Star Anise, Perth

February 22, 2008

Many reviewers rate Star Anise as the best restaurant in Western Australia. So Tony, Linda and I went for dinner on February 16, 2008. It is in a converted house in the residential Perth suburb, Shenton Park. There are several small dining rooms and tables in the front patio. The interior décor is sort of Japanese modern. We were there on a Saturday evening when only the seven-course “Signature Menu” at A$110 is served.  There is also an à la carte menu for other meals. Wine pairings are offered for an additional A$55 or A$85 for “premium” wines. Of the twelve wines in the two offerings only two were Australian, and those were not from Western Australia. Presumably the clientele is almost entire local and is interested in being introduced to new tastes. That is fine, but we decided to order regional wines, the Chardonnay and the Pinot Noir from Picardy. We really liked these wines a lot. They are from the Pemberton region which is in the far south of Western Australia.

For aperitif we ordered two glasses of an Australian sparkling wine and one of Pol Roger.

The first course was one piece each of sashimi of hiramasa kingfish, mustard cress, soy bubbles. This was absolutely delicious and frustrating in its small size.


Second was manjimup marron, dtom khaa, oyster mushrooms, baby corn, snake beans. Marrons are large freshwater crayfish found only in the southwest corner of Australia. Despite their almost rock lobster size, they have the freshwater delicacy of a crayfish. This dish was more complicated than it needed to be, but was still very nice. As the only seafood course it seemed small; another marron would have been nice. (I was served two with the starter at Wild Duck the next evening.)(Authentic Thai dtom khaa gai includes coriander root, galangal, coconut cream, bird’s eye pepper, palm sugar and kaffir lime leaves.)


Third came jamon iberico de bellota grand reserve, 2 hour egg, confit baby roma tomatoes, basil oil. This was good, but from our point of view it is too bad to have a main ingredient imported from Spain. The egg was boiled very slowly in its shell for two hours and adds an unctuousness to the somewhat severe ham.


Fourth was crispy aromatic duck, stir fried choy sum, sweet & sour blood plum & ginger sauce. This is regarded as the signature dish of the restaurant and deserves its reputation.


Fifth were three cheeses from blue cow. We were surprised and disappointed to discover that Blue Cow is not a fine Western Australian cheese producer. (There are some, such as Cambray, which produces superb sheeps’ milk cheese.) It is an importer and the cheeses, while pleasant, seemed a bit tired.


Then we were supposed to have the mango jelly, coconut sorbet, fizzy pineapple, but somehow we were forgotten.


After a very long wait we were served the passion fruit soufflé, strawberry mascarpone parfait. Because we asked what happened to the first dessert, it was brought while we were eating the second. Both desserts were really quite good, but they were difficult for us to enjoy.

I certainly cannot quarrel with the idea that Star Anise may be the best restaurant in Western Australia, although I haven’t been to the competition in Perth. The next night in Albany we went to Wild Duck, run by a Star Anise alumnus, which was at the same level. While Star Anise was frustrating in some respects, the quality of the ingredients and the cuisine were at a high level. We are glad we went.




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