Many of you may know I grew up in Adelaide, the City of Churches. At the young and impressionable age of seventeen I left my family and friends behind in order to head west to study veterinary science. Although initially moving to the opposite side of our great continent was not easy, Perth has given me amazing opportunities, plenty of sunshine and most importantly has found me the love of my life.
In my earlier years in Perth I remained in close contact with very few of my school companions. In fact in all honesty, until the creation of Facebook I only stayed in touch with just one school friend; Lenni. Despite our homes being geographically separated by thousands of kilometres, over the years we have always managed to see each other at least once every twelve months or so.
When we were living in London she detoured to see me from Greece where she had attended a family wedding. We lived in a poky little bed-sit in South-east London which was situated upstairs from the 24 hour veterinary hospital in which I worked at. We only had enough room to fit a single blow up mattress on the floor and by the end of every night it would ensure to deflate itself. Dear Lenni never uttered a complaint. No room for luxury during these times!
Another time she flew over for a whirlwind trip down to Margaret River and Pemberton. Eager to show off my newly adopted home, I tried to squeeze everything into a tight 3 day schedule. For those who know these areas you will understand what a crazy schedule this was. We covered a LOT of ground!
Whenever I was visiting Mum in Adelaide, Lenni would always manage to fit me into her hectic on-call schedule for some late night drinks and a bite to eat. No matter how long between impromptu visits we would always manage to spend the whole time laughing and chattering late into the night. I would often wake up the next day with sore stomach muscles from too much giggling.
Fate has a way for bringing good friends together and in recent years Lenni’s career has also brought her to this state of opportunity. Being well overdue to see each other we met up one weeknight at Cantina 663 in Mount Lawley to enjoy some good food, wine and conversation.
I love eating out with someone who really enjoys their food. It is so much more pleasurable to take the time to savour all the flavours of a meal as opposed to quickly wolfing everything down. Better still, it allows you to analyse and really appreciate what you are devouring. Lenni is a gracefully slow eater and meals with her are always at an extended relaxed pace. Cantina 663 is perfect for this style of eating as much of their dishes are designed to share.
There was initially much confusion from our waiter upon ordering our food. At first, he gave me the impression that he was quite familiar with fructose malabsorption and advised me that there was only a couple of small nibbles I could have and nothing on the main menu. He told me as a replacement the chef was happy to specially make me a risotto for my main instead. As he walked away from our table I was left feeling a little bewildered as I have previously been able to eat a number of their menu items as much of it is gluten free. What made things worse was I didn’t feel like a risotto at all yet didn’t want to seem like a complaining ungrateful customer!
On further questioning I discovered that my waiter had presumed that fructose malabsorption meant I had a fruit allergy and couldn’t eat anything with any fruit at all. As many of the dishes contained citrus or lemon juice he thought that they would all be unsuitable. After giving him a brief run down on fructose malabsorption, he returned to the kitchen armed with a wealth of information on this frustrating condition and found out that there was indeed a lot more on the menu that I could eat. What a relief. I was starting to get a bit worried for a moment there!
The buttery smooth smoked salmon rillettes had the consistency of creamy pâté and smeared elegantly over the crusty charred bread. There was no gluten free bread available but when I booked the table a few days prior the waitress kindly advised me in advance and welcomed me to bring my own…which of course I forgot! Paired with crunchy liquoricy preserved fennel and a bottle of Grenache this was perfect dish to kick start our night.
The sauce for the roasted mushrooms contained onions so the chef served this on the side. Despite omitting this potentially key ingredient, the earthy mushrooms were still bursting with rich port flavoured juices. Shreds of buffalo mozzarella cut through the acidity of the dish leaving a lingering creaminess on the palate. A simple dish done well.
Lenni had the crisp pork belly with cotechino, potato hash and pickled onions. Nestled in amongst all these ingredients were finger like slivers of sweet Pink Lady apple. The crackling was as hard as toffee and snapped satisfyingly in the mouth with an audible crack. The meat lacked any unpleasant porky after-taste and the fat had emulsified to a custard-like texture. I was lucky enough to try a small sample denuded of any sauce and could see why she finished every morsel on her plate despite being very full!
I enjoyed the pan-fried barramundi served with an almond butter sauce laced with baby capers. The fish was normally accompanied with artichokes and asparagus which presumably wasn’t onion free so the chef made me a large garden salad instead. The fish had thin crispy skin yet the flesh remained flaky and delicate requiring minimal effort to reduce into bite size morsels. The nearly sweet almond sauce made this ordinarily light meal much more satisfying and I was contentedly full by the end.
Fructose malabsorption is by no means an easy intolerance to understand, and to an untrained ear the requirements are complicated and difficult. I was impressed that although our waiter’s initial presumptions regarding my diet were incorrect he put in the effort to understand the facts and find me something I would enjoy. We will most definitely be back again.
More on Cantina 663: Birthday Dinner at Cantina 663, Mount Lawley (March, 2012)Cantina 663 Astor Arcade, 663 Beaufort Street, Mount Lawley, 6050 | (08) 9370 4883 | www.cantina663.com Price: $$$$ ($7-16 share plates/entrees, $25-35 mains) Food: 4.5/5 (they really need to consider stocking gluten free bread) Service: 3.5/5 (bubbly, efficient, but a little confused with my food intolerances) Ambience: 4/5 (warm and cosy inside on a cold rainy night) Drinks: 4/5 (Interesting Portuguese, Spanish & Italian wines. Perfectly matched to the food) Total: 16/20