Divido, Mount Hawthorn

Last month, Jac, my sister Juji and her boyfriend Jay went to dinner at Divido Italian restaurant in Mount Hawthorn to celebrate Jay's birthday. Divido's been on our list of restaurants to check out ever since the Largesse Dining event in May. That night, the third course was the porcini and spinach rotolo by Jason Jujnovich, co-owner and executive chef of Divido. This is what I wrote about the rotolo:

As soon as this dish was placed before me I sank into a heavenly golden place that smelled of warm brown butter and parmesan cheese. I declared to Jac: “From today, all our butter shall be brown!” I loved everything about this dish – the layers of silky pasta rolled with soft spinach, cheese and porcini mushrooms. It was like a buttery pasta swiss roll. I loved that the mushrooms weren’t too finely chopped – you could still give them a good chew and really enjoy their taste and texture. And there was more crackling – the wonderful crackling of the crispy fried sage leaves under my teeth...

Needless to say, we were very excited about eating at Divido. There is a Saturday night special where you can choose any 2 courses from the full menu for $65 per person or or 3 courses for $75 per person. It was an easy decision for us - 3 courses! Our waiter told us we could select a complimentary side dish per couple. Immediately, Juji and Jay chose the truffled mash potato, while Jac and I selected the broccoli with anchovy and garlic.

To start, we enjoyed fresh sourdough bread served with a dish of extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar for dipping.

The bread featured all the best things I like in a great bread: a crisp, not rock-hard crust and a soft, fluffy yet chewy inside.

Jac's starter was the seared chicken livers with bacon, caramelized onion, muscatels and marsala. Jac LOVES offal. Livers, kidneys, brains, she loves it all. She complains that practically nowhere in Perth serves deviled kidneys or lamb's fry and bacon for breakfast! Also, all too often, liver dishes are not well prepared at all, served overcooked and with the liver membrane still intact. I can't even write "liver membrane" without making a face! At Divido the livers were perfectly prepared and cooked. The crispy salty bacon, marsala jus with sweet dried muscatel grapes (those black beady things in the photo below) were lovely accompaniments to the livers.

Jay ordered the Jerusalem artichoke soup with Manjimup black truffles. It was a richly flavoured creamy soup. I loved that you could see the "brainy" pattern of the freshly shaved truffle. We all tried a little, though Jay had devoured most of the truffle by the time I had my turn with the spoon!

Juji and I ordered the wood roasted Fraser Island scallops, served with a warm salad of sweet corn, crab meat and zucchini batons. I was very excited when I realised you got four scallops per serve.

The scallops themselves were not very big, served with the coral intact, but they were beautifully sweet. The salad was deliciously tangy, with a hint of lime and chilli. The bursty pop of corn kernels and the sweet, tender scallops had me delighted and I scraped every scallop shell clean and drank every drop of juice.

For main course, Jac ordered the Amelia Park lamb back strap, served with green lentils, wood roasted beetroot, horseradish. Jac loved the horseradish most of all.

Juji ordered the wood roasted half duck with organic buckwheat polenta, mustard fruits, spring onion and porcini sauce. The duck skin was crispy, the meat tender.

If I see pork belly on a menu I am compelled to order it. I LOVE pork belly! Divido's wood roasted free range pork belly is served wiith potatoes, Savoy cabbage and vinsanto apples. I'm not a big fan of the classic combination of roast pork with apple sauce, but roast pork with apple balls - YES!

The pork belly was a plump square of pure meaty fatty indulgence: juicy, tender pork with a layer of melt-in-the-mouth fat, and of course the crispy golden-brown crackle top. I felt marginally less guilty eating the pork with my greens - the savoy cabbage and the broccoli side dish, but of course truffled creamy mashed potatoes tipped me over to the guilty side again! But I enjoyed every moment.

Our side dish of broccoli, anchovy and garlic was very good - the broccoli was tender yet crisp, with just a hint of fresh chilli.

It was difficult to stop eating the creamy truffled mashed potatoes. You could see and smell the pool of truffle oil, sitting in the centre of the potatoes when the dish was first placed on the table.

Jay saw the words "chocolate nemesis" on the menu and wanted that immediately. Based on the famous River Café's (where Jamie Oliver worked before he became known as the Naked Chef) chocolate nemesis, I was amazed when Jay finished this ultra rich, super decadent slice of chocolate heaven and declared he'd like more.

Jac ordered the apple crostata, a freshly baked hot pastry filled with apple and sprinkled with flaked almonds and icing sugar, served with rum and raisin ice cream.

But Juji and I came for the Croatian doughnuts. My friend Jay (a different Jay!) has raved about these and now I know why and shall rave on myself! Served freshly deep-fried and poppingly hot, these doughnuts were wonderful little balls complete with crispy brown spiky bits that made them look wonderfully homemade and dangerously tongue-burningly alluring. They were served with a dish of cold vanilla custard and strawberry compote. As soon as I tasted one of my doughnuts, I knew I would be in heaven for as long as it took to finish this dish. It was one of those times I offered Jac a taste of my dish while secretly hoping she didn't really want any. Come on, confess - you do that too sometimes, right? ;)

The custard was silky and light in texture, but so creamy and rich in flavour. The strawberries were whole but surprisingly, gorgeously soft - I forgot they were cooked until I pushed my spoon into one! A bite of doughnut and a spoonful of strawberry compote, voila! Posh jam doughnut!

Juji and Jay ordered espresso coffees, which was accompanied by a rotolo-shaped dish of brown and white sugar cubes.

We really enjoyed our meal. Just like the spinach and porcini rotolo at the Largesse dinner that made me want to dine at Divido, each of my courses was delicious and sensually pleasurable to eat.

It was only towards the end of the meal that we all realised none of us had ordered pasta, which was funny because it was that amazing spinach and porcini rotolo that had so impressed us in the first place! But seriously, there is no way I would overlook pork belly for pasta. A pork belly with pasta dish, perhaps?

I always enjoy eating out with Jac, Juji and Jay because we all get to sample each other's dishes. Though Juji did complain that Jay was slower than usual in offering a taste of the pork belly, no doubt because it was so good he wanted it all to himself - like my (now not-so) secret doughnut selfishness.

A minor annoyance (mostly on Jac's part) was the apparent lack of using cover numbers to identify the diners. It's one of her pet hates to have staff bring out the meal and stand there apparently with no idea who ordered what: "Livers? Who ordered the livers?" When we worked in hospitality, the restaurants/cafes we worked in had simple systems for wait staff - giving each diner a number as you take the orders. Number one would be at a certain position (this would be part of your staff training) and the rest of the numbers would follow on clock-wise as you worked your way around the table. It's a system that's invisible to the diners but helps staff know who should have which dish - service comes across as more polished and professional. Of course, it fails if diners switch seats (though a sharp waiter will pick up on that and adjust accordingly).

At Divido, there was apparently no such system in use by staff, resulting in "Pork belly? Who ordered pork belly?" and then the awkward shuffling around to place the dish in front of the right person, rather than stretch across the table, because, inevitably, the waiter was always standing on the wrong side of the table. But as I've said, this was a minor annoyance - the food was fantastic and I will definitely return to try a different season's menu.

Scallops, pork belly, doughnuts: WIN.

Read Juji's post at her blog: J's birthday dinner at Divido

Map of Divido restaurant, Mount Hawthorn - click for larger map
Click for larger map

Divido Italian restaurant www.divido.com.au 170 Scarborough Beach Road
Mount Hawthorn
WA 6016
Telephone: (08) 9443 7373

Open Mon to Sat for dinner 6pm to late
Saturday nights 2 courses (minimum) $65 or 3 courses for $75. Includes complimentary side dish.

Divido on Urbanspoon

On Divido's website, I found a number of other specials I thought were worth mentioning:

Champagne Monday On every Monday in 2010. $60 for 3 courses with a glass of champagne.

Friday lunch in December Divido are taking bookings for lunch for Fridays in December: 3rd, 10th, 17th and 24th. $65 two courses, $75 three courses.

Degustation Menu To be enjoyed by the entire table. $85 per person for food only or $125 with matching wines. Available every night.