Thursday, 17 July 2014

A Birthday to Remember at Red Cabbage

What an experience (and a relief).  

I felt slightly under pressure when selecting a location to celebrate my husband's 30th birthday, as I wanted to make sure that it was a night to remember.  Red Cabbage had always been on our list of 'Restaurants to Do', so I thought it was worth a shot. I booked us in for a romantic degustation with matched wines and crossed my fingers that it would live up to the occasion.

As soon as we walked through the doors, I relaxed slightly.  The striking feature wall and subtle lighting set the scene perfectly and the welcoming staff quickly made us feel warm and comfortable on such a chilly evening.

Red Cabbage Feature Wall
It was a toss up for me whether or not to have a pre-dinner drink.  I had an early start the next morning and I needed to be on the ball, but at the same time, it was a 30th birthday, and such milestones do not come up every day! I am very glad I crumbled, as the 2013 Singlefile Chardonnay was just gorgeous. 

Singlefile is a winery down in Denmark (Western Australia, not Europe) and on the trip I have made down there, we sadly did not make it there.  I will not make the same mistake next time! Being a cool-climate chardonnay, I found an abundance of citrus and stone fruit flavours on the nose but it was the excellent balance of oaked creaminess on the palate that won me over.

Our palate cleanser was presented impecably. It was a combination of pink grapefruit, ginger and ginger liqueur, with a champagne foam. This bite size morsel really set the scene for the evening, signifying to us that the we were in store for some unique flavours and authentic wine pairings.

Palate Cleanser
Next up was an Amusee-Bouche of salmon pastrami with pickled vegetables, paired with a Verdejo from the Rueda region in Spain. It was only recently, when conducting some background research, that I realised Verdejo is not the same grape variety as Verdelho. The wine was very aromatic and lightly creamy, similar in style to my earlier encounter with the style whilst enjoying Perfect Pinchos. For any of you who think Verdejo is only good for making sherry, I challenge you to give it a second chance: some of the imported examples floating around in Australian bars might just change your mind. 

The salmon pastrami was a clever take on the usually red meat based pastrami and the piquant bite from the expertly prepared pickled vegetables was the perfect offset. The wine seemed to slide seemlessly between these two taste sensations, bringing cohesion and freshness to the dish.

By entree, our expectations were definitely high, but the plump, juicy scallop served with charred corn and avocado puree went above and beyond. This was paired with the Xabregas Artisan Riesling (2011), which I found to be a very smart match.  The charcoal hint from the corn played up the slightly smoky riesling notes. 

The artisan range provides the team at this family-owned Mt Barker estate with an outlet for more technical challenges to enhance the wines, with this riesling having undergone extensive lees work. Honestly though, the scallop was so perfectly cooked that I would have been happy to eat it all by itself!

La Spinetta Vermentino from Tuscany was paired with white fish and 'other stuff' (including truffles).  This dish was less memorable for me than some others throughout the evening.  I do love a good Vermentino and this one delivered the required crispness alongside some interesting herbal tones, however it was not something I felt stood out in amongst the rainbow of colours, flavours and aromas I experienced throughout the evening.

Second Course
For mains, we were offered a choice between a fish and lamb dish. I was ridiculously torn because everything else so far had been 'white' - both meat and wines. In the end, however, it was really the fact that the fish was to be paired with a Marchand & Burch Chablis that swayed me. I am making a concerted effort at the moment to expose myself to as much French style wine as possible, as I am much more familiar with the wines of Italy and Spain than of France and this was a perfect opportunity.

To give you some context, the Marchand and Burch label is a joint venture between friends Pascal Marchand (Burgundy) and Jeff Burch (Western Australia). I have noticed this 'joint venture' style of winemaking popping up in a few instances around Australia over the last few years and I am all for combining tradition, technique and culture to get the best of both worlds! I found a concise and informative summary of this wine and its winemakers here, if you are interested to learn more about their project. 

And in regards to what I thought of the wine? It had all the chalky minerality and citrus fruit I was searching for to stand up to the luxurious puree and beautiful squid ribbons that enhanced the confit style of the dish.

Main Course
Ever had a cheese course? I have definitely had a cheese platter as a dessert alternative, but never a cheese course. I certainly was not complaining though, especially when I discovered that the pairing was a Normandy cider.  I have been all for the lean French and Spanish cider styles (more wine-like, less sweet and bubbly) ever since visiting The Basque Cider Museum in Astigarraga, a small town outside of San Sebastian, which is the heartland of traditional Spanish 'sidra' production.

This was by far my favourite course of the evening, primarily due to the clever use of textures and contrasts.  There was a stunning cheese biscuit crumb that was perfectly offset by a blue cheese that I would almost be willing to die for.  The creamy sorbet could have tipped the dish over the edge in terms of the overall 'dairy' perception, but the Normandy cider was there to add the required splash of acid to cut through all this cheesy goodness.

Cheese Course (or I prefer to say 'First Dessert')
After that, we were certainly in need of another palate cleanser, which promptly arrived, in all its bright red glory.  Unfortunately, I found the rhubarb sorbet too sweet for my taste, especially on the back of a cider (however dry). I can imagine many people with a sweeter tooth than I would have been quite content.

Sweet Surprise ('Second Dessert')
It was a lovely touch that the chef had written a Happy Birthday message on the man of the moment's final course.  I have honestly never seen a beer served with dessert, especially an ale, but I guess there is a first time for everything.  The dessert was essentially a peanut semi-freddo ('parfait'), interspersed with salted caramel and coated in a gooey chocolate sauce.  

The beer: Brooklyn Brown Ale.  Once again, the bitter mocha of the beer was a perfect counterbalance to the sweet and salty elements on the plate. I can see why Brooklyn Brewery claim this beer is 'one of the most popular in the Northeast' of America.

'Third' Dessert
At the end of the evening, I could definitely breathe a big sigh of not only relief, but also satiation. What a classy establishment! It definitely lives up to its reputation as one of Perth's best! I would whole-heartedly recommend that a visit to Red Cabbage should be high up on your Perth Restaurant bucket list.  Consider it for your next special occasion.

Birthday Boy