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


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