In 2009, three months before their second birthday, Restaurant Amuse was awarded Best Fine Dining Restaurant and Outstanding Restaurant of the Year by the Restaurant and Catering Association whilst Hadleigh Troy was honoured with the title of Best Chef.
As a part of the City of Perth Eat Drink Perth program for the month of March, Restaurant Amuse closed their doors for service and opened their restaurant, kitchen and themselves to provide a masterclass and a special dining experience on Tuesday 16 March and Wednesday 17 March.
I registered for Tuesday, it was a night of firsts – it was my first time at Restaurant Amuse, my first cooking class and also my first degustation course!
I haven’t done much fine dining, it’s not something that would have been affordable for me previously or something that I would have felt comfortable with. The formalities of fine dining can be daunting at times. But no need to stress, it’s pretty simple, just use your cutlery starting from the outside and work your way in. If in doubt, just insist that everyone else at the table eat before you (so you can suss out what fork you should be using while masquerading as having polite table etiquette)…"you should eat first, please I insist, I always feel rude eating before other people start…"
With a secure job now and an avid interest in food and cooking I am definitely seeking to experience some more fine dining. At least now I can afford shit, and I know shit, and I can eat out and tell what is ‘the shit’ (awesome) or what is ‘shit’ (not so awesome)…and I can also say that I can cook this shit better at home (game on!).
Restaurant Amuse is located in East Perth and when you get there it looks like a house that has been turned into a restaurant, in fact Hadleigh and Carolynne Troy who own Amuse actually live at the restaurant! Hadleigh runs the kitchen and creates the menu, and Carolynne is the business manager and matches the wine to the dishes. It would be quite weird to live at the place that you work but I guess it makes things easier and they would just live, eat and breathe food (not something that I would complain about!).
I really like the décor of Amuse, it's simple but bold and there were some nice abstractish/ interesting paintings hanging on the walls, a bit left-field (for lack of a better word)…I was sitting down waiting for the masterclass to start with a glass of champagne in my hand while listening to the sounds of Sigor Ros playing in the restaurant (!)
There was a small group of around 15 people for the masterclass and we were served a five course degustation menu. We got to go into the kitchen where head chef Hadleigh Troy introduced us to his staff, showed us his workspace and all his kitchen gadgets and gizmos. We were given the menu and recipes beforehand so we could scribble down notes as Hadleigh explained each dish to us and described the processes involved, and showed us how some parts of the dishes were made. Hadleigh was very friendly and welcoming, and open to answering any questions asked. After going through the first three dishes we were lead into the dining room so we could eat the entrees and mains before going back into the kitchen for an overview of the last two desert dishes.
Once we were seated at the dining table Carolynne gave us a run down of all the wines which would go with our dishes. Each dish was beautifully matched with wine. I’m not a wine expert so I appreciated the time that Carolynne took to describe the wines that she had picked and her rationale for choosing them. I have to say that they were very generous with the wine, they would not stop refilling our glasses throughout the night (plus they gave us glasses of bubbly before the masterclass started). This was cool and all until you remember that you have to drive home and that you have to get up for work in the morning…
To start off the night we were given an amuse bouche which consisted of white chocolate ganache, white chocolate shavings, salmon roe (ie: fish eggs), saffron pearls and foie gras shavings. I think its purpose was to prepare the palate and give us a sneak peek of what we were in for. Yes, I ate white chocolate and fish eggs together, and it was simply divine. Does white chocolate and fish eggs go together? Hell yes!
Then we were served the first dish of our five course degustation menu which was my favourite dish of the night. Marron and sea urchin pannacotta with consommé, rillette (consisting of avocado, chives, lemon juice, mayo and marron), tarragon oil, grapefruit and tuile. There were so many different elements to this dish but everything came together really well and there was a lot of depth to the flavour. I couldn’t believe that I had a pannacotta made with marron and sea urchin (when I tried to describe this to people at work the next day I just got this weird scrunched up face that said, that sounds kind of gross) but the flavours were subtle and not overwhelming – it was a pure delight! The pannacotta was about 1cm high and was encased by everything else so you can’t really see it in the photo.
I thought the presentation of this dish was fantastic. The pannacotta could have just being on the plate sitting on its own with all the other elements scattered around it, but every element was layered on top of each other in a specific order. The pannacotta was on the bottom with the rillette surrounding it, a little consommé, tarragon oil and grapefruit was piped on top of the rillette, plus a little seaweed and topped off with a thin crisp tulie. I felt that this style of presentation contributed to the taste of the dish.
I watch all the cooking shows on TV like Masterchef and My Kitchen Rules (yes, I am a sucker for cooking shows) and the judges always emphasize the importance of plating up well, it has to look beautiful, like it could be served at a fine restaurant. You watch the contestants plate up and see that for a lot of people the idea of plating up involves plonking the main somewhere on the plate, scattering all the accompaniments around it and then splattering the sauce on the plate in some manner, so that in the end the dish looks like some bad abstract painting. So how do you go about eating this sort of dish? where do you start? what part goes with what? should I mix stuff together? should I try this bit first or this other bit?...
Over the whole course I noticed the centralized nature of the presentation of the dishes. For most of the dishes, each element was layered on top of each other. It was simple but effective. As I ate each dish I began to really appreciate the presentation of the dishes in that I felt that the presentation of the dishes actually contributed to the taste of the dish. For the first dish, because everything was layered on top of each other, it guided how the dish was to be eaten and how all the different elements were consumed. Each layer provided a different texture and taste, and they built on to top of each other. If the dish was presented on the plate in another manner, the impact of eating the dish I think would not have been as prominent.
For the second dish we had squid, mulloway and mojama wth a cauliflower puree and a lovely dressing made of too many ingredients to list. The squid was diced really finely so that it resembled rice and made into a risotto using squid ink and stock. The fish was so tender and succulent, and I loved how the other elements contributed to its flavour. We were each offered a piece of bread and most of us used it to wipe up every bit of sauce on the plate.
For the third dish we had lamb rump with an eggplant and capsicum sauce, ricotta gnocchi, orange powder and lamb malto (which was liquid lamb fat with malto mixed in so that it resembled powder – Hadleigh called it ‘the good fat’). In the kitchen, Hadleigh explained how they cooked the lamb and it was very interesting to find out that the lamb was cooked in a water bath ala sous-vide. I do not know much about cooking using a water bath but it’s a method that Amuse often use for cooking meats and fish. It involves vaccum packing food and then placing it in a water bath for prolonged, low-heat cooking. This keeps meat and fish really succulent, it minimizes the loss of moisture, and the flavours and nutrients are preserved. The fish (mulloway) for the second dish was also cooked using a water bath.
After the three dishes we were given a little saucer containing some malto, lime lest, water and icing sugar to refresh our palates as we headed back into the kitchen for a masterclass on the remaining two desert dishes and we got to taste some freshly churned vanilla icecream!
The fourth dish was the first desert dish. It consisted of white chocolate which had been baked in the oven at 140C for one hour until it turned brown and was then crushed into crumbs (providing an amazing taste and texture) with vanilla icecream, walnut icecream, condensed milk and elderberry syrup. It was a constant flow of creamy milkiness with splices of flavour provided by the vanilla, walnut and white chocolate. It was a nice prelude to the main desert dish which really packed a punch and livened up your taste buds The final desert dish consisted of guava sorbet, coconut espuma and passion fruit bavarois. Whereas the flavours of the first desert dish seemed to melt into each other, the second desert dish took your taste buds on a tour de france of sweetness, sourness and bitterness (it even looked like it could be a tour de france route). The flavours were very bold and while there was an unanimous verdict of love for the first dessert dish, the second desert dish divided the group into lovers of sweetness and lovers of sourness. Some loved the second desert dish because they had a sour tooth while others were more fond of the first dish because they had a sweet tooth.
Separated at birth??
The night finished with petit fours consisting of mini cinnamon and almond cupcakes, dark chocolate with baileys filling and a dark chocolate truffles filled with dark chocolate. Tea and coffee was also provided.
It was an amazing dining experience. It was great to finally eat at the restaurant that you hear and read so many positive things about and see pop up in top ten restaurant lists all the time. It was great to see Hadleigh and Carolynee at work and get a behind the scenes look at Amuse. I also get to take away recipes of the dishes served (!), but that’s not the most important thing that I will be taking away. For me, what I have really gained from this experience is an appreciation of the thought that should go into food and how different flavours and textures can come together. It also made me think about the presentation of dishes and how it contributes to the taste and how the dish is consumed.
I’m looking forward to going back and having a nine dish degustation course. Amuse have a different degustation menu every month! What’s also great about Amuse is that they offer a vegetarian degustation, a lot of my friends are vegetarians and I know that they always complain about the lack of vegetarian options at restaurants or the token one or two vegetarian dishes like risotto or salad. It’s good to know that Amuse offer a vegetarian menu on a par with the meat menu.
Restaurant Amuse have only been open for around 3 years and they have become one of the top restaurants in Perth and now I know why. Amuse provides you with food that is cooked classically but with a modern twist and full of surprises, and you come out loving and appreciating every bit of food served.