Archive for February 23rd, 2010

The Dego @ Jacksons

Degustation menus usually consist of multi- courses (around 7 to 9 courses) and can last from 2 – 4 hours during which you can pretend to be a culinary critic and sample each creation designed to showcase the head chef’s signature dishes.

The only degustation meal I’ve ever had was perhaps the most memorable meal of my life being our lunch at the 3 michelin starred Gordon Ramsay’s restaurant at Royal Hospital Road in London. Hehe, yes, I start up high. It was a treat by my foodie sister and bro-in-law and it was an unforgettable experience. I remember being awed by the presentation of the dishes, the creativity and art of every bite, the wonderful service complete with food warmers and all. It was quite a few years ago, but I still remember how I felt then. Utter foodie paradise.

Having had the best of the best degustation experience under my belt, I’ve always been keen to try degustation meals in Perth. Unfortunately, the fact that degustations are usually exorbitantly expensive stopped me and the closest thing I came to having a degustation was a five course meal at Borsalino Ristorante in Nedlands which was really lovely.

Mention the best restaurant in Perth and Jacksons is almost always on the top the list. Neil Jackson’s ‘dego’ (self invented Aussie slang for degustation) is possibly ‘the’ foodie experience for Perth-ians. I’ve been talking about Jacksons since.. forever. But the crazy price of $120 per head (that’s minus the wine selection) always held me back, I was and am a penny pinching foodie after all.

R kept me guessing for weeks where we were going for my birthday dinner so I was in a sense of disbelief when we stepped into the buzzing restaurant(restaurant was fully booked and R just managed to squeeze in after being on the waiting list for a month), my feet felt lighter and I floated to the quieter candlelit ‘dego’ section of the lush restaurant. Ok, back to the food.

Since R was driving and there was a cocktail night planned afterwards, we skipped the wine list and went straight into the food. They served us complimentary bread with cheese twists, lavosh crispbreads, and bread rolls with some really nice butter (I think it was from France? I regret not bringing a notebook but I didn’t know we were going to Jacksons!). The bread wasn’t extraordinary but the butter was really nice.

Another freebie I love freebies, a pre appetizer appetizer? It was a canapé which looked like an ice cream cone with a tomato based gazpacho like sorbet ( I apologise for the bad description, I just like eating the food I don’t actually know how to write about food *epic fail* )that was topped with red onion.

It was really yummy, the ‘cone’ was crispy, salty, tasty, a bit like a really tasty nacho chip and the sorbet was cool, refreshing and delish. Fantastic palate cleanser.

Tea smoked duck breast, jellyfish, cherries . The first real dish on the menu. This dish was so familiar tasting and Asian that I turned to R and said ‘I know what it reminds me of! It’s the ‘len pan’ cold platter that we have as the first course during Chinese weddings’ and he agreed. The chewy cold jellyfish paired well with the jasmine tea smoked duck breast, and the cherry was marinated with something that reminded me of balsamic vinegar, the dressing was dotted with Asian cooking must-haves of soy, wasabi and sesame oil. It was heartwarmingly familiar and different at the same time. He took Chinese cooking and twisted it with the pickled cherry.

Shark bay crab, pork and asparagus. Another dish with an Asian influence. The spring asparagus were simple, young and beautiful. Matched so well with the hollandaise sauce, R loved this dish so much. The crabmeat was fresh and miniscule that had us wanting more and the pork dumpling was similar to what we would find in a wanton.

Another freebie, the duck leg soup which came with a half boiled quail egg, emm… the half boiled quail egg was yummy and the soup was so Chinese, flavourful and well done that R said ‘the chef knows how to cook Asian food really well’.

Crayfish and absinthe risotto. I was very interested to see what this crayfish and absinthe risotto would taste like, would the high alcoholic flavor of the risotto be similar to a good penne alla vodka? While there was definitely a distinctive alcoholic tang to the risotto, it wasn’t overpowering or zingy, at first I wasn’t impressed. There were little bits of celery on the risotto and I hate celery but I understood the crunchy texture that the chef wanted to give to the risotto, the crayfish was outstanding. After a few spoonfuls the risotto got better and better and by the end of it I thought ‘hey, celery’s not so bad after all’.

Floating pie. R and I were guessing what this dish would look like. A pie floating a sea of gravy was my guess. R’s guess was an open lid pie topped with gravy. Turns out we were both right, it was an open lid beef pie floating on sea of green bean based sauce topped with a profiterole filled with foie grais cream. The pie itself, the beef, the pastry was really yummy, the beef was sliced into little pieces and medium rare, tender and so easy to eat. But R and are were a bit puzzled with the foie gras, it was R’s first foie gras and he thought the taste was ‘unusual’ and not something he was used to. For some reason it reminded of durian! Pungent and creamy.

We had choice of roast partridge or venison for our mains and I went with the roast patridge while R had the venison. We had Margaret River venison in Goose café as well but Jackson’s way of serving venison was very different. The venison was already sliced up into beautiful medium rare slices which made it easy to eat, and the red wine sauce was just divine. In fact, R’s complaint was that there was not enough sauce. Instead of a side of vegetables, we had a springroll of porcini and shiitake mushrooms, another Asian twist to the classic meat dish.

Both R and I have never had partridge before, it felt very English and I was envisioning scenes from Roald Dahl’s Danny and the Champion of the World and Hongkong’s roasted pigeons. What came out was full of flavour, tender and delicate, the bread sauce was fantastic and the perfect companion to the bird, so yummy. There was a layer of foie gras on top of the partridge which for some reason tasted very different from the earlier dish, this creamy foie gras complemented the taste of the partridge and had R clamouring for more. I now know that bread sauce is made from breadcrumbs, milk, onions and butter, I must try this at home someday because it’s so delicious. But the star for me wasn’t even the partridge but the croquette. It was deliciously creamy with the contrasting crispy breadcrumbed outer layer, there was this gorgeous flavor to it , I now realised that it was a Stilton (a kind of English blue cheese) leek pear croquette which explains the lovely fragrance dancing in my mouth, must have been the added pear and cheese, oh what a croquette.

Another freebie, the beetroot icecream with chocolate cake which I wasn’t expecting to like but turned out not too sweet, really refreshing and lovely.

The raspberry pudding came with custard and cream was sweet and tart and reminded me of raspberry yoghurt, a bit too sweet for me but enjoyable and refreshing none the least.

Roast nectarine, amaretto cream, shortbread, burnt honey ice cream. I was pleasantly surprised when this dessert was brought out to me with a single candle and happy birthday written in chocolate sauce (R had discussed this before hand with the Jacksons staff). The burnt honey was deliciously cold and creamy in contrast to the warm roasted nectarine and yummy short bread, I preferred this dessert to the raspberry pudding but again, it was too sweet for me, R who loves honey really liked this one though. I don’t know why but I don’t think I can take really sweet desserts anymore.

We ended with my new favourite beverage, coffees and little cups of tiramisu which were lovely but just about topped it off for my bursting stomach. The service throughout the nice was exceptional, discreet and polite. We hardly noticed the waitstaff but yet our glasses were constantly topped up, utensils deftly removed without a sound or whisper, perhaps the best service is invisible service.

What a venue for special moments and occasions. The chef impressed us with his French technique, fantastic use of Asian ingredients and hints of his English heritage. Every dish was well thought out and executed. Since we were both Asian, the use of Asian ingredients was both nolstagic and yet surprising because he paired Western and Asian so well and creatively that we had a taste of both the old and new, the best of both worlds perhaps?

The dego, the sparklies, the handmade decorations, candlelit desserts, pink and creams etc. etc. completely bowled me over. But it was the funny and crazy forgotten wallet moments, rushing through the streets of Perth close to midnight, sharing and dissecting each Jackson creation that it all the more special. Thanks R (^_^).

Daitaoha ratings:

Disclaimer: I have to admit, not all Jackson’s dishes gave me a flower and stars moment, for example the desserts weren’t that spectacular, but overall, it was the best foodie experience I’ve ever had in Perth and I did have some flower and star moments, I would rate individual dishes a consistent 8 – 9 daitaohas for most of them.

Food: 9/10 daitaohas

Service: 8.5/10 daitaohas

Jacksons Restaurant
483 Beaufort St
Highgate, WA 6003
Tel: 9328 1177

February 2010
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