Published on January 3rd, 2014 | by Magnus Reviewman0
Review 20 – Vasse Felix
The Peregrine Falcon is an apex predator, an animal with no predators of its own in its respective food chain. But can Vasse Felix, with its Peregrine Falcon logo, make the same claim? Is it untouchable as far as regional WA restaurants go?
As you’re driving among the vines that surround the Vasse Felix driveway you’ll know you’re in for something special – a sanctuary of foliage after an hour stuck on the Bussell Highway staring at the back of some bloke’s boat as he tows it at 70 kays in what is clearly a 110 zone. This beauty carries through to the restaurant, with the dining room decked out in natural wood, almost from floor to ceiling, surrounded by windows that look out onto lush greenery. Stunning.
Service is casual, accommodating and attentive without being overly so – your water glass will never be left empty – but you might not notice it being refilled.
Once you’ve tried the entrees, you’ll wish they could be refilled too. Beetroot, goat’s curd, fig and gingerbread is a reworking of a classic, with two colours of beetroot prepared in a number of ways for textural variation. Goat’s cheese is the logical complement for the beets and figs, and the gingerbread is a clever addition, perhaps a sneaky nod to the festive season, that separates this dish from the pack.
Marron, watermelon, miso yoghurt and togarashi is a smart East meets West offering, with everyone’s favourite crustacean spending some quality time alongside the pleasant sweetness of watermelon. The yoghurt adds Oriental smoothness and the togarashi (powdered Japanese peppers) lends a spanking of heat. Good stuff.
The charcuterie board was peppered with first-class cured meats, a rich pate, a portion of brioche, duck rillette, pickles, tartare sauce, onion jam, some crispy bread and a spiced fruit paste. Each element was delicious, and the fact that you get it all for $31 is a bargain. It’s enough to keep three happy.
Vasse Felix’s mains are along the same lines – showcasing select quality ingredients in a clever way and presenting them beautifully. Beef sirloin, fermented cabbage, pear, walnut and black garlic is loaded with deep flavour – two juicy hunks of beef, seasoned and cooked to perfection, along with a black garlic sauce that’s seriously top shelf; totally unique. This richness is offset by the zing of a fresh pear and fermented cabbage salad – sweet and sour. I just wish it was bigger. The size difference between the beetroot entrée and beef main was too marginal for me especially considering the difference in price – $39 as opposed to the beetroot’s $18. I don’t think it’s too much to ask for another bit of beef at the very least.
Also disappointing were the sides. They weren’t bad, but when the rest of the meal is so good the sides sit around awkwardly like the athletically-challenged who got picked for teams last in school sport. Heirloom tomato, pecorino, aged balsamic and basil was a slightly different take on the old Calabrese salad. Nice and fresh, it looked like a rainbow on a plate. Potato, prosciutto, beans and mustard was the ugly duckling of the day, a simple pile of potatoes with a few crisp slivers of prosciutto skewering through. The flavours were there in both cases, but you could make these in the comfort of your own home. They’re begging for a Vasse Felix-exclusive point of difference; the same sort of nifty thinking and technique that elevates the rest of the menu.
The other main brought things right back up to Vasse Felix standards. Barramundi, mushroom, broccolini and smoked oyster emulsion is a rare sighting of white fish and mushroom on the same plate, and it’s a mystery why chefs don’t try this more often. This was probably the highlight of the savoury plates. Shattering-crisp skin, moist flaky flesh that practically cuts itself and exquisite barramundi flavour opens proceedings, while the salad features neat little details like that smoky emulsion, and various textures of earthy mushrooms. It’s an absolute ball tearer of a dish.
Desserts were knock outs. The most photogenic of all the dishes, they backed up their good looks with wicked flavour. Chocolate, red velvet, blackcurrant and violet gave the impression that a baby took apart a chocolate cake cooked by a master chef, before a modern artist put it together again. Rich chocolate was offset nicely by a fruity and tart blackcurrant gel, while the sheet of violet meringue added texture and clean aromatic sweetness.
Not to be outdone, guava, apple, cardamom and honeycomb was the perfect dessert, and my dish of the day. Three islands of guava mousse were divided by pillows of cardamom-infused brioche, drizzled with sweet syrup, then surrounded by apple jelly and spheres of fresh apple. The whole thing was topped by honeycomb, and it all came together in spectacular fashion – a perfect fruity sweet storm of textures and tastes.
Vasse Felix is primarily a winemaker, and the bottles don’t disappoint. A complimentary tasting is well worth the zero dollar asking price, allowing you to sample a crop of top drops. Red Heytesbury, White Heytesbury, the Shiraz and the Sparkling would be my picks. Don’t be surprised if you walk away with a few bottles!
The Peregrine Falcon has a top speed of nearly 400 kilometres per hour. In contrast, once you’re settled in at Vasse Felix, you won’t be in a rush. You’ll want to savour the wines, indulge in the food, take in the scenery and spend a lazy afternoon at one of regional WA’s finest. It’s not perfect, and probably not quite the untouchable food and wine mecca of the south west, but it’s close.