Restaurant and food reviews from Perth, Australia

Thursday, October 25, 2012

S & T Thai Gourmet Cafe

For a while now, friends and family have been telling me to try out S & T Thai Gourmet Cafe in Northbridge - "The food is good" and "It's just like in Thailand"!  Due to my heavy schedule, I can be a bit slow to try out places sometimes but as of today I can say I've been to S & T Thai Gourmet Cafe a few times and been satisfied each time (but left with a burning mouth on a couple of occasions).

S & T Thai, located on William Street, has quite a simple set up.  The typical Northbridge rectangular layout is filled with move-to-join square dining tables and the decor isn't fancy but kept simple, light and bright.  Suffice to say it's not fancy but it's clean.

The menu at S & T Thai Gourmet Cafe is unsurprisingly filled with a lot of Thai dishes, giving a lot of choice.  With many meat and seafood options available, the menu spans from soup dishes to curries, rice dishes to noodle dishes, and everything from entrees such as fish cakes through to sweet Thai desserts.  To wash it all down, there's a drinks menu that includes different beverages such as coconut juice and special fruit juices.

Green Thai Curry Set (beef) - $12.50

The green Thai curry normally starts at $14.50, with steamed rice charged separately at $4.  However this special set, which is intended to serve one rather than be a share dish, was $12.50.

The green curry was delicious and the sauce was full of flavour.  Whilst the level of heat was relatively normal, perhaps a little more than what's generally considered mild, the sauce itself had depth of flavour from the curry spices, a moderate level of creaminess, and a sweet undertone differentiating it from many green Thai curries.  Though saying that, I was struggling with the heat a bit towards the end of this dish.

In terms of the beef used in this dish, it perhaps could have been cut better as some of the pieces were stuck together - that is, not fully separated so a few slices were stuck together still.  Also, the beef itself seemed a little on the tougher side and drier side so I found myself scooping it up with sauce.

Adding its slightly crunchy texture to the dish, sliced bamboo shoots also featured prominently alongside the beef in this dish.

Larb Set (beef) - $15.50

The larb set was a single serve of a meat (in this case beef) salad served with sticky rice.

The minced beef was made with a dressing that had mostly an acidic taste.  With the herbs and onion throughout, the salad was slightly crunchy and combined with the sauce made the meat salad considerably light and refreshing.

Different to plain steamed rice, this dish was served with rice that was sticky such that it clumped together (though it was perhaps a tad dry) and the starchiness offered a good counterbalance to the acidity and textures of the salad.

Gai Yang and Som Tum Set - $17.50

This set consisted of BBQ chicken with papaya salad and sticky rice.

The centrepiece, at least for me, of the dish was the BBQ chicken.  Large strips of tender and moist chicken had been marinated and barbecued in a flavoursome red sauce that was a sticky sweet and salty sauce.  The sauce, which (for those of you who have had it) tasted similar to the Chinese char siu BBQ pork but not quite as sweet.  Suffice to say that the sauce had infused itself in the chicken enough to not leave the chicken boring.

Accompanying the BBQ chicken was a sweet chilli sauce that had an extra chilli taste - that is, it was quite spicy and made me struggle!

On the opposite end of the dish stood the papaya salad in a bowl.  The salad, which consisted largely of julienned green papaya, was dressed with a sauce that had acidic flavours mixed with red chilli, a light sweetness and salty fish sauce flavour.  The balance of flavours of the dressing, not dominated by any component, worked great with the tartness of the green papaya though the level of red chilli took a bit of getting used to.  On top of the salad were crushed peanuts and dried fish.  Though you have options to top the salad such as squid or prawn, the wait staff recommended I tried the peanut and dried fish version of the papaya salad as it was the normal version of the salad.

The dish also came with some sticky rice that was a tad dry and clumped together quite a bit, and a sliced section of raw cabbage.

Overall this was a pretty big meal for one that I didn't finish (but at least I ate all the chicken).

Guay Teaw Tom Yum (Chicken) - $10.90

This tom yum noodle soup could be served either in a soup or dry, and with pork or chicken.  Further, the noodle options were either rice noodle (s, m or l) or egg noodle.

Apart from choosing the small or thin rice noodles, this Tom Yum came with sliced meat, minced meat, meat ball, liver sliced fish cake and peanuts.  The different components and textures of each of the ingredients made this quite a distinct tom yum, and at the core of the tom yum soup (the soup base) a great depth of flavour was present with saltiness and sourness balanced by a heavy hot chilli flavour.

Again, if you can't eat spicy you might struggle with this dish.

We liked: Good flavours in the sauces; reasonable prices for Thai.

We didn't like: The "mild" versions are still too spicy for the not so initiated;

Other things to note: If you can't eat spicy food, you're probably best to avoid eating here; not licensed.

S & T Thai Gourmet Cafe
Shop 3, 349 William Street
(08) 9328 8877

Trading Hours
7 days a week - 11am to 9pm

S & T Thai Gourmet Cafe on Urbanspoon

Friday, October 19, 2012

Aisuru Sushi, Northbridge

During winter, I tend to find myself eating heavier or heartier meals.  Roasts, steaks, casseroles, tagines, soups - they all warm the insides on those cold winter nights.  Sushi on the other hand isn't something I tend to eat a lot of but as anything from a quick snack to a light-feeling but special meal can equally whet the appetite and send the stomach grumbling.

The great thing about sushi is that it seems ever evolving and versatile: from the quick snack of a hand roll through to a full exquisite and immaculately presented traditional assorted sushi; and from the pure raw fish sushi or California rolls through to soft shell crab rolls or other newer interesting combinations I had never heard of before.  Suffice to say there is a huge variety available, and that choice got bigger with the arrival of Aisuru Sushi in Northbridge boasting a large menu of sushi rolls with names like Black Velvet and Sunset Boulevard.

Located at the corner of William and James Streets in Northbridge, Aisuru Sushi offers indoor table dining, indoor dining at the long bar benches that border the kitchen, and al fresco dining.  Though there are a fair amount of tables for the size of restaurant, larger groups may find it more difficult to get a table without a wait and a bit of luck joining of tables.  Did I mention that the kitchen is open and the best vantage points are along the bar benches?

As you'd expect, Aisuru Sushi specialises in sushi but to be different offers a modern take with many sushi combinations I hadn't seen before in a rather extensive sushi roll list.  Sushi dishes are available in small and main sizes, the former with four pieces and the latter with eight pieces.  Aside from the sushi are some lunch sets with typical Japanese dishes such as teriyaki and katsu, as well as some entrees and desserts.

Spider Roll - $19.50 (Main size)

This sushi dish was described in the menu as: Fried soft-shell crab, cucumber, and lettuce, wrapped in nori and shari.  Topped with black sesame seeds and drizzled with wasabi mayonnaise.

To begin with, all the sushi rolls generally seemed to be freshly rolled using fresh ingredients, had lightly seasoned rice with a mild sweet and vinegary flavour, and each piece held relatively well.  Each were placed on a white rectangular plate that, even though it was modern, seemed a little boring and basic as far as sushi presentation is concerned.

Of the different sushi I tried in my meal, my favourite was the Spider Roll.

The Spider Roll started with light-batter coated and deep fried soft shell crab that was crunchy like a tempura batter, added in some cucumber and gourmet lettuce leaves, was inversely wrapped in the sushi rice and seaweed, sprinkled with black sesame seeds and had a fair amount of creamy Japanese mayonnaise.  The crunch and freshness of the soft shell crab was the highlight that stood out in each piece of sushi and was further enhanced with the creamy Japanese mayonnaise.

Tank Roll - $22.50

This sushi dish was described in the menu as: Topped with sliced wagyu beef, sliced red onions, and sprinkled with togarashi flakes.  Cream cheese and cucumber inside and wrapped in nori seaweed and shari sushi rice.  Drizzled with Japanese mayonnaise and eel sauce.

I'm not sure why this was called "Tank Roll", but the centrepiece wagyu beef  in the sushi gave the perception of something substantial.  The wagyu beef itself was thinly sliced and cooked rare, with the particularly rare bits in each sushi being a little chewy but otherwise being tender and having a fresh wagyu beef taste.

Also prominent in this dish was the chunk of cream cheese, its smooth and creamy cheese taste standing out in each piece of sushi and at times nearly dominating some mouthfuls.

The overall sushi was then flavoured with the usual acidity and sweetness of the sushi rice, along with the creamy Japanese mayonnaise and additional sweetness of the sauce.

Magic Mushroom Roll - $15.50 (Main size)

This sushi dish was described in the menu as: Pan fried enoki mushroom and avocado wrapped in nori and shari. Topped with seasoned sliced button mushroom.  Mixed mesclun salad on the side with Japanese salad dressing.

With a name like "Magic Mushroom" I was expecting big things from this sushi roll.

The underlying note of this vegetarian sushi was the lightly cooked enoki mushrooms along with the fresh and ripe avocado.  The fresh raw sliced button mushroom on top of the sushi also featured prominently with its raw taste negatively impacting the taste of this sushi for my tastebuds.

Suffice to say this was to me the most bland of the sushi I had in this meal, but probably the healthiest.

We liked: The apparent freshness of the ingredients and dishes; some different sushi combinations to keep things interesting.

We didn't like: The relative prices of the dishes; perhaps too simplified furnishings and decor to be a fancy upmarket sushi restaurant.

Things of note: Caters for vegetarians and vegans

Aisuru Sushi
208 William Street
(08) 9328 8578

Trading Hours
Lunch - Tuesday to Saturday - 12 noon to 2:30pm
Dinner - Thursday - 6pm to 9:30pm
Dinner - Friday to Saturday - 6pm to 10pm

Aisuru Sushi on Urbanspoon

Saturday, October 6, 2012

The Merrywell, Crown Perth, Burswood

Filling the upmarket bar niche of the re-branded Crown Perth, The Merrywell takes to task with a New York style bar serving well-executed pub food with enough meat and deep fried dishes to leave not many wanting.

Filled with warm and orange glows in different sections of the pub/restaurant, splashings of retro-style fittings and wallpaper, and an audibly played mix of music from yesteryear (try the 80s) through to modern, The Merrywell is suited to casual meals through to group catch-ups despite being labelled as serving "dude food".  Here you will find each of couples and groups having casual meals through to good folk having drinks at the bar.

The Merrywell has a separate lunch and dinner menu, though it's more a full menu provided at dinner that has had more of the casual lunch dishes taken out and placed into the shorter lunch menu (though there's an even shorter bar menu).  The lunch menu is centred around burgers and sandwiches with some share plates, sides and salad, whilst the dinner menu has all of those meals but expands into a greater selection including pub grub and main course selections (such as ribs, chicken and steak).

Of course, being in essence a bar, there is a drinks/bar menu that includes local and imported beers, ciders, a bar selection of wines, cocktails and seasonal jugs (like cocktail mixes served in jugs).  The overall selection isn't as expansive as a wine bar or some fine dining restaurants, but the varied selection is good for a pub and sure to satisfy most.

The Merrywell Angus Burger - $24

The Merrywell Angus Burger is described on the menu as containing aged cheddar, bacon, secret sauce, caramelised onions, LTO, pickle, fries.

The core of the Angus Burger, the patty, was a thick (though not wide enough to cover the full size of the bun) chunk of Angus mince.  True to the menu's statement "all burgers served pink and juicy" the patty was very pink inside, quite rare looking and a tiny bit chewy in texture.

The burger in a white bun was then served with the other fillings - well cooked but not crispy bacon, caramelised onions, lettuce, tomato, American style pickle and sauce through the lettuce that seemed like a cocktail type of sauce - no mayonnaise in sight.  Each of the flavours from these was distinct in the burger and combined into a well flavoured pub style burger.

The burger was served with a mini frying basket of salted crisp french fries and tomato ketchup.  The serving size of the fries was a little deceptive considering there was a napkin loosely stuffed at the base of the basket but nonetheless the small serving of fries is probably all you need if you have entrees or sides.

Overall, the chunky Angus beef burger with its sweet, savoury and sour flavours from the sauces, pickles and bacon made a nice gourmet burger served with those crispy thin fries.  My only concern was that (probably being quite new) the Angus burger arrived significantly after the rest of the meal came and was consumed, and after we asked the wait staff.  The slightly sloppy nature of the burger and its placement on the plate may also have been a result of it being rushed.

D&G BLT - $28

The D&G BLT is described on the menu as containing porchetta, pork belly, pancetta, SSU egg, rocket, tomato, bacon aioli, bacon bread, crisp onion rings.

With three types of pork in this BLT (yes, three!), I think this "BLT" is a little misleading - in a good way.  A crusty and crunchy bacon bread (a little like ciabatta bread) was first buttered then layered with the three cuts of pork, from a bacon style (I think) pancetta through to a (presumably) roasted pork style pork belly.  Each layer was quite thin such that the "B" didn't dominate the other ingredients in the "BLT" but still provided a good meat base worthy of a BLT with a twist.  Between the grilling and the toasted (with a little bit of charcoalon the edges) bread, the BLT had a light and nice smokey flavour.

The BLT was then filled with a runny fried egg, rocket, tomato and spread with bacon aioli (see below in the chips section) and topped with four crispy and light batter coated onion rings.  Each of these ingredients combined together into a quite full-on toasted gourmet sandwich.

Served on the side was a small bowl of pickles.  The pickles were shaped like chips, made with what seemed like a radish and being thick rectangular strips, and pickled consistently throughout in a mostly sour fluid - giving a sour taste but not too overpowering.  The texture of the pickles was firm yet soft to bite through - much softer than a carrot stick but harder than a pickled gherkin.

Overall the BLT seemed quite indulgent with all the butter and pork cuts inside.

The Merrywell Chips - $15

The Merrywell chips is described on the menu as crisp ripped potatoes, bacon aioli.

The chips were small but thick chunks of potato that had been cooked (initially boiled?) throughout, coated and crispy on the outside and most than lightly sprinkled with salt.

The chips were served with bacon aioli - an aioli that had small bits of bacon and paprika.  The taste was a good combination of the creamy and lightly garlicky aioli with the sweet spice of paprika and the flavours of grilled bacon.

I actually enjoyed these chips - the crisp and crunchy outsides made even better with the boiled potato like insides.  Though with the bacon aioli, this made the meal seem quite heavy.

We liked: Near-gourmet blokey pub food (dude food); some great dishes on offer with their own twist; the different areas to dine or have a drink in

We didn't like: A few service timing issues (probably as they're still new)

Other things to note: No bookings taken (just turn up); not so vegetarian friendly

The Merrywell
Crown Perth
Great Eastern Highway

Trading Hours
Sunday to Thursday - 11:30am to midnight
Friday and Saturday - 11:30am to 3am

The Merrywell on Urbanspoon