Friday, 19 October 2012

Tasik: Pleasant Enough, Not Indonesian Enough

My wife and I tried Tasik Indonesian in Northbridge the other night for a spur-of-the-moment dinner.  We were greatly encouraged by the stellar 92% Urban Spoon rating.  Is it deserved?  Sort of.  The food is good.  Yep, a food blog with such insightful and informative statements as "the food is good".  But it is good food, and so if you ate there you'd most likely 'like it' on Urban Spoon.  But is it good Indonesian food?  Not so much (with this statement tempered to a degree because it has been many years since I was in Indonesia).

The restaurant setting is great.  It's an old house on Aberdeen street, with colourful but faded decor, well worn floor boards, and casual but neat and smartish table settings.  It almost feels a bit Mexican.  Service from our waitress was friendly and helpful, although she was a little hard to catch at times.  They were out of the first dish I ordered, which was a bit disappointing, but there are plenty of other choices.

We ordered Fried Chicken (Ayam Goreng), Beef Rendang, Gado Gado, and steamed rice to soak up the sauce.  Staple, unadventurous, familiar Indonesian dishes.  The sort of dishes we could cook well ourselves (maybe not the deep fried chicken) but would expect to be that bit more authentic, that bit better, at an Indonesian restaurant.  It turns out we probably could have matched or surpassed these dishes at home.

Maybe we couldn't have matched the Fried Chicken:

It was actually really tasty, with a faultless blend of spices and seasoning.  It was, however, also very dry.  It wasn't inedible or unpleasant, but if it was juicy and tender inside it would have been a stand-out dish.  The flavours were spot on.  The accompanying chilli sauce deserves special mention.  It was searingly hot (really!) and the shrimp and lime flavours were also strong.  Great stuff, although too hot for Yokey.

The Beef Rendang was not up to the standard of the chicken:

On the plus side, they hadn't used Ayam Brand beef rendang paste.  Nothing wrong with Ayam Brand beef rendang paste, it's actually very good, but you don't want to be eating it at a restaurant (except for maybe a budget establishment).  And some restaurants DO use it!  This was either an in-house curry, or a pre-made paste with which I am not familiar.

As a casserole or stew, this dish would be alright.  But it had minimal spice, no heat, no kick, and was dominated by coconut.  The sauce was thick and rich, good with rice, and if it was sold as a generic stewed beef, it would be acceptable.  But a Rendang is supposed to be, you know... Rendang.

The Gado Gado was also not quite right:

As far as I know, Gado Gado is supposed to be plain steamed or boiled vegetables served with satay sauce.  These vegies were sloppy and wet, as though they had been stir-fried together.  They were then smothered with a diluted and insipid excuse for a satay sauce, and accompanied by a few strange and stale 'crackers'. 

 As a vegetatble stir-fry it wasn't completely terrible.  But, again, you call the dish Gado Gado and expectations are raised.

This review is pretty harsh, in that the meal wasn't awful.  Serves were small, but the three dishes and rice were more than enough for the two of us (we took a small take-away container home).  The dishes tasted fresh and healthy (can deep fried chicken be considered healthy?).  Pricing was very fair, at $46 for the two of us, and even fairer as we used the Entertainment Book.  We might even go back.  But not for Indonesian.

Tasik Indonesian on Urbanspoon

Saturday, 13 October 2012

A Northern Adventure: Malaga

Yokey and I are contemplating moving to the 'burbs so, after returning to Hillarys Boat Harbour from a whale watching trip (recommended!), we decided to take a look at a house in Ballajura. Driving back towards town afterwards, it made sense to investigate the culinary options available in the area. We weren't expecting much, maybe a Nandos and a fish and chip shop, so it was a pleasant surprise to find a nondescript row of commercial boxes housing a few Asian eateries and a small continental deli at 11 Exchange Road, Malaga.

The continental deli turned out to be a Polish deli called Ludwik and Son. We're big fans of Polish meats so we stocked up on Krakowska, Smoked Lachsshinken, Schinkenwurst (Szynokwa), and Doubled Smoked Hunters Sausage:

Back in Adelaide we used to buy our Polish smallgoods from Standom. These Western Australian products are as good or better than anything Standom sells. Great stuff. I also picked up a huge jar of green tomatoes in brine for $1 - if anybody can tell me what to do with these it would be greatly appreciated!

A few doors up from Ludwik and Son we stopped at Phu Vinh Noodle House and shared a plate of Fried Fishcakes and a bowl of Combination Pho. Both were very good, if not outstanding. We were pleased to note that the each table set included the full range of condiments - some Perth Vietnamese restaurants forget to put the fish sauce out.

Impressed by the quality of the pho, and quite full (the serve was generous) we decided to pick up some take-away from the Best BBQ Seafood Restaurant, which looks to be run by some Hong Kong Chinese. The BBQ meats hanging in the cabinet looked good (not something you take for granted in Perth) so we ordered BBQ Combination (crispy skinned roast pork and roast duck) with Rice:

"Best BBQ" is stretching the truth a little here. The meat was tasty enough, texture was good, servings were reasonable but not exactly generous. All in all, pretty good, but there are some kick-arse BBQ joints out there. Best in Malaga? It just might be! We also ordered Noodles with Beef Brisket and Tendon, just because it's not something that every restauant serves:

This is quite an unusual dish, with the noodles fried until crispy and then served with a rich thick gravy and a reasonable (but, again, not generous) quantity of meaty chunks. The brisket was sensational, nearly falling apart without even chewing it, but the tendon was conspicuously absent. Still, the brisket was so good it nearly didn't matter.

There was also an Indian eatery in the complex but we had enough food by then. It smelt good, though. If we do have to make the move to the outer suburbs, it's great to know that options beyond McDonalds, KFC, Red Rooster, etc, etc do exist.

 Phu Vinh Noodle House on Urbanspoon

Best BBQ Seafood Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Nobu: Top Shelf Japanese

This is a delayed review but it doesn't matter. I can still taste every single dish when I look at these pics. The food was that good. That special. My wife Yokey took me there for my birthday in September. My family very kindly paid for my meal as a birthday gift (thanks Mum, Dad and Prue!), and we couldn't have chosen a better restaurant for the occasion. Dinner at Nobu really is an event.

We didn't have entrees and mains as such - more of a selection of various styles and flavours, each delivered in rapid fire succession. If you are looking for the traditional fine dining marathon experience, Nobu isn't it. It's modern, bordering on casual (laid back jazzy house music was playing quietly in the background), but with enough flair that the experience never nears mundane.

First course was Tuna Tataki with Tosazu:

This one is an absolute cracker. It's several rectangular slices of tuna carpaccio, with little lumps and piles of condiments, not unlike what might be served with a steak tartar.There's finely sliced spring onions, shaved raw garlic, minced ginger, and a mysterious orange pastey substance - that would be the tosazu, then. The whole lot was laid down in a shallow pool of very light oil. Easily an 8 out of 10.

Next up was Toro Tartar with Caviar:

Toro is the fatty underbelly of a tuna. This simple dish is just a tartar of the toro meat, served with a subtle sauce and a generous dollop of caviar. The small green fruit is a kind of green peach, with a very gentle, complex peach flavour. It is served as a kind of aperitif, to be eaten prior to the tartar. The peach itself is delicious, but nothing can prepare you for the tuna. It is soft, smooth, velvety, fluid, sensual. It's sex, pure and simple.

After the toro tartar the next dish was bound to be slightly anti-climatic.  The Salmon with Dry Miso was nevertheless very impressive:

To be honest I can't remember exactly what was in this one. But the salmon sashimi slices were each topped with a little dry miso, lending a slight bitterness to the dish. A little central 'salad' and a mild flavoured oily dressing - something like a vinaigrette - finished the dish. Great, but not a highlight.

Great, but not a highlight, is also applicable to the Scallops with Wasabi Pepper:

This one is basically a stir-fry of scallops, mushrooms, and asparagus. It's pretty much perfectly executed but lacking the wow factor of the first two dishes. By this stage Yokey and I were wondering if Nobu had peaked too soon. It hadn't.

The Black Cod Miso is Nobu's signature dish:

It's hard to describe just how good this dish is. The fish is sweet, oily, slightly smoky, and juicily succulent. It's incredible, as good a seafood dish as I have ever eaten. If you go to Nobu, you must try it.

Dessert... I like dessert, but it's supplementary to the entrees and mains for me. I wasn't going to order anything except Yokey absolutely insisted that I must, so I ordered the special - a baked cheesecake with passion fruit sorbet:

Japanese baked cheesecakes are the best in my opinion and this didn't disappoint. Yokey ordered the bento box of chocolate fondant with green tea icecream:

The pudding was moist with a slight crust, and the liquid insides were gooey and decadent:

Decadent... that pretty much sums up the whole Nobu experience.

A few more things warrant a mention.

The service is absolutely superb. We had the same waiter for most of the night, and he was extremely knowledgeable and courteous.

The price is pretty crazy. If you look at the menu, the individual dishes aren't obscene. But the dishes aren't huge. If you plan on drinking don't be surprised if you top $200 per person.

Speaking of drinking, the drinks selection is very good, and they know how to make a dry gin martini. The sparkling mineral water comes from Scandinavia, naturally. The drinks menu has a couple of pages of sake options. I don't know much about sake, maybe this is a good selection, maybe not. But I ordered a tiny little flask of a sake which I was assured had listened to classical music as it fermented. Seriously.

Nobu Perth on Urbanspoon

Saturday, 6 October 2012

Decent Coffee, Decent Prices

Coffee in Perth can be spendy - $4-5 for a long black is the norm. If you take the time to look around, however, you can find a good coffee at 'Melbourne prices'.
Exotiful, a little African eatery at the Station Street Market, offers single shot long blacks for $3. It's good coffee too, in my opinion. Quite light and sharp, not too bitter. That said, I'm not very fussy when it comes to coffee, so your mileage may vary.

Another cheap coffee in Subi right now is at Cafe Vero. Coffees are normal Perth prices, maybe $4.30 (I didn't check) but if you shop at Coles over the road you will likely get a 2-for-1 voucher on the back of your receipt. It's slso good coffee but very different to exotiful. Thick, strong, bitter, choclatey, almost sticky.

Exotiful African Cuisine on Urbanspoon

Caffe Vero on Urbanspoon