“Here is the menu for tonight, I’m going to leave it face-down on the side of the table, so you choose to be surprised.”
I tried, I really did. I couldn’t resist. After the first few snacks, I had to take a peek. Restaurant Amusé’s food is just too good not to spoil. Say hello to Western Australia’s best restaurant.
Date Last Visited: 9/6/15
Address: 64 Bronte St, East Perth, WA
Highlight Dish(es): Mushroom, sunflower & cauliflower, Marron, carrot, quinoa & buckwheat, Duck, artichoke & orange
Recently I, along with two other friends, decided to hop on a plane bound for Perth. Blame the dollar’s unfavourable international position, “forcing” us to travel domestically. I use quotation marks because honestly, as Australians, we should get out and see more of our own backyard. I sincerely believe that. Besides, it led me to Restaurant Amusé, a venue at which I otherwise would never have had the fortune of eating.
Established in 2007 by intrepid travellers Hadleigh & Carolynne Troy, it didn’t take long for Restaurant Amusé to shoot up the ranks of Perth’s dining scene. Ask a Sydneysider to name a restaurant in Perth that can hold its own with Sydney’s best, and they’ll either stare at you with a look that suggests “Perth has fine dining?”, or they’ll answer “Restaurant Amusé”.
While I’m sure Perth has many stellar restaurants, Amuse has earned its reputation to be so acclaimed.
As you make your way closer towards Amusé, things can seem a bit odd – the area is very much residential. Where could a restaurant possibly be located? Where’s the buzz of a commercial district?
As it turns out, it’s one of the large “houses” on the street. In this sense, Amusé is one of the most nondescript restaurants I’ve visited. The only real sign there’s a full-service kitchen within are the bevy of parked cars outside. Even then, it could just be one big, fancy dinner party. In a way, that’s exactly what it is – every night, fully booked out.
The restaurant’s interior? Modernist minimalism – Eames dining chairs, raw wooden tables, no cutlery, not a tablecloth in sight. Very chic, very nice. One downside from a food photographer’s perspective is the dim lighting. When I say dim, I really mean dim. If you’re relying on a smartphone for your photography, forget about it. God forbid if you use flash.
For me, that usually means just enjoying the meal, with zero intention to blog. However, I could not ignore Amusé. It’s worth the post. So, despite my god-awful pictures, I’m going for it.
Depending on how you slice and dice it, Amusé’s degustation comes in at 8 courses for $130pp. Given the oh-so-casual title of WA’s best, $130 is a most reasonable price to pay. You’ve probably guessed it already – the degustation is the only menu option.
First up, three sets of snacks – we’re talking curried egg in cos lettuce, salt & vinegar crackers, & cheese puffs. In my experience, snacks are often a high point in a fine dining experience, with the first impression carrying enormous gravity. Amusé pulls it off without a hitch. All three snacks are winners for me, with the salt & vinegar crackers being the eminent pick. A teeth-cutting, ultra-satisfying crunch, no-holds-barred punch of vinegar and a surprisingly sweetness from the gels on top, making for an incredibly moreish bite that begs for more.
Of course, the other snacks deserve some limelight as well. The curried egg in cos lettuce was a deliciously soft and eggy morsel, with strong hints of Indian spice (possibly Vadouvan?) that keeps the flavour up and alluring. It was gone all too quickly.
As for the cheese puffs – an example of simplicity that sacrifices on none of the flavour. While the texture was a bit too crumbly for my liking, you could not fault the umami from the cheese. Once again, consumed in the blink of an eye.
Our second course is also a snack of sorts, an onion broth w/charred onion, pickled shallots & tapioca. I can’t say this sour soup is entirely up my alley. It’s served lukewarm, when I would prefer either hot or cold. It’s also quite caustic, though with the sweetness of charred onion cutting through, it’s actually strangely addictive. You know that feeling you get when you can’t quite say you like something, but for some reason, you keep eating/drinking it?
I did finish the (admittedly small) bowl. I have to say, despite its odd flavour and serving temperature, it was still enjoyable in a rather peculiar way. Perhaps those chewy little balls of tapioca kept things interesting.
If anything, this little broth primed me for the stunner that comes next.
I did say you were going to be stunned, but perhaps you didn’t expect that the reason for said shocking is the almost apparent laziness in the dish’s presentation. When it comes down to it, how else do you plate something that’s literally just three types of puree?
Don’t knock on it though, because this is actually one of the best dishes of the night. I’m pretty sure it was the pick of the meal for one of my friends – I definitely can justify such an argument.
Three purees: mushroom, sunflower seed, and cauliflower. The restaurant definitely lives up to its namesake here – the presentation is most wacky, but the taste is astounding. Exceptional is the word I wrote when I took notes on the night, and that’s what I’m sticking with: exceptional. All three purees are flavour bombs – make no mistake, you could figure out the source ingredient of each puree without being told. The mushroom is particularly noteworthy – the pungency and depth of the shrooms used in it is heavenly, and almost truffle-like in aroma.
My second-favourite puree is the sunflower seed. It’s most cogent in my memory as it was literally the aroma of those seeds, captured in puree form. I grew up eating sunflower seeds regularly (it’s a common Chinese snacking pastime to scoff the stuff while watching TV), so being taken back to those times, but in a refreshed form? Kudos!
The cauliflower puree is the most typical of the three, but it’s all flavour, no nonsense. The entire course, really, is delicious. First-rate umami, A+ consistency that you could enjoy by itself, or smear all over bread. Speaking of bread…
Each diner gets two pieces. Additional serves come in free of charge, which should keep any carb-lover well-sated throughout the night. Of particular interest is the butter, in that it’s not the usual hard stuff that takes a workout just to get it to spread. Instead, Amusé provides whipped butter, which from now on going forward, is on my wishlist at every restaurant. Yeah, I got whipped and I love it.
As for the bread itself, it’s served warm and toasty, a huge plus in my book. The crusts are most friable, delivering a crunch that, despite risking the breakage of my frail teeth, was so moreish I ordered a second serving (read: six pieces) of bread and finished it all by myself.
I’m Still Hungry: casually eating half a loaf’s worth of bread in a fine dining setting. What even?
This dish does not look like marron. But oh, it is so marron. This dish is a carrot bisque, with a buckwheat & quinoa risotto underneath. The marron is also within, poached to perfection. The top of the bisque (the part you can see) is blow-torched for exactly eight seconds, completing the look. Taste?
Fantastic. Getting through the upper layer is like eating the best part of aburi sushi – the burnt bits. Big pieces of marron show themselves thereafter, fleshy and fragrant. Of textural interest is the buckwheat, which made me happy with each bite that delivered a hard crunch. The quinoa was softer than any I’ve had, and it actually did taste like risotto, to an extent. There were a few pieces of sour carrots as well, but those were forgotten in the overall context of the dish.
Notes: really damn good.
The weakest dish in the degustation would have to be the squid, fennel & black garlic. Salted fennel is served with a salty black garlic sauce, on top of which are sliced squid tentacles with a fennel puree.
That NaCl. Far too salty. I love black garlic more than anyone, but the sodium levels are going to give me a heart attack. The sauce (and fennel puree) were also quite gritty, which didn’t make for a particularly nice mouthfeel.
The one good part? The squid. Chewy and wobbly, but not hard, this is texturally what squid is meant to be. If only the flavour were up to scratch – we are not Amuséd.
The first main of the night kicks things up a notch in the flavour steaks (heh) with beef, apple, coal & celeriac. A cured egg yolk is mixed in with the beef, with salted celeriac on top, parsley & corn shoots dotted all around. Don’t ask me what the coal is referring to. I have absolutely no idea.
This dish has really strong flavours – my friend remarked “it tastes like COW”. Indeed it does. There’s a massive dose of “beefiness” that assaults your senses, with a super chewy (though hard to break apart) composition backing it that keeps the flavour sensation rolling with every bite. The mishmash of beef and sweet apple is occasionally broken up by the briny, crunchy celeriac, a most welcome touch.
Overall, I really liked this dish, despite an atypical texture. It could be a touch less salty, but that’s more or less all I would criticise about it.
Our second, and heaviest main for tonight is the duck, artichoke & orange. The artichoke refers to a Jerusalem artichoke puree that sits underneath the duck and is the element that ties everything together.
To get the negative out of the way first – this is a really oily dish. Did you expect anything different from duck? The rest is pure flavour. The pan-duck is, as you can see, cooked perfectly. Well-rendered skin, fat drizzling everywhere, it’s just what a proper, honest-to-god Western-style duck should be.
The duck spring roll has a slightly more Asiatic-feel to it, albeit with Western flavours. Crunchy, deep-fried skin on the outside, tender, juicy duck on the inside. Again, artery-cloggingly oleaginous, but such is the price to be paid for enjoying some darn good poultry.
It’s time to get some of the heaviness from the previous courses out of our system. Pre-dessert comes in a deja vu-inducing caraway crackers w/coconut & passionfruit gels. These look very similar to the salt & vinegar crackers we had at the beginning. How appropriate that things are wrapping up in similar fashion!
I hope you have a strong jaw, as these are really, really hard crackers. It’s quite the workout, but if you can make good of them, they reward with a bursting of wheaty flavour with a hint of cumin. Who’d have known cumin crackers would work with coconut & passionfruit? Speaking of the latter, oh, it’s acrid alright, but in the same, addictive manner that sherbert is. I just couldn’t get enough of it. Even if my teeth were about to break.
The final dessert for the meal is a brown butter, hazelnut & buttermilk ice cream. A kind of honeybread cake is served with the ice cream, enhanced by the brown butter on the side. A really creamy dessert with strong caramel notes everywhere in the dish. I’m not sure which I liked more, the ice cream or the cake with its honeyed notes. Perhaps a moot question in the end, as they work best when eaten together.
While not the most adventurous of desserts, it is a perfectly acceptable way to send us off into a well-deserved food coma.
To help our stomachs chug along, we receive our petit fours as mint & pepperberry tea w/lychee & bergamot delights.
There’s not much to talk about regarding the tea – with hints of mints and a slightly spicy aftertaste, it’s exactly what’s on the label. Quite refreshing, no-nonsense goodness that you’d have to be a tea hater to dislike. Where things get interesting are the provided candies. The lychee tastes like a concentrated, very chewy lychee jelly. Very sweet and very texturally luscious. One is not enough.
That statement can also be applied to the bergamot candy, which tasted like a deep orange chocolate, with a red bean-like mushy texture. I’m not sure which I like more, just that I liked both. It’s over too soon.
If Amusé was in Sydney, it would easily be two hats. The service is impeccable, the food phenomenal. I’m kind of glad I come from a city with a plethora of fine dining options, otherwise I would have been all the more morose upon my return to home. Amusé? Utterly so.
This post is based on an independent visit to Restaurant Amusé
Have you been lucky enough to dine at Amusé? Let me know your thoughts below!
- Exceptional food & service, on par with some of Sydney’s finest
- The oiliness in some of the dishes can get the better of you
- Some dishes are unnecessarily salty
- You just can’t take a good photo here
I have a new scoring system! Read all about it here.
Most important takeaway – three separate scores for food, service and ambiance to give the final score. The new system is not compatible with any score given prior to 11/11/2014.
F7.5 | S5 | A2