Friday, 3 July 2015

My perfect steak ever at Hippo Creek African Grill, Hillarys

Hippo Creek African Grill, Hillarys Boat Harbour
Upon hearing the words 'African Grill', nothing really comes to mind quite as quickly as meat. Glorious meat. Hippo Creek African Grill has quite the connotations of delicious cuts of steaks and other exotic meats flame grilled to glistening, juicy perfection. I've come to satisfy my permanent meat craving and have taken advantage of their 50% off Dimmi deal for dinner.

As we are directed to our seats we walk past multiple tables with the restaurant's signature dish; the Hunters Assaghai - a massive hanging skewer of marinated and chargrilled beef literally dripping with jus and butter. Not only is this such a novelty, it is a spectacular masterpiece of a dish. I make a note to order their famous camel, emu, buffalo and crocodile meat skewers, but was surprised to see this is no longer on their standard menu.
Woodgrilled Field Mushrooms - $18
The restaurant now has a seasonal menu, which diners can order from alongside their standard restaurant menu. Dishes like crocodile curry with cornbread definitely stood out and appealed to my curiosity, but I remember my indifference towards the white meat which tasted like a drier version of chicken breast meat and ordered the mushrooms as entree instead. It doesn't look like much, especially when I wrongly assumed they would be thickly stuffed mushrooms.

The size of the mushrooms leave you craving for more, as their natural flavour and texture pair so perfectly with a slightly zesty and crisp lemon crumb and a blood plum vinegar sauce. It's such an interesting and surprising place to find a refreshing sour flavour in the fine crumb layer beneath the mushrooms. Adding to the crisp and chewy texture is the creamy crumbs of goats cheese scattered over the dish alongside some beautifully soft roasted peppadews. Resembling mini capsicums, these peppers are sweet and add bright pops of colour to the dish. After this spectacular entree I'm preparing myself to be wowed.
Garlic Bread - $9
If we had only ordered the garlic bread as a starter, I wouldn't have been so enthusiastic or optimistic about the rest of the meal. The garlic bread is sliced into thick portions but unfortunately the all important garlic component of garlic bread is missing. It is warm and buttery on the bread's fluffy inside and the loaf is toasted enough to give a crunchy crust, however does not satisfy as much as a fragrant and garlicky piece of golden garlic bread.
The Braai - $75
Our waitress for the night looks after us very well and was great at recommending some must-try plates. Her pick involves The Braai, which already had me salivating with its multiple mentions of different proteins in this extravagant meat platter. Intended for sharing between two, it involves a 300g Angus rump cap, 200g of boerewors, 200g marinated chicken thigh, 200g pork ribs, grilled corn on the cob and is served with either fries or mash and a choice of a sauce.

Overall this dish is a winner; the meats are all marinated well and have a great smoky and barbequed flavour coming through. The chicken thigh is succulent and not at all dry - I've yet to come across a juicy breast! I'm a big fan of sausages so I do enjoy the boerewors; it is heavily seasoned and has a strong spice flavour. Not everyone was a fan, so I finished this one off. In comparison to the other steak we had ordered, the Angus rump cap really couldn't compare but on its own was cooked to a nice medium rare.
Monkeygland sauce
Some dishes come with a choice of sauce, which can be chosen from a house BBQ, monkeygland, peppercorn, onion jam, mushroom, peri peri, blue cheese, garlic and peri butter. Intrigued purely by the name, I opt for the monkeygland sauce and discover it is a ketchup and bbq sauce concoction - reminiscent of chutney in many ways with a tangy flavour.
Pork Ribs (500g) - $40 (Also available as 1kg for $75)
Following the initial feeling of foolishness for ordering another serving of ribs when it was already included in the Braai platter, was a bigger feeling of relief and wisdom because it was just SO DAMN GOOD! (200g would have been enough to satisfy one person, and probably as a snack only). The pork ribs are glazed in the restaurant's own basting; a sticky film of sweet, tasty sauce that fully coats the rack of ribs and is served with a side of mash or fries.
You are looking at some seriously delicious pork ribs
This is the type of food to dive in with your bare hands without giving a hoot about what anybody else thinks about your reckless eating ways. The ribs are unbelievably easy to carve into and the meat is so tender that it comes off the bone with a soft bite. This isn't to say it is soft until the point it has no meaty texture though! Cutlery shouldn't even be an option - this is definitely one for the fingers and provides a great kind of messy eating that screams delicious.
F1 Wagyu 400 Day Grain Fed +6 Marble Score Sirloin 300g - $65
Wagyu is famous and loved for its high marbling throughout the beef that gives it a luscious, full flavoured taste. Whilst I have had wagyu beef before, I am certain this is the first time I understand what all the fuss is about for a great steak. As a bold statement, this is quite possibly the best steak I have tasted; it is tender, cooked to a perfect medium rare and the moist, juicy, nearly creamy texture really (for a lack of a better description) melts in the mouth upon chewing. I have eaten wagyu before but did not like the excessively fatty composition - it was so concentrated that it was literally a mound of fat on the steak. This steak's fat content was very evenly distributed and I savour the few decadent mouthfuls with the chunky sauce exploding with mushroom flavour.
Small Greek Salad - $7 and Rocket & Parmesan Salad - $9
Perhaps slightly out of place in a carnivorous feast, the two salads were relatively small in size but were fresh and light.
Curried Cone Bay Barramundi - $40
I had no idea seafood was on the menu at this African steakhouse restaurant and happily order a grilled barramundi as a break from the heavy meat dishes. Fish is one of my favourites and I always find comfort in a piece of well-cooked fish and this one is no different! It rests atop a generous smear of sweetcorn puree, toasted hazelnuts and supposedly some curry crisps which I wasn't sure where they were. The component on the plate which had us intrigued was the brandade - two mounds of what looked like herbed mashed potato but tasted like otherwise. I had no idea what I was eating at the time but I liked it! It tasted strangely familiar but I couldn't state what I was eating; it had a mild salty flavour and the texture of mashed potato, and it is only after some research that I learn it is a salted cod and olive oil emulsion - gasp!
Apple, Pear and Vanilla Compote - $16
It was a pretty firm decision that no desserts were going to be ordered, but sitting around idle for a few minutes after dinner quickly changed that hazy, irrational decision. I felt really bad asking whether we could have the dessert menu since the kitchen was nearly closing, they had started to clean up and we were the last of two tables that were left standing, but the staff were completely accommodating and assured us that it was okay. This was great and consistent service throughout the night!

Going with the recommendations of our waitress, the desserts definitely satisfied and rounded out the end of dinner really well. This warm apple, pear and vanilla dessert is like an open apple crumble; sweet and soft stewed fruit topped with a baked hazelnut crumb that married the softness of the fruit so well with its crunchy texture. The real reason why I agreed to this dessert was the ginger bread ice cream - the intensity of its flavour tasted just like crushed gingerbread biscuits churned into ice cream form. Its warmth makes it such a comforting and homely winter dessert.
Pecan and Walnut Tart - $16
My preferred dessert was this pecan and walnut tart; it was a satisfying portion with a good level of sweetness and richness. The chocolatey tart itself is slightly gooey with a top that crumbles the way a cookie does. I'm such a big sucker for nutty desserts and the crunch of the pecans and walnuts is right up my alley, but those who aren't nuts for nuts might find the texture excessively hard to eat.

The tart is served with a pot of frangelico custard that we fully drench the tart with. The custard has quite a runny liquid consistency to it and the smooth, chocolatey mocha ice cream was a great match because let's be honest - ice cream is the one versatile thing that is a perfect match for anything. This kind of dessert brings me instant gratification because it's everything I love: chocolate, liqueur desserts, nuts and coffee ice creams melded together. This is love at first bite, and every bite after.
Hippo Creek is situated right next to the harbour
Skins and animal motifs and patterns adorn the walls
Whilst I embrace the changes of the revised menu of the restaurant, nostalgia hits when memories of devouring huge meaty skewers are a thing of the past. Fortunately I do find the steak is always cooked consistently well here and I've never had one that has not lived up to the grandeur of the Hippo Creek steak reputation. The prices are very dear but do reflect a piece of meat done well but never well done, because then it tastes like dehydrated cardboard.

Ultimately it is your own decision whether you want to justify forking out big bucks for a rack of ribs and some chips. I wouldn't, but the value and happiness that the Dimmi offer brings brought us a satisfying meal. This elegant, tribal themed steakhouse has earned itself the reputation of serving authentic South African style cuisine, and in comparison to parting with my money to some other supposedly high end classy restaurants that tout about serving a mean steak, I prefer this family-friendly, non-pretentious restaurant all the way to the woodfired grill and back. 

Hippo Creek African Grill, Hillarys Boat Harbour
Lunch 7 days: 11:30am - 3pm
Dinner 7 nights: 6pm - late
Kitchen closes 9:30pm

(08) 9447 2238
Shop 203, Sorrento Quay Boardwalk, Hillarys Boat Harbour, 58 Southside Drive, Hillarys WA 6052

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Monday, 29 June 2015

A warming winter buffet dinner at Straits Cafe in the Rendezvous Hotel, Scarborough

Disclaimer: Hungryagainperth was invited as a guest to Straits Cafe, however all thoughts and musings expressed are honest ramblings by me to you.
Straits Cafe Winter Buffet, Rendezvous Hotel, Scarborough
The weekend is nothing to me, as I work a full day on Saturday. To keep me going physically and mentally on a day where I know everyone else is kicking back relaxing, I end up snacking throughout the day roughly every 2 hours until I get home and demolish dinner like I have never eaten dinner ever before.

With Straits Cafe's Winter Buffet was on the agenda for dinner, I meticulously plan out how to structure my day's meals and most importantly, when should be the last time I could snack before dinner rolled around. 
A hot, cold and dessert spread at Straits Cafe's Winter Buffet
Many people would remember the buffet at Rendezvous as the Pines, but it has since had a grand refurbishment into its present day look - a stylish new venue in a prime location right on the doorstep of Scarborough Beach. Accompanying this is the return of the Winter Dinner Buffet, available every Friday and Saturday night at $59 for adults and $20 for children aged 5-12. Diners are able to eat their way through a selection of WA's quality produce that has been worked into traditional wintery comfort foods whilst enjoying picturesque views of the sunset and waves through the restaurant's massive windows. 
Grilled salmon with salsa verde
Green Pea and Ham Soup
Roast Lamb
Not surprisingly, everything at the buffet is house made with the exception of the cheese. We lift the lids and covers off all the hot dishes to see a fantastic roast lamb dish, salmon, a Singaporean chicken curry, Basmati rice and steamed vegetables, spinach and ricotta ravioli, roasted root vegetables and a cheesy potato gratin complete with a golden crust. On this particular night, roast beef graced the carvery station, but I found my thick piece dry so doused it with a heavy pour of gravy.
Sushi, shucked oysters, fresh prawns and crab
The cold selection included fresh seafood and assorted sushi pieces - mostly egg and smoked salmon. I was hanging out for some sashimi but unfortunately it isn't part of the buffet! I settled for a few oysters and prawns, which were unbelievably sweet and fresh that I ate all of them without any sauces or condiments. I ended up working my way through three plates with just prawns, which deviated very far from my original, good intentions of just one plate.
Other dishes at the cold selection of the buffet
Other choices alongside the seafood was a roasted red pepper quinoa salad, an antipasto platter, cold meats, a selection of breads and a make-your-own caesar salad station. On the other side of the table is a mirror image of the same dishes, with everything being topped up regularly.
Dessert spread
Arguably the dessert table is the most appealing to diners at a buffet - regardless of how full one can be, dessert provides the final ultimate satisfaction. Over time I still have not yet learnt how to contain my greed and still suffer from the 'Big Eyes Small Stomach' syndrome', where my eyes can forever eat more than my stomach can ever follow through with.

Although the selection initially appears to be small, it is a satisfying little spread of sweets and treats all made in house. There are also two house made ice cream flavours to choose from; a tangy strawberry flavour and a chocolate on the night we went.

My partial dessert plate
I love how the dessert spread offers miniature portions, so it leaves you room to sample everything (you know you're going to take one of each anyway!) The lemon tart is a beautiful square of tangy meringue and provides a refreshing change from all the other sweet choices. I also had myself a chocolate mud cake cube, a jar of fruit trifle, a chocolate mousse and a strawberry cheesecake, but the one that truly captivated my heart was the sticky date pudding. Kept warm inside a chafing dish, the cake is gorgeously moist even without the hot caramel and butterscotch sauces available to pour over.

And this time, my stomach managed to conquer all :)
Kiwifruit pavlovas and chocolate eclairs (which unfortunately came out after I unwillingly made the difficult decision to stop eating)

Depriving ourselves of food prior to a buffet is common (and such logical!) practice in anticipation of all the food we could potentially eat continuously over 2 hours. I have such an immense, nearly dangerous some might say, passion for buffets that Andy has threatened to ban me from visiting them because I eat until my stomach legitimately hurts. This time, I am wiser - I stop right before that point of food regret but not before I stuff down my second sticky date pudding before I call it quits.

If you want to talk value, the smaller selection of hot and cold dishes might leave you disappointed. There isn't a huge range or variety to choose from, but you can revel with the comfort that all the food is freshly prepared and not sitting on the counter top drying out or served in bulk to last a lifetime without being replenished. I would have loved more variety, but appreciated that I was able to get a fresh new serving of lamb when the last few meagre pieces of dehydrated roast lamb just wouldn't cut it.

I'm the type of food glutton who feeds off greed and loves a little bit of a lot, but I really need to start practicing what I preach when I am forever telling my students, "Remember, quality over quantity!"

The restaurant is spread out over a spacious and big open-spaced area, with seating divided into several sections that offer a quieter space away from the main buffet area. The staff are very accommodating and we received some of the best service I have had in a while; professional and helpful yet down-to-earth enough to share a joke and laugh with (or perhaps at) me when he well and truly thought I would have been onto dessert by the time he came around and collected around five plates of finished savoury food off me. Thank you big stomach!!

My advice: Start with the seafood and book for an early dinner session to catch the sun before it dips below the horizon. With the exception of great company, a brilliant sunset is the perfect accompaniment to a satisfying and warming dinner.
Entrance to Straits Cafe; this looks striking but naked at the same time!
Straits Cafe, Rendezvous Hotel Scarborough
Straits Cafe
Normal opening hours
Monday - Friday: 6:30am - 9:00pm
Saturday - Sunday: 6:30am - 9:30pm

Winter Buffet Dinner available Friday and Saturday nights only from 6pm during Winter months

(08) 9340 5746
Lobby area of Rendezvous Hotel Scarborough, 148 The Esplanade, Scarborough WA 6019

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