As Peter and I are settling down with a pre-dinner Gin & Tonic, the waitstaff comes over with a sealed envelope and places it on the table. "Inside the envelope is the degustation menu you are having this evening," she advises us that is totally up to us to whether open the envelope and have a peek of the menu. Or, keep it sealed through the whole evening and be surprised. I do like a little mystery game and we both decide to leave our fate in the hands of the chefs and ready to be amusé-d.
We are actually in Perth, 0ver 3900km from Sydney on the west coast in Australia. It is not very often to find myself in this part of the country, that's why it makes the trip much more worthwhile whenever I found good food. Surprisingly, Perth is not a city to disappoint and tonight's dinner is the one that I've been most looking forward to. We are dining at Amusé, which has been awarded Perth's best restaurant of the year for three consecutive years (2009-2011).
With its unrendered brown brick wall and a brightly lit signage on top of the roof of a house, the restaurant actually looks rather uninspiring from the outside, quietly hidden in the residential area of East Perth. But inside is a whole different story - a minimalism design with an opulent modern decor; thick grey carpet, black glossy tables without cutlery, paired with replica of Eames DAW armchairs, beige wall panels with simple motifs, it is a nice change from the white-on-white fine dining settings.
Restaurant Amuse was opened in 2007 by husband and wife team, Hadleigh and Carolynne Troy. Formerly trained and worked at many well respected restaurants in Perth, Melbourne including Micheline Star rated restaurants in UK, Chef Troy's impressive resume creates a high expectation. However, Amuse might not be everyone's cup of tea as the restaurant's menu only offers full 10-course degustation at $125 or $200 with matching wines. The degustation menu changes and constantly evolving with the season, showcases the quality of produce in many innovative and creative ways.
Apart from the surprise element, I can actually see the positives by not revealing the menu until the end of the meal. Throughout the whole evening, dishes are presented to diners by different wait staffs or chefs in rotation; they are extremely attentive and knowledgeable of the menu, taking their time explaining every single details on the dish. I also find myself paying double the attention and nodding in anticipation.
A few 'snacks' arrive at the table to kick start the meal this evening. Two baby radish halves are leaning casually on a green smear of salsa verde, garnished with fallen edible flower petals. It is a refreshing crunchy bite with the clean flavours of radish and basil.
The golden Jamon and Gruyere croquettes go down like a treat, each bite is a wonderful treat of thin crispy shell with a soft gooey cheesy innards, with a subtle heat from the harissa dressing. Kingfish ceviche on rye cracker is simply delicious, with a drop of olive oil jelly that enhances the clean flavour of the kingfish.
Whilst the brittle oat crisps with a sour cream and olive oil dip is deliciously simple, the pork floss 'rollies' definitely take the cake for being the most cheeky. The Chinese pork floss is rolled inside wafer thin rice paper sheet and then literally being lit at one end that gives the rollie a smoky flavour, served in an 'ashtray' with a mound of mysterious white fizzy ash that has a sharp tingling sensation in the mouth then melts into nothingness. It is playful and naughty.
I am even more impressed with how the bread are being served here. Slices of house made sourdough bread come in a bowl filled with heated black river stones to keep the bread warm and toasty, absolutely genius and thoughtful! The bread is served with a beautiful bottle of Kailis organic extra virgin olive oil from Western Australia.
I am not big on wine matching degustation and without knowing the menu, we let the sommelier to pick a wine that will match with most of the courses on the menu. As she suggests the sweet fruity 2008 Domaine Jean-Luc Mader Gewurztraminer will go well with tonight's courses that are generally light without too many heavy meaty dishes.
The first entree course is served on an uneven slab of slate tile, without cutlery. Our waitstaff explains the dish to us then encourages us to use our hands and eat it with our fingers. The portion is no different to the snacks we've had earlier so using fingers is not really an issue, I happily pick up the crispy fish skin with guacamole and down in one bite. I find the interaction from touching the soft marron with fingers before tasting it opens up a whole new level of sensory food experience.
When our waitstaff explains the next course, her description of the dish is simple and straight forward but without giving away too much information for a reason. The kangaroo underneath the carpet of crunchy deep fried quinoa and eucalyptus powder is actually served raw. First time eating raw kangaroo meat but we actually love this dish, a little bush tucker with a modern twist. When the waitstaff comes back to collect our plates, she confirms that the kangaroo is indeed served as tartare style. I am not surprise that some diners will refuse to eat it immediately if they know what it was, hence they prefer to serve the dish by telling a white lie and challenge the diners to give it a go.
The next course arrives in an airtight glass jars has us ooh-ing and ahh-ing in excitement. The trapped cloud of thick smog creates a mysterious landscape inside the jar with only a few garnishes peeking through.We pop the lid open, a puff of white smoke escapes and dissipate into thin air; instantly the room now smells like a burnt forest.
Inside the jar is a wondrous combo of slow cooked shredded chicken meat is served with soft boiled egg that threatens to burst with the slightest bump. A sprinkle of chopped sweet corn adds sweetness whilst thin strips of kaffir lime leaves clean the palate effectively. Chorizo crumbs is a nice surprise that gives the dish a subtle heat that lingers on the back tongue. There is nothing more satisfying than stabbing the egg gently with my fork and watching the runny yolk oozes out instantly and fills the jar with glee. It is my favourite dish of this evening,
Every course is presented with meticulously with precision, and the next scallop course is just as pretty as an English garden. Thin slices of scallop carpaccio are tucked between layers of colourful carrot shaves whilst a tendril of snow pea shoot foraged from the community garden Perth City Farm we've been told, it curls and crawls its way up like the first dawn of spring. A shaved white asparagus is cooked sous vide which I do find is still a little bit crunchy with grassy raw flavour.
We are half way through the degustation and so far none of the dishes disappoint us. The fifth course has the most interesting mix of elements that works marvelously. While the tile of slow braised pork belly is as tender as baby's bottom, pairing with the most succulent prawn that is springy enough to leap off the plate, but it is the perfect flavour profiles of sweet watermelon cubes, sour pickled watermelon rind and salty samphire that swoons me over.
The last savoury course this evening is veal prepared in two ways. A thick slice of veal loin is sous vide, served with caramelised onion puree and the tiniest inoki mushroom caps on a trail of herbage green dressing. On the side, spring roll 'cigar' is filled with shredded veal meat then deep fried to a nice golden crunch.
The palate cleanser is another creative dish with quirky combinations of chilled basil granita, freeze dried mandarin and black olive powder. It takes a very smart or a very brave man to put these flavours together but surprise surprise, it works like a treat!
This is not what I expected, a cheese platter is presented to us prior to the dessert courses. On the slate tile is a good selection of cheeses consists of blue, wash rind, cheddar, brie and camembert, to go with poppyseed crackers and rye toasts on the side. As much as I love my cheeses, but knowing there are a couple more courses to come, we only make small dent on each cheese just to have a taste and save the stomach space for later.
Our first dessert course is presented to us by a chef. He sets the white porcelain bowls on the table follow by a theatrical table service by pouring vivid green dressing onto the dessert right in front of us as he explains the dish.
You can't help but feeling chirpy simply by looking at all the colourful elements inside the bowl. It is a fruity sensation of macerated strawberries and mulberries with a scoop of tangy grapefruit sorbet. The vivid green lemon verbena sauce delivers a clean, sharp lemon scent that is not overpowering.
Another chef (I assume he is the pastry chef) delivers our next dessert course and I am awe-inspiring with its stunning yet elegant presentation. A perfect egg-shaped apple sorbet sits gingerly on a floor of cold sorrel granita, which slowly melting away into the warm buttery sweet sable crumbs. If you haven't figured it out by now, it is actually a playful upside down apple crumble, constructed with highly challenged techniques to create such beauty. The chef sprinkles a carpet of snowy white chocolate powder over the dessert at the table as final touches.
The apple 'egg' is truly a work of art. As we crack it open, inside the thin layer of icy apple sorbet shell is actually filled with elderflower mousse. Incredible! And the play on hot versus cold elements in this dessert is also commendable and works extremely well together. It is a refreshing dessert that perks up my palate ready for something a little richer and naughtier.
And the last course, we finish the meal on a sugar high of buttermilk, rum and raisin. It is more of a chocolate dessert, a little Heston-ish, a little molecular with the aid of liquid nitrogen to create some of the components including chocolate ice cream, icy rum pearls and even the freeze fried buttlemilk crumbs. It doesn't really give me the impression of eating a scoop of rum and raisin ice cream, but the flavour profiles are impeccable and work perfectly well together.
We conclude our meal with a great selection of petit fours of mini jam doughnuts, tonka bean marshmallows and lychee jubes to cap the night off. Our meal at Amuse has been nothing but amazing and absolutely memorable. It is definitely on the par with some of the chef-hatted restaurants in Sydney, if not better.
As I mentioned in my earlier post, you'll find the cost of living in Western Australia is a little higher in comparison to Sydney or Melbourne, especially when comes to eating out. So I am genuinely surprised to find the degustation menu at Amuse is actually very reasonable at $120 with the number of courses being served (not to mention the generous amount of snacks and petit fours are also included). And considering the produce, the effort and the creativity put into all courses - it is actually a steal! I'd go back in a heartbeat next time I am in Perth.
Restaurant Amusé 64 Bronte Street
East Perth WA 6004
P: +61 8 9325 4900
F: +61 8 9325 4599