Sunday, 29 December 2013

Deep fried desserts at Sun Cafe Restaurant

The vibe of the place definitely makes you forget how loud you actually are...
Sun Cafe Australia on Urbanspoon
The building at the corner of Newcastle and William streets has lent itself as home to many businesses in the recent past. These short-lived food and drink businesses may come and go, but the one thing that has stayed put are the table top barbeques for sensual, hands-on Korean BBQ feasts, situated on the level above Sun Cafe. Downstairs, a chilled-out, relaxed Sun Cafe opens its doors until late to its customers, making it a great hang out destination.
Sun Cafe Restaurant
I was simultaneously eager and sceptical about coming here, largely due to the reason of them refusing to honour a voucher I had purchased on numerous occasions, which already came with a peculiar list of terms and conditions. However if I could ignore that for a second, their menu certainly did pique my interest with the offer of 'oriental tapas' and a selection of Korean dishes with a modern influence (would you yay or nay pistachio-crusted chicken katsu?). We dropped in late at night after dinner with a full belly and only managed to fit in some sweet things.
Matso's Ginger Beer
We have quite the obsession with Matso's beers at the moment, and the Mango beer especially has made many appearances at the table whenever it is offered on the beverage menu. Even though I'm not a big beer drinking or loving fan, I am a fan of Matso's beer selections as I'm quite partial to the taste of their beers in comparison to others that I down once in a while out of convenience.
Green Tea Latte - $4.30
Green tea is making its way into drink and dessert menus everywhere and whilst I love this, I only love it when the green tea flavour is actually prominent in the food or drink and strong enough to be able to recognise its presence. With that, I do not love Sun Cafe's green tea latte despite how promising it sounded. The bittersweet flavour is so next to nothing that I would have believed that I had ordered a glass of warm milk and even the extremely pale green colour makes it unidentifiable even as a green tea beverage if not for the powder sinking into the milky froth.
Marinated beef tataki, fresh crunchy salad - $18
My cousin ordered the beef tataki, presented with raw red and white cabbage and a trail of spring onions and roasted sesame seeds on a bed of raw beef, slightly seared around the edges and bathed in a vinegary sauce.
Crunchy Honey Bread - $12
We picked Sun Cafe as our dessert destination purely because of the recommendation of their Crunchy Honey Bread, so naturally it was the most anticipated dish of the evening. And certainly a very late evening too, to be eating a whole block of bread that has been wholly and thoroughly deep fried until the exterior is a hard, solid casing for the crunchy interior. Although really, this really wasn't a concern considering we had a McDonald's run for cheeseburgers, fries and ice-cream straight after this...gosh, the power of hindsight sure gives more insight into one's frivolous eating behaviours.
One of Sun Cafe's signature desserts
This indulgent dessert is quite large and solid, and thus is thoughtfully slightly cut into tall batons to make it easier to slice through the crunchy centre, which is also slightly dense in other parts. The honey bread sits on an artistic crosshatching of chocolate, caramel and honey syrups weaving through each other on the plate and is crowned by three tiers - sliced fruits (kiwi and banana on this occasion), a big scoop of fluffy whipped cream and finally adorned with a strawberry. This colourful medley of contrasting textures and flavours is further enhanced by a light dusting of cinnamon, a crunchy pecan nut crumb and more drizzling of the honey. The fruits are definitely a wise choice to counteract the heaviness of the bread, which retains a lot of oil.
Stress stimulus
Running down the centre of the dining area is a display case piled with magazines and board games to use as you please, and Jenga definitely provided ongoing entertainment for us as everybody sat around and chatted quietly. The very relaxed vibe of the place definitely makes you forget how loud you actually are. Oopsy!

Sun Cafe would be a good potential place to head to after dinner for dessert or drinks when nobody quite wants to leave yet, as their dessert selection ranges from pastries to waffles to frozen yoghurts. I'm hanging out to try their tempura oysters and crispy scallops with renkon chips and the long opening hours of Sun Cafe is the biggest convenience of all because the sun doesn't set here until late at night.
Sun Cafe Restaurant, Perth
Sun Cafe's Facebook page
Hours as stated on Facebook page
7.45am - 12am (this ranges, as we had to settle the bill before 11pm on the Saturday night)
Open 7 days

Tel: (08)9227 5009
318 William Street Perth WA 6000

Thursday, 19 December 2013

The beautiful scenic voyage to Voyage Kitchen, Sorrento

Nothing short of delivering a satisfying, guilty pleasure...
Voyage Kitchen on Urbanspoon
Long lazy breakfasts had at beachside restaurants with the fresh morning sea breeze rustling through is unarguably one of life's most simplest but most perfect luxuries. Most of us (I am also guilty) have gotten so used to our pristine beaches, nature's beautiful landscapes and endless summers that we often take it all for granted as we slave away our enjoy moments like this.
Voyage Kitchen
 Having the beach as its neighbour makes it not very surprising to hear that Voyage Kitchen opens its doors as early as 6:30am everyday to provide breakfast and coffee to early risers. Its airy, spacious and open interior is comfortably relaxing even amongst the busy noises and hurrying footsteps of the waitstaff, whom are dressed in striped sailor-like uniforms. This nautical theme is dotted throughout the beachside cafe and its décor merges seamlessly with the sounds of the ocean echoing in and out of the restaurant.
Takeaway, coffee and bar area
At one end of the cafe is a big, inviting takeaway and coffee area that had an impressive queue at several stages of the morning. The cake cabinet is lined with cookie jars and displays the array of freshly baked goods, sweets and wraps available for purchase throughout the day. One of the staff was perched high on a ladder scrawling on the daily chalkboard specials on the blackboard, detailing the selection of homemade salads, wraps, muffins, toasties and tarts on offer that day.
Voyage Farm Yard Breakfast - $22.80
The Voyage Farm Yard Breakfast is Voyage Kitchen's rendition of the big breakfast, and features all the breakfast staples you love and expect from a big greasy fry up. It is a large, filling breakfast nothing short of delivering a satisfying, guilty pleasure from all the deep fried, grilled and fried elements of the dish. We chose scrambled out of the option to have eggs cooked in any way, which were fluffy, seasoned well and served atop toasted ciabatta. The short, stubby pork and sage sausages were small but big on taste even without smearing on the sweet tomato relish, while the roasted pesto mushrooms definitely stood out with its sheen of basil pesto which eventually glossed the rest of the dish with its oil. The hash brown was a different take on the burning hot, fluffy potato filling of normal hash browns, essentially having strips of potato shaped into a ball and deep fried for a thin, crisp and golden crust.
Voyage Breakfast Board - $18
I scoped out their Summer breakfast menu (which changes seasonally) at least a week beforehand and both of us had decided on the same thing: The Voyage Breakfast Board, which features a spread of three items presented on a long, wooden board. I started from the left with the small stack of zucchini fritters, generously loaded with soft zucchini slithers throughout the patty. Its relative blandness is compensated with the salty layers of smoked salmon, interchanging with the tang of lemon sour cream drizzled on top. The potted yoghurt provides a very refreshing hit of flavour with its sour berry compote, full of fresh summery berries that leave an intense ripple of colour through the yoghurt canvas. I'm not a huge fan of soft, mushy food with a baby-food texture, so the nut crumble provides that delightful textural crunch and salty balance that I desperately needed, made obvious by my excessive repeated pulling of sour faces.
Why mornings are worthwhile
There was a lot of food swapping occurring throughout breakfast but I remained faithful to my bite-sized brioche slider. A gorgeously poached egg is sandwiched between two pillowy soft and sweet buns with a runny stream of golden egg yolk that flows onto, hmm, everything when pierced with a gentle bite. I am not big on the slight bitter taste of rocket, and thought a bigger dollop of tomato relish would really have excited :)
The north and south end of Voyage Kitchen
Voyage Kitchen is in a large building with two separate open dining spaces, connected by a walkway entrance.
Coffee takeaway window
There is small window along the front side of the restaurant dedicated to coffee service for the time poor, which allows for SMS orders ahead of time so it is ready to pick up. Along with its rustic, imaginative, Mediterranean-inspired food, Voyage Kitchen prides itself on its caring hospitality, which was still evident despite staff working like mad on a busy Saturday morning. Hospitality workers deserve so much more recognition for what they do, especially when every second person is a self-proclaimed food critic these days.
Voyage Kitchen, Sorrento
The drive/stroll along the coast is just as yummy as breakfast
Voyage Kitchen
Mon - Tues: 6:30am - 5pm
Wed - Sun: 6:30am - late
Breakfast: Served until 11:45am (Mon - Fri) and 11:30am (weekends)
Lunch: 12pm - 3pm
Dinner: 6pm - 9pm

No reservations for breakfast on weekends and public holidays
$5 cakeage fee
Coffee SMS orders: 0401660002

Tel: (08)9447 2443
128 West Coast Drive Sorrento 6020

Monday, 16 December 2013

All birds flock together to The Old Crow

 I did a mental wow in my head when it arrived...
The Old Crow on Urbanspoon
It was through small talk at my hairdresser's where I first heard of The Old Crow. In more accurate terms, my hairdresser described the place being "that new place across the road that brings a lot more people to this street". Newcastle Street was a relatively quiet one until The Old Crow descended, along with the wildly popular haunt Tuck Shop Cafe, a favourite for breakfast and brunchers. The Old Crow's current heyday doesn't look like it's dying down any time soon and just how my hairdresser says that the increased foot traffic to the area is benefiting the business, I'd say The Old Crow's permanent visit is a bigger benefit gained by everybody.
Old Crow, new(ish) place
If there's one thing Perth is experiencing, it is change. Massive change to the physical environment, what it has to offer and the sheer amount of people out in town on a week night for a meal. Being unable to book a table for dinner without doing so days or even weeks in advance is berserk, but in such a good way that reflects our growing city's coming of age.

Northbridge especially fits this criteria. Long gone are the days where this was a dingy, drab landscape flooded with teenyboppers and the like. It is developing into a tasteful hub of food, culture and activity with an unmissable sense of sophistication. The birth of all the new restaurants and cafes in the area is amazing and despite the negative connotation with crows (at least with me anyway, ever since I witnessed one of those beasts swoop down and rip the head right off a bird - sorry, blood and gore should never be mentioned on a food blog!), people seem to have a huge appetite for The Old Crow.
Indoor seating, complete with a fireplace
The Old Crow's premises is in a small cosy cottage and at the risk of sounding totally cliché, full of rustic charm. The large chunky wooden tables and chairs indoors is a striking contrast to the outdoor courtyard, which provides a more open, airy seating option. The place is a combination of modern crossed with antique craftsmanship and the smallness of the indoor area means there is a continuous but comfortable drone of voices that travel along the walls.
Alabama Sweet Tea - $12
We started dinner with the Alabama Sweet Tea, refreshingly cold and full of sweet, citrusy tones. The non-alcoholic pitcher is made up with orange pekoe tea, citrus slices, still water and probably an overgenerous addition of sugar. The initial gulps were satisfying but without anything to eat yet the drink eventually became very sweet. Admittedly we tried to further dilute it with water but it didn't work out quite as planned.
The tall pitcher means you can get at least a solid six cups out of one pitcher
Complimentary bread and whipped butter
We love our bread, we love our butter, but most of all, we love the fact that this gorgeously fluffy bread is delivered to the table right after we make our order. The crust is delightfully crunchy and the centre is pillowy soft and spongy; a great vessel to soak up the red bean gravy that comes much, much later in the night.
Smoked beef cheek, pickled walnuts and garlic toast - $16.50
The Old Crow has quite a large selection of dishes designed to be shared around the table, some of which are quite hefty in size. We decided on the beef cheek upon recommendations from our waitress, who sang praises for how delicious this was. The two lightly buttered garlic toasts are piled with mounds of delightfully soft beef, contrasted with the crunch of sweetly spiced pickled walnuts. One of my favourites that night!
Bunker mushrooms, hush puppies and fresh corn polenta - $16.50
In contrast, this was a lighter dish full of fresh ingredients that goes down a treat. After our ignorance to what hush puppies were, I am quite in like with these lightly coated and fried cubes of cornmeal. The croquettes are like cubes of deep fried mashed potato but are not starchy in any way, pairng so well with the juicy mushrooms and the blanket of polenta. Mushrooms are my all time favourites, so I wouldn't have minded more of those on the plate!
Crudo, swordfish, green raisin, citrus and capers - $16.50
The girls really enjoyed this refreshingly tangy combination of raw fish with citrusy tones. Ever since trying the crudo of swordfish at Chapter One Brasserie, I have taken a liking to it; the firmness and natural sweetness of the fish is definitely not a one hit wonder. The dish is like a ceviche, and the onion slithers and crisp radish provide that nice crunch that's missing from the dish.
Crispy brussels sprouts, chilli jam, pine nuts and buttermilk - $16.50
We did not end up finishing this dish, and the reason wasn't because they were brussels sprouts. When the menu describes these dishes as 'to share', I really underestimated the serving sizes of the plates! This was BIG, and I did a mental wow in my head when it arrived at the table.

This one dish got all the credit from our waitress, as being one of the best on their menu (basically saying, if you can't decide what to get, then get the brussels sprouts). I guess I understood why; while they are usually the cringeworthy food that kids sneak to their dogs under the dinner table, this would make brussels sprout haters rethink their stance on this unassuming vegetable. They lived up to their description of being 'crispy', which hardly ever happens for me - it's like I order soft skin salmon, soft pork belly crackling and soft lotus chips.
Smoked brisket, red bean gravy, mash, horseradish - $32
Nearly a good part of an hour wait later, we were almost certain that the kitchen had forgotten our main. We were ready to cancel it when it was brought to the table, looking mighty fine. There were a few other dishes we were playing this one up against, but ultimately was sold on the waitress' words 'the best mashed potato I have ever tasted, it's even better than my family's' (she did a good job that night didn't she!)

The plate was conveniently located right in front of me and while I declared myself to be full, I picked and pecked at the dish bit by bit and to my horror, eventually ended up finishing it all. Whilst I did finish it, we did consider this to be the most disappointing dish in comparison to everything else we ooh'ed and ahh'ed over that night. The brisket was dry and stringy, whilst more flavour to the dish overall - in particular those lovely red beans - would have seriously enhanced the dish's status from mediocrity.

*Menu has changed. Buttermilk fried duck, I'm lusting after you.
Cornbread, gravy, crispy onions - $9
It is easy to overestimate the size of your stomach when you are ferociously hungry, and on this occasion we must have thought our appetites were insatiable. We ordered this side dish of cornbread and crispy onions which was left untouched (also because it came a while after the main dish was served), to which they happily supplied us with a takeaway option when asked. The side dish is a huge serving and I would have stuffed myself happy with those golden crisp crackling-lookalike onions if I wasn't already stuffed to the brim.
This old cash register looks right at home
As with any great restaurant, the most noteworthy point about The Old Crow is a unique, stand-out (and everchanging!) menu that delivers on its ability to make you indecisive about all the different options that all sound equally as enticing as one another. This place might just be another one of those establishments where you could trust enough to be able to close your eyes and randomly point to anywhere on the menu and be satisfied with the choice.

Our waitress for the night was also commendable, having the patience to deal with our indecisiveness and was also friendly to have an informal chat with. For the rest of the night however, no one else dropped by to check in if we needed anything else which was a bit of a bummer, and it would have been nice to let us know of the unexpectedly long wait time for our mains to be delivered!

It is a highly popular destination for an all-day feed due to its long opening hours and rivals The Tuck Shop for breakfast/brunch, which is only about 20 steps as the crow flies to The Old Crow :-) I have a good feeling about The Old Crow as it soars to dizzy heights of our food loving community.
The Old Crow, Northbridge
The Old Crow
Mon: 8am - 10pm
Thurs: 10am - 10pm
Fri: 10am - late
Sat: 8am - late
Sun: 8am - 10pm
Closed Tues & Wedn

Tel: (08)9227 9995
172 Newcastle Street Perth WA

Monday, 25 November 2013

Swan Festival of Lights 2013

The Perth Swan Festival of Lights is an annual festival, spanning across three days in 2013 to coincide with the celebration of Diwali. The theme of inner light is ever present at the festival, with light radiating from the big screen, traditional performances, fireworks displays, glowing candle lanterns from childrens' hands and of course, the stunning picturesque Perth City skyline as the backdrop of this luminous event.

With all these different sources radiating with light, colour and beauty, the simplicity of light on its own is used as a symbol to unite our differences while never forgetting to embrace the cultural diversity of our world.
Navigating the crowds
There's a big turn out for the festival, despite the night I visited being the last of the three nights it had already been running for. The food tents are bustling towards the later hours and I'm intrigued by the vegetarian spread prepared by the folk from Annalakshmi, whose restaurant overlooking the river operates by a simple yet most noble of all principles - the diner pays with their heart. Bless them.

I learn there's an impressive menu of dishes on offer as I swiftly skip past all the food vendors noting what's on their signs while trying to make it obvious that I am not pushing in front of everybody!
Beverages tent
There is a constant stream of customers at every single food and beverage tent spread across the grass, and the lines at each one progressively build longer and longer. It's a good idea to come early to avoid the crowds and minimise the wait - both in line and for your food.

The beverage tent sold an assortment of drinks; the one at the top of their menu seems to also be their top seller for the night, observing the amount of people at the festival with a mango lassi in one hand and food on the other. There's also a tea infused with Indian herbs and spices called masala tea, which sounds like a better option after not having much luck with the masala lassi at the Blue Ginger Club.
One of many vegetarian food tents
Food and celebration through eating is a significant aspect of the Diwali festival and although the options at the festival are limited to vegetarian dishes, there really are no limitations at all. Everyone is spoiled with a plethora of choice ranging from mee goreng and nasi lemak to more traditional dishes which I only learnt of on the night. The tents are distinguished by categories of food - main meals, snacks and desserts with the last category especially intriguing, with options like lentil donuts with coconut condiments or the cham cham, a ricotta cheese dessert.
Food and drink coupons
Although the cartridges of the people trains in front of every tent get longer and feelings of reluctancy to wait surface, the lines move quickly and the wait is not annoying in the least. The waiting time is slashed with an efficient coupon paying system being in place at each of the tents - these are pre-purchased at designated coupon tents and all orders are paid for using these and saves the fumbling around and delays that cash causes. Coupons are the official and only currency in operation at the Swan Festival of Lights, and the efficiency is tops.
Pilau Rice with Vegetable Curry - $7
We decided on a vegetable and chickpea curry with pilau rice as a hot option to inject some warmth against the cool weather. Pilau rice is a rice infused with spices and the meal was actually so simple but so nourishing as much as it tasted delicious. I haven't had a light, meatless meal in a while (shocking I know) and this felt really comforting and hit all the right spots.
Plain flour breads and wheat flour puffed breads, components to form the Puri or Paratha sets, which are both served with curry.

Plain Dosai: Flat rice pancake served with sambar and chutney

Masala Dosai - $8
Sambar is typically a stew, or a slightly chunky chowder with vegetables and dhal. The masala dosai is served with two accompaniments, and sambar is one of these. The liquidy, yellow-tinged sauce is initially not to my taste, but as I give it further tries due to my strict policy of no food wastage, ever makes me start to enjoy this a lot more than I thought. I like the slight chewable texture of the sambar, unlike the chutney which has a subtle hotness but no texture. A lack of eating utensils and a finished pancake later, I end up using my fingers to scoop out the remaining sauce - it's a messy encounter, but meh, it was good.
Crisp rice pancake
The dosai is a crisp scroll, a thin crepe-like pancake made from a fermented rice and lentil batter. Griddled until golden brown, they are served hot and with a potato masala filling that's pulpy but still holds its form. The dosai is softened in the places the potato filling touches but the paper-thin outer edges retain their crispness; I break off the pieces with a snap and practically scoop up the sauce condiments like a spoon. I'm all for using all sorts of food as makeshift eating utensils :)
Perth weather is a blessing!
What's a cultural festival without showcasing its culture through traditional music, dance and performances? Along with song and dance, there are fashion shows with beautiful traditional costumes and acts on the stage broadcasted onto the big screen. The huge grass area of the park is a relaxing place to leisurely sit the night away, watching the festival go by under a perfect clear cloudless sky.
Different stalls set ups dot the festival grounds, selling handicraft works among a variety of workshops teaching meditation and the cooking of traditional dishes. Festival goers can also experience the intricacy of henna tattoos.
Out of the festival's tents, the arts tent gathered a good crowd interested in its offerings. Other stalls sold clothing, sarees and delicate accessories with intricate detailing.

Entertaining children is catered for through face painting and - I thought I was going to fall off and die when I first got on this friendly animal at 7 years young - camel rides around the park. These kids looked pretty chilled - I remember gripping ever so tightly for dear life with my tiny hands!
This is one of many cultural festivals that Perth holds and to immerse myself into new food, the arts and everything else these types of festivals offer is a really great experience to recognise and embrace the multicultural diversity of our city. There's a big sense of community that is felt at such cultural festivals as people from all backgrounds gather together to learn about each other's culture, and Perth is growing into a bigger and better place to live because of it.

Happy festival going, there's more than just a few in the lead-up to Christmas!

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Dark, sinister cocktails at Big El's Latin American Fusion

Kinda like over-eating when you're wearing unforgiving tight pants...
Big Els Latin American Fusion on Urbanspoon
The mixing and matching and combination of different cultures and cuisines seems to be the latest trend on the food industry's catwalk, with the season's hottest style being fusion. This distinctive and daring fashion seems to be donned by chefs of all backgrounds and seen in new restaurants everywhere (opening new eateries follows closely as the next hipster thing to do lately).

This surge of new restaurant openings in our little quiet city is phenomenal - Perth is experiencing the rise of everybody eating, talking about and wanting to take pictures of food more than they do selfies. I've never felt more comfortable pulling out my brick of a DSLR in a restaurant than now.
Tapas and tortillas at Big El's Latin American Fusion
Big El's is the bright new kid on the ever-improving Northbridge block, taking over the premises where Sake Bar once inhabited. Its menu boasts a whole range of fare that's suited to share for a casual weekday dinner or a less greasy alternative to late night kebab pig-outs for hardcore party goers, as the place opens 'til an early 4am on peoples' most loved nights of the week.

Only looking through my pictures now did I notice that we managed to fill the entire table with food for two people. Some reassurance please; this is NOT crazy right?
Mural and ceiling, equally as striking
I came here with a good friend (hardly; we both haven't been arsed to see each other for more than a year) for my earliest dinner ever at 6:30pm. Which is pretty crazy for me - even the place was empty at this time. We dawdled our way through dinner and miraculously, the time was 9:30pm when we checked our phones - I was wondering why we had a few staff members who came more than a few times to ask if we wanted more to eat or drink! It's the casual, relaxed vibe of the place that keeps you from checking the time.

The restaurant itself is spacious and loud in terms of colour; the walls are a bright, happy sunshine yellow and the place is decked with chairs alternating red and green - perfect for the Christmas season really. The colours are echoed in the awesome puzzle of milk crates attached to the ceiling, the most prominent feature of Big El's if you don't count the huge mural at the entrance.
Daintily sipping vodka by the jar, as you do
Mei ambitiously suggested we order one of everything from the menu to which the waitress said something along the lines of, "Hmm. Uhh, perhaps not for TWO people. That's a lot of food". I would have accepted the challenge, but my intolerance of cheese and deep-fried food wiped off practically half the items on the menu.

After explaining my annoying food intolerance, the staff members are really patient in making recommendations - although I told her it's not helpful when all the dishes are being recommended as really, really good haha! Spicy is a popular theme at Big El's, as are their visually appealing, unconventionally named cocktails.

I love how water is served from crystal head vodka jars and cups are screw-top glass jars; it fits perfectly with the restaurant and its quirky ways. The water however, did have a strange taste to it, like it was tainted with the remains of the alcohol once in the jar.
First to arrive
The dishes - all of them - arrived at lightning speed, which is always a good start. It also makes you a more forgiving person if the food induces you to think meh later on. I heard from friends prior to coming here myself that the food was of the meh category as it was collectively described as a bit of a salt overload, but thankfully none of my food was.
Ceviche - $18
When ordering dishes like this, your best tactic is to take someone who has an aversion to raw food. It was easy to finish this off by myself, as the serving is actually on the small side considering the price. The small diced salmon pieces have been liberally doused in a citrus and herb mixture and are a little too tangy for me. The ceviche is served atop a crispy tostadita, which I learn is nothing more than a bed of corn chips that quickly disintegrate from the juices.
Nacho Bowl - $14
The Nacho Bowl is a hefty serving of tri-colour tortilla chips loaded with a seven chilli con carne, a mountain of gooey melted cheese, big chunks of guacamole and lashings of a savoury, creamy sauce called Potato's Companion swirled on top. The textural combination of creamy, soft, crunchy and warm stringy cheese makes a fab plate of nachos. I would have dived into this wholeheartedly if I could, but I still enjoy picking at everything but the cheese off the plate.
Tortilla Chiplets - $6
In hindsight this was a stupid order on our behalf, to order something with ingredients already present in three of our other dishes. Rookie mistake, as this is essentially a starter item involving, again, corn chips and a choice of a side condiment from a salsa, chilli con queso or guacamole. The guacamole is made at the table by staff and is smashed in a stone pounder before being scooped out for you, or you have the option to have a bit of fun and smash some avocado yourself.
Patron Tequila Prawns - $17
This dish, along with many others (meaning, all of them) was a recommendation from staff as an option that is not laden with cheese nor deep fried. The six pan-fried prawns are marinated in the juice of a lemon and are simmered in Patron Tequila before finally being seared in the pan to seal in the juices. They smell fragrant and the hint of alcohol is present but only subtle.
Soft Shell Tacos (5) - $30
Soft shell tacos come in quantities of two, three, five and ten per order with varying combinations of salsas, meats and sauces which you have the freedom to choose your own. I decided the more filling option would be to order five soft tortillas, which come with guacamole, two meats, two salsas and three sauces. The tortilla discs are handmade using masa harina, a traditional flour used in Mexican cuisine and makes for a thin and light tortilla shell strong enough to encase the most soggy of fillings.
Big El's fresh made salsas
The salsas at Big El's pack a huge punch of flavour in them, and are as good to eat on their own as much as they are a perfect match for just about anything on the table. The 'Mango and Jalapeno' salsa is a tangy, refreshing concoction. It is a reminder of Summer, complete with chunks of mango mixed with creamy avocado and goes down like a fruit salad. The salsa in the foreground is Big El's 'Oven roasted Tomato and Garlic'; a smoky, tasty and richly flavoured salsa made up of chunky ground up tomatoes and a heavy but aromatic garlic taste. Even though I came to the impression that I was full, I found myself spooning this up and eating it like it was a chunky tomato soup - oooh goodness.
Soft tortilla meat choices and Big El's famous sauces
There is more than enough serving of sauce for the tortillas and it's sad to see that we wasted quite a lot of all the sauces we barely made a respectable dent in. We chicken out of the sauces that sit higher on the 'hot' scale and our hottest choice is just the chipotle mayonnaise. Even so, Mei puts a big dollop on her tortilla and it sends her reaching for the crystal head water jar like it were actually vodka inside. It's a good level of spiciness if you aren't the type who can eat chilli like they're just another vegetable, and enough to add a tolerable heat to your food. If you like it hot, the 'twin chilli roasted paprika sauce' and 'devil peach chilli jam' would probably satisfy - their names already hint at their strength!

The garlic aioli and potato's companion sauces are both strong and creamy, chosen after being told the 'creme of mushroom' sauce will be taken off their menu. They add a much needed creaminess to offset the slightly dry (although delicious smelling) pan-fried crispy chicken. I really like the softness of the slow cooked pulled beef, but I can't help but wish I'd had ordered the scorched ginger salmon instead - it sounds like it's something a little amazing.
Demonstration of tortilla formation - finished taco in preceding photo, next to the pulled beef
Like the guacamole making, staff ask whether you want a demonstration to make your tortillas and do so at the table. The process involves starting with a freshly made salsa base, layered with meat topped with a spreading of their guacamole before being finished with generous squirts of their sauces. It's a nice touch but I'd much prefer to whip out some crazy and make MEGA tacos, not stopping until they burst at the seam with every bite. Kinda like over-eating when you're wearing unforgiving tight pants I guess, for comparison purposes. Ha!
My pulled beef, garlic aioli tortilla
I love the idea behind this DIY project - mixing and matching your own fillings to suit your taste and coming up with weird, wild and maybe wonderful combinations of ingredients but I think my only gripe is the amount of meat which is given for five tacos worth - not very much. My other tortillas were already sparsely filled and my last tortilla was close to being a salsa and sauce tortilla. I can't ask for much considering this was a 50% Dimmi deal, but at the normal $30 price tag I would probably expect a littleeeee more meat. Perhaps overly greedy, as I am.
Private booth seating
The booths offer privacy and refuge from the noise and whatever is going on around, which is a factor adding to my illusion of time not passing at all. Staying for as long as we wished was not a problem in the slightest; staff were very accommodating the whole night and checked up regularly, in a friendly but unobtrusive manner. If we had designated drivers for the night, we surely wouldn't have declined their cocktail recommendations which really deserve a mention - how does a 'tall black cocktail combining the essences of evil served with glowing redness' sound? Evil, yet kinda tempting and kinda like a blockbuster movie protagonist in the making?

Then it shouldn't be a surprise that this dark, evil spawning creation is suitably named The Darth Vader.
Big El's Latin American Fusion, Northbridge
Big El's
Tues-Thurs & Sun: 5:30pm-Midnight
Fri-Sat: 5:30pm-4am

Tel: (08)9328 3380
71 Francis Street Northbridge WA 6003
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