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Cantina 663 - 16 Feb 2013

Cuisine: Mediterranean, Italian
Location: Mt Lawley, 663 Beaufort St

Tonight I was meeting a friend, and also some of his friends that I had not met before, for dinner at Cantina 663, the ’663′ being 663 Beaufort St. I had arrived first and was taken to a highish table with stools. Menu’s were immediately provided with a bottle of chilled water. The interior was interesting. The area was like a narrow laneway with shops either side under an enclosed roof, except with the shops closed, the laneway had lots of table and chairs. Thus, the restuarant was “inside” it’s own enclosure but out on the street under the roof. You’re not actually outside but go there and you’ll know what I mean. Whilst waiting, I did notice it was a bit hot despite a ceiling fan doing it’s best to keep the patrons cool from the heat. Fortunately, as it cooled, the breeze blew in as it was very open.

My friend arrived a short time later and I was introduced to his other friends. After consultation of the menu, given there were 4 of us, we opted for the chef’s selection family style menu. This option requires a minimum of 4 people and is $65 per head. This option is a degustation. We asked what would be included but apart from a few dishes which we were told would be included, the rest is up to the chef. So here we go:

Round 1: Appetisers

Cantina 663 -  Jamon

Plate of conquistador jamon serrano

Cantina 663 - Sicilian Olives

Ligurian, Sicilian olives, citrus, herbs

  • Ligurian, Sicilian olives, citrus, herbs – these were lightly pan fried as the olives were warmed but not hot. Lovely mix of flavours with 2 types of olives and a small bowl provided for the olive pits. Yum.
  • Plate of conquistador jamon serrano – looks like proscuitto. Paper thin, jet juicy with lots of flavour. It kind of swells up in your mouth for something so thin. Also yum.

Round 2: Starters

Cantina 663 - Duck Liver Parfait

Duck liver parfait, onion jam, char grilled bread

Cantina 663 - Cuttlefish

Chargrilled cuttlefish, panzanella salad, salsa verde

After eating that, the service & kitchen were perfect with their timing, immediately bringing out more dishes as if they knew ahead of time when we would all be finished.

  • Chargrilled cuttlefish, panzanella salad, salsa verde – I don’t think I’ve ever eaten cuttlefish unless I got the dish mixed up but it looked and tasted like squid. It was very moist and tender, although one piece was chewy but it wasn’t overcooked. The panzanella salad with crunchy croutons provided a contrasting texture. Oh, how wonderful was the salsa verde? Unbelievably delicious. Just rounds all the flavours off.
  • Duck liver parfait, onion jam, char grilled bread – I was rather apprehensive when this got brought out. I didn’t fancy liver but I took a small nibble with the knife and wow, did it taste yum! Soft, creamy, rich, melt in your mouth. I immediately took a large blob (my share from the 4 at the table) and spread that over the char grilled bread. One bite and it was very rich so I took some onion jam which was very sweet and placed that all around the bread. Now it was a combination that was rocking! Lovely smoky flavour in the bread, the bread itself had a unique flavour which I haven’t had before. The rich cream liver and then the sweetness of the onion jam to cut through were a perfect combination. Fantastic!

Round 3: More Starters

Cantina 663 -  Fried Veal Tongue

Fried veal tongue, chickpeas, beets, rosemary mayonnaise

Cantina 663 - Croquettes

Salted cod croquettes, preserved lemon, romesco

  • Salted cod croquettes, preserved lemon, romesco – I loved the crispy, crunchy croquettes, with gooey cheese, soft potato, the hint of fish, fantastic. The preserved lemon was new to me and has a lovely flavour. I liked the romesco sauce which provided a contrast to the richness posed by the croquettes.
  • Fried veal tongue, chickpeas, beets, rosemary mayonnaise – my grandma does an excellent version of Indian style spiced tongue so I was keen to see how this tasted. OMG! Well, what else can I say? Soft and tender in the middle, surrounded by the lightly crumbed outer, fried to provide crispness and a textual contrast. The surrounding salad, chickpeas, slight richness and sourness from the beetroot, and the slightly rich rosemary mayonnaise, just tied it all together.

Round 4: Mains

Cantina 663 - Smoked Potatoes

Smoked potatoes, cumin, buttermilk dressing

Cantina 663 - Braised Beef Cheek

Braised beef cheek, carrot polenta, green beans, corn, pickled chilli

Cantina 663 - Pan Fried Gnocchi

Pan fried gnocchi, beets, goats curd, lentils, burnt orange

Cantina 663 - Mixed Leaves Salad

Mixed leaves, apple cider vinegar, sherry dressing

  • Pan fried gnocchi, beets, goats curd, lentils, burnt orange – some of my group were saying Cantina 663 are known for their house made gnocchi so I was keen to see what they offered. On the first bite, different from what I’ve experienced but delicious nonetheless. This version had a soft potato center, pan fried to create a crispy outer skin that provided a crunchy textural contrast to the fluffy potato. So yum and with the salad, without knowing it, you just keep on sneaking in some greens or vegies of some type. The dish is a little rich, so it’s a good thing a side of salad was also provided (see mixed leaf salad).
  • Braised beef cheek, carrot polenta, green beans, corn, pickled chilli – how tender was this beef? It was breaking apart into fibres and so soft and mushy. Excellent flavour and I absolutely loved the carrot polenta. Talk about turning boring old polenta on it’s head, this had loads of flavour. A little pickled chilli which looks like sambal olek provided a slight spice but not much of a chilli hit. I also liked the slight crunch from the firm green beens.
  • Smoked potatoes, cumin, buttermilk dressing – if you’ve thought what could you possibly get from roast potatoes which you haven’t had before, think again. This dish was something else. Oh, how crisp was the skin? A really thick, crunchy outer with such a soft tender potato center, these potatoes were just another highlight to the night. Much like a lot of the dishes, they seemed to be served with a thickish mayonnaise type dressing but this was made with buttermilk. Fantastic.
  • Mixed leaves, apple cider vinegar, sherry dressing – this was pretty underwhelming, but to be honest, given the flavours of the other meals, you definitely are happy to see this plain old salad. Till you taste the apple cider vinegar and sherry dressing which livens the salad up. A welcome bowl of goodness, acidity, and flavour to cut through the richness and intenseness of the other flavours in the other dishes.

Round 5: Dessert

Cantina 663 - Bay Leaf Sorbet

Bay leaf infused sorbet, poached fruit

Cantina 663 - Popcorn Ice Cream On Semolina Cake

Popcorn Ice Cream On Semolina Cake

Cantina 663 - Chocolate Clotted Cream

Chocolate clotted cream, white chocolate ‘corn’ chips, wafer

Boy were we stuffed. We had managed to clear all dishes before us except this round. So sad to see those crispy potatoes, gnocchi, salad, and a little bit of braised beef cheek go to waste. For once, there was no more food. A long delay as we chatted away. We were about to head off when one of the waitresses said “where are you going? what about dessert?” Oh my! Seriously. After providing all that food there’s still more? Ok. Room will have to be made for dessert.

  • 2 serves Popcorn Ice Cream On Semolina Cake – I can’t remember the exact name of the cake but it’s typically Asian. Not to my liking (not that the dish was bad, I just don’t like the cake). The ice cream on the other had was something else. Yum!
  • Bay leaf infused sorbet, poached fruit – I liked the poached fruit but one bite of that sorbet and it was sooooo refreshing. I couldn’t taste any bay leaf but who cares, how wonderful was that sorbet? I wanted more.
  • Chocolate clotted cream, white chocolate ‘corn’ chips, wafer. This is a typical Heston Blumenthal type dish, it looks like a salsa jar, not filled with salsa, has chocolate, and you think it has corn chips in it on a quick glance. They’re not corn chips, it’s white chocolate. It looks a lot more deceiving in person and when the chocolate HASN’T started melting. The clotted chocolate cream is like a mousse but not so light and airy, rather, soft and textually smooth. Delicious.

Cantina 663 Food Review Summary

Verdict: I was really happy to go to this place and was pleasantly surprised – on the upside. I don’t think any dish blew me away, but I really liked the solid consistency, the unique flavours, textual combinations, deliciousness. Ok, this place is a winner and with so much delicious food, how can one not be happy? The service was excellent and the night well paced. A very popular restaurant as there wasn’t a spare seat in the house. Plenty of late night bookings too. I’m glad to experience something different, something unique, flavours I haven’t experienced before. Top job Cantina 663.
Price: Expensive
Taste: Delicious
Value: Excellent
Recommendation: Highly Recommend

Cantina 663 Restaurant Details

http://www.cantina663.com/
Cantina 663 on Urbanspoon

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Cantina 663 - 16 Feb 2013, reviewed by Shaun on 2013-02-16T22:37:07+00:00 rating 4.7 out of 5
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