Saturday, 22 October 2011

Afternoon Delight: Petite Mort

First up: I am going to try and blog about Petite Mort without including any sexy euphemisms. If I do my job properly then "Afternoon Delight" will be the only smutty pun today. It's not easy though and perhaps that is what the owners intended when they chose the name. I have taken to calling it "Petite Mort restaurant" when talking or writing about it because otherwise it sounds a bit naughty when you say:

"I'm going to Petite Mort tomorrow" or

"Getting excited about Petite Mort" or

"This'll be my first time to get to Petite Mort".

How very dare you, indeed?!

As I have mentioned before, the restaurant is a very walkable 2 minutes from where I live. My partner was on holidays from work and I had decided to take a half-day. Having read in the local rag that Petite Mort were now doing a lunch-time special ($49 for 3 courses plus a glass of sparkling wine), I decided to take a punt and call them on the Thursday evening to see if I could make a booking. I was so prepared to be let down that I didn't even listen to the person on the other end of the phone properly and was saying "Oh, you're fully booked?" just as she was saying "What time would you like to come in?"

When we arrived it was quiet. There were plenty of empty tables and the majority of these filled up while we were there but there were still a couple of tables available which makes me think that if you want to try out this restaurant, lunch-time is a better bet than the evenings.

We had a table by the window, looking out onto busy Onslow Road and Bloomsbury Antiques (one of my favourite shops) across the street.

The waiter brought us menus and explained that we could simply order or we could have the lunch special. We said that it was the lunch special that we had come for so she indicated the list of dishes on the menu and explained that we could choose one dish listed above the chicken galantine and one dish listed below. After this she would bring us the dessert menu and we could choose one dish from there. 

Our glasses of generic sparkling white arrived. It was too citrusy a sparkling for my taste but otherwise acceptable to nurse as a single glass through lunch. I did wish that we had the time to order a bottle of something so that we could have the wine-list brought to us because the wine list is on a iPad and each table gets one. I rather fancied a play to see if it made a difference to a printed wine list. Oh, well. Next time.

Feeling a bit whimsical, I decided to theme my two savoury choices around duck. Duck liver parfait with brioche and rhubarb and then duck breast, apple ravioli, blood orange and liquorice. My partner, less whimsical than I, chose the seared scallops, herb pistou and spring vegetables to begin with and then decided on the potato-wrapped barramundi with pea puree and a quail egg.

The service was good although perhaps the young waiter needed to maybe not lean in quite so close while explaining what was going on on each plate. The first dish arrived promptly and was accompanied with a warm mini brioche for each of us plus a little serve of salted butter.

The brioche was beautifully done - crumbly yet melting and delicately sweet. I was glad that I had extra brioche with my duck parfait. It came presented on a skewer in little rounds and was decorated with potato crisps, thin slivers of warm radish and pea fronds. For myself I could have wished for the parfait to be a little more seasoned to really bring out the taste of the duck but the rhubarb proved to be the key to making this happen and this dollop of bright pink sour delight was, for me, the best thing on the plate.

My partner's scallops were fat and juicy - just set with a caramel-coloured char on the edge. They sat a-top a pile of vegetable pieces which were bathed in the pistou broth. A swirl of pea-frond completed the effect. The taste was pronounced as good as the aesthetics.

The palate-cleanser that appeared between dishes on cold dessert spoons was a surprise and delighted both eyes and taste-buds. Not being on the menu, I didn't catch exactly what was in it, but I am fairly sure it was grapefruit sorbet, watermelon gel and a tiny slice of mango. It did the trick admirably and we were ready for whatever came next. 

The waiter was at pains to point out that there was no such thing in this restaurant as entree or mains, but when they next dishes came out, that's how I thought of them. Sorry.

My duck breast was the tour de force that stayed in my mind for the rest of the weekend.  I know that when I go back to Petite Mort in the future, I will be facing the horrible dilemma or trying something new or going back to something that is so good that I couldn't not order it.

I had two succulent pieces of roast duck. They were stacked on a single apple ravioli and around the whole was swirled a blood-orange syrup and tiny green splinters of fresh liquorice root. There were toffee macadamias scattered over the dish. It was one of those taste sensations that you cannot conceptualise on your own and probably couldn't recreate in your kitchen at home. Magnificent. Petite Mort, you earned your name with this creation. It was phenomenal.

My partner tells me that his fish was also excellent. He had a decent sized chunk of barra with a thin potato-wrap around it that looked just like filo-pastry. He had a streak of pea-puree on his slab (I'm not wild about the whole slab-phenomena but am willing to overlook it when the food is good) which was punctuated at intervals with fresh peas and radish as well as macadamias.

Having exclaimed over the 'mains', it was almost too much to be asked to contemplate the dessert menu but we managed...

Eton Mess for my partner, bavarois for me.

The Eton Mess came on a slab again. This time, my partner did say that it was hard to enjoy the dessert as much as one could when every movement of your spoon threatened to push some onto the table cloth. When dealing with cream and ice-cream and sorbet, a bowl tends to be a good idea. That said, the ice-cream was beautifully vanilla and the sorbet was an elegant milk. There were little toasted meringue throughout and a scattering of fresh strawberry pieces and a couple of streaks of strawberry puree.

The bavarois was burnt caramel and came with 'chocolate soil' and pieces of frozen banana. Almost a year after Cyclone Yasi wiped out the QLD banana crops, I still feel decadent whenever eating banana. The waiter brought a little jug and around the bavarois he poured cold white chocolate whiskey soup. Heavenly, heavenly combination of white chocolate and whiskey. It was almost Christmassy!

The coffees that we finished with were good but quite the anticlimax after all the heightened taste sensations that had preceded them. 

We had appointments to go to in the afternoon so when we had finished we got up and went to the counter to pay. As we were handing over the ol' Visa card, the waiter arrived with some petites fours. We had been in too much of a hurry to leave, evidently. So we walked out of the restaurant munching a tiny madeleine, a delicate cocoa truffle and a miniature chocolate macaron with passionfruit filling and no photographs of any of them!

The whole lunch, with sparkling water and coffees at the end, cost us $115 and, let's face it, you're not going to get a much better deal for this quality of food at many places in Perth.

Currently Petite Mort opens for dinner in the evenings from Tuesday to Sunday and I'm told that it is pretty difficult to get a booking. However, they only open for lunch on  Fridays between 12-2pm and, for a chance to sample the menu, this option is recommended.

We will definitely return for a special occasion to try the other dishes and to play with the iPads.