Little Creatures (Fremantle).

Well…

What can I say?

My mother told me as I was growing up, “If you haven’t got anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” This may well be one of those times. Am I going to not say anything? Not likely!

You would think that a boutique brewery, frequented by the fine-tasting-beer-loving population of Fremantle would have a kitchen that could produce simple food of a decent enough standard to not detract from, but add to, the taste sensation. Clearly this is not the case this time around.

I have been going to Little Creatures on and off since they opened in Fremantle with the then humble brewery. The fare was passable back then. When I took a friend who had been out of the country for a number of years there last week, I would have expected them to have had a good amount of time to tweak the menu so that it matched their beers and ciders better.

My friend was more concerned with getting her fix of getting a beer that she is not able to get her hands on back home in British Columbia, than anything to eat with it. As I am sure all my readers can understand, a chance to eat somewhere different can never be passed up.

We had all just had lunch, so we really weren’t hungry. We were also about to go and have a really nice dinner cooked for us by our other guest, so a large offering from the kitchen wasn’t really on the cards. this is probably a good thing. It took forever to get a waitperson to serve us. We sat down and were given some water, then the waiter left us to make a decision on our food and drinks. We sat there for over ten minutes trying to find someone who would come and serve us. In the end the guy who came over was a bit rude. When we mentioned that we had been waiting quite some time after being sat down to be served and had tried to get the attention of a couple of the wait staff, he promptly said, “Well, I’m here now” after introducing himself to the table with “So, what’s going on here guys? Want any drinks or food?” Not exactly how I would have done it. In fact, when he came and put the food and drinks down, he just slid them on the edge of the table without seeing if we wanted anything else, so even engaging us.

Now, you all know I’m not exactly one to tell you about the service in too much depth. My focus is the food. this, however, was bad. Really bad. I felt like we were all taking up his valuable, precious time and we were supposed to just accept the poor service.

Another point leading to the validation of not ordering something more substantial was a walk past the pizza station. There was food all over the place, it was untidy, the glass was messy, the food was open to the air, and this was even with no pizzas having just been completed or in the process of being made. And it was early in the service time.

Bruchetta

Little Creature's Bruchetta.

When the bruchetta arrived, all three of us looked at it and we all sighed.

Goat’s cheese and roasted capsicum on lightly toasted italian crusty bread, was on the menu. It didn’t appear to us that the four tiny pieces in the basket was quite what we had in mind when we ordered it.

When we started eating it, we were even further disappointed.

The goat’s cheese was flavourless and actually reminded me of ricotta in its texture. It had nothing of the pungent, earthy tones you normally get with even the cheapest of goat’s cheeses.

The roasted capsicum was also flavourless. Roasted vegetables normally makes them a lot sweeter and makes them pack more of a flavour punch. This was like chewing on slimy, soggy nothing. When the waiter came to clear the plate he did ask if we wanted anything else. We conveyed the lack of flavour. He then tried to tell us that the capsicum was marinated in garlic, so maybe that was why the flavour was different. When we said that surely that should have meant there was some kind of flavour, as opposed to an extreme lack of flavour, he then conceded that he wasn’t really impressed with it either.

Home-made Bruchetta.

Home-made Bruchetta.

As a bit of an experiment, the next day we replicated the dish, with significantly better results and at a fraction of the exorbitant cost for flavourless cardboard. The cheese was creamy and full of that lovely flavour that you expect from goat’s cheese. The roasted capsicum wasn’t even home-made. It came out of a jar from the store and not even a specialty store! Just a supermarket. The bread was also just from the supermarket.

Now, I don’t normally give you an idea of food that I eat at home, because it’s not exactly what this blog is for, but I thought I needed to show you the glaring differences between the two dishes. Also, if I can make this at home for less and have it turn out better (keeping in mind that I’m not really a cook or chef), then surely it stands to reason that a kitchen at an eating establishment should be able to get it right.

Also, as it has been said over and over in cooking show currently on television, the simpler a dish is, the harder it is to hide imperfections. Bruchetta is so incredibly easy, and actually so very difficult to get wrong, that I have to tell you all to really not bother with this dish at Little Creatures. In fact, glancing at the rest of the menu, there is nothing at all that makes me think I want to give them the benefit of the doubt and give them another go. I will drink their beer, but insofar as the food is concerned – steer clear.

Establishment Details:

Little Creatures

40 Mews Road
Fremantle WA 6160

(08)9430 5555

Santa Fe.

I found photos on my phone. I know where they came from, but I am not sure of when. It has to have been in the last two months, but more detail than that I am sorry I cannot give you. I do, however, clearly remember the food!

Santa Fe is a little restaurant in Subiaco that does Mexicana. I have to say. I didn’t hold much hope for the quality. It is my experience that when you hear “mexican food” most people think of those disasterous things out of packages from the supermarket. While I have not had the pleasure of eating mexican food in its place of origin, I have had a Mexican cook for me, and it was an eye-opener to say the least. Such complexity of flavour, that I was not prepared for. One day, I hope to eat in Mexico. One day…

They have a happy hour (6-7pm – 2 for 1 margaritas and cocktails) most nights and Taco Tuesday ($2 tacos!!!). Taco Tuesday, for those who like their tacos, is a glorious thing to behold. They don’t make smaller or less filled tacos simply because it’s a “special”. They are just as good as any other day of the week.

But I get ahead of myself.

Santa Fe Buffalo Wings.

Buffalo Wings.

Start with the buffalo wings. Don’t question it. Just do it. They are deliciously sticky and just … delicious. Not too spicy, for those still coming to terms with spice and heat in food, but interesting enough to keep you wanting more. In fact, get more than one plate if you are sharing with a friend. You’ll need them.

You get six to a plate, with a generous amount of ranch sauce on the side. The greenery can be well and truly forgotten, but really, it’s the meat we’re all after, isn’t it? Trust me. Your taste buds will thank you for it.

Santa Fe Taco.

Santa Fe Tacos.

Now, the tacos come in the choices of shredded beef (my personal favourite), chicken and bean. I didn’t really like the bean mix when I had it last. I find that a lot of places tend to offer “vegetarian” options as an afterthought, but I would have expected a cuisine who has such an emphasis on beans to have something better than the usual. Sadly, this wasn’t it. The chicken is nice, but again lack luster. The shredded beef is where it is at. It’s moist, not overly-seasoned and melts in your mouth. Sadly, what actually lets these tacos down is the tomato and lettuce that accompanies the meat. The three times I have been, it has never been properly spun, so they do tend to go soggy if they sit for too long. Solution? Eat them up nice and quickly, don’t order too many at once. The staff are attentive enough that you could always wave them over and order more if you decide to.

I didn’t have any of the cocktails, though glancing at their alcohol menu, their list of tequilas would be something to work your way through. They have some very nice ones indeed. Perhaps that can be for another outing. Oh darn, looks like I’m having more buffalo wings some time in the future!

Establishment Details:

Santa Fe Restaurant and Tequila Lounge.

315 Hay Street,

Subiaco, W.A. 6008.

(08) 9381 2571

www.santaferestaurant.com.au/

Spencer Village.

What’s that old saying? When you’re on to a good thing, stick to it? Yeah, I think that’s the one.

Spencer Village is one of those hidden treasures you will never stumble across by yourself. You have to be shown by one who knows.

It is, in essence, a food court with approximately 12 different vendors all vie-ing for your palate. Indonesian, Malay, Japanese, Indian, Singaporean, Kuala Lumpa style food. It’s so much choice you will find it difficult to make a decision. There are some stand-out dishes that you should try though.

The Dosai from the little paratha store tucked away in the rear left corner is lovely, as is the murtabak and the paratha and gravy (curry gravy, which is just the liquid).

Next to that vendor is one that you simply must try the Chai Tow Kway. It is a fried dish with a yam that is a little sweet, and just all round delicious.

There are more, but it was the murtabak and dosai that I really really was wanting when I went Sunday just passed.

Sadly, by the time we got there (just after lunchtime) they were all out of roti (various breads of India). This just goes to show that they do make it fresh, which means it’s lovely but also means that everyone wants it. Tip: get there earlier rather than later.

So, we ordered the prawn noodle soup from the Singapore food stand with the plate of dumplings, and later had the Chai Tow Kway. Yes. We were that hungry.

Now, this is not your usual food court. There are sections to sit in and there are only big long wooden tables. It is highly likely that if there are only one or two of you, you will be sharing your table with another party at some point. It is also a good idea to set one person to hold the table you want, and then others go and find their food. If you’re eating in, the vendor will want your table number (on a badge pressed into it) so they can deliver it to you. Then you can play tag with the person who was holding the table. If you do have a large group of people, it is a nice idea to get a handful of dishes to share. There are lots of them that lend themselves to this style of eating, rather than one person, one dish. It’s also a bit more social that way.

Spencer Village Singapore style roll.

Spencer Village Poh-Pia.

While we were waiting for the soup and dumplings to arrive, we went and got a Malaysian style roll called Poh-pia. It is quite similar to a vietnamese rice paper roll, but the wrapper is cooked and so the fresh ingredients inside are a little warmed through. also there is sauce in the inside, which means you don’t get the bit of taste, bit of no taste, that sometimes happens with vietnamese ones.

They were delicious. At first you think the wrapper might be a little dry, but when you have a couple more sections, and as the sauce inside starts to wet the ingredients, it all makes sense. I could have just had about ten of these. They are really lovely and fresh. Not too much sauce and you can really tell that the vegetables and meat inside are lovely and fresh.

As an entree this works really well. It gets the mouth watering just enough, but isn’t so powerful in flavour that the following dishes seem lacking. I can highly recommend them. And, as soon as I remember which stall they came from, I shall share with you. I blame my stomach for my forgetfulness! Sorry. 🙂 EDIT: they came from the dim-sum stall., as did the poh-pia.

Spencer Village Prawn Noodle Soup and Dumplings.

left: Prawn noodle soup. right: dumplings.

When the prawn noodle soup arrived, both myself and my dining partner were disappointed. The picture at the stall had looked so good, and while it wasn’t what we were initially wanting, it seemed like a good second choice dish. The picture had the soup looking nice and red with loads of prawn dust, plenty of large prawns and the broth looked lovely and spicy. What arrived, however, was bland, void of prawn dust and had two small prawns placed on top. The broth didn’t taste prawn-y to me and I found it all very … meh. The green vegetable was just large chunks obviously boiled in the broth, and the couple of slices of meat thrown in did nothing to lift the soup at all. It was rather disappointing indeed.

The dumplings were another dish that failed to make the grade. They weren’t bad, but they weren’t stellar. There was a pleasing sensation as you bit into the dumpling and the sauce exploded into your mouth. Beyond that, they were a bit blah. The wrapper was too thick and a bit chewy. The filling just wasn’t interesting. There was enough of them, that’s for sure. I guess if you were having these as a side with a nice spicy dish it would go better.

Spencer Village Char Kuey Teow.

Chai Tow Kway.

Disappointed with our “make-do” meal, we decided to get one of our fail-safes: the Chai Tow Kway. Gosh I love this dish. It’s fried. It’s sweet AND it’s a vegetable so you can make believe it’s healthy! I am not a fan of egg generally, but you barely notice it in this dish. It’s not spicy, but there is so much flavour you will be amazed. If you only ever try one dish at Spencer Village (and they’ve run out of roti at the Indian stand) then make it this one.

I shall periodically be trying other dishes from Spencer Village, in the hopes to try everything at least once. Don’t be too surprised if there is one giant post from a very stuffed Perth Amateur Food Critic in the not too distant future.

Establishment Details:

Spencer Village Food Court.

Spencer Road,

Thornlie, W.A. 6108

Tong 86.

Unfortunately, I have no images to share for this post. For some reason, they didn’t turn out properly on my iPhone. So, my apologies.

If you have never heard of Korean Barbeque, then you’ve been living under a rock. It’s been around for aaaaaaages in Perth. to the best of my knowledge, it started with Arirang on Perth’s Barrack Street, and has expanded from there into Victoria Park and now Northbridge.

Essentially, you are seated at a table with a strange looking pot in the middle of it. You make your order from a menu. Generally, it is meat with some sides,  like pickled cabbage and other vegetables. The waiter then turns on this pot in the middle of your table and takes your order to the kitchen, returning with uncooked meat and your sides. Yes, you guessed it. That pot in the middle of your table is where your meat is cooked.

Now, for someone like myself who likes their meat cooked to very specific standards, this is perfect. If you’re not aware of how quickly this method of cooking is, it may be a bit of a steep learning curve.

Tong 86 is a very large venue. There is a relatively large front dining area, but then there is an even bigger dining area downstairs. There are big screens playing K-pop, which makes the fan-girl in me happy.

The menu isn’t that extensive, and there are no pictures showing people unfamiliar with their meat what it looks like. The portion sizes are okay, though you have to order rice separately and I would have liked to have had more rice and sides. I realise I am not familiar with the quantities of food eaten in this style, but I did find room for going into Northbridge for ice cream after.

The pickled cabbage was nice, although a little cold for my liking. Actually, most of the sides were a little too cold, considering you were eating freshly cooked, straight off the grill meats.

Personally, I would probably not got here again, unless I had heard they had expanded their menu and fixed their portion sizes. The food was nice enough, but there was just not enough of it and I actually found it a bit pricey in view of that fact.

Establishment details:

Tong 86

86 Beaufort Street
Perth WA 6000

(08) 9227 9923

Shanghai Food Court.

This is not going to be enlightening to most of my readers, but I am not a fan of food courts in general. I find the quality of food to be sub-par, the service is normally lacking (if there at all), and you’re almost always left with the feeling you should have looked harder for somewhere to eat.

However, they do serve a purpose. When it’s late at night, or you’re just in a bit of a rush and not being terribly picky about what you eat (I know. I know. It happens to the best of us at times), the humble food court is there with it’s neon signage and glazed over food staring at us.

So, today was one of those days where I knew I needed to eat, but was not so inclined to cook. See, it does hit the best of us. At it happened, a friend obsessed with wanton noodle soup dropped past and suggested lunch. Who was I to say no?

Now, I have tried to educate this friend on her wayward trend towards the food equivalent of a “dive bar”, but she insists on having her soup from the Shanghai food court. *sigh* You can lead a horse to water… It’s okay. She knows I love her.

So she picked the place and we had battle of the Wanton & Noodles. Hers was in soup form. Mine was dry.

Shanghai Food Court - Taste of Asia - Wanton Noodle Soup.

Shanghai Food Court - Taste of Asia - Wanton Noodle Soup.

It’s not awesome. The wantons are mushy and flavourless. The soup isn’t seasoned and has a bit of oil floating on the top of it and the spring onions are the only relief to the “meh” of it all. The noodles are overcooked AND undercooked and the BBQ pork is too sweet. The veg is just how I like it, undercooked and just heated through, but most people would dislike it immensely. The hoisin sauce is a little watered down and there is too much of it.

You get more of the soup poured over when you have it as a soup, which is fine if you like the soup. It tends to pick up some more flavour when it’s poured over the noodles and veg.

Despite of all of that, it’s a passable meal. If you’re not au fait with authentic cuisine from Asian countries, you’ll like it for what it is. It’s a warm meal that fills you up and is relatively healthy. It’s better for you than a kebab from down the road, or soggy chips.

Saigon Cafe & Noodle.

Rather than cook last night, I decided to go out for dinner. Walking around Northbridge was very strange. It was so very quiet last night. Perhaps the poor weather and the recent Reserve Bank decision (yes, I’m not just a foodie. I do actually keep up with current affairs), and supporting reasons for not raising interest rates, kept people indoors. Not me! When I’m hungry, I’m hungry. When I want to go out for food, I’ll brave ANY weather!

Saigon Cafe & Noodle is one of the few places in Northbridge that isn’t fancy, doesn’t have any pretensions, but provides yummy filling food at a relatively decent price.

This particular place is also one of the few places you will find congee, otherwise known as rice porridge, bubur, jook or rice gruel. If you haven’t tried it, do so. It’s basically long cooked rice with additions. Perfect for when you’re not feeling that fantastic. It’s easy to eat, warming and amazingly delicious.

However, there is a more amazing dish that will blow. your. mind.

Rice and 7 meats… That’s right. Seven. Meats…

My dining partner had the lemon grass and chilli beef and rice.

I shall endeavour to get their critique in the not too distant future (at which point I shall edit for y’all).

But back to the meats…

foreground: rice and seven meats. background: lemon grass and chilli beef and rice.

I have had this dish once before, but there my have been high level hunger and a couple of drinks had beforehand. This time, hungry, but not crazily so, and completely sober, it still impressed. It comes with a sweet carrot and chilli sauce used to wet the rice and keep it palatable, as well as a soup to do the same. Let’s count the meats: egg (it’s a protein, so I guess it counts), skewered beef, sausage, pork chop, grilled chicken, a meatloaf type thing and under all that meat on top of the rice is a finely cut pork and onion cooked in a sweet-ish clear sauce.

While some may think the tomato, cucumber and carrot are just there as garnish, but it really does give a freshness to the plate that is necessary. The meat is cooked very nicely, but sometimes you can have a strange taste in your mouth from so much protein.

The egg was just how I like it. This doesn’t mean everyone will like it, because I like my eggs dead. As in D.E.A.D. – no runniness at all thank you very much. Despite this, it wasn’t powdery and dry like the yolk can sometimes get.

The skewered beef wasn’t tough and was cut into small strips that made it easy to take off the skewer and eat without feeling like you were chewing half a cow. It was moderately seasoned and not sticky, which would have been too much for the rest of the meat on the plate.

Lop chong (Chinese dried pork sausage) is much sweeter than sausage that most of you may have tried. Again, I suggest you go and try it. There were two tiny little pieces of it but it has a strong flavour so quality over quantity is a good call.

The pork chop is cut into a hand-shape, allowing it to be verily easily cut up. It was really nice. Not dried out at all and nicely seasoned.

The grilled chicken was also very lovely and moist. Too often chicken is a filler food, just placed on a plate to provided something else, but this was actually really nice and worked well with a little bit of the carrot and chilli sauce.

To those who have never had it, the meatloaf will provide something of a textural challenge. It isn’t mealy like western meatloaf, but is light and soft in your mouth. By itself it’s a bit “nothing” but a little bit with each of the other meats, it worked really well.

I love the pork and onion addition. I am not sure how it is made, but it is delicious. In fact I think next time I go to Saigon, I will ask how it is made and see if I can emulate it at home.

As for the place itself, the staff are sometimes a bit slow, maybe a bit difficult to discern as there isn’t a uniform for them, but I think this gives it a bit of laid-back feel. As Saigon is open until 11pm, it is a good place to drop in on either as an end to an “early” evening, or as a beginning to a late one. You don’t come to places like this looking for a fine dining experience from Michelin Star chefs. You come to it looking for honest food that is delicious and filling. They don’t scrimp on portions sizes at all and the prices are very reasonable, when compared to what is on offer all down James street. I would highly recommend this place to anyone who is interested in trying some real Vietnamese food that isn’t playing to an obviously western crowd. By looking at those who frequent it, you can tell it caters for western tastebuds as well as those accustomed to the flavours they offer. THAT is something you don’t find too often, unless you know where to look.

Details.

Saigon Cafe & Noodle. James street, Northbridge. (08) 9227 1552.

The Great Steampunk Affaire’s Cupcakes.

Well, let’s face it. Cupcake. Singular. I only got a chance to try one of them. There was much tea to be had. Well, two types. But there were urns and urns and urns of hot water. And Cider. And other alcoholic beverages. But, sadly, the cupcakes were the only food fare on offer. And, again sadly, they seemed to run out all too fast. THAT, ladies and gentlemen, is why yours truly only managed a single cupcake before they all disappeared. For an event starting at eight pm and going until midnight, it did seem strange that there weren’t more foods on offer, even if they had to be bought.

left: vanilla cupcake with buttercream icing and sugar art clock. right: the same with orange slice.

Please excuse my finger in the top left corner. I am normally quite careful with my photo taking.

The cupcake was lovely and moist, with just the right amount of crumble you want in a cupcake. The buttercream icing was a little crunchy, suggesting the icing was made in a hurry, but the sugar art clock was lovely. Not too crunchy (so it hadn’t been sitting there for ages) and not too soft. Apparently, each clock-topped cupcake has its own individual time on it. My companion for the event had the orange-topped one and concurred with my opinion. He’s a food-lover too, so I accept his opinion readily.

There were also chocolate cupcakes and I really would have liked to have tried one of those. Too often chocolate cupcakes are too dry, too heavy or just too powdery (in the case of those used cocoa powder). They disappeared very quickly too, so either they were just as good, or people were hungry.

These were made by a lass working out of her home. As such, these really do rival some of the “professional” cupcake businesses that seem to have popped up in the last few years. Being a bit of a cupcake aficionado, I think I can safely say that quality definitely made up for quantity in this case. My tummy just wished there was more. That could have been saved by there being more food.

Details:

Cupcakes by Katie. www.facebook.com/pages/Cupcakes-by-Katie-Perth/104058712969804?sk=info 0416 262 030