June 24, 2014

Party in the Park

It's always interesting to see how, with the passage of time, certain neighbourhoods change. It happens here in Perth, it happens throughout Australia, it happens all over the world. Call it gentrification. Or rejuvenation. Revitalization. Renewal. Whatever you and urban planners may choose to call it, with these changes come a shift in people's attitudes and opinions. Once upon a time, people would plan their trip to New York City and conveniently forget that NYC is in fact made up of five distinct boroughs and not just the island in the middle known as Manhattan. These days your life is apparently not complete if you've not sat on a miniature chair in the middle of a bar in Williamsburg drinking out of a picnic cup, and the tour groups just can't get enough of Harlem. How times change.

In a similar way, we've seen these changes happen in Perth. The areas which were once the mainstay of the working class or suburbs which were favoured for being family friendly are now the places where all the cool kids hang. A great example of this is Mount Lawley, and all the suburbs in the vicinity of the 6050 hood, which not only have an abundance of cafes, restaurants, bars and pop-ups but is also home to Perth's biggest street party in the form of the Beaufort Street Festival. While Mount Lawley is a great example of what can come out of having the involvement of local residents and businesses and a forward thinking council there are plenty of other Perth neighbhourhoods which are also ready to shine.

Being local to the Victoria Park area I've seen many great new businesses opening up along the strip. Awesome places to eat or grab a coffee and fantastic stores and boutiques. It would seem Vic Park is not short of fans and has its own fan club in the form of the Vic Park Collective. A group with the aim of facilitating business and community collaborations to make the Town of Victoria Park uniquely awesome, last Friday night they held their Laneway Launch street party in the lane which is the address of a mural painted by artists The Yok and Sheryo during their recent stay in Perth as part of Form's PUBLIC Perth project. 

As well as celebrating the mural, the Launch provided an excuse to have a street party complete with a bar courtesy of the cool orange Bar Pop truck and food cooked up by Jumplings and Little Caesar's Pizzeria. The abundant crowd was kept entertained by DJs from the Systematic Crew. Perhaps one of the thrills of the night was watching local Perth artist RLSM (with a little help from his pal Potion X) transform bare wood panels into a very awesome mural over the course of the night. Appreciated by all in attendance, particularly the little kiddies who sat at his feet watching in awe for most of the night.

It was definitely a great night with a fantastic turnout, and given that the days leading up had been nothing but rain the weather gods were definitely also in approval. Speaking with people I met on the night, some local residents and others who just happened to wander into the party, all were very impressed with not only the event but with the current and future planned work of the Vic Park Collective.

The hallmark of a successful event can be seen in the faces of all those who are enjoying themselves without any idea of all that has gone on behind the scenes to bring the whole thing together. It would however be remiss of me to not acknowledge the the very hard work of all the volunteer members of the Vic Park Collective and the local businesses, sponsors and town council who provided their support in making the night happen.

More information about the Vic Park Collective can be found on their website and Facebook page.  Many thanks to Shu Daniels of SOUL of SHU for the use of her images.

June 14, 2014

Discovering a Gem

I am, as most of us probably are, guilty at times of having preconceived ideas of what I believe something to be, without the experience or history to be able to make that assessment. We think we know what something is without knowing anything about it at all. We base our opinions without any real basis for the quantification. The great harm in doing that, other than potentially showing yourself to be a twit, is that you can miss out on the good things that you never gave a chance to because you thought you already knew. Preconceptions can often be misconceptions. When it comes to taking chances, there's always the possibility that you can end up with something not so good but sometimes you end up with something even better than good. Such is the crap shoot that is life. Sometimes when you leap and take a chance you may find yourself at the receiving end of something wonderful.

Taking a chance on something completely unknown can also lead to great discoveries. Discoveries so freaking good that you wish you weren't so slow on the uptake. Jezebelle is one example of a freaking good discovery. To make a confession, I had never spent any time in Guildford until recently and all I knew about food choices in the area was limited to the burgers at Alfred's, which I really don't think are all that. However, Jezebelle is definitely all that.

The first time I visited Jezebelle for a late lunch. I had been at a couple of home opens prior and I originally thought to grab a bite to eat in Mount Lawley but decided to drive a few minutes in the other direction on Guildford Road and check out Jezebelle after a quick look on my Urbanspoon app. As much as I love all the places in Mount Lawley, I didn't want to head anywhere busy and we all know parking can be a nightmare. I was so glad that I did. Not only did I have eat some great food but I had a chance to check out all the vintage and antique stores along James Street. I enjoyed my little side trip so much that I returned a couple of weeks later. The recent news is that the Guildford Hotel may be in the near future reopened. I'm told that the progressing state of decay of the building is a source of some consternation amongst locals. It'll be interesting to see what comes of it. For now, there's some awesome art inside on the walls, not that I'm telling you all to head on inside to take a look, I'm just saying, you know?

So, a couple of weeks later I returned to Jezebelle with a friend and my cousin to whom I had absolutely raved to about the food. When we were done they agreed that my high praise was most warranted. It was a Saturday afternoon and the rain was bucketing down like crazy. I could have spent the rest of the day in the chill surrounds of Jezebelle. On Sunday afternoons they put their own twist on the Sunday session and invite local Perth jazz artists to entertain their patrons. I couldn't think of a better way to spend a Sunday afternoon.  Smooth sounds, a well made drink in your hand and some great dishes to share with good company. I need to get on that ASAP.

Even without the draw of live jazz music to go with my drinks, a dish of their perfect churros is more than enough reason to be there. Their churros, served with an addictive dulce de leche sauce, are the best churros I have ever had in Perth. The best. Not even going to argue with you about it, just accept that they are the best. Soft and fluffy, not heavy or doughy but crispy on the outside. And that dulce de leche. You don't even know.

Or the tender beef cheeks served on creamy soft polenta. A brilliant winter dish, brilliantly flavoured by the pickled wild mushrooms with polenta so creamy and smooth that even nonna would be proud. 

The only dish I could have passed on were the goose sliders. On paper it was intriguing and sounded like it could be a nice twist on those lovely little mini burgers but the goose meet was very dry and lacking flavour. I think it was also constructed a bit poorly and you couldn't take a bite without it practically falling apart.

Everything else was perfect though. The prawns were beautifully plump and fresh served with daikon and slices of coconut.

The duck liver parfait was creamy and rich as as parfaits should be. The cubes of Pedro Ximenez jelly were a touch difficult to maneuver onto the sourdough. A couple more cubes would have been ideal to balance out the parfait. The sourdough comes from Jean Pierre Sancho and one cannot fault the JP Sancho baked goods. 

My friend and cousin kept themselves hydrated with caipiroskas while I had their Apple Amazing which is a refreshing mix of Pomme Verte, vodka, apple juice, mint and lime. I was told the caipiroskas were superbly made. I also very much enjoyed my beverage choice. 

The pork belly was a different pork belly dish to what I was served my first go round. This is the winter pork belly choice which is served with quince pieces and a crackle salt on the crisp skin. The quince provides that tart flavour that is usually supplied by apple; it was nice to see quince being used for something a little different. 

I think I'm going to stop ordering chorizo. I have eaten it so often that I'm chorizo'd out. I say that now though. Wait until I see it on a menu and I probably won't be able to resist. 

Jezebelle is definitely one of those chances that I was glad to have taken..
Jezebelle on Urbanspoon

June 01, 2014

Korean in The Cross

Disclaimer: I was invited to review The Gaya however the opinions expressed below are all my own, unbiased and without any favour. 

Back in the day, I once delighted at receiving emails. I remember sharing my first Hotmail email address with my friends at school and telling all of them to "email me". It was such a novelty. Fast forward about decade and a half and checking the inbox has become somewhat of a laborious task. If it isn't spam or junk it's the never ending pile of work emails that require a response, a follow up and a meeting because people can't read their emails properly. The inbox is mostly all boring stuff, so it was a nice little surprise when I received an email a couple of weeks ago from the chef and owner of The Gaya in Applecross inviting me to his restaurant. I was not familiar with The Gaya so after a quick Google to find out the essentials, I accepted his invitation and put the date in my diary. 

All that modern Korean cuisine goodness

The Gaya has been open since late 2013 and is located on Kearns Crescent in Applecross. Do not confuse The Gaya with The Gala which is also on Kearns Crescent, but on the other side separated by Riseley Street. In a previous life when I was still a young lass delaying my return to uni I started working at a pharmacy in Applecross (and no, it was not Pharmacy 777) and continued working there until after I finished my degree. To this day it remains my longest held job ever. For those not familiar with The Cross, they have a handful of good eating spots. Ohnamiya remains a firm favourite of mine; their karaage chicken is the bomb. 

Located in the little complex known as Riseley Square, you will find the Applecross post office, Sinclair's Jewellers, Il Ciao, Terrazza and now, The Gaya. It is my understanding the The Gaya's specialty is modern Korean cuisine. Fusing together the traditional elements and cooking techniques of Korean food with a modern emphasis on freshness and health. The menu proudly declares that no MSG is used in their cooking. Of all the different types of Asian cuisine, I am most unfamiliar with Korean so I was definitely keen to try something beyond the commonplace Korean barbecue and the well known kimchi. 

It was a blustery Tuesday night and there were a couple other diners when we arrived. After asking our sweet and friendly waitress for suggestions we settled on ordering the japchae, beef cream roll, Gaya chicken, 36Pork and the Gaya bulgogi. 

Rice cake appetizer

Fried cheese appetizer

We received a pair of complimentary appetizers to start with. One was a fried cheese and the other a rice pancake. Personally I didn't care too much for the taste of these. The rice pancake was quite dry and the fried cheese was really just a soft cheesy blob. I do appreciate the gesture of providing diners with these little appetizers however I felt that they weren't representative of the dishes we were soon to be served and didn't excite me for what was to come. When I have been served appetizers or amuse-bouche elsewhere, they were delightful little morsels that built the anticipation for the meal to come, but these two choices didn't add to our dining experience. 

Garnishes served with main dishes

If the appetizers failed to hit the mark, our first dish had the exact opposite result. The Gaya chicken, or better known as Korean fried chicken. Yes! I love me some fried chicken. Love it. The Gaya chicken was a delicious, sincerely finger licking good mound of crunchy morsels of chicken topped with a spicy sauce. It was so good we ordered a second serve. Food so nice we ordered it twice. The sauce is spicy. I can handle the spice level but my friend felt it was the probably as much spice as she can handle whereas if it were even spicier I would have been fine. We all have different tolerance levels for heat, but even with my high tolerance for it I still consider it to be a spicy dish. 

Fried chicken - holla!

The japchae is one of their most popular dishes and The Gaya puts a different twist on a very traditional dish. Japchae is stir fried noodle dish, and at The Gaya it is then wrapped in rice noodle paper so it somewhat resembles an Asian style crepe filled with the noodles and vegetables, or a flattened spring roll. This was our least liked dish. To me, it tasted quite oily. I feel that the rice noodle paper soaked up a lot of oil and that was really all I could taste. I would have liked to have tasted the japchae without being encased in the rice noodle paper as the flavour didn't really come through. Perhaps it was too subtle in flavour or it was overpowered by the oil taste in the rice noodle paper, but it missed the mark for me. 



On paper, the beef cream rolls were an interesting mix of flavours. Cream cheese, asparagus, enoki mushrooms, capsicum and cucumbers mixed together and rolled up in a thin slice of beef. Interesting alright, but you know what? It worked. The beef was tender and soft with a sweetness from the sauce and a slight char taste. The cream cheese with the vegetables was a happy mix and altogether with the beef it was a delight to eat. 

The beef cream rolls

The 36Pork is a super tender and delicious pork belly, and how could it not be when cooked for 36 hours using the sous-vide method. Served with a sweet potato purée and a fanciful little salad of chives, apples and radishes it was probably my favourite of all the dishes. Being a slow cooked pork, you won't find the crispy crackling that comes with many other pork belly dishes. Personally I do like the fat on my pork belly rendered off and to have a nice crunch, but that wouldn't be keeping with the style of this dish. It's easy enough just to remove the fat from the meat, and it does pull apart oh so easily, if you don't wish to eat the gelatinous blobs of fat. It doesn't feel like a heavy or rich dish, as pork belly can often be. The flavours were fresh and combined well, especially the sweetness of the purée and apples. It all went together so well with the pork belly. 

36Pork. So good.

Perfect for a cold night, the beef bulgogi was a very flavoursome and hearty stew like dish. Thin slices of beef served with sweet potato noodles and enoki mushrooms in a warming hot pot. A very comforting dish, I'd happily eat this on a cold night fishing out all the yummy bits and slurping the soup to the very end. I really liked the noodles and even without the rice it was served with, it could be a meal on its own due to the inclusion of the noodles. 

Beef bulgogi

I could not leave without trying what appears to be their signature dessert, the Red Misu. A twist on the Italian tiramisu dessert, it is served looking like a little flower pot topped with a crunchy cookie and little chocolate 'pebbles'. Not too sweet, rich or heavy, it was a great finish to dinner. I am a fan of red/azuki beans and disappointingly I did not taste much in the way of the beans however it was still a very enjoyable dessert. It's worth ordering because as it is it tastes great, but it would be interesting to have again if the flavour of the red bean was amped up. 

Red Misu dessert. Scrumptious!

For all that we ordered, dinner would have cost us a smidge under $130.  Prices at The Gaya are extremely reasonable, the 36Pork is priced at $30 which is less than what most other restaurants charge for their pork belly. The freshness of the ingredients and food comes through in the flavours, and everything was well enjoyed with the exception of the two appetizers and the japchae. I have already passed on my recommendation of The Gaya to a friend who regularly dines in Applecross at a nearby restaurant. Given the warming and comforting characteristics of Korean food, it's definitely somewhere to try out as we move into winter. 

The Gaya Applecross on Urbanspoon