on with flavour either.  However, if you aren't comparing to those satay sticks, these were well made.

Larb Gai - $24.50

This meat salad, the Larb Gai, was minced chicken with red onion strips cooked with spices giving each of a chilli, sour and savoury (fish sauce) flavour.  We ordered "mild" and the level of chilli was noticeable but still relatively light.  However, it would be very noticeable if you struggle with spicy food.

In comparison to curries and dishes with sauces, this meat salad was relatively light (including the level of seasoning) on the palate with the flavours of each of the components of the chicken and spices working together.

Gang peg (red curry) roast duck - $28.50

I ordered this dish mild and unfortunately for someone who doesn't eat a lot of chilli this was on my more adventurous side however still edible without reaching for water.  Not necessarily an unwanted level of spice, but surprising given it was ordered mild - maybe I just have delicate taste buds!  Beyond the level of spice, I thought this was a nice rich and creamy curry with a great blend of curry-spice flavours that made the sauce worth soaking up at the end.

The curry was made with diced tomatoes, peas, lychees, pineapple pieces, and kaffir lime leaves helping to further enhance the complex depth of flavours in the dish.  The roast duck was nothing special (I found it didn't quite have the full flavour of roast ducks I have eaten before and the skin was a little soft and bland), but still I enjoyed the rich and complex curry flavour of this otherwise well made curry dish.

Kae tord (lamb shanks) - $32.50

The lamb shanks dish was slow cooked with herbs and spices, then lightly fried and topped with Dusit's spicy tangy sauce.

The lamb shank was cooked so that the meat easily came off the bone.  The meat was tender though not quite up to melt in the mouth.  The spicy tangy sauce was like a chilli infused sweet and sour plum sauce.  Combined, this was a strongly flavoured meaty dish, largely with the strong flavours of the generous amount of sweet, sour and spicy plum like sauce.

Kao phat (Thai style fried rice) - $20.50 (chicken)

The fried rice was fried with eggs, spring onion, and chicken.  In my opinion a pretty ordinary (but well made) fried rice, I personally thought this was overpriced for a fried rice.

A place of larb gai (front), with red duck curry and fried rice.

Mor gang - $6.50

This "mor gang" cake was made with mung beans, palm sugar and coconut cream.  Rather than a moist baked flour cake, the mor gang was very moist - like a warm baked custard slice with a texture made grainy with mung beans, and a sweet taste completed with the flavours of the egg and coconut cream.

Filling the large plate that could look a little boring with just the mor gang, Dusit Thai also drew a flower on the plate with chocolate and strawberry topping.  I'm not sure if the "topping" flavours really matched the mor gang but it did add some colour to the plate.

Park thong sang-ka-ya kao-neow - $9.50

This was also a "custard" dish made with pumpkin, palm sugar and coconut cream.  The custard was served with sticky rice.

Though the menu described this as being a custard, it was far from being an English custard. The dessert started with a base of a sweet egg cake, similar to the mor gang above but with a smoother texture, topped with thin sticks of pumpkin on top.

The sticky rice was cooked soft, though not mushy.  It was both sweet and salt in flavour and had a coconut cream taste.

Again, the plate was decorated with a flower drawn using chocolate and strawberry topping.

Fresh mango with sticky rice - $12.50

This dish was pretty simple - fresh mango slices, served alongside sticky rice.

We liked: Rich flavours without being too heavy; well made and nicely presented dishes with attention to detail; many ingredients seemed fresh; BYO (wine only - $10 a bottle).

We didn't like: Some dishes seemed quite pricey for what they were.

Other things to note: If you can't eat very spicy food, watch out for the level of spice in the dishes; vegetarians are catered for with a separate page of offerings including vegetable and tofu version of dishes.

Dusit Thai
249 James Street
(08) 9328 7647

Trading Hours
Tuesday to Sunday - from 6pm

Dusit Thai on Urbanspoon