I’m a lucky girl. My eatathon of a birthday last week started off with a fantastic breakfast with friends at Greenhouse, morning tea was a Greenhouse donut and Lindt Chilli Chocolate, lunch was another fantastic meal at West End Deli in West Perth, the afternoon offered me a massage and coconut bubble tea, and then I was whisked off to a mystery location for dinner. I was told to dress nicely and was assured I didn’t need to bring my hard hat or steel caps, so I was looking forward to a civilised evening.
(Before I continue, I have to get something off my chest… the menu at West End Deli actually said “vinaigarette”, and not “vinaigrette”… not quite as bad as a misplaced apostrophe, but still irritating, particularly as it makes me think of Shane Delia pronouncing it “vinegarette” on Ready Steady Cook and Peter Everett blithely parroting him. Why don’t menu writers use spell checkers? Why do I watch Ready Steady Cook?)
I’ve spoken before of my enjoyment of degustation meals and the efforts of a group of my friends and I to slowly but surely make our way through all the degos Perth has to offer, so I started to get quite excited when the drive to the mystery location started to get within the vicinity of the restaurant currently on top of my dego-list – Restaurant Amusé.
Restaurant Amusé was the only Western Australian restaurant to be awarded two stars in the Gourmet Traveller 2010 Restaurant Awards (no WA restaurants received three stars, and one star was awarded to ten WA restaurants), following on from receiving the same status in 2009 and various other awards since it was opened in 2007 by husband and wife team Hadleigh and Carolynne Troy. Both Hadleigh and Carolynne have significant restaurant experience behind them, in the kitchen and front of house respectively, which I won’t detail but you can read about here.
I have to admit I was a little surprised by the external appearance of Restaurant Amusé. It is located in a largely residential area of East Perth, and the restaurant is within a 1990s style brick house. I half expected to walk into the middle of a family enjoying chops and vegies in front of Today Tonight (no doubt being warned of a shonky conman lover on the run from a string of heartbroken women with bad perms). I was only slightly disappointed when instead we found ourselves face to face with a friendly waiter (sans bad perm) and taken to our table within one of the two dining areas, admiring the cheese trolley on the way.
I can’t quite remember what the first dining area is like, but the one we were in had a bit of a strange vibe, being essentially just a large square room filled with tables and chairs. The waiter’s table near the centre breaks it up slightly but I think it could perhaps benefit from a few more elements such as some screens or plants to create different spaces within the room.
Oh and the lighting. Well, the light shades were pretty cool, but our nice location in the corner of the room meant that our mood lighting was at its moodiest, and thus my photos are somewhat moody as well. Luckily they have photos of some of the dishes that we tried on their website, so I’ve included some of these in this post to supplement mine.
We started off the night by forgoing our waiter’s recommendation of the1996 Salon Cuvée ‘S’, Blanc de Blancsat champagne at $825 and instead choosing a bottle of sparkling that was so nice I can’t remember what it was. We then only had to make two choices regarding the food – did we want the degustation at $120pp or the petite dégustation at $85pp, and would we to change any of the courses for the vegetarian option? Unsurprisingly we went for the full dego, and there weren’t any offending items on the omnivorous side of the menu so we stuck with those.
We started off with a little bread, which I actually didn’t enjoy very much. There was the choice of either white or wholemeal, and I can’t comment on the white but the crust of the wholemeal had an slightly odd cheddary taste to it, while the crumb was quite bland. I’m sure it didn’t help that I was comparing this bread to that which I had been served at West End Deli earlier in the day, and is very difficult to compete with. On the positive side, it is probably a good thing that I didn’t like the bread given that I had many dishes to save my stomach space for.
Before I begin describing these many dishes, I have to give a disclaimer that each dish has so many elements, and I was drinking sparkling wine, and having interesting conversations, and hate taking lots of notes at the table like the food nerd that I am, so while I try to be accurate in my descriptions I may well be wrong in some of them.
Before we knew it, the amuse bouche was upon us. Little did I know this would herald the worst photo ever to be shown on my blog. Have a few shots of absinthe and squint very hard and you should be able to make out a white chocolate ganache, with saffron beads and candied olive, sitting underneath lumpfish roe, salmon caviar and very finely grated dry foie gras. This was a real interplay of flavours, from the faintly sweet light-as-a-feather ganache, poppily salty roe and smoky foie gras. Apparently my friend had informed the restaurant at the time of booking that I am not a fan of offal, so Carolynne came over prior to this course to check if I was happy to have foie gras with the dish. Eating my morals is just a little too tasty, so I couldn’t resist, and I’m glad I didn’t as I certainly haven’t had foie gras in this form before and found the idea quite interesting even if I wasn’t blown away by the ingredient itself.
“Smoke, tomato and ash” was the next course, consisting of a “zoom” (I am resisting the urge to say “streak” when describing my dinner, thank you) of leek ash and basil, across the bowl holding marinated truss tomatoes, smoked consomme jelly, smoked olive oil sorbet and topped with dehydrated pine nut oil. The stand out component of this dish for me was the consomme jelly which was incredibly flavoursome.
It was time for some cubic action next with “tuna, watermelon and horseradish” which consisted of cubes of yellowfin tuna, cubes of compressed watermelon, horseradish granita and tiny little microleaves of mint, celery and watercress. A beautifully fresh dish pairing the sweetness of watermelon with soft, creamy tuna cut through with bitey horseradish. The vegetarian option for this course was “watermelon, tapenade and dill”.
We got out first foam with the next course of “mulloway, asparagus and clam”. The foam covered asparagus and peas were deliciously al dente while the little gnocchi were soft and pillowy. Sitting inside the clam shell was a mixture of red and yellow peppers, white anchovy and clam meat, which I actually found a little chewy and didn’t quite do it for me. The mulloway however was absolutely incredible. It was a beautiful chunk of Suzuki Mulloway which is farmed in Port Lincoln, and apparently we don’t see much of it as the majority is exported as it is such a prized sashimi fish. It was everything perfectly cooked fish should be – tender, flaking under the lightest touch of your fork, with a beautifully sweet juiciness in the mouth. I could have eaten this fish all night and taken it home to meet my parents. The vegetarian option for this dish was “tofu, asparagus and gnocchi”.
It was quite difficult to capture the next course – “Chicken or the egg?” in a photo, as all the various goodies were sitting on top of each other in the bowl and covered with “chicken snow” made of chicken stock. Hiding beneath it however was a coddled free range egg, consisting of a yolk and white that were exactly the same creamy texture as one another, tender chicken breast and very tasty pieces of crispy chicken skin. The components worked very well together even if the dish didn’t look particularly spectacular with the variations on white, but although the idea of “chicken snow” was interesting I found the snow lacking in flavour. Like real snow, I guess. At least it wasn’t yellow. The vegetarian option for this dish was “quinoa, egg and pine nuts”.
I was very curious about the next dish of “rabbit, coffee and cocoa” and was happy to see it included the must-have item in rabbit dishes – carrot. I also loved the range of colours on the plate, and the nice orbital ellipse of the jus. The rabbit ballotine was lovely – I really should try my hand at cooking rabbit in my own kitchen one of these days – and paired very well with the sweet, earthy crumbs (some mixture of coffee and cocoa?), and finished off with the sticky rabbit jus. The vegetarian option for this dish was “beetroot, arborio and coffee”.
I was excited about the next course. How could I not be, with the simple description of “duck, goat’s cheese and black olive”? It more than met my expectations, consisting of a nicely cooked slice of tender duck breast with honey, a little tart of beautifully tangy goat cheese and confit duck leg, olive and almond crumbs, some baby spinach and a funny “spaghetti” of solidified pumpkin gastrique. A very well executed dish of flavours and textures that made my mouth very happy. What also made me happy was my friend’s ability to spell my name with his gastrique. The vegetarian option for this dish was “vegetable tagine”.
The “lemongrass and lime” marked the end of our protein bonanza. This wasn’t so much a sorbet texture as a foam/jelly texture, which was perhaps not as refreshing as it could have been but the Asian flavours, finished off with a tiny coriander sprig, was nice.
We got some dynamic service with the next course of “mango, rockmelon and Szechuan”, with the rockmelon soup being poured at the table into our bowls of some sort of white balsamic jelly, mango sorbet and a Szechuan biscuit. The mango sorbet was the star of this dish, being packed with ripe mango flavour, while I found the rockmelon soup a little watery and the biscuit was tasty but got stuck in my teeth. OK, perhaps I’m being overly critical as quite a few of life’s tasty items get stuck in your teeth. This is fine when you’re getting stuck into a bag of Fantales or a Crunchie in the darkness of the movies but it is a little annoying when you are in a nice restaurant looking more glamorous than usual and you find yourself in need of a toothpick. Teeth stickingly or not however, I enjoyed the biscuit’s flavour and was impressed with how thin it was. I actually thought for a second that my friend had missed out on getting one until I realised that it had just gone the way of my photo quality and disappeared in the moody lighting.
I think the “fruit and veg” course actually made me clap my hands in joy. They even made a smiley face in one of the “o”s! When I was little and first learning how to write, I would insist on colouring in the centre of all of my “o”s. If only I was clever enough to draw smiley faces in them, or even use both “o”s in my name as two eyes and draw a big smile out of my whole name. Lost opportunities.
I believe this dish consisted of caramel parfait, caramel powder, mandarin cream/jelly, carrot cake and carrot sorbet – a really enjoyable range of textures and flavours. The carrot cake had a great spice hit to it, and I loved the rich fruity flavour of the mandarin sorbet (I have written “Wow! Mandarin!” next to the mandarin cream/jelly on my menu scribblings on the night).
Oh no! Petit four! The end of the meal is nigh. Luckily however it ended on a great note. The friand had a nice crisp top and oven-fresh, soft inner, and tasted of fresh gingerbread. The little chocolate brownie was delightfully dense, just bitter enough, and quite short in texture. My favourite however was the mint chocolate, and I realised I had forgotten how nice it is to end a meal with this flavour combination. After Dinner Mints really seem to have gone out of vogue. I blame Mr Creosote.
The service throughout the night was excellent – very welcoming, friendly without being overly so, knowledgable and forthcoming about describing the components of each dish, and also very attentive. In fact, my only criticism of the service was that the wait staff were perhaps a little too attentive with the drinks, and I had a couple of occasions where my wine was topped up before I had actually drunk any of the previous pour. At one stage we had to actually stop three different waiters from topping up our drinks over a period of five minutes or so, as we were having a slow-drinking-period and preferred our wine to stay chilling in the bottle instead of warming in our glasses. Despite this however, I repeat that the service was excellent and we left feeling as though we had been treated very well and our patronage was appreciated.
Carolynne was lovely, coming over to have a chat during the end of the meal, and we learnt that this particular menu has enjoyed the longest run they’ve had in the restaurant. The reason behind this longevity is due to having to set a menu some time ago for a dinner they were hosting in conjunction with Jaguar and Gourmet Traveller Magazine on 24 February, but once March is upon us they will be changing the menu again. The menu-changing approach from March is going to be slightly different, being more seasonal with some dishes changing 6 weekly and others changing 4 weekly as opposed to a simultaneous change on the first Tuesday of each month.
Having just read back through my dish descriptions I feel the need to clarify that my negative observations about some of the dish components really only occurred because all the other components were just so good. Throughout the night I was continually excited by what was placed before me and I finished every last bit of every dish.
I can highly recommend Restaurant Amusé for bold, interesting dishes executed with skill and care and featuring top quality ingredients. I will be back.
64 Bronte Street, East Perth 6004
Phone: 08 9325 4900
Opening Hours: Tuesday through Saturday with reservations from 7pm
Menu: Degustation only (full or petite, with or without matched wines)