Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Stopped using cutlery at The Darbar Indian Nepalese Restaurant

All that I selflessly volunteered to finish off...
The Darbar Indian Nepalese Restaurant on Urbanspoon
The drive to The Darbar Indian Nepalese Restaurant felt like a road trip - I actually thought I needed to pull over at a petrol station to fill up. We were going for dinner that I had purchased through Scoopon (just a mild compulsion of mine, I swear) and considering this was a 45 minute drive, it seems as though I deem checking the location of restaurants totally unnecessary.

I've noticed my recent habit of abusing my petrol tank in these worrying times of sky high petrol prices, what IS my problem?!
The Darbar Indian and Nepalese Restaurant
These lighting fixtures hanging from the ceiling were an instantly recognisable and familiar sight which I remembered taking a photo of at Himalayan and Nepalese Restaurant, which also happened to be my last taste of Nepalese cuisine. Having quite enjoyed some of the flavours of the food I had, I was interested to see how The Darbar Indian Nepalese Restaurant compared.

The meaning behind the word Darbar is palace, where the restaurant's stated goal is to treat every customer as if they are dining in a lavish palace. Whilst the Italian-feel interior was not quite what I was expecting, I did feel this goal was genuinely upheld by all the staff members who served us on a busy Friday night. It may definitely sound a little cliche and be an overused feel-good promise made by restaurants, but I left The Darbar Restaurant with a positive experience and felt this was achieved in all aspects.

I walked out at the end of the night with a bigger belly and an even bigger sense of satisfaction than when I first walked in. In fact, I held quite an unfavourable impression of this place after they were reluctant to accept my Scoopon. I find it so irritating and unprofessional when restaurants inform you that "Yes, we do have tables available" only to suddenly have a complete change of mind to "Sorry, we don't have tables" when you notify them that you have a voucher in hand. It irks me to no end when restaurants decide that they don't have a need to honour the vouchers that they have issued themselves!

After the initial decline, it left me with that dreaded sceptical feeling of just how good they claim themselves to be. No hard feelings though, because I'm happy to say I was so pleasantly surprised that this is now a place that I would definitely want to return to - for both the food AND the warm, friendly service. You can never predict how things turn out, can you?
Complimentary basket of papadams
Service was brisk and it was easy to flag down a staff member to take orders despite a busy restaurant and were extremely accommodating and welcoming, carefully explaining the conditions that came with the meal. We eagerly made our way through the basket of papadams that each table is given and with absolutely no consideration for how much stomach space could be wasted on endless eating of this, we shamelessly asked for a refill to which the staff were more than happy to give us.
Chicken Momo (8 pieces) - $10
When four plates of these dumplings arrived at the table, there was mass confusion on our faces, mixed with surprise, disbelief and "What, are you serious?" I had no idea that our entree sized chicken momos was in fact EIGHT dumplings and would probably suffice as an entire meal to some. This is extremely generous on their part, but after making our way through them, we concluded that this was a smart means to prevent diners to take full advantage of the all-you-can-eat ordering of mains that was yet to come considering how much of a stomach filler this really was!

My last and only taste of momos was at the Himalayan Nepalese Restaurant, where I realised the remarkable similarities between this Nepalese dumpling and the Chinese version, jiaozi. Sadly the quality of the momos at The Darbar are definitely not up to scratch and you could probably judge this from the picture, but I have a feeling this is not their usual standards. The dumplings are stuffed with a minced chicken filling and are really not worth talking much about, but its accompanying sauce deserves all the attention and recognition it can handle. It is made from fresh grilled tomato and roasted sesame seeds and somehow carries so much flavour that I kept two dishes of it next to me for the entire night to use it as a dip for my naan bread and rice enhancer!
Vegetarian Momo - $9
 Like their chicken counterparts, the vegetarian momo were not much better in comparison. I think their biggest letdown was not so much the filling; it was the thick, doughy and bland dumpling skin that was its ultimate downfall to this potentially amazing momo. Stodgy would be the right word to describe the feeling of eating these, and the satisfaction levels declined real steadily with each momo eaten.

Although the quantity cannot be beaten, the quality just was not there despite me drowning it in copious amounts of sauce. I think a better strategy would have been to put less dumplings on the plate (I can't believe I just said that) so that it's a lot less overwhelming for the stomach to be confronted with eight sizeable dumplings for just an entree.
Lamb Chops - $20
My eyes inadvertently spotted the words "lamb chops" from amongst their wide range of menu items. It arrived sizzling on a hot plate, with a delicious aroma drifting from the spiced and marinated lamb that nailed it in terms of flavour. It was unfortunate that the lamb chops really lacked meat, otherwise it would have been a stunning starter. The squeeze of lemon worked wonders but that mound of cabbage, onion and carrots did little to enhance the overall dish.
Garlic Tikka - $17
The garlic tikka was our second sizzling dish - this one consisting of large, chunky tandoori grilled boneless chicken pieces marinated with a garlic and cashew nut paste. The pieces were huge but the flavour of the garlicy, nutty marinade was not significant (at all). I could not taste that rich, flavoursome hit I hoped for; overall, a little disappointing.
Lamb Jalfrezi - $19
I was hit with indecisiveness big time when faced with the array of choices on the menu, which are categorised into different sections based on styles instead of the meat. Apart from the more familiar terms such as vindaloo, madras and korma, there are other options (kadai, do pyaza and jalfrezi) which all sound confusingly similar in terms of ingredients used - namely onions, tomato and capsicum.

I turned to our waitress for help to decide which of these to order, to which she suggested the jalfrezi. This is a dish from Northern India that is prepared with onions, capsicum and tomato sauce, which is surprisingly subtler in flavour and appearance than I had expected. The curry was creamy and mild; a perfect company for all the naan bread that I selflessly volunteered to finish off.
Chef's Special Beef - $20
There is a section on the menu entitled "Chef's Special Items" that was quite intriguing, as it offered no other description besides that it is cooked in a Nepalese and Indian style with the chef's special condiments, with no further explanation as to what this actually was. It looked no different to any other serving of curry, but I enjoyed the slight heat to the beef curry. It was spicy but not to the stage of being hot, and tasted as though it was a heavily tomato based curry as there was a very subtle acidity to it. The beef on this occasion however, was tough to chew.
The Chef's Special Beef and Lamb Jalfrezi
Both the curries had just the right amount of spice for me and provided that gentle kick that I want from a curry. All the dishes are served as mild unless stated otherwise or requested by the diner to be prepared hot, medium or mild. I actually loved the flavours of the curries we ordered and if these were anything to go by, I wouldn't hesitate to think their other dishes would be of the same quality.
Garlic Naan - $5.50
We skipped on the four huge servings of rice that was included, as the servings of naan were equally as huge. The garlic naan is studded with small specks of garlic and looked promising in terms of flavour, but the garlic taste was not as distinct as I'd like it to be. I enjoyed ripping into it whilst it was fluffy and hot, tearing it apart and dunking it into the numerous pools of surplus curry sauce I had at my disposal.
Butter Naan - $5
Out of the two, I loved the buttered naan and its fragrant, warm, buttery layers of bread which were crisp in some areas. The aroma was rich and delicious and despite the visible buttery goodness seeped into the naan, it did not have an oily glean nor did it leave a glossy residue on my fingers.

I must commend the chef upon noticing on The Darbar's menu that diners can request for a style of naan that is not necessarily featured on the menu or any other dish you fancy, which is a really nice personal touch that makes the experience that much more special. Very impressive!
Dining area sectioned off into three areas
The exterior of the restaurant is unassuming and its location on a dim, quiet suburban street on the outskirts of Fremantle is a huge contrast to the environment of the restaurant, abuzz with a great vibe and great food. The ambiance is vibrant and welcoming, and is a very comfortable and casual setting to eat with your hands and get as dirty as you wish.
Yes, I think we were the second last table to leave...
Over the course of the night, we received great hospitality from each and every one of the staff members who served us or simply came by to ask how the meal was going. At one point a waiter came over and apologised for the long wait - I'm sure my confusion was obvious, we had only been waiting for 5 minutes after our entrees (which were still sitting on the table!)

This was a very pleasant experience and for once in my blog life, this was worth the road trip it took to get here. Can't say the same about food, but a little extra really goes a long way with service :)
The Darbar Indian Nepalese Restaurant, South Fremantle
Open 6 days
Fri, Sat & Sun: 11.30am - 2.00pm 
Tues - Sun: 5.00pm - 10.00pm
Closed Mondays
BYO Wine and Beer, $2 per person

Tel: (08)9336 3600
34 Douro Road, South Fremantle 6162

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Weird smelling things at Serenade Palace

Just don't be alarmed if you ever see it in its raw form...
Serenade Palace on Urbanspoon
A mad rush during lunch hour on Fathers Day this year meant a solid 20+ minute wait for a table at Serenade Palace. Quite a wait, and more so surprising, considering the restaurant has never been more than half full on other days I have been here.

It's a longstanding tradition of my family's to head out for Dim Sim for Mothers and Fathers Day; we'll be there, putting up a fight for a free table and battling all the other dads there who deserve a good siu mai on their special day without needing to struggle with the crowds.
Serenade Palace
The restaurant is still pumping and full of people eager for more rounds of dim sim on their lazy susans. Stacks of bamboo steamers are making their way around the floor on trolleys; some letting out lots of steam, representative of being freshly delivered right out of the kitchen while others not so much, having done many laps around the restaurant.

It is a huge disappointment that the majority of the items we call are barely even lukewarm. We were especially perplexed as to how some dishes that we ordered to be immediately steamed, still managed to come out lukewarm.

I think the only positive thought I left the restaurant with, was how beautiful this painting is. The colours are amazing, and I catch myself staring at this serene painted landscape every time.
Deep fried Prawn and Meat Dumplings - $4.90
We said "Yes, please" to the waitress who offered a plate of deep fried dumplings as our bottoms just touched down on our seats. As it was a frantic and mad dash for food in the restaurant that day, we unfortunately said yes to a plate of three cold deep fried dumplings.
Fresh Prawn Rice Flour Rolls - $5.20
I am somewhat surprised that these rice flour rolls ended up being one of the most satisfying dishes that landed on our table.
Deep fried Crab Meat Dumplings - $5.20
The deep fried crab meat dumplings are golden balls of crab "meat" - similar to the taste and texture of fish cakes, made out of surimi. Serenade Palace's version have a very thin batter, unlike others which might be wrapped in tofu skin and deep fried, giving it a very crisp, shattering between your teeth effect.
Prawn Dumplings - $5.20
These freshly steamed and plump pillows of prawns looked promising as they were plonked on the table, however I was not a fan of the flimsy dumpling skin, which tore apart easily as I tried to transfer it safely to my bowl. 
Steamed BBQ Pork Buns - $4.80
BBQ pork buns are the lovable must-haves at a dim sim chow down with many people, but not an item frequently on our eating agenda. I remember being scolded by my parents when I was a little one, as I had a strange habit of eating the bun and throwing out the filling; the reason for the scolding being not only because it was a waste, but because I'd be unnecessarily filling stomach space too fast. This is probably why we still don't order it these days - strategic eating is the buzz word in my family!

They usually comprise of too much bun (not a negative if the bun itself is soft and fluffy) and too little filling, be it meat or sauce, and these pork buns fit in perfectly well with this description.
Siu Mai - $4.80
The siu mai of chopped prawn and minced pork were satisfyingly juicy, with its high fat to meat ratio. A no no for me personally, but that's the guilty factor that makes them so satisfying.
Beef Tendon in Szechuan Sauce
A popular way of preparing tendon is to simmer the stuff until it is unbelievably soft. I am quite opposed to this way of eating tendon, as it takes away the enjoyment of gnawing away at the slightly chewy, almost crunchy texture of it when it is cooked al dente.

The tendon dim sim is not featured in the menu, but can be prepared when asked for. It is a less known, uncommon dim sim but nevertheless should definitely be tried. Just don't be alarmed if you ever see it in its raw form; if curiosity plagues you, let SeriousEats relieve you.
Steamed Tripe with Spring Onion and Ginger - $5.20
If there was a dish that was worthy of a mention, it is this. Don't get me wrong though - it is worthy of a mention for all the wrong reasons. As I picked up a piece of the steamed tripe, a strong, unpleasant stench started making its way up my nose. As I was about to put it in my mouth, I was mortified - the smell was from the piece of tripe; it reeked like body odour! Even dad, who didn't believe me when I told him initially, realised I wasn't telling fibs when the smell drifted past him.

I'm really not sure what it could possibly have been, but it was unfortunate because it really spoiled the tripe for me - it's usually one of my favourites. I ate one, but that's about all I could manage.
Red Bean Pudding
I practically halted the waitress who was serving these in her tracks; I love red bean! The flavour of red bean is very prominent in this sweet dessert pudding, with the top layer featuring a very compressed paste of it. The rest of the pudding comprises of coconut milk and red bean fragments mixed through, although I wasn't expecting it to be as dense when I bit into it, nor as sweet as it was.
Mango Cake
Instead of the common mango pudding dessert usually served at dim sim, I was highly intrigued by this mango cake that was being touted by the waitresses. Upon taking a bite, we all announced our reactions, which all happened to be the same: surprise. The texture was like nothing we had expected and its appearance gave nothing away - a bit like jelly but at the same time, it's nothing like jelly.

Your teeth immediately sink through the cake, as it is soft, airy and kind of like stiff egg whites. Simultaneously it is quite moist but bland; I wouldn't have guessed it was a mango dessert if not for the vivid yellow colour.
Steamed Fish Balls - $5.20
After dessert, it was straight back to the mains as we were not quite satisfied at this point (quantity and quality wise). As it was getting towards the end of dim sim service by this time (places usually stop serving around 3pm), further orders have to be requested then cooked to order, which is even a better option really!

I ordered some steamed fish balls, which strangely arrived not as hot as one would expect food to be if it came fresh from the kitchen. Steamed fish balls at dim sim are not quite like the fish balls found in packages from Asian grocers and in noodle soups, these are less "bouncier" to chew and taste more genuine.
Chicken Feet with Spicy Sauce - $4.80
Chicken feet are a sometimes food for me, and this occasion was one of those "sometimes not" occasions. Serenade Palace's version looked tempting and flavoursome from being soaked in that vibrantly red and garlicky sauce. The fiery looking redness is just that - fiery looking, but much more mild in taste.
Setting the tables for dinner service
Serenade Palace is a mixed lucky dip bag - you never really know what you will get and it's best not to have any set expectations in place. I have been here a few times for dim sim but never for dinner, and I find that my weekday visits are quieter and generally the food seems to be of a better quality than what we experienced on a very busy and hectic but loving Fathers Day.
Serenade Palace, Warwick
Serenade Palace Urbanspoon page
Open 7 days
Mon - Fri: 11am - 2.30pm
Sat - Sun: 10am - 3pm
Mon - Thurs: 4.30pm - 10pm
Fri - Sat: 4.30pm - 10.30pm
Sun: 4.30pm - 9.30pm

(08) 92038828
Warwick Entertainment Centre
Shop 3B, 639 Beach Road Warwick, WA 6024
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