Restaurant and food reviews from Perth, Australia

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Balthazar, Perth

Set in the heart of the Perth CBD, catering for business clientele through to cosy romantic dinners, Balthazar brings intimate mood dining with very dimly-lit warm lighting in a classy bistro like setting that is decorated with wine racks.  The ambience can make for a cozy romantic dinner, or otherwise is popular amongst the lavish business lunch crowd - made even more attractive by its extensive wine list.

The menu at Balthazar looks simple, but between the share dishes at the front and the course-based menu there is a decent choice in different types of dishes.  However, of particular note is the wine list that is not only very impressive with a huge international selection but is backed up by the visible collections of wine eye-catchingly displayed in about every direction you look.

The service from the waitstaff at the tables were very friendly and helpful - perhaps too helpful as they would ask if everything was ok every now and then whilst we were engaged in conversation.  However, what spoilt the excellent service for us was one particular staff member who manned the front desk who spoke with a condescending tone and was overall unfriendly both when we arrived and left.  Pity.

Cured pork belly, garden peas, honey, balsamic - $20

This pork belly entree was tender and soft all the way through.  Being cured, the pork belly was notably salty but not excessively.  Complementing the salt content was a sweet and vinegary honey and balsamic, making a combination of great flavours that weren't overdone into this entree.

Served with the pork belly was peas done three ways.  Starting with the most "normal" were fresh young peas served cold, the peas themselves only containing a  hint of the harsher "floury" taste and texture present in stock standard peas.  Second up was a pea sorbet - cold, smooth and only very lightly seasoned.  Lastly was a foam that added its fluffy texture along with a mild pea taste.

Lamb ribs, black garlic, chilli, mint $19

This lamb ribs dish was on the sharing plates menu, but (for me) good enough for entree.

In comparison to the pork belly dish, the lamb ribs dish was prepared with less finesse but with more intense flavours.

The lamb ribs, on the bone and untrimmed of fat, was highly seasoned with salt, herbs, garlic, and a hint of chilli.  This meaty dish packed a lot of flavour bursting into the mouth, its tender meat that melted away from the bone completely infused with the marinade, and some of the outer layer of the lamb fat grilled crispy.

Complimentary palate cleanser

Between the entree and main course, this small palate cleanser was served in a mini cocktail glass.  Inside the cocktail glass was a sorbet of lemon, its acidity outdone by added sugary sweetness.  The palate cleanser was refreshing and a nice way to break up the savoury entree and main courses.

Aged sirloin, beef shin croquette, spinach, horseradish - $45

Looking quite spectacular on this large slate-like dish was this aged sirloin dish.

The sirloin, which almost oddly cut into wedges that combined didn't appear to be a full steak and wasn't a huge serving for $45, was a well aged and full-meat-flavour meat steak.  The steak was cooked, almost charred on the exterior giving an almost surprising light crunch, whilst the meat itself was tender but not quite melt in the mouth but felt like a decent piece of chunky beef steak.

Accompanying the sirloin was an assortment of flavour and texture adding components - including some lightly cooked spinach, a soft-beef shin and crunchy exterior beef croquette, a sprinkling of well seasoned and salted breadcrumbs, and only a mild hint of horseradish.

 Duck breast, chardonnay smoked leg, tokaji, house mustard - $44

Thie tender duck dish had a pink and moist inside, and an every so slight crunch to the skin.  The duck itself was nicely seasoned with a fair helping of salt but overall it retained a great duck flavour that reminded me of roast duck.

Tying into the centrepiece duck were the light alcoholic infused elements of the chardonnay smoked leg, tokaji, and then a helping of seeded mustard.

Pork, jamon, black pudding, scallops, cherry, radish - $42

On this large slate like dish was an interesting combination of flavours and textures.

Starting off with the meat side of things, the pork came in the form of a crunchy skinned meaty sausage, with a very smooth and consistent pork filling without the sausage-like overly greasy and fatty aftertaste.  Nonetheless, it was deliciously seasoned and didn't taste like any ordinary sausage.  However, for a "pork" dish, there was only two relatively small pieces of sausage that didn't seem to add up to one sausage.

Also on the deliciously fat and salt seasoned side was the rich black pudding that also seemed quite meaty.  Complimenting the meat were tender scallops, cooked rare and thus soft and tender, but probably a little more rare than I like.

Accompanying the meat and seafood elements on the dish were some sweet cooked cherries going very well with the pork, and some salt and herb seasoned breadcrumbs.  Finally, adding extra texture was crunchy deep fried pork skin - different to a roast crackling and a little more like a crisp.

Roasted duck fat potatoes, carrot, rosemary - $12

This side dish started off with some firm chunks of potatoes that had been infused with duck fat.  Whilst the duck fat gave the potatoes extra flavour, the potatoes were not heavily seasoned and when eaten with some of the saltier elements of the main dishes seemed a little bland in comparison (but probably for the better).

Also in this side dish were tender baby carrots, and the whole dish had been roasted topped with a bit of rosemary.

Chocolate, strawberry mousse

This dessert was an intense chocolate and sweet strawberry infused mousse - rich with the chocolate and fruity sweet with the strawberry.  It was silky smooth and rather decadent and served with extra strawberry and a strawberry coulis.

Ricotta cake - $19

This rich sounding dessert started off with a moist ricotta cake, the ricotta flavour being very prominent even when combined with the sugar to balance it out.  Despite being heavy with ricotta flavour, the cake itself wasn't too dense or heavy.

The ricotta cake was topped with a rich, smooth chocolate ice cream.

Coconut pannacotta - $19

The coconut pannacotta was dual layered.  On the base was a coconut jelly, and sitting on top was the smooth pannacotta.  Though not as sweet as the other desserts, the pannacotta was topped with a thin layer of acidity that was subtle as to compliment the pannacotta.

Accompanying the pannacotta was a black sesame crisp. silky smooth mint ice cream, an almond flavoured quenelle that had a texture like a soft chunky pudding (i'm not sure if the almost gluggy like texture did a lot for me), and ginger flavoured crumbs.

We liked:  Excellent presentation and decor; warm cosy ambience, dishes that were made with effort; very friendly and helpful table waitstaff that seemed to always have a smile, excellent winelist and our bottle of wine was fantastic.

We didn't like: A few meal oddities and we had enough of the many dishes that used "foam" by the end of the night; a condescending toned and unfriendly front desk waitstaff.

Other things to note: The meals aren't huge, so you probably won't survive on just a main; there's a huge wine list; if you have poor eyesight, you may need a torch or something to read the menu in the very low light setting

6 The Esplanade
(08) 9421 1206

Trading Hours
Lunch - Monday to Friday
Dinner - Monday to Saturday

Balthazar on Urbanspoon

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Endless Delight Chinese Restaurant, Perth (Northbridge)

Sweet and sour pork?  Lemon chicken?  Special fried rice?  These are some of the local Chinese restaurant dishes I knew of when growing up.  As we (or maybe just I) got more cultured, the variety of options across opened up including more choices for Chinese - which perhaps shows the large choice of dishes available that sit under the "Chinese cuisine" banner - and in particular I'm thinking of Dim Sum and roast duck and pork right now - yum!

However, sitting in the Northbridge side of Perth is a Szechuan Chinese restaurant that goes by the "interesting" name of Endless Delight Chinese Restaurant.  Aside from the name, the Chinese restaurant is quite simple inside and able to cater for tables for 2 (or solo) through to those big round tables with a Lazy Susan.  Endless Delight Chinese Restaurant specialises in Szechuan cuisine.

Upon being seated, Endless Delight has two menus (at least at lunch time).  The menus are written in Chinese and English but when I say English some dishes may be in English just phonetically - eg the "Yu Xing" Pork Set below.  However, somewhat helpful is that one of the menus has pictures of some of the dishes in it, and the waitstaff will help you to the best they can upon request.  However, the service can be lukewarm and cold - I've experienced quiet but somewhat helpful upon request through to almost indifference to you being there.

Getting down to the food, the menu is supposed to be authentic Szechuan Chinese cuisine.  The dishes encompass a range of choices: dry dishes versus sauce and soup dishes; vegetarian to meat; chicken through to beef and pork and "other" different selections; and a variety of sauces and styles from stir fried to steamed and mild to spicy.  The dishes are intended to be Asian style share dishes, but at lunch you can get lunch specials designed for one person at a lunch-meal price (e.g. around $10-$15).

Yummy Chicken Set - $13 (lunch special)

With a name like "yummy chicken" I had to give this meal a try.  This set came with what seemed like half a tender boiled chicken, surrounded by a whole lot of sauce.  The chicken itself was cooked quite nicely being tender and somewhat moist, not quite to the extent of some Hainanese chicken rices out there, but at least not dry.

The sauce, of course, is what really makes this dish.  The base of sauce was largely a soy based sauce but had different flavours running through it - from what I could taste there seemed to be a fair amount of chilli, and some sweetness and garlic flavours.  Also noticeable was a fair amount of oil on top of the sauce which was quite unavoidable when dipping in the chicken.

Topping the chicken was a mix of spring onions and crushed peanuts, and of course this chicken dish was served with steamed rice.

Yu Xing Pork Set - $10 (lunch special)

This lunch set was a plate of steamed rice accompanied by a pork stir fry.  The stir fry itself had thin slices of pork accompanied by a variety of vegetables including capsicum, carrot, onion, and a crunchy black fungus.  Notably, not only did the vegetables provide texture against the soft tender pork slices but the crunchy black fungus added even more texture in the form of a crunch that was quite a welcome addition to this dish.

The thick sauce used to stir fry the pork was all of salty mixed with a moderate vinegar like acidity and light sweetness.  The stir fry was also not lacking oil, it's shiny glaze coming off the dish and giving off a slightly oily taste in the mouth.

Overall, although the ingredients and flavour was a little unique (generally in a good way) for me, this is for those of you who want a "typical" stir fry dish.

Pan Flat Dumplings - $10 (lunch special)

When this dish was ordered, I thought it would be a pretty standard pork dumpling dish.  However, when it came I was surprised it was served upside down.  It looked like the dumplings had been steamed in a pan with a very thin edible starchy base that became attached to the bottom of each dumpling, linking them all.

Apart from the different presentation, the dumplings were quite standard.  They were filled with pork and chives, seasoned with a good amount of salt, steamed, then served with Chinese vinegar for dipping.  The dumplings seemed well made and tasted quite good, though they didn't seem that fresh - and we noticed them carrying frozen dumplings to the kitchen (understandable that they would freeze the dumplings, though a little unfortunate).

We liked: Some good flavours in the dishes; Szechuan cuisine, different to "local" Chinese.

We didn't like: Some dishes may not be so fresh; not knowing what some of the dishes are by name; the tea wasn't to our liking at all - bitter and harsh black tea.

Other things to note: There are cheaper lunch specials; BYO.

Endless Delight
145 Newcastle Street
(08) 9228 9778

Endless Delight Chinese Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Sunday, November 4, 2012

33 Degrees South Cafe, North Perth

Visiting the South West region of Western Australia is often associated with casual long weekends, laid back culture, local produce and a visit to the wineries to name a few.

If you live close to or otherwise visit North Perth, you'll probably have noticed the increasing amount of cafes popping up around, many of which specialise in laid back brunches and a good range of coffee and tea.  Combining a little bit of North Perth's coffee culture with the laid-back culture and produce of the South West is 33 Degrees South Cafe, situated at the corner of Fitzgerald and Forrest Streets.

33 Degrees South Cafe gets its name from the region down south that lies at that degree of latitude and encompasses places such as the infamous Margaret River region.  It is a casual cafe with a simple casual layout made cozy with a few decorative aspects such as tables with "33 degrees" enamelled on and produce from the South West (mainly Margaret River) on display for purchase.

The menu at 33 Degrees South Cafe is simple but contains a lot of home style meals, from your "big breakfast" through to eggs on toast, muesli and onto nachos and quesadilla for lunch or even sandwiches and quiches that are on display.  Supplementing all those choices is a selection of cakes for the sweet tooth, and of course coffee and tea.

For better or worse, the service is a little different at 33 Degrees South.  On an average day, many of the staff don't exactly seem very friendly or attentive, not that they are unfriendly but seemingly more just indifferent.  However, regulars might be able to get a quick smile and hello.

33's Big One - $20.50

This "big" breakfast comes with all the trimmings - bacon, eggs, toast, fried tomato, sausage, mushrooms, potato gratin, spinach and rocket in addition to slices of bread with curls of butter and tomato salsa.  When I first starting eating their breakfasts, there was enough food to fill me for breakfast and lunch.  However over time I found the breakfasts to get a little less filling such that it's now just a decently big breakfast as opposed to overload.

Compared to some of the other breakfasts on offer around the area, this breakfast is pretty good value in terms of quantity.  

Over the multiple breakfasts I've had here, each of the elements can vary on each visit.  However, generally the bacon is sizzled short of crunchy, and poached eggs can be overcooked at times but if you order scrambled it tends to be rich and creamy.  The potato rosti can vary a bit too, but generally it's moderately seasoned with firm but soft (i.e. not crunchy) potato.

It may not be the most gourmet or inspired breakfast around but it does have a homely feel to it and can be quite hearty and almost gluttonous.

Nachos with Chicken

The nachos was pretty much standard fare with corn chips and cheese, a serving of sour cream, and had its own guacamole and topped with a couple of jalapeƱos.

The whole dish had been heated just prior to serving, with the plate being hot to touch and the waiter using a cloth to hold the dish.  Serving size was decent for a single serving, of corn chips were well mixed with the just-melted cheese and lean chicken pieces (at additional cost).  The guacamole was home made with a relatively chunky texture and a fresh taste to it.

Quesadilla with Chicken

The quesadilla was made with thin flour tortillas (almost as thin as a crepe) filled with cheese and chicken.  The tortillas were light, thin and had a bit of an egg taste to it.  The cheese and chicken were similar to that provided in the nachos above, with the cheese melted and the chicken lean and thinly sliced and evenly laid out through the quesadilla.  The quesadilla was cut into quarters and placed onto the plate.

The quesadilla was served with some guacamole, vinegar dressed diced tomato and onion, sour cream and some gourmet lettuce salad.


33 Degrees South advertise the use of Toby Estate’s Arabica Beans.

You can get most coffees in cup or mug sizes with the latter costing 50 cents more.

We liked: Home cooked style food and quantity; brings a bit of the South West to Perth

We didn't like: The variations in quality of meals; inconsistent service attitude

Other things to note: Free Wifi; Facing a busy Fitzgerald Street can make the limited al fresco dining a little unpleasant

33 Degrees South
410 Fitzgerald Street
North Perth WA 6006
(08) 9227 0964

Trading Hours
Tuesday to Friday 7:00am to 3:30pm
Saturday: 8am to 3:30pm
Sunday: 8am to 2pm

v33 Degrees South on Urbanspoon