This winter I have had a terrible time with my allergies. My knuckles are often cracked and bleeding and my face can just erupt into hives without any real warning. What has made it all even more upsetting and frustrating is that I cannot seem to identify my triggers. I know very well I cannot touch gluten, but to complicate things I also seem to flare up if I have too much dairy or soy. The problem with those allergens is I can actually have a small amount, says a small piece of cheese or a couple of splashes of soy sauce and I’ll be fine. But if I have loads of cheese, or if I eat a gluten free muffin with soy flour…..scratch, scratch, scratch ALL night for days on end.
Eczema sufferers will empathise with this. When your skin is bad, you become overwhelmingly self-conscious of your appearance such that all you want to do is hide away in a dark cellar where no one can see you. You are so sleep deprived, distracted and on edge because you just cannot stop that burning desire to scratch even though your damaged skin is weeping and sore. With my up and coming wedding, my anxiety levels heightened even more; I don’t want to be a blotchy scabby bride! My mind was in a dark and not so attractive place all week, and so it was a complete relief to learn the Bonsai Restaurant in Northbridge not only have gluten free soy available, but have much of their menu easily adaptable to accommodate for difficult people like myself. Praying for dim lighting I made a partially successful attempt at covering up my skin with some makeup and headed out with the Boy.
To try and get myself in a better mood I started off with ordering some sparkling Yuki sake. The waitress described this drink as Bonsai’s take on an alcoholic bubble tea. In the brief time we sat waiting for our drinks, I envisioned a glass of amber coloured liquid with clear balls of jelly floating around curiously. What arrived was not what I expected and looked like nothing more than some lemon soda in a wine glass. I can’t deny I was initially disappointed by its appearance as it was, well, kind of boring. But upon sipping my drink I was taken by surprise as I felt various sized gloops of invisible jelly slurp into my mouth. I was hooked.
We started off with the roast duck slices dressed with garlic soy caramel and shichimi. Shichimi is a Japanese 7-spice blend typically containing ground red chili pepper (the main ingredient), roasted orange peel, yellow and black sesame seeds, Japanese pepper (sansho), ground ginger and nori. It gave an obvious heat to the tender duck breast yet the flavours were freshened by additional citrus notes and more oceanic layers from the nori.
I used to hate all things pork but recently I confess I have had some mouth-watering experience and I think my tastes are a turning. But I have now learnt that cold pork belly however is not my thing. Pale, fatty slices of blanched pork belly were topped with a shichimi flavoured salsa dressing of red onion, red capsicum, cucumber and olive oil. I should have thought more carefully before ordering this one.
The tuna tataki was seared and served on a bed of avocado wedges and thick teriyaki sauce. The tuna had a wondrous rich dark pink colour and practically dissolved on the tongue.
Of course once again the Boy had to order the soft shelled crab. It is rare that I get to share this dish as it is deep fried and usually coated in a wheat flour batter. This dish was no exception and although there were loads of gluten free options, all the fried dishes were off the menu for me. A big helping of crispy, meaty crab served with some wasabi mayonnaise quickly vanished off from his plate accompanied by much lip smacking and finger licking. I was very jealous!
What is a meal without mushrooms? I am starting to wonder if I can actually survive for more than a few days without my mushroom fix. Being involved in Mushroom Mania month earlier this year has only proved to make my addiction worse as I feel like I need to continue to “do my bit” to promote their awesomeness! The pan fried mushrooms came topped with a mustard miso dressing and a sprinkle of shichimi.
The seared scallops were cooked perfectly with a small amount of bouncy firmness to the outside but soft tenderness on the inside.
The eggplant and capsicum namura was unexpectantly one of my favourite dishes of the night. The eggplant had an amazing texture that was close to that of set custard, held together only by its soft but firmer skin. The goma miso sauce was slightly sweet and salty with a nutty aftertaste. Goma miso is a thick sauce that is made with miso and sesame seeds.
I have to admit I didn’t really read the description of the seaweed salad before ordering and I expected a standard small bowl of brilliant green seaweed. Out came an enormous salad bowl filled with a variety of seaweeds in addition to cabbage julienne, Swiss chard leaf, mizuna, coral lettuce, tat-soy and red radish all coated well with a sweet mustard miso dressing. It was really easy to eat and we both crunched and munched happily away like rabbits .
Although we had ordered a lot of food, neither of us were overly full and agreed there was a tinsy bit of room left to share dessert. There was only one gluten free option; the crème brûlée. The surface of our dessert was hot to touch proving that it was indeed torched traditionally to get the burnt crust that makes crème brûlée such a treat. With a gentle tap of the spoon the wafer thin caramelised shell cracked and broke into bite sized geographical shaped pieces. Underneath the custard was tasty but its texture wasn’t smooth enough and actually looked a little on the lumpy side. It was still delicious however, and certainly didn’t go to waste.www.the-bonsai.net/ Price: $$$ (Share dishes $7-20, Mains $17-29, accepts Entertainment Card) Food: 4.5/5 (must try the eggplant and the duck) Service: 5/5 (impeccable, attentive without being obtrusive) Ambience: 4.5/5 (funky, busy but can get quite noisy) Drinks: 4.5/5 (LOVED the sparkling Yuki saki!) Total: 17.5/20
This blog post is the second in my series for this year’s Mushroom Mania. The month kicked off in full force commencing with my visit to the picturesque Millbrook Winery where we wined and dined until we nearly exploded. We even managed to successfully forage some wild field mushrooms from their stunning property. From there my madness for mushrooms continued and I posted my first recipe detailing how I cooked up these freshly picked delights. Don’t forget you can also go a little mushroom mad as there are over 2000 participating restaurants all over Australia serving up a variety of mushroom themed recipes. You can even win a $150 dinner voucher; see the end of this post for more.
I cannot deny that for once in a blue moon neither one of us were up for a night out. The Boy had been struggling to shake off a flu that had lingered all week. He had resultantly dosed himself up on cold and flu which only served to give him a few hours of relief each time. I had managed to only catch a very mild bout of his illness presumably because I had already been sick several times this year. However I had inadvertently poisoned myself with some gluten the night prior at the Good Food and Wine Show. One hour before we were to leave the house my whole face randomly broke out in large welts and my eyes puffed up like those of a gold fish. Not the makings for an attractive couple really, were we?
Refusing to be beaten, I prayed for dim lighting as the Boy chowed down on more cold and flu and out we headed to Divido in Mount Hawthorn. The restaurant glowed with subdued soft lighting and although I knew the quality of my photos were going to suffer a little, I was much relieved to be able to hide under its cloak of poor visibility.
On the weekend Divido offer an option of either degustation for $95 or a three course meal for $80. Neither of us felt like we had the room for a full dego so we opted to extend the three courses to four as an in-between compromise. Better still, this enabled me to select three wonderful mushroom dishes to enjoy! While we waited our waiter brought some handmade sourdough with olive oil and balsamic to our table. It smelt absolutely amazing! Being unable to eat normal bread for many years now, I’m not ashamed to at least enjoy its smell. The Boy gave me funny looks as I picked up a soft piece of bread and deeply inhaled its glorious aroma. Surely he must be used to my antics by now?
My first entrée was the beef carpaccio. I was crossing my fingers I wouldn’t get the same overly lemony acidic version I received at Villa D’Este recently. Thankfully I wasn’t disappointed; soft elegantly thin slices of dark red beef were complimented with richly flavoured porcini mushrooms and topped with the freshest greenest rocket I have seen for a while. Shavings of parmesan polished this dish off to perfection.
The Boy ordered the baked Cloudy Bay clams. This was served in its clay pot and contained some interesting combinations of flavours with tomato, okra and fennel seeds. It had a garlic breadcrumb crust adding in a crunchier texture to the softer elements underneath.
I realise I have already made most of you drool over my fabulous mushroom risotto at Millbrook Winery last week, however I couldn’t go past ordering it again this time round after our waiter informed me it contained some Manjimup black truffle. The inside of a truffle always amuses me as recall our pathology wet lab classes back in Vet School. The intricate patterning of the black truffle reminds me somewhat of the cross-section of a brain.
Luckily for me these thoughts have absolutely no effect on my appetite, it takes a lot more than that to put me off my food as many of my work companions can tell you! The rice wasn’t gluggy whatsoever and maintained its “al dente” texture while still having that creaminess of a good risotto. I was delighted at the generosity of shavings of truffle despite this only being an entrée serve. The earthy flavours of the truffles lingered long on my palate and I was so pleased there would be more to come in my choice of main.
The Boy was obviously in the mood for some seafood and ordered the pansotti with prawns, local blue swimmer crab and mussels for his next dish. Pansotti are a type of triangular-shaped ravioli and these were filled with the Greek purée skordalia. The poor guy had such a blocked nose he was unable to tell me what sort of skordalia was inside the soft folds of fresh pasta, but traditionally it is usually made from garlic, potatoes and some vinegar.
My main meal was the fish of the day, and gazing across the room I could see I wasn’t the only one who thought it sounded good. A fresh flaky fillet of locally caught Pink Snapper was baked inside baking paper, a style the Italians like to call “al Cartoccio”. Cooking al Cartoccio helps to maintain the dish’s moisture and preserves the intensity of its natural flavours. Inside my paper package was a multitude of mushrooms including porcini, field, shitake, enoki and button mushrooms. They each had their own degree of potency in taste and texture. Of course the highlight was more (yes more) shaving of black truffle.
The Boys’ main dish of wood roasted duck was served with buckwheat polenta and a porcini sauce with mustard fruits and spring onions. The duck was moist and tender, falling off the bone easily and I had to beg him for a small mouthful to taste. I’m not sure if his taste buds were a little dulled by his flu because he wasn’t as wowed by this dish as I would have expected given its mouth-watering appearance. My single taste of it was divine so I going to consider that he just may not have been able to sense all the flavours properly through his snuffles and sickness. Poor love.
For sides we ordered the spiced pumpkin with chick peas, mint and almonds. This dish was surprisingly moreish and despite our bursting waistlines we managed to finish it all off. The chickpeas tasted really fresh not quite like any I have tasted before, and the Moroccan style spices coated each piece of pumpkin perfectly.
At this point, we really didn’t have much room left for more food. To be honest, in hindsight we really should have stuck to one entrée each not two! Why do we always order too much food? After a brief gaze over the dessert menu, I couldn’t really see anything that was obviously gluten free so I asked our waitress for some advice. She went off to have a chat to the chef and soon returned to let me know that although nothing on their menu was gluten free, the chef was happy to make a gluten free alternative called zabaione especially for me. I was told that the chef has done this many times before for gluten free customers. I really love chefs with this can-do attitude!
After a short wait, out comes the most gorgeous looking dessert for me to enjoy. For once my dessert was the envy of all instead of the other way round! Zabaione is a dairy free, gluten free Italian egg custard made from egg yolks, sugar and Moscato. It was accompanied by strawberry compote, scoops of soft icy sorbet and topped with some pistachios. Heaven! Give me zabaione any day!
Although the Boy’s walnut torta looked pretty good, but I can’t deny I felt it appeared a little lacklustre in comparison to my deliciousness! It came with a scoop of cardamom ice cream and was drizzled in sticky Muscat compote. He was way too full to finish it off but made a pretty good effort considering how unwell he was. He had barely eaten anything the past few days so I was happy to see him eat a good hearty meal. Fingers crossed this is the last of the winter ailments and we can both get back on track for some healthiness again.
This restaurant was reviewed as part of Mushroom Mania month which is happening all across Australia during July 2012. There are over 2000 participating restaurants including many all over Western Australia. The website also has some delicious mushroom recipes so make sure you check it out.
You don’t have to be a blogger to win either! Just write a short review on a mushroom dish you enjoyed during the Mushroom Mania Month of July and you could win a $150 Best Restaurants of Australia Gift Card.
Click here for details.
Chompchomp dined at Divido with compliments of the Australian Mushroom Growers Association.Divido 170 Scarborough Beach Rd, Mount Hawthorn 6016 | (08) 9443 7373 | www.divido.com.au Price: $$$ (Three courses $85, Degustation $95 or $140 with matched wines) Food: 4.5/5 (flexible chef, hearty Italian dishes with a modern flair) Service: 4/5 (occasionally a bit disjointed but very knowledgeable and friendly) Ambience: 4/5 (cosy, inviting and relaxing) Drinks: 4.5/5 (lots of champagne to choose from. Very happy with this!) Total: 17/20