Petition Kitchen – 9 October 2015

Petition Kitchen is a brand new restaurant that opened in Perth, and so I had to check it out. I believe the head chef used to work as a sous chef at Cumulus Inc, one of my favourite walk-in restaurants in Melbourne. During its review period (opening – 11 October), reservations were essential. From my observations of the Perth population, I wasn’t sure that reservations were necessary, at least on non-Friday and Saturday nights. Turns out you can walk-in, too, during this time.

What I love about visiting a brand new restaurant is actually seeing them seeing what works and what doesn’t – watching something come to life and then grow is fascinating. So I booked two sessions, the first was a Sunday brunch (I thought I booked for lunch but they gave me a brunch menu? They didn’t seem to be serving non-brunch until after about 1pm or so), and the second was a Friday night dinner.

First up, coffee. I wouldn’t usually order coffee at a place like this, except that I found out about this place through their coffee provider (Mano a Mano), plus the waiter mentioned their coffee provider too. So why not! The only awkward moment was when I asked for an espresso afterwards, and when it arrived one of the waitresses said “Let me get you some sugar”… at which point I had to tell her I didn’t need it. That’s a minor detail though.

Smoked sardines, tomato escabeche, salted lemon

Their breakfast menu has a nice range, with the interesting items being: egg white omelettes, pancakes with grilled fruit, a thick-cut slab bacon dish, and sardines on toast. I might have chosen the pancakes or something else, but luckily I was seated in front of the kitchen (like right in front! If I sneezed it would go all over their prep kind of close! Awkward…), so my view was amazing. The waiter recommended the sardines on toast, and after seeing one plated up, I agreed to order it – and I’m so glad I did!

What the menu didn’t mention was the amazing, bright yellow saffron aioli. I couldn’t figure out what the chefs were smearing and piping all over the dish, but the waiter explained it and oh my goodness, that flavour! Lightly fragrant (large amounts of any floral smell enrages me) and superbly garlicky in a mellow way, so that it blended so well with the sardines and toast. The combination of zucchini and tomato were so refreshing, and the sardines had the right amount of saltiness and weren’t overly fishy. I didn’t like the preserved lemon so much because it stood out, but it had to be there to make the dish work. I’ve only eaten fish on toast at a few places (Bar 9’s tommy ruff escabeche, A Mother’s Milk’s portuguese sardines on toast), but this by far is the most oustanding version I’ve had because it’s refreshing but doesn’t leave you hungry.

Okay, onto Friday’s dinner service.

Oysters natural, lemon

Ah, sometimes I miss Adelaide. Perth restaurants seem to always source their oysters from South Australia! These are Smokey Bay oysters, and they were pretty superb. However, at the same cost as a Print Hall oyster, the Print Hall ones stand out – both in the quality and taste of the oyster as well as the condiments. But don’t get me wrong – these are amazing – second best!

Organic beef tartare, harissa & sesame, sour cream, grilled bread

Okay, this restaurant has just served me a top 3 tartare in my tartare experiences. I don’t have a “favourite” tartare but the ones I would recommend come from Felix, Fix St James, Petition Kitchen, and possibly a small little place in Adelaide called The Corner Bistrot. That’s how good this is. Why? Though it’s not a traditional tartare, my goodness, that flavour! The crunch was hybridised in the form of harissa shards, which tasted so good – enough heat to excite me but not enough to burn me – my favourite amount! There was a lovely dollop of sour cream to offset the chilli, and also helped to stick the beef onto the grilled bread (served on the side). The beef was more coarsely cut than the last two tartares I’ve eaten, but the flavour was so good! I totally did not care that this came pre-mixed, the presentation, flavours and textures were just so spot on, I’d recommend this dish as one of the must haves.

Squid, creamed buckwheat, celeriac, fennel & orange

I had totally missed reading the buckwheat component on the menu, I ordered it because of the squid! So that’s what one of the chefs was stirring… some black pasty mush thing that actually turned out to be squid ink buckwheat. It was so tender and delicious, but what made it fantastic was the toasted buckwheat that gave a crunchy texture to offset the softness of both the creamed buckwheat and the squid. I think my squid was on for slightly longer than subsequent orders (cause I was observing the whole time), but mine still came out tender. The orange pieces refreshed the palate with every bite, so it was an awesome addition to have!

Lemon leaf rice pudding, strawberry, pistachio, lavender

I agonised over desserts because they all looked pretty good, and ended up choosing the rice pudding dish. This was an amazing rice pudding. The rice was super soft, but I believe it was intended that way (I like slightly firm rice), based on my rice pudding experience from Fix St James. That lemon leaf aroma! Wow! It definitely was lemon leaf, and not lemon fruit. I was very impressed. Taking a picture of this was interesting since the strawberry sorbet was melting so fast, it was because the rice pudding was slightly warm. An interesting contrast of temperatures that worked – I liked the rice warm, and the sorbet didn’t actually melt all that quickly. And then there was the lavender. Little bulbs of lavender sprinkled sparingly through the dish that I loved it! It gave it such a nice floral fragrance without the flashiness of the currently overused edible flowers (yes I am guilty of that!). It’s definitely the most unique rice pudding I’ve had, and probably my favourite too!

I totally enjoyed every dish I’ve had here so far, I’m very, very impressed. I don’t know what it is, whether the dishes are “safe” or simply familiar to me and appeal to my tastes, but this stands out, and ranks way above Automata and Nel for me. I do have a good idea why, though. The flavours and textures just work. It’s good, simple food. Plated with detail, but not trying too hard or having complex elements. Solid, clean flavours that stand up well on their own and also complement the rest of the dish.

I definitely have to revisit a while later (Wildflower is next, when it opens!), to see how everything evolves – the food and the staff. There were some brilliant highlights from my prime spot at the kitchen bench:

  • Within the first few minutes of me being seated on my initial Sunday brunch visit, the chefs were upset about not having a bread knife because their one went missing. After a chef was having difficulty slicing some bread with a chef’s knife, he went and asked for the one from the beer bar. They were reluctant to hand it over, but did so in the end. So I concluded that they only had two bread knives. They were Global knives, and I was happy that I recognised them, since I am now a proud owner of two Global knives. When I returned on my Friday night dinner, they were back to being bread knife-less and were using a regular chef’s knife!
  • Chefs like coffee and chug it. Again, shortly after I was seated for dinner, a whole round of coffees went out (milk coffees) and all the chefs grabbed one and literally gulped it down. Then came a combination of espresso shots and milk drinks, and the sous chef was so focussed on his job, he totally didn’t realise a second round of coffees came out till one of the head chef called out the last chance, and he practically rushed to get another cup! It was so hilarious.
  • It is absolutely fascinating watching the chefs keep track of all the different dishes that were going. Of course, I was a diner, so while I was eating my attention wasn’t on what they were doing, and when I was waiting for a dish, I’d be observing the whole thing, rather than what each individual chef was doing, so I often lost track of what food was where, but they do such a good job of it (of course; it’s their job)! It seriously is so fun to watch I could keep doing this forever, so much so that I even enjoyed watching a chef trying to peel potatoes with a cheap, dingy peeler, give up, and switch to a Global peeling knife which was so much faster. Who ever thought watching someone peel vegetables could be so fun!