49/15 Labouchere Road, South Perth
(08) 9367 5744
I always feel way out of depth reviewing fine dining places. I don't know enough about food - I'm just your average 19 year old uni student who works at a phone store for goodness sake. I run out of words to describe the depth of the flavours, the textures, and all the other senses that come rushing at you when you sit down and begin a meal at a place like this. And apart from that, I can never afford to eat out at somewhere like Red Cabbage.
So I was very spoilt to be taken here for a belated birthday meal with the lovely Yueh Lai. It was such a nice way to catch up, and over chit-chat about plans for the future, I made a vow to take her out to somewhere just as nice one day when I'm a successful lawyer (which is only about 27 years away).
The dark lighting and velvety decor of Red Cabbage makes you feel like you're dining surrounded by candlelight. Everything is black, brown and deep shades of burgundy. And I felt like I had about seven extra items of cutlery and crockery that I totally did not need. I wish I had a DSLR camera so I could have taken better pictures - my iPhone didn't fare very well in the dim.
Seeing the waitstaff at work was like watching the ballet - I don't think I've ever had service quite like it before (again, I'm no fine diner!). They were all perfectly dressed and groomed; they moved and talked, for want of a better word, gracefully; they came to the table for service at exactly the right times between courses to clear plates; and with each new course, they provided a detailled description of the dish and of all its constituent elements from memory. Incredibly professional.
Lobster Bisque with Marron
When I first tasted this one, I enjoyed it, but also noticed that it was quite salty and herby. Until I Wikipedia'd it, I didn't know what bisque actually was. Turns out bisque is a smooth, creamy, highly seasoned French soup, commonly made from a strained broth or coulis of crustaceans. Sometimes they will put diced meat into the bisque, which is why I had little cubes of marron at the bottom of my cup. Tangy, tasty.
Tempura WA Marron, Sticky Pork Belly, Wasabi Ice Cream, Mandarin ($36)
This one was so good, and I ate it as slowly as I could, but about halfway my stomach got the better of me. The belly pork was succulent, crispy, melt-in-your-mouth tender and perfectly sized - if they'd been any bigger it would have been a too rich. And the tempura was perfect. I had so much fun putting all the little condiments on everything, experimenting, tasting, savouring. And the wasabi ice-cream? Just amazing.
Apple Jelly with Citrus Foam, Blueberry Powder
The only palate cleanser I'd ever eaten before this one was slices of ginger that come inside take-away containers of sushi at Nagano's - so this was definitely a step up. This little shotglass of sugar and sour was like eating flavoured clouds. And I just love blueberries.
Crispy skinned Duck, Seared Rottnest Scollops, Plum Pudding ($38)
As soon as I saw the description of this dish on the menu, it knew I had to get it. I would say that duck is my favourite meat (see the duck dish I had with Sam, Sharon and Belinda at Amphora's in January, oh my god), followed closely by scallops. The duck in this dish was so good it almost hurt - the skin was so thin, so crispy and was seasoned so that the shards of salt burst in your mouth. The meat was difficult to cut with the knife, but somehow, so tender, juicy and easy to eat. The scallops were sweet and fresh, cooked really briefly. And the plum pudding in the middle was a really interesting texture and mildly flavoured. Absolutely gorgeous.
Venison, Organic Carrot, Potato Ravioli on Chocolate Soil ($38)
This was Yueh Lai's one. I have never seen a meat and chocolate dish before anywhere except Masterchef before this, and I don't think I'd ever had venison before this either. The meat was really dark, almost black on the outside, and the fibres were almost squarish. To me it tasted kind of like beef but richer, and without being oily. When I had a taste, all I could think about was Bambi, but after a few bites, I started thinking being served with chocolate woud have been a pretty good way to go anyway. Yum!
"Three English Sweets" Sticky Date Pudding, Treacle Tart, Honey Parfait, Jam Roly Poly, Hazelnut Custard ($15)
When I eat, I'll take a little bite of as many things as I can so that I can taste everything without getting too full. Just ask Michèl: he knows if I've been in the kitchen because there will be little chunks in the tops of muffins missing, half an orange cling-wrapped in the fridge or a slice of pizza that looks smaller than all the others...
So this dish was perfect for me. The jam roly-poly and sticky date were excellent, but my favourites were the parfait and treacle tart. The parfait was so smooth, the honey flavour was really clear and it had just the right amount of sweetness. On the other hand, the treacle tart had an intensely syrupy flavour, which went beautifully with a dollop of super-duper rich cream.
We had three courses, but ate them over about two hours, so we left Red Cabbage feeling very satisfied and buzzing with sugar. Big love, hugs and thank-yous for Yueh Lai who made time in her busy schedule to take me out for my birthday, I loved it. Last year my favourite meal of 2010 was a 3 course meal at Tsunami in Mosman Park.
Looks like I've found a candidate for 2011.