Largesse Dining at Restaurant Amusé

On Monday 24 May, I attended the first Largesse Dining event with Jac, my sister Juji and her boyfriend Jay, held at Restaurant Amusé in East Perth.

I was very excited when I first heard about this. The concept behind Largesse is simple: six mates, who happen to be six of the best chefs in Western Australia, get together to create a six-course degustation dinner that showcases their talents as well as the fantastic produce and great wine from our state. And even better, all profits from the dinner go towards Foodbank, a local charity. The six friends plan to hold a series of these dinners – I presume there will be six dinners, each one hosted at each of the chef’s restaurants in turn. Great idea, right?

And so, on that chilly Monday evening we were welcomed at the “soup station” set up by the front door, where two different drinks were ladled into cups – a choice of vodka and cranberry or gin and orange. The boozy punches, complete with fresh fruity floating bits, helped warmed the chest and belly as we waited to enter the restaurant.

As soon as the doors opened, we were warmly greeted and seated quickly on group tables. Ours was the long table in the centre of the room. As it turned out (and I don’t think it was mere coincidence :P) the food bloggers/media were at the same table – Conor from Hold The Beef, Matt from Abstract Gourmet, Jennifer Susanto-Lee and Max Veenhuyzen, who was also MC for the evening. It was especially lovely to meet Conor and Matt after all this time.

It’s so very exciting to sit at a dinner table looking down at your five knives and five forks all shiny and lined up neatly (aha – yes, it was a six-course dinner; dessert cutlery was placed on tables after the fifth course). I presume the wine lovers were even more excited to see the collection of five wine glasses. Forks and glasses and eyes gleamed, tummy growled in anticipation. Tummy didn’t have to wait long!

I do apologise for the lack of canape photos and the overall quality of the photos in this post – the lighting conditions proved very challenging for my point-and-shoot camera.

You had me at “crispy skin”

The waiters swooped in bearing platters of canapes.

As soon as I saw that first round of canapes, I knew I would love my Largesse Dining experience: a choice of chicken skin or snapper skin, served as crispy crackers.

In my head there was much excited squealing: “Oh my god yes! SKIN!”
To the waiter I said politely, “Why yes, I would love a piece of chicken skin. Thank you very much.”

The flavours were very potato crisp-style: chicken skin with vinegar, snapper skin with sour cream.

The next round of delectable morsels included the King of Skin: pork cracklings, topped with green mole. They were puffed up crunchy chunky curls that crackled (yes!) tantalisingly when you sank your teeth into them. When another waiter visited with more crackling I could not resist taking another. And then another. I hope no one else was counting!

“I can’t stop eating crackling!” I moaned. “Don’t worry,” Juji assured me wickedly, “Look how puffed up it is! It’s practically all air!” Suuuuuuuuure, Juji!

Other canapes included duck liver parfait served on perfectly round mini brown toast; white anchovy topped hazelnut praline served on little forks; and goats cheese topped with basil and baby swiss chard on thin crisp bread.

There was an abundance of canapes and it would’ve been the easiest, most natural thing in the world to keep eating them. I found it especially difficult to say no to the crispy skin and crackling. But I didn’t want to end up too full of canapes to enjoy my six-course dinner, and with super-human restraint, I resisted further offers of canapes. Have you ever been to a cocktail function where the spot you’ve chosen to stand is apparently invisible to the waiters with the food? And you end up desperately hungry and practically stalking those waiters just so you can have something to eat? This was the complete wonderful opposite – the canapes were plentiful, the waiters attentive, constantly returning to offer more.

Canapes finished, it was time to focus on the main event and my five knives and five forks We each had a crusty bread roll to eat, with dishes of olive oil placed strategically along the table for dipping. I love breaking a fresh crusty bread roll apart with my fingers, don’t you? I definitely did not want to use up valuable tummy space on bread, so I didn’t eat it all.

New Norcia bread roll, innards

I’m not a wine drinker (not a drinker at all, in fact), so I won’t comment on the wines other than say that my dining companions enjoyed them very much. Juji was impressed by how well the wines matched the food.

Goats cheese, bunya nut, tortilla by Kiren Mainwaring, Dear Friends
I really wasn’t sure what to expect of the first course – I’d never eaten bunya nut (a bush food native to Queensland), and the inclusion of “tortilla” sounded kind of random. But I was surprised by this dish, and really enjoyed it. In a mini tortilla basket there was two pieces of bunya nut, shredded lettuce and tomato, all topped with goats cheese. The flavour was Mexican-style, and very tasty. The bunya nut reminded me of water chestnut, although not as crisp – I liked it. We were told later by MC Max that chef Kiren Mainwaring makes his own goats cheese from local fresh goat milk.

Goats cheese, bunya nut, tortilla by Kiren Mainwaring of Dear Friends

Snow crab, scampi, scallop by Todd Stuart, Bouchard
This dish was presented in two parts: fresh scampi and scallop wrapped in a strip of leek, then steamed and topped with microherbs; and a mound of crab meat mixed with ribbons of finely sliced cabbage, all tossed in fresh herbs, topped with a crispy little pastry cigar. As I took the photo, a foamy sauce trickled out of the pastry – it had a light citrus flavour. The seafood was all perfectly, delicately, just cooked and tasted beautifully fresh.

Snow crab, scampi, scallop by Todd Stuart of Bouchard

Porcini and spinach rotolo by Jason Jujnovich, Divido
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. I declared to Jac: “And from today, all our sage shall be fried!” This dish is on the menu at Divido; I’d love to dine there sometime. This was probably my favourite dish of the evening. I’ve been thinking fondly of that brown buttery golden pasta ever since this meal.

Porcini and spinach rotolo by Jason Jujnovich of Divido

Salmon, rabbit, beetroot by Stephen Clarke, Clarke’s of North Beach
The salmon, rabbit and beetroot dish was for me the most visually and texturally interesting of all the dishes. And on this dish was the single most delicious item of any of the six plates: the spherical crumbed rabbit croquette (well, I said “rabbit ball”).

Salmon, rabbit, beetroot by Stephen Clarke of Clarke's of North Beach

After dinner, during the Q&A in which we were invited to ask any of the chefs a question, chef Stephen Clarke revealed the secret to that tasty rabbit ball – you confit the rabbit leg and then shred the meat very finely, add mashed potato and a pear and vanilla jam. He told us his objective was to create a very tasty morsel that would “send the flavours crazy in your mouth”. Chef Stephen, it was a delicious success! It was so good I wished it was bigger – it was like the size of a big marble, slightly smaller than a ping pong ball – I wanted a tennis ball – no, a basketball!

The salmon filet was poached at 49C, which chef Stephen explained was to create a soft texture closer to jelly rather than a typically flakey fillet of fish. A sprinkling of white pepper on top gave it a fantastic flavour.

The other rabbit components on this dish were so delicate – a rabbit rib shaped like a perfect miniature french cutlet, a mini rabbit medallion on which the rabbit ball was balanced. Regular readers will know I am not a fan of beetroot, but this sweet, deep red beetroot sauce went very well with the rabbit. The cube of pickled beetroot was crisp and tangy. I appreciated the beetroot as part of the dish, but I’m still not a beetroot convert! Four bursty pearls of salty salmon roe completed the dish.

Rabbit, beetroot - close-up

Pork, black pudding, molasses by Hadleigh Troy, Restaurant Amusé
The thick slices of hay-smoked pork were unbelievably tender. The black pudding looked remarkably like a piece of charcoal (perhaps, then, quite unremarkable!). It was very soft – I spread it like a paste on the pork and rolled each slice in the molasses sauce. If you like pork, you will fall head over heels with the tenderness and flavour of this pork. Pork with black pudding and molasses is a regular feature on the menu at Restaurant Amusé. My photo really doesn’t do this magnificent dish justice.

Pork, black pudding, molasses by Hadleigh Troy of Restaurant Amusé

Au chocolat by Scott O’Sullivan, Red Cabbage
The dessert looked festive and fun and made me think “circus”! I’m no chocoholic, but I loved it – two cold chocolate items, mousse and parfait, with a warm tortellini between them. The green sauce underneath my “circus tents” had a hint of almond essence. I loved both cold items but it really was fun working my way down that delicously cold chocolate cone.

Au chocolat by Scott O'Sullivan of Red Cabbage Food + Wine

The stripy tortellini was crisp, more like pastry than pasta, and inside was a gooey chocolately centre with chopped roasted hazelnuts. The rhubarb baton was quite tart, a nice contrast to all the chocolate.

Chocolate and hazelnut-filled tortellini close-up

The six courses made a perfect amount of food. I finished my meal feeling full and content but nowhere near “food coma”.

In between courses, MC Max addressed the 60 diners, and representatives from the two local wineries that supplied the matching wines for the meal, Myattsfield Vineyards and Thumbprint Wines, talked about their wines and of their passion for what they do. We also learned more about Foodbank and the important work that the charity does.

Largesse Dining

It was a fun night and a fantastic experience – I’m thrilled to have been a part of it.

Tickets were AU$125 and covered everything: the gorgeous canapes, six-course degustation dinner and matching wines.

The front of house and kitchen staff came from all six participating restaurants as well as other restaurants, all generously donating their time and talents – for example, one of the waiters who looked after our table came from Harvest in North Fremantle.

The tickets for the dinner we attended at Restaurant Amusé sold out in 20 minutes, so you’ll have to be quick if you’re keen to attend the next event.

I’d love to go to the next dinner, but Largesse has a “no second helpings” policy – diners may not book for two dining events in a row so that everyone gets a fair chance to experience Largesse Dining.

The next Largesse dinner will be hosted by Divido in Mount Hawthorn around August.

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