Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Review: Star Anise

It's really lovely when the stars of an establishment - in this case, owner/chef David Coomer and his sous chef protegee, Matt Stone - are so accessible to the hoi-polloi. When I first rang the restaurant to make a booking, it was an affable Matt who answered the telephone. And on the night, it was David who made a point of approaching every table for a bit of cheerful meet & greet.

We decided to visit on a Saturday night, which meant the only fare available to us was the seven-course tasting menu. Oh well, one does what one must. Perhaps this was designed so that David could extract himself from the kitchen and mix it out the front? Either way, it certainly says a lot for the trust he must have in his young offsider, and fair enough too. The kitchen didn't miss a beat all night.

The first course arrived, and I was well chuffed to discover a bit of molecular gastronomy at play. The glistening horseradish foam balanced on a sliver of kingfish tartare was hot and excellent. David is renowned for his wonderful aromatic duck and (dare I say it) his fearlessness in the kitchen, but my money was on the third course, a generous slab of deep orange smoked ocean trout cooked at 45 degrees. It was briney and flavoursome, and went perfectly with the brown rice tea broth spooned over it. The cheese course of occelli di barolo and Valdeon blue cheese were both first-rate, but what really transported me was the soft, creamy brilliance of the French triple brie, brillat-savarin. I could eat this any place, any time, and it must surely be listed as a comfort food somewhere. Our sweet dessert was all whimsy and folly, with a tall hat of glittering fairy floss perched atop a crunchy head of pavlova, and a boiled lolly jar full of colourfrul fruit salad served as a side.

There were a few minor hiccups during the course of the evening. The music was variously on, off or skipping to its own beat. The service too was a little hit-and-miss. There was an increasing chill-factor in the ambient room temperature as the evening progressed, and I found myself nursing a cold the following morning. None, though, marred our overall experience of the evening. In fact, little glitches such as these can be almost conducive to the bonhomie of an establishment that, despite its highbrow clientele and intimate surrounds, doesn't take itself too seriously. Nor should it, either. It will be interesting to see if their second eatery, rumoured to be a tapas bar in North Perth, will follow along the same path.

And yes, David, that chandelier looks as though it's been constructed from lasagne sheets.

What we ate:
Two spoons of Virgin oyster & hiramasa kingfish tartare with horseradish foam; jamon iberico gran reserva, octopus, confit tomato, piquillo peppers, fans of fennel, olives; ocean trout, enoki mushrooms, seaweed, endamame (soy beans); crispy aromatic duck, braised Chinese cabbage, sweet & sour mandarin & ginger sauce; cheese; raspberry & blood orange spider; pavlova with fairy floss & fruit salad.

What we drank: Picardy Pinot Noir; O:TU Sauvignon Blanc


Anonymous said...

very similar to my experience at star anise. i really enjoyed the food, but for me the service was pretty hit and miss and i didnt put it down to them not taking themselves to seriously. it is certainly not about wanting stuffy formal service, but i think that they still are a bit off the mark in the service stakes when u compare to other restaurants in that price level around australia (quay, jacques reymond etc).

At the end of the day, it certainly wasnt bad service, it's just that the service wasnt up to the level of the food.

great to hear that they are not closing for years, although that is contradicted by an article in todays WABN.


Jen said...

Hiya Sanj,

I haven't been able to get my hands on Business News yet, so can't really comment on what Anna reported. This is just what Star Anise have told me.

And, yes, I do agree. Service isn't bad, exactly, just not up to the high standard of the food. Still, it wasn't enough to marr the night.


helina said...

Sounds like such a cool experience. I've read so much about the molecular gastronomy movement--I'm dying to experience it firsthand!

Jennifer Susanto-Lee said...

Hi Helina, yeah, it's great. Real magician stuff..I'm already sussing out my next MG experience..