nine fine food – northbridge
A long awaited meal finally came to fruition on a balmy Saturday night (yay spring has finally sprung in Perth!). Entering a covert entrance inside a discreet corner on Bulwer St, Nine Fine Food’s dining room is cozy and intimate, exhibiting a secretive hum. Shielded by a purple veil, the kitchen glows with the silhouettes of flickering lanterns and is hidden away like a hushed entity.
An accommodating duo of waitresses keep the dimly lit dining room organised. Sharply dressed in black, they were quick on the mark. One waitress seats us and makes us comfortable. As she departs, another waitress politely explains the house specials and the two page menu. It’s hard to miss the specials listed on the massive blackboards, which dominate from their antique wooden frames.
Nine Fine Food’s offerings can be loosely described as fusion. Taking the best of japanese food and accenting western favourites with japanese flavours would be how I’d describe it. It’s a promising marriage and I was already having a hard time choosing (yes, even with a two page menu)! Usually in these circumstances I order anything at random under the pressure of the waiter’s gaze. Such is indecision.
The menu is smallish but for a restaurant this size it’s admirable. A couple of set menu options are available – one of which is the omakase (requires pre-order). The omakase is the chef’s menu, where anything goes and you are at the (hopefully, delicious) mercy of the chef’s creativity. Next time perhaps.
The bf triumphed over my indecision and decided we were sharing the daily special as the starter – the ever popular tasting plate. Immediately after placing our order, the waitress set the table with cutlery and served our drinks. The service is noticeably polite and calm, a notch above most places. Nine Fine Food must have a good reputation – besides two large parties of baby boomers, the rest of the tables were occupied by dating couples… maybe Nine Fine Food is a popular dating spot?
From the bottom clockwise: crispy soft shelled crab, sesame crisp chicken, panko prawns, barramundi and potato croquette, grilled beef and grilled scallops.
The tasting plate wowed on arrival. The size of the servings were relatively large, compared to the usual liliputian portions. With a bamboo leaf parting the patterned ceramic, the dish looked quite extravagant. Our waitress diligently explained the tasters on the plate – which apart from the crab, were difficult to identify, with most being fried into crispy oblivion. We worked our way around the plate, savouring the chef’s petite creations.
The tempura barramundi with a potato croquette was an interesting and delicate rendition of fish and chips, japanese style. The grilled marinated steak was sliced into bite sized pieces, showing the blush of the perfectly cooked sirloin. Tender and sweet, the marinade was similar to teriyaki and the grilled flavour was an earthy contrast to the rest of the plate. The sesame crisp chicken was divine, something like the traditional chicken karaage, but with an extremely light and crispy batter. Circular pillows of grilled scallops were sweet, plump and just cooked. The panko prawns were pretty ordinary, with the smallish prawns almost indistinguishable from the crumb.
The star of the tasting plate was the lightly battered soft shell crab. The spooky mangle of legs and claws provided the crispy outer shell to the clean taste of the juicy, tender flesh of crab (I lurve soft shell crab…). Only thing is, I think the crabs were not properly cleaned. This is the first time I have encountered dead man’s fingers in soft shell crab…
Obviously the tasting plate was pretty good but it’s composition is on the oily side. Afterwards, I felt like I had swallowed an oil slick, which defies the clean taste which japanese food is known for.
I circumvented the very tempting swordfish special for my main and went for a main serving of ‘duck & scallop’. At Nine Fine Food the menu is very simplistic, the dishes are listed as the main ingredients. No fancy roundabout names or descriptions here, there is certainly no doubt what you are getting as main.
However, the simplistic names have no reflection on the standard of cuisine. Each plate is composed artistically, with the chef showing some flair for presentation as well as restraint. The duck breast is presented in delicate portions upon a bed of seaweed salad, spicy sauce and ponzu sauce with four plump scallops. The duck was cooked until slightly pink – perfect. The duck meat was quite lean, I found one half of the duck had a tough sinew running through its length and the other half was surprisingly tender. Maybe it’s the produce as the dish was sorely missing the prized velvety taste and texture of duck. Scallops (like the tasting plate) were plump and grilled. The dish was well sized and I struggled to finish it, instead pawning a few pieces to the bf who can’t resist scallops. =P
The bf’s surf and turf was a sirloin steak (instead of an eye fillet, which the waitress did inform us) with prawns. The steak was served with the most divine and delicious mushroom sauce. The sauce was some sort of reduction of miso and mushrooms – pairing with the beef very well – adding with each mouthful, the elusive umami or fifth taste (link for umami). Two grilled plump prawns sat upon a speckled potato mash (we couldn’t identify the black speckles, but it tasted good anyway). If we had to pick at something on the surf and turf, the garnish of lettuce leaves was unnecessary and distracting. But, in saying that, if we had to pick the standout feature of the dish it would be that the steak was actually medium rare! We have found getting a steak to that perfect red blush of medium rare, is a rare talent in Perth.
We also ordered a side of tempura vegetables. As expected the tempura was fluffy and had a good range of vegetables included. The vegetable were accompanied with citrus sauce in a small bowl too narrow to maneuver the vegetables into. If anything it would have been better served with normal tempura sauce to negate the oiliness.
Dessert was banana and chocolate filo spring rolls with adzuki paste, chocolate gelato and fruit salad. Architecturally presented, with the spring roll cut into halves resting on gelato and a triangular savoury (chive flavoured?) cracker pointing upwards. The crispy filo’s oiliness is cut by the rich gelato, which pairs well with the dryness of the cracker, sweet green apple, dainty red grapefruit pieces and interestingly – salty red apple. I found dessert fascinating, mixing the sweet and salty, hot and cold, it’s a bit of a mind tickle rather than just a sweet treat.
As the clock ticked towards 8pm, the restaurant was getting crowded and the full house of diners were clearly inundating the two waitresses. With the waitresses zipping in and out of the kitchen we found it hard to get the bill. We soon found out the counter was hidden behind the secretive curtain and got to glimpse into the kitchen and prep area (in fact this area would be perfect for a chef’s table). Using the Entertainment Card (25% off total bill to a maximum of $30) the bill for the two of us came to $130. Almost a bargain for a three course meal of this standard.
The food at Nine Fine Food is interesting and if we come back, we will try the omakase – it would be interesting to see what the chef dishes up.
– 16.5 scallops out of 20 –
Up’s: Decent food. Interesting fare, a nice taken on fusion. Intimate restaurant – good for dates. ;)
Down’s: Service can get slow when it gets busy.
Nine Fine Food, 227 – 229 Bulwer Street, Northbridge WA 6003
T: (08) 9227 9999
Monday – Saturday 6.30pm -10pm
p.s. Apologies for the very dark pictures – the restaurant is very dim and there’s only so much I can do with a Canon IXUS. >.<
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