As my birthday was on a Tuesday this year I told Jac I’d prefer to go out to dinner on another night, a Friday or on the weekend, so we could just relax and take our time and not worry about not having too late a night (especially me, as I get up at 4:30am on work days). We decided we would go out to dinner – my belated birthday dinner – on the next available Friday night, which was last night.
We’ve been meaning to give Roman Palace restaurant in Cannington a try for some time. Jac is sure she ate there years and years ago when the restaurant had a different name. According to the Roman Palace website, the restaurant has been family-owned and operated since 1997. Anyway, I decided that my belated birthday dinner provided perfect motivation for us to check it out.
We ordered drinks and garlic bread as soon as we were seated. I was really really in the mood for garlic bread – and Jac was excited to read that Scrumpy Jacks Cider was on the menu. She was a little disappointed when she ordered it as she was informed that there was no Scrumpy Jacks available – the cider that was available was Strongbow Original, which is what she settled for. She’d been particularly keen to have a Scrumpy Jacks because back when she was on a working holiday in England around 12 years ago (a couple of years before we met) she would stop by the local pub on her way home from work, and the bartender would ask, “The usual?” and she’d reply, “Yes, please!” – he’d pour her a cold pint of Scrumpy Jacks, which (this bit fascinates me the most) actually had bits of apple in it. According to Jac, the Scrumpy Jacks she used to drink back then was more appley than bubbly; she likes Strongbow Original, but it is definitely more bubbly than appley. She had been curious to see how similar or different bottled Scrumpy Jacks tasted compared to her memory of Scrumpy Jacks on tap 12 years ago… besides, she’d also thought a good appley cider would be a perfect apéritif… So anyway, that was Jac’s interesting drink story – I just had an orange juice with no interesting story attached. Heheh.
The garlic bread ($5.00 – geeez, I remember vividly the time when garlic bread was $2.50 a serve!) was soft and almost fluffy in the middle, with a chewy crust. It was really tasty, but I reckon it tasted more buttery than garlicky. I wanted it to be more garlicky, but enjoyed it all the same. Let’s face it, buttery lightly toasted fresh Italian bread that’s still gorgeously soft and fluffy in the middle just tastes great, doesn’t it? :)
We decided to share an entree of Gamberi All’ Aglio ($16.00), described on the menu as “succulent garlic prawns served creamy”. Now this was fantastically garlicky! We had three big prawns each. The prawns could’ve definitely been burstier, but the creamy sauce was so good we enjoyed the dish despite that key criticism. Was the non-burstiness of the prawns a result of overcooking or using not-quite-fresh-as-they-could-be prawns or even frozen prawns? I didn’t really get past the stage of question formulation in my head, as all possibility of further analysis was dulled, pleasurably smothered by my sheer enjoyment of the flavours of garlic and cream.
Just an aside – as soon as the Gamberi All’ Aglio arrived I was reminded of creamy garlic prawns we ate on our holiday last year. And I know some of you guys have noticed our love for garlic prawns – and in recent(ish) times, creamy garlic prawns! Remember the creamy garlic prawns we ate at Southerly’s Tavern in Port Denison (click here to read the blog post)?
And these North West garlic prawns from The Boatshed Restaurant, Geraldton (click here for the blog post)? Look familiar? ;-) A cafe I used to work in served their creamy garlic prawns in a hollowed out mini cobb bun. The bun was the carbohydrate in this case, rather than rice – you’d carve the bun and eat it with the creamy sauce and prawns – it was really tasty. I wonder if I can get a creamy garlic prawn-stuffed bun anywhere these days?
OK, back to Roman Palace! For her main course, Jac decided she would order another starter dish, plus a salad. She chose the Salsiccia ($11.00) – which consisted of six slices of grilled hot Italian sausage served on sliced fried tomato and fetta. She thought the combination of flavours and textures was really very good.
I tried a slice of sausage and fried tomato. I loooove fried tomato, and this was just perfectly cooked – the tomato was sweet and soft, but still kept its shape. The sausage was tasty but very spicy – pheeeew, we were both quite surprised by its fiery kick – I guess that’s why the menu describes it as hot Italian sausage, duh!
To go with her Salsiccia, Jac ordered the Caesar Salad ($9.00). She wasn’t all that amazed by this – but I think it fulfilled its role as “the greens”.
I had been thinking about Spaghetti Marinara ($21.00) ever since I found the Roman Palace website and read the menu. This dish features seafood (fish, prawns, squid and mussels – regular readers of this site will correctly guess that I asked for mine without the mussels as I really can’t stand them!) with spaghetti in a Napolitana sauce with a touch of cream. The prawns were noticeably overcooked but large and meaty (and, like the prawns in the entree, nowhere near the desired and ideal level of burstiness I like in prawns); the squid was very nice and not overly-rubbery; the pieces of fish were firm and fresh-tasting. Jac tried this dish (of course!) and took a great liking to the sauce. At the end of the evening when I asked her what her favourite dish of the evening was, she immediately answered: “The Spaghetti Marinara!” That sauce was very good indeed – probably the best part of the dish, I reckon. But then maybe that’s not a good thing – to pay $21.00 for a pasta and seafood dish and finish it thinking that some of the seafood was overcooked and the tomato sauce was by far the best component.
We were both quite full by the time our table was cleared, but Jac was very keen to try the (or should I say La?) Dolce Del Giorno – the dessert of the day, which happened to be one of her favourites, tiramisu ($9.00). When the waiter brought the dessert menus over to us, she did tell us that “the dessert of the day is tiramisu” and proceeded to explain that “it’s an Italian cream dessert”. Hmmmm. After she left I asked Jac – if she was working as a waiter now (we both used to work in hospitality), would she feel she had to explain what tiramisu was to people? Or would she just tell them the dessert was tiramisu and only elaborate if a customer then asked what it was? Do people generally know what tiramisu is these days? Or should a waiter assume people won’t know and will want to be told what it is? A waiter wouldn’t expect to have to explain what bruschetta is, for example, to most people these days – would she/he? Or is bruschetta in the “everybody knows” category with spaghetti bolognaise and lasagna, and tiramisu in the “you can’t assume everybody would know” category with carpaccio, gnocchi, orrechietti and cannoli? (I know some of you clever foodies will say “Hey! I know all those items!”)
Oh, and I wasn’t impressed that the waiter didn’t wipe our table down after she’d cleared our main course plates. Jac is, generally speaking, a messy eater (not a criticism at all, just a factual statement!), and when we share tastes there’s a generally a lot of dribblage/spillage along the way. While the waiter was clearing our plates I pointedly made a comment about the blobs of creamy garlic sauce Jac had left on her side of the table (our table was not covered by a cloth), affectionately calling her a grot and physically pointing to one of those yellowy blobs on the table. The waiter did see me do this – and she smiled at both of us – but didn’t return with a cloth to wipe the table. In fact, she came back with the dessert menus and proceeded to put a menu in front of Jac, right on top of the very blob of creamy sauce I’d pointed out. Now this isn’t a major drama – I definitely intend to dine at Roman Palace again – but I wasn’t impressed by this small issue, and am just saying so, that’s all. Regardless of whether I’d drawn attention to food scraps on the table, I’d expect a waiter to silently scan the table for little piles or puddles of mess and return to give the table a wipe if necessary.
And what about the tiramisu? It was served deliciously cold out of the fridge, in a latte glass, dusted thickly with chocolate. Jac and I dug our shared spoon through the layers of marscapone and coffee-soaked boozy sponge and scraped the glass as clean as we could – it was just a perfect way to end our delicious meal.
Right in the centre of the dining room at Roman Palace, you’ll see fountains which dribble water the whole time as you sit, trying not to think about peeing.
This is what you see when you go up to pay. I’d be far more excited by a display of meat dishes, but I guess it’s the bar after all. :)
The Roman Palace Italian Restaurant is located at 25 Manning Rd (cnr Hamilton St) in Cannington. The restaurant is fully licensed and offers BYO for wine and beer only. They have a takeaway menu, and a children’s menu for kid aged up to 10. Roman Palace is open for dinner from 5:00pm Tuesday to Sunday, and open for lunch from 11:30am to 2:30pm on Thursday and Friday. And thus ends my birthday celebrations for 2007! :)
EDIT, Sunday 15/04/2007 11:23am: You know, I just re-read this post and thought, “Hhhmmmm, I don’t sound like I really had that great a dining experience at Roman Palace!” Well, there were a few things that could’ve been better, but I guess I still enjoyed my time there generally speaking. Maybe the restaurant was just lucky I had such excellent company! :)