Saturday, 22 June 2013

Fuku Omakase & Teppanyaki

Fuku - Omakase and Teppanyaki on Urbanspoon

One of the best things about being friends with a food blogger is the off-chance that you will be The Chosen One as their guest to attend an exclusive Bloggers' Dinner, that they have handpicked from a large lottery of friends. So when the day came that Whitney casually asked me to be her +1 at Fuku, I knew I had one of the bestest, most awesome and kindest friends I could ask for.

Ever since reading the flood of blog posts that circulated the foodie scene when Fuku first opened, I've been dying for a visit. Since the price tag is a bit too extravagant for poor old me, this has always been just a dream. So as the invitation came around my birthday, all I managed was a dumbfounded Oh my god, YES! before working up the courage to cold-heartedly decline Andy, who'd booked a restaurant for us the same night. Oh the guilt!

Ignorant me didn't realise that all guests needed to be present before the dinner show started. Being late already made me red-faced, but realising that all the faces here were the ones behind all the food blogs I religiously follow made me beetroot-faced! I became a little fangirl - in between the shrieking, I was humbled and very much starstruck to meet the celebrities of my life.
The biggest sake collection in Western Australia
Decorating an entire wall from ceiling to floor is the largest congregation of saké bottles I have witnessed to date. Fuku is home to the biggest range of premium saké on display, an impressive sight that makes my eyes light up just like the onion rings that are set alight later on during dinner.

For saké enthusiasts, the best approach to take is probably to utilise the services of a designated driver for the drive home and experience a saké degustation alongside dinner. Each course is paired with a saké that has been specifically chosen to match, and is a brilliant way to sample the huge variety on offer. 8 courses does mean 8 cups of alcohol, to which my neighbour admitted defeat and ended up offering me his last cup.
Braised Pork with Pickled Wasabi and Balsamic Reduction
I'm a bit of a pain and am one of those diners that chefs need to accommodate for. As I did not have the chance to notify the restaurant of my fatty food intolerance prior to coming, Fuku is to be highly commended for being able to address my food intolerances at the very last minute.

As a substitute for the dish that the rest of the diners were served, the chefs prepared a simple but lovely starter of braised pork. I especially liked the mild heat of the pickled wasabi, which added a nice crunchy texture to each mouthful. We enjoyed the tenderness of the pork, and both Whitney and I agreed that the taste was reminiscent of char siu - a meat with sweeter flavours than most and otherwise known as BBQ pork.
Kawa Ebi and Sundried Crispy Nori Sheet
Whilst I was enjoying my personal dish, the rest of the diners tucked into a box loaded high with deep fried river prawns and pieces of crisp seaweed sheets. Although I did not try any (boo...), the shrimp looked gorgeously crisp and seemed like the perfect little things to whet the appetite.

I did sneak in some of the seaweed sheets though, which had a good crunch just as their appearance suggested. Their looks and texture reminded me of black sesame candy, a big favourite of mine. Being salted and crisp, they are a great alternative to potato chips. Now, if only they sold these in the supermarket aisles...
Lined up and (almost) ready to go!
This was a highly common sight throughout the night - uniformly lined up and finetuned plates, where chefs added the intricate finishing touches and made sure each oyster was leaning at a precise angle before serving to diners. The amount of attention to detail is astounding but a very delicate touch that reflects the professionalism, dedication and pride that the team at Fuku put into their work.
Small Morsels (anti-clockwise from top) - Tempura Oyster with Ginger Salsa, Tempura Soba, Red Emperor served with Octopus Salad and Smoked Wagyu
Entitled otsumami, the next course features bite-sized portions of seafood and beef that have been meticulously laid out and presented in an attractive fashion. From what I have read and heard, the tempura oyster was divine and heaven in food form. I could sing praises all day about the spiced sesame dressing that I wiped clean with the zucchini and wagyu, which had a delicate smoked flavour and went so perfectly with the strong flavoured dressing.
Citrus Poached Scampi (hidden beneath the tempura tree)
I was struck with foodie luck tonight and enjoyed a delicious and well-sized portion of scampi, whilst the only thing Whitney was struck with was food envy. Unfortunately this is not on the normal menu, and was served as a substitute for the tempura oyster. It was perfectly cooked as one would expect, and truly trumped all the other components on the dish in my humble and honest opinion.

Drawing much attention, fascination and the popular question of the night "Can we eat this?" was the beautiful bouquet of soba noodles, with tempura blossoms hugging each branch. Looking more ornament-like than edible, the bunched up crunchy noodles are such a clever creation and adds much aesthetic appeal to the dish.
Sashimi - Tasmanian Salmon, Fermented Fremantle Tuna, Exmouth Prawn and Pink Snapper with Japanese Pickle
I was delighted to learn that sashimi was on the menu tonight, despite it being a ubiquitous aspect of Japanese cuisine. I absolutely adore sashimi and have to admit I was slightly underwhelmed with what I tasted. Fresh no doubt, but there was just something lacking in the texture that I couldn't pinpoint.

Now before I sound like an ungrateful little brat or even worse, a wannabe food critic, I have to emphasise I still thoroughly enjoyed everything on the plate. The pickle wrapped Pink Snapper was something new, as was the raw prawn - juicy with a subtle sweetness, and absolutely no hints of fishiness whatsoever.
One of the many bottles opened that night
Happening concurrently to the serving of courses was the generous flow of sake for all the diners, which I'm sure would have been much more appreciated had most of us not driven ourselves to dinner. Service was fantastic with detailed description of sake names, their origins and tastes while glasses were kept topped up without having to ask them to be - absolutely no hand raising was required.
Just so you know, this scene was for modelled purposes only and that bottle of sake is actually unopened :P
Fuku brought out their toy for the guests to admire, which resulted in a lot of ooohs, ahhhs and camera flashes. Allowed to look but not touch, all of us piled around and learnt of this device which was capable of chilling sake, to a temperature that top-grade sake varieties are recommended to be enjoyed at.
Lychee Mocktail
I regretted my decision to turn down drinks at the beginning of dinner as I was only a guest and did not want to go all out and exploit what was already a free dinner. A lychee mocktail was suggested to Whitney upon declining further refills of sake, served in a tall glass that we joked had a part time job being a flower vase.

I loved the tropical island holiday feeling of this mocktail, which was light and refreshing to drink. All the diners were kept well hydrated throughout dinner, being saturated with an assortment of beverages including sake, cocktails, sparkling water and brown rice green tea.
Scallop, Prawn and Crispy Prawn Head
The next course is simplistic with no fuss, but so wonderfully prepared that I think this was my favourite (amongst others haha) dish of the night. It was here where the teppanyaki action truly began, and the hot plate turned on for the rest of the courses to come. The atmosphere immediately enlivened when both chefs began to animate their teppan skills whilst preparing this dish.

The speed and accuracy with which the chefs deshelled and decapitated the prawns was astounding, which would have any home cook jealous with the time that could be saved trying to deshell each prawn - a painstakingly long process. The result was a delectable Tiger prawn, firm but springy to the bite. Accompanying this was a plump and perfectly seared scallop - smooth, juicy and full of its own natural sweetness.

As I am arachnophobic, it was slightly unpleasant to see the tangle of "legs" on the prawn head. Once I got over my silly thoughts and shrugged off my shivers, chomping down on the unbelievably crisp shell was a delicious moment. As all the components were grilled in sea urchin butter, the seafood was left with a glossy magazine sheen on the surface, that seeped right through the flesh to impart its rich flavour and scent.
Free range Quail, Buckwheat Crepe, Beetroot Relish and Szechuan Pepper Sauce
We are told that this course involves quail, served in buckwheat crepes that had been handmade by the chefs. The quail being used is organic, and belongs to the biggest species of quails available. Although being handmade is a nice touch, I did think the crepes were a bit bland and undermined the ability for the quail to show its true colours.

The quail meat was deboned and still warm from the hotplate it was grilled on. The beetroot relish accompaniment was the underdog of this dish, but was the thing that actually won my heart. That is a massive statement from me, as I am very anti-beetroot and usually despise its deep, earthy taste.
Giving the diners some action on the hotplate
Ready, Aim, Fire!
These pictures depict the process of preparing the next course, which was the Fish of the Day. On this night, swordfish was fish of the night, which looked like little pork steaks grilling on the barbie with string beans.

There were many steps involved; from the initial cooking of the fish, the transfer onto pre-prepared plates and the arrangement of components on the plates before whipping out the blow torch for the final finishing off touches to further sear the swordfish (and the long leaf it was presented on) before serving.
Pyromaniac at work (It took me a good several attempts on the burst mode setting of the camera to capture that flame!)
Fish of the Day: Swordfish, Lotus Root, Eggplant and Yuzu Miso Sauce
Starting to feel a little stuffed at this point but wanting to fit in as much as possible, I was still eager to try this next course that had been grilled, arranged, blowtorched and beautified to perfection. I am accustomed to flaky, soft and moist fish so the thickness and firmness of the swordfish was not a massive hit with me. It did however, have a lovely citrusy flavour from the yuzu miso sauce.

I am a massive eggplant fan and initially thought we were being served mushrooms. Pardon my ignorance. I love the way it is showcased on this dish, bringing out its simplicity and proving vegetables need not be Plain Jane. Hiding beneath the fish is a single lotus root, which I wish wish wished was a quadruple, quintuple, or even a sextuple serving.
You are my fire, the one desire...
This is an act I've seen chefs display at all the teppanyaki restaurants I've visited, and it's one I never get tired of. In addition to that split second of excitement, dining at a teppanyaki restaurant is all about that direct and close proximity to where all the action is at.
Watch your eyebrows.
Precise, undisturbed concentration. Something I fail at.
Wagyu (Full Blood) Sirloin Steak, Onion Rings and Spicy Miso Sauce
Devoting all my tummy to this penultimate course, I could eat a few more rounds of this heavenly wagyu despite feeling full just a minute ago. The chefs explain this is top grade wagyu we're getting, and has exceptional marbling throughout the meat, giving it that fatty, smooth, truly melt-on-your-tongue effect.

It was most amusing, when asking for cooking preferences for beef, that the chef eventually managed to convince the rare/medium rare beef eaters to change their decision to medium. This consensus was reached when we were educated about the wagyu, and that its prime state was in fact medium. I do think the onions could have been grilled and caramelised for much longer, but that crispy garlic...should definitely be packaged into plastic bags and sold as chips. Deeeeelish!
Fried Rice with Wagyu flavour
I'm an absolute sucker for rice and I don't think this extravagant 8 course meal would have felt complete without this staple food. The combination of beef mince, eggs and about a small truckload's worth of butter was a beautiful marriage of flavours, yet too much of a guilty pleasure that I had to give up most of my portion to dear Whitney, who polished the bowl out. Easily.
Yuzu Cheesecake, Chocolate Drink, Mountain Peach and Wasabi Cream
Yuzu made several prominent appearances on the menu, and featured in the grand finale dessert to end the night. A small cauldron of chocolate bubbled away to be poured into cups for us to sip (believe me, you will NOT be able to down it like a shot if you tried) whilst we dig away at the cheesecake. It was very rich but had a nice tart flavour to balance out the heavy sweetness of the drink, which actually had a delightful velvety sensation.

As the cheesecake had more of a crumbly texture than I preferred, the sweet and sour balance was well thought out. Whilst this was the final course, I do think that the true finale was the steaming hot refills of green tea - which to me, was the best thing at that point in time when I wished I wore looser pants to dinner.


Fuku is the perfect destination for those special occasion type dinners, when the ambiance, food and service is prioritised over everything else. It ticks all the boxes, and the extensive knowledge on display by all the staff is incredible. Impeccable service tied with a classy yet comfortable environment makes it an enjoyable experience all round, which continues inside the restrooms, with multifunction toilets and touch-screen light up mirrors!

Needless to say, the food is enticing and top quality. It is exquisite and carries a premium price; starting at $100 to $220 per person for their Good, Better and Best teppanyaki menus and $75 for a Make Your Own version. It won't seem like a lot, but you might just roll out the door by the end of the night.

With this comes talented chefs who know how to put on a good show, who showcase their knife handling, utensil spinning and pepper shaker throwing skills. Essentially, a $100+ ticket not only gives you front row entertainment at a theatrical dining experience, but also a really good answer for the next time someone asks you, "So where's a good place to eat?"

0403 470 964

Dinner: Tuesday - Saturday
Walk ins or online reservation (deposit required)


Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Red Basil

Red Basil Thai Cuisine on Urbanspoon
I discovered the existence of Red Basil a while back as I was driving towards another restaurant (surprise surprise!) and made a mental note to check it out the next time I was around. When I eventually did, I didn't happen to "be around", but deliberately drove a good distance for this.
If I were this dedicated to everything I did, I would be a much better person.

I had finished work, an activity I always find to be extremely hungrifying. Gleaning over the large menu and feeling particularly ravenous, my eyes lit up over everything they saw - the prices in particular. Was it true to get a decent feed of Pad Thai at dinner time, at a seemingly authentic Thai restaurant, at a mere NINE DOLLARS FIFTY?

Bargain! A steal! Value for money! And perhaps...slightly suspicious. I wasn't sure what I would get. Immediately I had a feeling this could go both ways - I would either fall head over heels in love with this place, or it'd have me running, avoiding it like the plague.
Pad Thai - $9.50
I always believe the best way to test the waters at a new establishment is to try out the classic dishes that have been done to death, to get a feel of how it plays out. The go-to dish of Thai cuisine? Duh, you say.

The Pad Thai was on the small side, but suffices with that sort of price tag! I myself found this dish satisfactory and enjoyed all its components because I don't exactly think when I am hungry, but I imagine some may consider the rice noodles to be a little sloppy.
Green Curry (Chicken) - $11.90
Green curry is an absolute favourite of mine, and seeing it on the menu usually renders all other dishes obsolete to me. Although I had already chosen Pad Thai, I am a bit controlling and force Andy to choose this as his dinner :) I can't help it.

Red Basil's version spoils you for choice - vegetables and tofu; chicken, beef or pork; fish and seafood or prawn. We choose the chicken and when it arrives, the coconut milk aroma is delicious. Although the bowl seems small, it is absolutely loaded with carrots, beans, brocolli, bamboo shoots, kaffir leaves and basil. I'm excited by its generosity, but the level is spiciness is cranked up high and warrants about a litre of water to be drunk with the meal.

As Andy is busy fanning his tongue and making hissing noises on his side of the table, I'm starting to feel beads of sweat grow on my own forehead. Definitely a burner, even without the addition of fresh chilli in the curry.
Fish Cakes - $7
The next time I'm here is a few months after, and the restaurant is absolutely packed and buzzing. We don't manage to snag a table as there is already a line waiting, so they offered to give us a call when a table became free, which was a nice touch.

The crowds do not settle even after a while. By this time, the girls are ready to eat and order 2 starters to start(?) us off, but end up becoming part of our main meals. Melissa is a fan of fish cakes and enjoyed these patties made from a mixture of fish mince, curry paste and herbs. The side salad of plain shredded cabbage and carrot tendrils are unimpressive, but the cakes are a good start to the meal.
Peanut Sauce Stir Fry (Chicken) - $11.90
The Peanut Sauce Chicken stir fry is somewhat a different dish to what I would usually order, but was a decent feed nonetheless. The chicken is a medley of carrots, broccoli, onions and kai-lan vegetables in a slightly sweet and watery peanut sauce. The sauce is thin and whilst I wouldn't call it bland, it could definitely pack more flavour.
Soft Shell Crab - $6
The table had a hankering for soft shell crab, which was quite a large serving for an entree. The deep fried portions are tossed through with onion, chilli, coriander, spring onions and cashews and were unfortunately lots of batter. It took a while to finish off this one.
Red Duck Curry - $14.90
I remember it was a unanimous vote for the Red Duck Curry, as I had imagined the rich curry sauce would be amazing spooned over hot steamed rice. I liked the addition of pineapple in the curry, which had soaked in the curry coconut milk along with tomatoes, carrots, broccoli, beans and kaffir leaves.

The star of the show - the roasted duck, was sadly not the star of the show. Although the skin gleamed with caramelisation and looked as promising as ever, the duck was not very meaty and was a bit tough to eat. A longer time to cook it probably would have made all the difference.
Towards the end of a busy dinner rush
Red Basil is a mixed bag of good and bad, but is unfortunately let down by its service on both occasions that I have visited. Friendly but unattentive, or forgetful - the litre of water that was needed with the Green Curry only came after 2 or 3 requests.
The inefficiency is only emphasised more when you're waiting on some water to extinguish the heat!

Whilst the food is not fantastic, it is certainly not bad either. The portions are fair and representative of the prices charged, and I was very surprised to only fork out a blue note and a few gold coins to pay for dinner that night. A happy (but not necessarily full) little diner!
Gives you an excuse to sneak in a dessert :)

Red Basil is situated along the busy Albany Highway, neighbouring the popular Crust Pizza store

(08) 9361 2661

Cash only
Lunch: 11am to 2.30pm
Dinner: 4pm to 9.30pm
Times are subject to change - I was looking for a late lunch at 4:30pm and arrived to see the staff taking an afternoon nap on the chairs in the dining area.

Monday, 17 June 2013

Beaufort Street Merchant

The Beaufort Street Merchant on Urbanspoon

Beaufort Street Merchant. It's a little something, boasting a lot.




Or all 4 - your one shop stop paradise for all things dinner parties.
A once gourmet food retailer turned bar-brasserie-gift shop-restaurant that's one of Perth's most well known food places - a fact you could instantly assume from the sheer volume and activity within this large, but nevertheless cramped space.

Cute and definitely cosy, but in a loud, boisterous kind of way.

Ahh Beaufort Street Merchant. You amaze me.
Where else can you eat, shop and stock up on liquid courage under the same roof? (Shopping centres not taken as an answer).

Salted Caramel Affogato - $11.50
It is hard to go wrong with something so decadent sounding and tasting. This DIY project is not a cheap beverage to pop, but it celebrates the perfect marriage between the rich bittersweet flavours of salted creme caramel liqueur espresso with velvety vanilla ice cream.
Gremolata crumbed Fish and Chips - $29
M's Gremolata fish is a premium remake of the usual subpar greasy fish and chip takeaway - a nice crumbly golden coating on some small pieces of fish, a deep-fryer basket worth of chips and a small fennel salad on the side, just for greens sake.
Condiments with Fish & Chips
Crispy Skinned Barramundi - $37
A splurged on the barramundi, which looked really, really good. I kind of regretted my choice when I lay eyes on it, and when my salad (what the...) was plonked in front of me, my heart sunk even deeper in my chair.

The size was generous, the skin looked golden and crisp, and the chunk of mustard mash it balanced on was massive. Not too sure about the broccolini tartare or saffron emulsion, because sadly, I had a salad.

Crab Linguini - $32
The others ordered linguini, which looked deceptively small but seemed to be surprisingly filling. It was pretty and pretty colourful, with busy mouthfuls of rocket, parmesan and verjuice, a juice of high acidity made with unripe grapes and crab apples.

Greedy me thinks more crab would do no harm too!

Chicken Salad - $26
If you're anything like me, you would think there is absolutely nothing in this world that would justify paying $26 for a salad, let alone ordering salad for dinner in the first place. With that being said, I must give some credit to this because it WAS a good salad, albeit very small.
It would probably suffice as an entree portion, priced as a main.

I must confess I ordered this only because I was told chilli mussels had run out, and only after I solemnly buried my face in my hands when the waitress told me of this devastating news.

The meal I tried to replace my chilli mussel craving with was this salad, featuring lean chicken breast meat, tiny but yummy sweet potato cubes, grilled capsicum, herbed leafy greens and a splattering of pumpkin seeds. Quite good when drenched with their harissa aioli, a Tunisian hot chilli sauce made with chilli peppers, spices and herbs.
Chilli Mussels - $27
Determined to try those chilli mussels, I was delighted that the girlfriends had ordered it the next time I visited. I reunited with some childhood friends who I hadn't seen in 10 years and Beaufort Street Merchant was coincidentally chosen as the meeting point. We figured we needed a venue that were happy to accommodate with the noise we created, after a previous empty restaurant ushered us to "talk quieter"; a nicer way of saying SHUT UP.

Served up in a cute little pot, these mussels looked a lot more civilised than the usual big metal bowls that are usually used. There weren't enough to comfortably go around if you are sharing, but should suffice for one moderate eater. Charred ciabatta is also included to wipe clean the sauce cooked with chorizo, basil and tomato chunks, which could feature a lot more flavour.

Chips with Garlic Aioli - $9.50
Unfortunately the chips were not finished as they did not live up to the chip expectation, especially at a pricey $9.50. On this occasion they were a little limp, and not very perky (if chips were people).

Unfortunately I can't recall what this was, which doesn't really matter as the restaurant menu never really stays the same for too long. It was a berry dessert and was berry, berry sour :)

I was delighted to watch my friends' sour faces!
Warm Chocolate Gingerbread Cake - $16.80
Just like a simplistic piece of art that satisfies, a warm chocolate gingerbread cake might have an even better effect on the soul (but not the body, sadly! :P) I was intrigued by the precise, smooth and slick piece of cake with subtle hints of ginger, with a cutaway crater filled with dark chocolate fudge sauce.

Cleverly constructed and presented, this rich dessert is a grand finale ending with its hot and cold components on the one plate. The honeycomb ice cream scoop slowly but surely marks its territory on the rest of the plate with a crown of honeycomb balancing daintily on top.

Gingerbread cake - $5.50
Not all of us could be as interesting, so I was content with my slab of gingerbread cake from the dessert table on display at the restaurant's entrance. The staff member there was happy to chat about the different options (always a good sign :))

I admit I had kinda expected my cake to come out warm, and to replicate a yummy slice of baked dessert that could pretend it came fresh out of the oven. Sadly it was served cold - not really a gripe, just a personal preference thing.

A big pastry table always means a big decision to be made!

The view that greets you
The clutter that makes up the interior of Beaufort Street Merchant is what makes up its quirky character, criss crossing between cafe, shop, and anything in between. It's a long stretch of road (not really) from the front to the back, and while all the restaurant action happens at the front, make sure to check out what's up the back :)

If you don't mind the noise (which is comparable to a rowdy night market), you'll enjoy the upbeat, lively atmosphere all around. It's just the combination of noise and dim lights that make the place not overly picture or conversation friendly - only because I found myself giving up listening and speaking mid-conversation the whole time...

As one of the top-rated establishments along Perth's foodie street, Beaufort Street Merchant throws opens its doors, leaving it wide open every single day of the year (except for a well deserved break on Christmas) - you're bound to come across it on at least one of those.

(08) 9328 6299

Open 7 days: 7am - late
Kitchen closes at 10pm

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