September 16, 2014

Irasshaimase

At some stage between being a child and reaching adulthood, birthdays and their accompanying celebrations seem to fall out of favour with many people. As a child, your birthday ranks way up there with Christmas. The parties, the cakes, the games and the gifts. Birthdays are a real highlight of a kid's life. Then, people become adults and all a sudden, birthdays become just another day. Not a reason to celebrate, and for some not even a reason to commemorate or acknowledge. I'm not saying this is entirely exclusive to women, but my fellow ladies are prime culprits when it comes to tiptoeing past a birthday, as if it's almost a shame that we should find ourselves celebrating another year of life. It's a universal truth that each year our ages clicks up one notch for all of us. Growing older should not be something we shun or spurn. If we are not getting older there's only one other alternative and that alternative does not appeal to me at all.

As a devotee of the birthday, mine is one I look forward to each and every year and I probably spend the six months prior planning my celebrations. According to my superannuation fund, this year's birthday was a "life event" being that I left the departure lounge of my twenties and moved into the next decade. In super fund world this means I can increase the coverage of all my insurances without the need for any medical assessments, but in my world this means celebrating on an even bigger scale than usual.

The main celebration for my birthday (yes, I did celebrate more than once) was a dinner party with my nearest and dearest at Nobu Perth

The birthday girl in her birthday dress
For functions outside of the main dining room of the restaurant, Nobu has two private dining rooms available for the exclusive use of your party. Although the one room would have accommodated everyone, I'm not fond of squishy environments so I chose to book out both rooms. The rooms are decorated simply but elegantly, to which you can add your own personal touch, and overlook the pool area with a balcony for the dastardly smokers. Assigned with dedicated and attentive waitstaff, it is the perfect venue choice for a special occasion.


If you've not ever been to Nobu, you may not know that upon arrival all of the staff greet you with an enthusiastic shout of "irasshaimase!" which is a traditional Japanese greeting, generally upon arrival into a place of business.  My first time at Nobu, it was somewhat startling but now when dining at other Japanese restaurants I have noticed they also greet their customers in the same way.


The chefs at Nobu have put together a few different function menus, but of course I had to create my own. Being familiar with the menu, I chose my favourites and a couple of dishes I'd yet to try but had always wanted to. With so many standout dishes it was hard to choose but I got there in the end, deciding on the scallop tiradito, kelp salad, soft shell crab and watermelon, pork gyoza, black cod miso, chicken kushiyaki skewers, creamy spicy crab and the pork belly. If that sounds like a lot of food, it was especially when taking into consideration that on the night we were mistakenly served an additional dish that was not on my menu. By the end of the night, were were stuffed and sewn up.


The order in which we were served was cold dishes followed by the hot dishes. Starting on a perfect note was the scallop tiradito. Very fresh, sweet and tender scallop meat cut with amazing precision served with a tangy citrus dressing that was cut through with a bite of heat from chilli. It was spectacular and some of my friends told me that this was one of their favourite dishes of the night.


Another standout dish was the soft shell crab and watermelon, which at the time was only on their 'secret' menu but has now been included on the restaurant's dining menu. Generous portions of deliciously seasoned and crispy soft shell crab and cubes of watermelon were served with a sweet, salty and spicy sauce that was similar in taste to the Vietnamese dipping sauce nuoc cham. It seems like a strange combination to serve soft shell crab and watermelon together but it worked exceptionally well.


As simple as they were, the pork gyoza were very moreish and I happily downed a few. This was probably my downfall as I went in hard at the beginning so toward the end I struggled. The black cod miso is one of Nobu's signature dishes and unfortunately being served toward the end it was impossible to enjoy too much of it, but it was as I knew it to be. A tender fillet of cod that flakes into layers at the touch of a chopstick, it's a must have dish if you're at Nobu.


The creamy spicy crab is a richly flavoured dish that packs a significant amount of heat. Not anywhere near the level of heat that I can manage, but it is spicy and not a meek and mild heat that is just labelled as being spicy. Fish roe is incorporated throughout the dish; I love the little bursts of roe between the teeth and it makes for a good textural addition to the overall very smooth and creamy consistency.


The pork belly which was served on the night was not how I remember it, even though it was the same pork belly as I have had previously at Nobu. The pork belly I remember was paired with a sticky caramel, that was both sweet and spicy in flavour. This flavour combination seemed to be missing from the caramel and instead I got the overwhelming taste of ginger which sat atop the pieces of pork belly as a garnish. The pork was very tender but devoid of the crisp crackle that is probably one of the most enjoyable aspects about pork belly.


The chicken skewers were a last minute addition to the menu as I was concerned that the dishes I initially had chosen would not be enough. Simple skewers of chicken meat that were strongly flavoured of black pepper, I enjoyed these the least and would have happily done without them, from a perspective of enjoyment and also because the food ended up being very substantial so it really was not needed.


A bonus dish was served on the night, that being the prawn tempura which was intended to be served to the function which was held in the main dining room but was mistakenly brought to the private dining rooms. At the time this came out I was not in the room so my friends tucked in, oblivious to the fact that it was not meant for us. Generally I don't enjoy or order tempura but this was very enjoyable as the tempura batter was not excessive and the prawns were doused with a fiery sauce which further added to the taste and enjoyment.


Our waitstaff that evening provided exceptional service. They were never too far to take our orders for more drinks (the lychee martinis are crazy good) but at the same time they were not hovering around and allowed us the privacy that you essentially are seeking when you decide to book a private dining room. 

Party favour #1 - cassette tape USBs for my mixtape!
Party favour #2 - keeping with the Japanese theme, hand made pencils wrapped in washi paper. I do love a theme.

Great food and drinks, even better company, it was a memorable evening and was exactly how I wanted to celebrate my birthday. I enlisted the help of my cousin, who in a past life was a DJ, to put together a mix tape of thirty of my favourite songs. These were one of the party favours I gave out and also served as the backing track to our evening. I get a kick out of the thought that I am the first person, and quite possibly will be the only person, to have NWA's Straight Outta Compton boom through the speakers in the dining room of Nobu.

Birthday cake made by Flavia at Sugarplum Sweets

Nobu Perth on Urbanspoon

September 08, 2014

Old Walls to New Ways

Special note: This post was written as a freelance piece for Form and has also been published on their website. I am very excited to have worked with Form and look forward to collaborating with them again in the future. Please visit Form's website if you'd like to find out more about their projects and how you can support them. Being a not-for-profit organisation, support from the public is essential to continue transforming our city with these amazing work of art! 

To take the most basic and simplistic view of art, it gives you something to look at. As with almost all things in life, not everything can be reduced down to such simple terms. While art most certainly engages your visual sense, it can also call upon your mind and your emotions. It can make you think. It can inspire and it can motivate. In the case of the many works of street and public art that can be found all over Perth, it's often more than just a colourfully painted mural or an interesting installation. It can be using a many metres high and wide wall as a means from which to shout a message about society, and it can also be an investment in people and communities. An investment which says we see the worth, value and potential in this community and its people.


When you look at the 100 Hampton Road project, this couldn't be more true. Originally used as the nursing quarters of Fremantle Hospital, in recent years this high rise building has become a lodging house providing entry level accommodation for up to 190 people. In a joint project undertaken by Form and Foundation Housing, a steady stream of work has taken place over recent months to transform this non descript and somewhat tired looking building into something that its residents can look at with pride in calling this place their home.


To date, artists 2501, Anya Brock, Jaz, Lucas Grogan and Maya Hayuk have painted murals on some of the interior and exterior walls and just last week Amok Island, a Fremantle local himself, set to work on the most visible exterior fa├žade of the building. A perfect match to the port city, Amok Island's design is an impressively imposing seahorse painted in bright colours evoking fun times spent at the seaside and beach. Specifically a tiger snout seahorse which is found only around the central coast of Western Australia, it took the artist just a little over three days to complete the entire mural. Given the sheer size of this lovely creature, that's not a bad effort at all.

 

Part of the design includes the addition of the sargassum seaweed which the seahorses hold onto when in the water and can be sometimes found living within. The artist specifically incorporated this into the design as it was the perfect symbol to represent an anchoring holdfast and a home.


It is impossible to ignore the grand size of this mural. The size of this wall and the task at hand was a challenge that Amok Island was keen to tackle, and the visual effect of seeing this majestic creature looking down on you is both stunning and captivating. When asked what he would like for people to take away from his mural, Amok Island replied that the seahorse itself represents a hidden beauty. As beautiful as they are, they are not always easy to find and to spot, so to see the beauty of a seahorse it requires some effort on the part of the person looking for it. 


Chatting with some of the residents of 100 Hampton while Amok Island was busy painting mid air, it came as no surprise that they were happy to see the newest piece of art going up on their walls. I certainly wouldn't object to any of these artists coming around to my home to do the same. Speaking with them and also the building manager, it was glaringly obvious that those living here are for all intents and purposes, people just wanting to live their lives and do the best that they can for themselves, just as you or I do. The residents here are some of the most vulnerable in our community, with many having coming through difficult circumstances. While the context of their lives may be vastly different to my own, ultimately we're all the same people wanting the same things; a safe and secure place that we can call home, the feeling of community and to be valued and included members of society.


There are common negative stereotypes and generalisations when people think and speak of the disadvantaged within our society. A huge part of this project is centred around engaging the residents, in doing so helping them to develop a sense of home and to feel more comfortable with where they live and their fellow residents, and also increasing the community engagement by shattering the stereotypes that often accompany this type of housing. For the person not looking hard enough amongst the seaweed, they miss out on finding the beauty of a seahorse. Similarly, there's always so much more than meets the eye, beyond the brown brick walls and much more to who you think a person is based upon their present circumstances.
 
 

Developing and revitalising 100 Hampton Road by way of this investment in public art sends this message in very clear and large terms that there definitely is always more than what we see at first glance. It's more than this repurposed high rise block of flats. It's more than the people who call it and the city of Fremantle home. It's about bringing together a community, strengthening relationships between people and opening up the channels of communication to have those essential conversations about how we can make this place we live in even better and how we can provide help to the people who need it the most. By using art to start the conversation, the first steps are taken in establishing these relationships between the residents of 100 Hampton Road and the greater community. It all starts with engaging one person, and from there who knows where you can go and what you can achieve? 

September 03, 2014

Brooklyn in the house

I love me some Brooklyn. BK all day. That's Brooklyn as in one of the boroughs of New York City. Not Victoria Beckham's kid or anything weird like that. I've been loving Brookyn long time, even way back when Miranda Hobbes felt she'd rather die than have to move from Manhattan to Brooklyn. Way back when I would tell my friends who were heading off to NYC on holiday that they absolutely must visit the other boroughs, especially Brooklyn and that no, walking the Brooklyn Bridge did not count as visiting Brooklyn. They'd look at me like a lunatic. Who crosses the damn river? Well everybody crosses the damn river now.

One of my favourite places to eat at when I'm in NYC is Junior's. It sits on a corner in Brooklyn and while it's certainly not a place that is going to rewrite the cookbooks with what it serves up, it's the type of good comfort food that stays with you and always invokes fond memories whenever you recall the meals you've had there. It was sad news when I read that Junior's wasn't going to escape the clutches of the developers and may end up closing its doors. If it isn't bad enough that 5 Pointz has been demolished, they're getting rid of Junior's too? If this is progress, I don't want a bar of it!


Given my fondness for Brooklyn (the borough, not the Beckham kid) and satisfying food of the comfort type, it's not surprising that my tastebuds were raring to go when I heard of the Brooklyn Lounge recently opening its doors in Claremont. After taking a look at the menu and seeing that a number of their cocktails are named after rappers who feature heavily throughout my iPhone's playlist, it was a done deal.


I visited Brooklyn Lounge this past Sunday with The Foodie Hub for a drink, which then turned into a late lunch after we both discovered how strong their drinks are and we wanted to avoid possibly losing our licence on the way home. I had already allocated some brownie points to Brooklyn from the moment I walked in and heard the sounds of A Tribe Called Quest's Check the Rhime being piped over the speakers. Their playlist definitely gets the big tick of approval from me.

Left - Al Capone, Right - The Notorious B.I.G

I ordered the Notorious B.I.G which was a mix of Maker's Mark bourbon and Hennessy cognac with raspberries, blueberries and mint muddled throughout. The Foodie Hub went with his second choice of the Al Capone as the candied bacon that accompanies the Mos Def wasn't quite ready yet, and you most def can't not have the candied bacon. Let me be clear, there was no scrimping on the alcohol in either of these drinks. These were strong drinks. Tick for some more brownie points.

This photo taken from www.thefoodiehub.com.au


We ordered our food and I went with the Hangover Plate and he ordered the pulled pork burger with the "American addition" of BBQ sauce and bacon. The burger was served with fries and came in at $24 while my Hangover Plate was extremely good value at $18 being a very full plate of buffalo wings, a few ribs, arancini, two wedges of spaghetti frittata, meatballs served with a toasted slice of ciabatta and fries. Sadly when I got stuck into my first meatball I found it to be cold, but the staff were super quick and willing to rectify this without any fuss and even provided a discount on the total bill due to this. Although you'd like to avoid this sort of thing happening, a lot can be said for the way the staff handle these issues when they do arise and the exceptional way that they handled this is something that other establishments can learn from. Although I didn't try any of the pulled pork burger, it was packed full of porky goodness and looked like it would be a satisfying feed. 


I would love to return to Brooklyn Lounge in the near future and get stuck into a full rack of their ribs. Their dessert menu also looks like it needs to be explored. It's a great place if you're looking for a relaxed and chill spot to enjoy some well made drinks. Grab your friends and check it out. Spread love, it's the Brooklyn way.


Brooklyn Lounge on Urbanspoon

August 31, 2014

Meet & Greet

It's often said that Perth is like a country town and everybody knows each other. If you were playing Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon amongst Perth residents you'd be sure to have a hit. But just because many of Perth's residents are acquainted with each other doesn't mean we all know everybody. At least not always in real life.



Social media is a funny thing. We connect with people we don't know beyond a tiny square or round photo of them (and sometimes that photo ain't even them) and we have conversations with strangers not too unlike the conversations we would have with friends. It's not surprising given that social media has the ability to link you with peeps with whom you share common interests. I guess it's really like how people met "back in the day" except now it's often done via little rectangular objects we carry around with us. 



Perhaps I am not the only one who picked up on this and this is what led a few of the creative folk within the Perth community to organize an Instameet. What a lovely portmanteau of the words "Instagram" and "meet". Stacey Clark and Bec Tougas put out the call to all - why not meet your favourite Instagrammers? Your favourite Instagrammers' favourite Instagrammers? And last Thursday, one hundred and fifty or so 'grammers converged at Empire in Highgate to meet, mingle and of course, take photos to upload with the obligatory hashtags.




It was almost like a party that spilled out into the sidewalks of Beaufort Street, complete with a DJ (who might I add was playing some pretty damn good music), drinks from the Barpop crew and affogatos from the Chicho Gelato and Micrology collab.





The ladies from Pure Glow Cleanse were there with samples of their Buddha Juice and Debra Hayes had a gorgeous cart of blooms for your own DIY bouquet. No celebration is complete without cake, and the scrumptious cupcakes were provided by Laura Isabella. I don't envy of her job of baking all those cupcakes! 





It was a wonderful opportunity to catch up with old friends and stuff our faces with cupcakes while debating over whether to purchase Missoni bathroom accessories, and to meet many new faces, in real life. 

With the "old friends" - Nezuki, Sass & Spice, Miss Heidy

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