Oysters with Pickled Ginger Granita ($3.80 each) + Seared Scallops ($14)
Braised Lamb Neck ($25)
Soft Polenta w/ Wild Mushrooms, Tomato Essence Confit & Cherry Tomatoes ($17)
Sirloin Steak ($25)
Crispy Skin Trout ($25)
Sneaky shot of my chef friend – she’s going to kill me
Creme Brulee with Salted Caramel Ice Cream & Pistachio ($12)
Coconut and Lychee Eaton Mess ($12)
The Coconut and Lychee Eaton Mess ($12) + Vanilla Pannacotta ($12)
Shots from my iPhone – couldn’t resist, my friends and my partner are beautiful
Cnr of Smart Street & The Crescent,
I’ve been excited to try out James’ Bistro ever since I heard about their launch back in September. I remember sending a message to Danny announcing the exciting news and demanding we try it. He replied with ‘soon’. This killed me because I don’t know what Danny’s ‘soon’ meant so I came up with another plan. I announced it to my best friend (who happens to be an apprentice chef, which means she makes the perfect dining companion) and we made plans to dine there as soon as she got her ass back to the South-West. This might explain how I ended up at James’ Bistro twice in one week.
The first time was with Danny on the last day of our Labor long-weekend. Despite the 10% surcharge, we decided to give it a try anyway because the menu was exciting for Fairfield and we didn’t have to wait 20 minutes for a seat (we had originally put our names down on the Green Peppercorn waiting list…sorry dudes, I lied, I said my name was Jenny). James’ Bistro is located on the corner of Smart St and The Crescent and is conveniently (sort of) across the road from the station. Before I begin – I must say that I am going to brutally honest in this post. I’m kissing nobody’s ass.
On this particular visit we started off with the Seared Scallops ($14) for entree and I decided to go with the Pork Belly ($23) while Danny ordered the Braised Lamb Neck ($25) for our mains. The scallops were tender and cooked to perfection. It was served with Cauliflower Puree and Compressed Nashi Pear and topped with my all time favourite – pork crackling. The combination of flavours really gets the tastebuds excited – definitely one of our favourite dishes of the night.
I found my main little dry and I felt that there wasn’t enough compressed apples. I find pork belly best served with something sweet and although the apples were, there wasn’t enough. Danny on the other hand thoroughly enjoyed his lamb neck by the looks of his plate. He pretty much demolished the whole thing and even announced that he was full at the end of it. I had a little taste and the meat was tender and beautifully cooked. The quinoa topping was creative and gave the dish a nice little crunch. The lamb was served with a smoked eggplant puree and almond milk and pomegranate jus. I was a bit worried for Danny, the flavour combo was a little too…’exotic’ for him, but he enjoyed it!
We were both pretty full by the end but I could not say no to dessert. I knew what I wanted, but I asked for the menu anyway. We ordered the Coconut and Lychee Eaton Mess ($12) and let me tell you it stole the show that night. The ‘mess’ was a combination of Lychee Sorbet, Coconut Cream, Coconut Flavoured Meringue, Fresh Coconut Slices with cubes of Lychee Jelly and Crushed Pistachios. I almost shed a tear at the presentation. Beautifully presented food makes Soth happy. We dug in straight away and we were both particularly impressed with the flavours of the sorbet. The lychee jelly and fresh coconut kept the dessert fresh and the pistachios gave it a nice crunch.
I returned on the following Thursday as an experienced diner and even made suggestions to my friends from the menu (as if I knew what I was talking about). I had four of my closest girlfriends with me and I warned them about the Pork Belly (sorry James’ Bistro, I really didn’t like it). We started our night off with a shared entree of Fresh Rock oysters with Pink Ginger Granita ($3.80 each) and the Seared Scallops ($14). The oysters were so good I wished I ordered more than one and the seared scallops were as yummy as I last remembered. One of my friends wasn’t a fan though and thought the scallops were too thin.
For main my chef friend, being the typical foodie ordered the Braised Lamb Neck (probably cos it said almond milk and pomegranate jus and it got her excited) and the other two ordered the Sirloin Steak with Glazed Carrots, Caramelised Onion Puree and Chips ($25). My vegetarian friend ordered the only vegetarian option available - Soft Polenta and Wild Mushroom with Tomato Essence Confit & Cherry Tomatoes ($17) and I had the Crispy Skin Ocean Trout with Baby Leeks, Fennel Salad and Fennel Puree.
I enjoyed my main a lot more than last time but found my fish a little bland. The skin was the best part – crispy and salty as it promised on the menu (yum sodium) and the fennel salad had a bit of zing to it which complimented the fish well. My friends all thought their dishes needed a little bit more something. The steak was nicely cooked (“better than HUX’s” one said) but the chips were a little too dry for their liking. The polenta dish again was a little bland for my vegetarian friend but she loved how well the polenta was cooked (“ooo it’s fluffy”).
Dessert again stole the show that night, this time I got to try all three. The Coconut and Lychee Eaton Mess is still my favourite dessert with the Vanilla Pannacotta with Raspberry Gel and Pistachio Crumble ($12) coming in close second. The Creme Brulee with Salted Caramel Ice Cream & Pistachio ($12) was beautiful too but it’s the kind of dessert I get sick of easily so it’s last on my list.
A special thanks to the Kim, the Head Chef who gave us an a free Creme Brulee and answered my question about who was singing the song playing in the background. I apologise for being so loud and probably overstaying our welcome.