Saturday, 6 August 2011

Petite Mort: it's alive!

The sleepy western suburb of Shenton Park where I currently reside doesn't do too badly for eateries. Within walking distance of our house, we have Galileo (where I have NOT been able to get a booking - everytime I call, there is an answering machine to tell me just how booked out they are), The Suite (which I will post on later), Kiri Japanese Restaurant and Cicciobello's Pizza (a Friday night favourite of the family's -again, a separate post on this later). However, the culinary jewel in the crown used to be Star Anise -generally regarded as being among Perth's finest restaurants. To this I couldn't testify, as I never went there. Not long after I moved into the area, Chef David Coomer made the decision to close Star Anise -possibly to concentrate on his other restaurant, Pata Negra - and my chance was lost forever.

 Lake Jualup -the hub of Shenton Park, a good suburb for foodies.

However, a new opportunity now presents itself in the shape of the currently-under-construction Petite Mort on the old Star Anise site.

Ooh la la!

There has been a restaurant on this site as long as I can remember and I've been living in Shenton Park on and off since 1994. In our early days of courtship - blush! - my partner and I were regular customers at Kemal's Mahal - a decent Northern Indian concern. Later came a rather indifferent and over-priced Thai place whose name I cannot recall. Then there was Star Anise. Now there is Petite Mort and this is the name that is really going to make the haircurlers of the local residents tighten.

You don't have to know a lot of French to know that the name of the restaurant is French idiom for 'orgasm' so here's hoping that the food - currently being promoted as French tapas - is really, REALLY good. The new chef is Todd Stuart (formerly of Bouchard) and I have a feeling that this small plate restaurant is going to give The Suite on Nicholson (also small plate and tapas-style) a run for its money.

I went to have a peek through the windows the other day to see what they have done to the interiors.

 A more relaxed look than Star Anise had.

I had snooped through the window when it was Star Anise and I must say I like the new look better. The walls have been stripped back to the original brick, the floors polished up and there is new casual- and comfortable-looking brown plush seating and shiny grey tables. The down-lights create a cosy, intimate-yet relaxed space. I get the feeling that this is a restaurant that will be more welcoming and less exclusive than Star Anise was and that's all to the good for an average consumer like me.

 Sorry about the reflection - I had my iPhone pressed to the window...

The ads for potential staff say that Petite Mort will be opening in the next fortnight (around the third week in August) or so and I look forward to getting inside for a proper look-see and a taste of what's on offer.

Kemal's Mahal, it ain't.

PaPa Wok

When I’m not committing bloggery, I have a day job to keep the bank happy and the kids fed. I work in the suburb of West Perth, about a 15 minute walk from the CBD. I’ve worked here for the last three and a half years. I’m therefore fairly familiar with all the local eating places (apart from the fancier restaurants of which there are a fair few).

Last Thursday, since the sun was out for the first time in ages, I decided to take a stroll to the newly opened PaPa Wok on Colin Street.

Asian cafes are common in this area and the quality of the food varies (as does the price) so it’s always good when a new place comes along. Keeps everyone else honest.

It's on Colin Street in West Perth

PaPa Wok is on the corner of Hay and Colin. Inside it is is clean and would be considered somewhat utilitarian if it wasn’t for the acid yellow paint on the walls. There are tables filling the central space and along one wall. There were a couple of people eating in and a couple waiting. The woman behind the counter hailed me with a hearty greeting and asked what I wanted.

There was a menu board and a specials board.

 I came for the laksa...

 ...but stayed for the roti prata.

I had come for laksa, not only because it was a cold day where a hot and spicy laksa would go down a treat but also because of Laksa Thursday – a Twitter initiative which I have only just discovered and of which I completely approve.

However, there it was on the specials board: roti prata with chicken curry. Could. Not. Go. Past.

All dishes $9.90? Even better.

I placed my order and sat down to wait -  fragrance tickling my nostrils and memories tickling my mind. When I was a kiddie, visiting relatives in Singapore, roti prata was the Sunday morning dish of choice. What happened was that on the way to church, you would stop off at the prata shop with your tiffin-carrier, hand it to the 'roti prata man' and head off to your devotions. By the time that mass was over, your tiffin-can would have been filled with curry gravy in some tins and with fluffy crispy roti prata in the others. As you weren’t allowed to eat before church (something about keeping your body ‘pure’ for taking communion), a decent breakfast was a necessary post-church requirement.

These days, I have no time whatsoever for religion.For roti prata, however, I have all the time in the world.

I didn’t have to wait long –though I did have to wait as everything is made fresh -  a quick flick through an old copy of Spice magazine (farewell, Spice magazine, I will miss you!) and there was my lunch, delivered into my hand.

The woman was so sweet, thanking me for coming and hoping I would return. I ended up calling her ‘auntie’, the way we used to do in Singapore to show respect. I could hear my Singapore inflection creeping back in. Aiyah!

Back at the office, I went into the lunch-room and unwrapped my food. There was a good-size tub of kari ayam, deep orangey-red with chunks of potato and chicken therein. In a separate container, there were two roti prata. 

 They didn't cheat and use chicken on the bone - it was all meat.

 Would have been better consumed on site - next time, I may eat in.

I ripped the prata apart with my fingers and dipped into the sauce. Ooh. Authentic. (So authentic, I felt like I’d just come out of church.) It was a tasty curry, neither too spicy nor too mild with the curry leaves still in and a vivid red layer of oil on top (this is a Good Thing in terms of authenticity if not in terms of health – it means that they left the chicken skin on the chicken). The meat was tender and there were no bones. There was potato –large chunks of it.

The roti was also the real deal – not super-shiny with oil but with enough of a glisten to make me feel that I was indulging. I suspect that if I had stayed and eaten them in the shop then they would have been crispier but as it was they had held their texture very well during the short walk back and they pulled apart in delicious soft layers.

I will be going back to PaPa Wok. The trick will be to avoid ordering the prata every time so I can get a chance to try the other goodies on the menu, all of which, I suspect, will have that genuine flavour. Will I ever get around to the laksa? Because one of my other favourites is kway teow and then there is the chicken rice and then there is the barbeque pork rice...

 PaPa Wok - has a charm of its own (I know, I know, BAD pun...)