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
It was my birthday weekend and I decided to treat myself with a three-day eating and drinking fiesta with the Boy and a few of our close friends. Our first night was a very casual affair at our local Victoria Park favourite Little Ying Thai. My bestie and her man came along with us but as it was a weeknight we all managed to contain ourselves from getting too carried away.
On our second night we seized the rare opportunity for an outing with the Boy’s Best Man along with my two Perth-based bridesmaids. His Best Man works FIFO on a number of mining sites so we don’t get to hang out with him nearly as much as we would like to. Last year during one of Mum’s visits to Perth we took her to Cantina 663 and were all really impressed with our memorable meal. Since then I have been really keen to go back and so I suggested going there to one of my bridesmaids Amber. It turns out Cantina has been on her wish list for some time. Perfect!
Decked out in my brand new outfit from Abercrombie and Fitch (courtesy of my Dad and Stepmum) and feeling like a million bucks, we headed out on the town for a night of fun. We were supposed to start off with meeting everyone at the Flying Scotsman for some pre-dinner drinks but we both took way too long getting ready and subsequently had to head straight to Cantina.
Cantina 663 serves European style food with predominately Spanish, Portuguese and Italian influences. They pride themselves on having a fortnightly changing menu that reflects what’s seasonally available locally and they strive to source organic and ecologically sustainable produce when they can.
The wait staff exude edgy style and are energetic and friendly. Our table’s waitress for the evening was very proficient and her passion for food was obvious as she discussed the suitability of each dish with me even prior to chatting with the chef. She was even familiar with the condition fructose malabsorption which I was impressed with. She happily communicated back and forth with the kitchen to assist in creating an adapted family style menu that was ample food for all of us to enjoy despite my allergies.
The pork rillettes were decadently rich and oh so moreish and this dish was the first thing to disappear. I had brought along some Schar brand Italian gluten-free bread with me in preparation as I recall from our last experience that a lot of Cantina’s dishes would be much more delicious smeared on bread and they currently do not carry gluten-free bread. I delighted in lashing thick layers of the pork on my charred grilled bread. The pickled beans were surprisingly sweet and were the ideal match with the pork.
Because a lot of the dishes on the menu contained onion, the chef offered to especially make for me a fig and goats curd salad. Apparently this dish used to be on their menu and was very popular. Fructose malabsorbers do have to be a little careful with eating figs, but to be honest this salad would have been scrumptious even without them…I have to confess I did eat just a few as I figured can tolerate a very small amount without too much problems. Gluten is my real enemy.
The salumi platter was entirely gluten-free however she informed me that two of the meats may contain onion as they are not made on the premises. I cannot remember all that was on there but I do remember some luscious dark bresaola, spicy chorizo and soft delicate jamon amongst others. It was served with house pickles which were quite tasty and not too acetic or briny.
Unfortunately for me the zucchini flowers were off the menu as they were battered in flour before frying so I missed out on this wondrous looking dish. I was quite jealous as they looked incredible and were demolished very quickly. I was told the batter was fluffy and light and there was so much flavouring in the stuffing. Instead I ordered the tin of pollastrini sardines piccanti served with fresh lemon and my charred gluten-free bread. I used to love sardines on toast as a child and these little fishies brought back great memories. I was nearly the only one who ate these – I guess you really have to be a hard-core fish fan to eat sardines. They also had a bit of a kick to them with the added chilli.
After stuffing our faces with all our entrees, we ordered a couple of mains to share between us. I originally wanted to order the risotto but the rice is parboiled with stock during prep and the stock contained onion. Instead I opted for the pan fried barramundi. The fish was so heavenly and was cooked to a perfect buttery smooth consistency and had crispy crunchy skin. I can honestly say pan fired barramundi is right up there in my top five favourite fish so perhaps I’m a little biased with my praise for this dish. Putting my approval of the fish aside though, even its accompaniments were so appetising in their own right and pushed me and the girls well into the realms of being seriously full!
The boys ordered the gnocchi which although it was a small serve it left them quite satisfied. We also ordered a couple of sides to go with our mains, the spinach and avocado with walnut dressing and the roasted zucchini with tahini yoghurt. Considering these dishes were just meant to be sides – they were so good I could have easily had a whole serve of either to myself! Especially the zucchinis; they were slightly caramelised during roasting and literally burst in your mouth with every bite.
Once again, I can see its obvious why Cantina 663 consistently receives great ratings on Urbanspoon and other restaurant review sites as they have everything going for them: great food, dynamic staff, flexibility with catering for allergies and they are situated in an awesome location. This remains a definite fav for Chompchomp!FOLLOW ME ON FACEBOOK! Cantina 663 Astor Arcade, 663 Beaufort Street, Mount Lawley, 6050 | (08) 9370 4883 | http://www.cantina663.com/ Price: $$$$ ($7-16 share plates/entrees, $25-35 mains) Food: 4.5/5 (as many dishes are served with bread it would be great if they stocked GF) Service: 4.5/5 (efficient, quick and knowledgeable) Ambience: 4/5 (bustling energy but air con struggled in the heat) Drinks: 4/5 (extensive wine list with a lot of interesting options) Total: 17/20