Beef Appreciation & Beef Pies: Marty’s Gourmet, Willetton and Jean Pierre Sancho, St Georges Terrace

The beef pie I had from Marty’s Gourmet was one of the best pies I’ve had this year. On second thoughts given most pies I’ve had have been the reheated frozen kind, a voice, of my subconscious in some American accent I’ve dreamt up, yells out: ‘that’s no yardstick!’

This pie was certainly better than a Four ’n’ Twenty.

It was a pie that could’ve worn proudly a badge reading​ ‘Grandma’s recipe’ or ‘like Grandma used to make’. For any aliens reading this, firstly I’m honoured you’ve stopped by my blog—I’m totally pro-extraterrestrial, in case you were wondering. Secondly, it’s kind of universally understood on our planet that Grandma’s or grandma-level something means amazingly-good. I feel compelled to add to that previous sentence: where baking’s concerned. Not if you’re talking computers. 

Grandmas are good at pie-making. That’s what the stereotypes tell me. Grannies have carved out a reputation for beautiful baking, and isn’t it just the most comforting imagery that comes to mind at the thought? I think hot goods seconds out of the oven and wondrous aromas wafting through the house. I think apple pies, luscious savouries, bellies finding themselves back in the kitchen right after a main meal. I think hot Milos with marshmallows on top. I think contented chatter amidst a backing of the songs playing on Curtin FM 100.1. I think cake crumbs, the only trace left of dessert.

I think it’s a great stereotype. I love the idea. 

I had ended up at Marty’s as I’d been feeling very under the weather. I had made a visit to the doctor’s, right across from the café. Rest and recuperation had unsurprisingly been in the dicta of the doctor’s orders and I’d decided that a pie for lunch might be a great start to meeting that second ‘r’. Wait what am I saying? The pie just looked so very tempting I was like a bee to honey.

The pie arrived. I sat there appreciating the creation in front of me. The elements of a pie and sauce were simple and inviting. 

With the hesitation of a kid at the cinema deciding between a popcorn upsize and an extra large frozen Coke, and eventually going for a pack of Smarties, I cut open the top.

Hidden under that golden pastry was a steaming filling with actual chunks of beef. Manageable, large, hack-sawed pieces of beef. Like pieces originally part of a giant slab of economy beef you’d buy at a place like Spudshed, glowing with unabashed pride at the bargain scored, only to spend a good hour at home, armed with a cleaver, splashing yourself with beef blood, in a mangled attempt to get even, mandibular-ly-agreeable portions, all the while keeping admirable goals of awesome chunky beef dishes in mind. 

A lot to swallow? I’d agree.

The beef sat in a highly viscous sauce, a rich peppery concoction smacking of garlic, onion, a generous splashing of the Worcestershire, gravy cubes—best guess, there was salt from something, and a fair shake of the tomato sauce bottle (a phrase that reminds me of the former Prime Minister responsible for bamboozling us with that beauty: ‘detailed programmatic specificity’). 

The sauce was thick, and held together without soaking through the pastry bottom. 

The crust was a good puff pastry, cooked ’til golden, flakey, and soft. With the chunky beef,  sauce and puffy pastry, let me say this was amazing.

And here she is:

I also went with a mocha; it was so-so. The pie and mocha came to $10.30. 

My journey into pies continued two mornings later. I was running late on my clock—early in another universe, of course—and I was running on empty. I needed a coffee. Spying a coffee and pie deal for $9.95, I stopped and convinced myself I could do with an expensive coffee $9.95, and a bonus pie. 

The pie had employed unscrupulous tactics to make its way into my life. It had coupled itself with coffee. It knew that, like pastry, resistance​ would crumble. 

It was a pie loaded with a free serve of denial and I had lost the fight.

I sculled the coffee; JP’s do a great one. Pie in hand, I finally arrived at my desk. I went to zap my now not-extra-hot-but-still-hot pie.

‘Morning!’ came the unfamiliar voice of a man in a crisp blue uniform. He was from the other Division. The communal kitchen had a not-so-uncanny way of bringing people together and forcing conversation. 

‘Hey there, morning,’ I said doing an awkward shuffle past him, hoping I wouldn’t stack myself and send the pie flying. I seem to have greater than average odds when it comes to dropping things, which in my plentiful experience generally makes awkward​ situations worse. Stepping into the small kitchen had increased​ my odds.

‘What’s that? Early lunch?’ he said reaching for the milk. I noticed the tomato sauce in the fridge behind him. It might as well have been unobtainium.

‘Nah, just a snack,’ I said with a twinge of immediate regret. He was having a cuppa and a muesli bar like a normal person. I’d already finished a coffee and I was preparing to stuff my face with pie.

‘You can’t have snacks without bringing us all some!’ he exclaimed with a hearty smile.  

The beeping of the microwave, the half-awkward laughter where I managed to squeeze in a ‘yeah’, ‘sure’, ‘cool’ and multiple other filler words was the rest of our conversation. By the powers of the small kitchen, there will hopefully be future opportunities to undo this trainwreck of a ‘hello’.

For now, it was time to test out this pie.

They had included the complimentary, non-obligatory salad element. Mesclun, straight out of the Woolies pre-packs. It was a nice touch.

Inside the pie was a saucy mince meat that had a more commercial gravy taste to it. I would be mincing my words if I said this wasn’t good and I didn’t enjoy it as much as I did. The pie was very juicy. It made for a very moist experience, and I was sure it wasn’t the microwaving that had done it. I’d picked it up prior and still it had felt like a frail beast. The pastry​ was more a shortcrust than a puff. It was awfully soft. It was also very yellow.

Who reigns supreme? Both were tasty pies. One was just beautiful and chunky and delicious. The Marty’s Pie takes this round.

Taste verdict Pleasing pies aplenty.
1: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
2: ⭐⭐⭐

**

In the midst of composing the above, in the wee hours of the morning, I had this paragraph on beef chunks. I was thinking about the chunky beef in the Marty’s pie and my thoughts meandered, in and out, and over and over, on the whys of beef as a product of deliciousness. (And no, while it would have been a nice excuse for staying up to write prose about beef, I hadn’t been drinking).

Beef, of all types, is wonderful. 

Tearing through it is animalistic and raw. 

Cathartic on a primal level.

Ravenous and impatient are those awaiting steak on the barbie.

Understandably awake and discontent is the bloke who had only salad for dinner.

Voracious are the appetites red meat inspires. 

Flesh makes lions of us all, bringing out pure instinct at the sight. 

It’s evidence​ that maybe we’re all just animals. Well, animals in clothes.

Beef isn’t elitist.

Wagyu, marbled, aged, Porterhouse are desirable attributes​. But in the realm of pies, stews, and everything saucy, it’s chunky beef all the way.

Chunky beef reminds you that you’re not eating beef that’s been stitched together. Or minced to the point of no return. Or that bears a label with its percentage of beef content, because clearly that was considered necessary.

Forgive the beef spiel.

I’m an omnivore with hardcore carnivorous tendencies. 

I’m chewing on starting my own Beef Appreciation Society.

**

enchirist 2018

Softshell Crab, Wagyu Steak, and Sticky Date Pudding at the Grand Bar and Bistro, CBD St Georges Terrace

The EoFY lunch at the Grand Bar and Bistro came up awfully fast. There was the whole lead up to it: the planning, the phonecalls, the visits, the background to get everything in order for the day and then it was finally here. Overall, it turned out well. 

I had for entrée the softshell crab, for main the Wagyu streak, and for dessert sticky date pudding.

The softshell crab was crispy on the outside and moreish on the inside. With the mayo and a seaweed salad, this was a great tasting Japanese-inspired dish that had the elements down pat. It was a generous serving by comparison to the other entrees at the table. 

The only complaint: it was cold. 

For context, the service was lovely but unfortunately slow.

The entrées came out with some confusion​. Entrees were matched to names rather than tables, which meant extra work for the waitstaff finding who was sat where in a mad scramble as the dishes made it to the service counter. At one point there was a string of five or six dishes on the countertop awaiting direction as to which table they should be sent.

They cottoned on to as much, and for mains decided to bring around the options and ask tables for numbers of takers.

As we soon found, this too proved problematic. All dishes had been pre-ordered against names and the billing for meals set accordingly.

What wasn’t factored in was people being people. When the waitstaff brought around the mains, several from our party forgot what they had ordered, decided to eat what they hadn’t ordered, or simply took someone else’s meal—with no harm intended I thoroughly appreciate, but perhaps also with blissful ignorance of what this meant for others. 

The end result was wasted paid-for dishes, the kitchen having to conjure up replacement dishes, and, needless to say, long waiting times and cold mains.

All that said, my main course when it arrived was cooked beautifully. My blue steak was a raging dish; it showed off a deep purple inside and a scorched outer crust. Justice had been done to the Wagyu. It was tender, juicy, full-flavoured, and left as natural as possible. The beef was bloody good. This blue steak was a textbook example of less is more and letting ingredients speak for themselves. Being the only blue steak order in our party, I really had been spoilt.  

The sides of carrot and potato added to the appeal of the dish and were favourably warm. The medley of potato was particularly delicious; crispy potato atopped more mashed counterparts and was layered with butter and cheese. As I sliced through the beef, piling on the carrot puree, and the potato, enjoyment on a plate was all I could think of.

Writing this up now I feel incredibly lucky and fortunate to have in my life wonderful days and times and food. Good times such as this. It’s embarrassing that hashtags instead of reasonable prose come to mind thinking of how I might put it into words. I suppose I could say that if, perchance, I were part of the uber hip, Gen Y Twitter crowd, I’d be all over the tags: #blessed, #thankful, #Aussie and #luckycountry. Seriously though, good and great times put the less-good patches into perspective. 

Two courses down and things were now back on track for dessert.

I had the sticky date pudding. It was aesthetically​ beautiful. That’s where my praise for this dish ended. The sticky date pudding was very cakey. It was mild in a flavour I couldn’t pinpoint—sticky date related, maybe, but not dates. If there were real dates somewhere on this dish they must’ve been miniscule amounts, or completely pureed away into the sauce and cake. To the palate it was a sweet sauce on a sponge. The addition of an ordinary vanilla ice-cream, that was melting from the heat of the plate evidently lifted right out of the dishwasher, pulled no punches. The caustic taste of unincorporated baking soda as I bit into the bottom of the pudding underscored everything wrong with the dish. Perhaps it’d just been my sticky date pudding; it was the most popular dessert had on the day and I did hear later that others liked theirs. The lack of actual date content, now that can’t have been a one-off.

All in all, it worked out. 

On the food, my entree and main were fabulous, the main in particular. 

The process for service does need work. The staff were great with us and made a real effort to make things work despite the initial confusion. The management were accommodating with our requirements for the function. I’d not hesitate to get in contact again. 

The Grand has a great space. It has a large enough restaurant area and the space carries a certain intimacy about it. Courtesy of the dark and neutral tones throughout the restaurant, closely placed seating, and the use of largely ambient lighting, the space is personal and cosy, more dine and wine than grub and pub. The venue would work nicely for a smaller function.

Considering everything I think it went pretty darned well overall. 

Taste verdict What can I say on the food? I’ll leave it at the beef was most agreeable.

⭐⭐⭐

Summer Sunset Burger at Grill’d, Brookfield Place

I can’t be the only person to pronounce Grill’d as ‘Grill D’ can I? It’s the pronunciation that I thought of the first time I saw the name of the burger chain and every time since then. I’m not sure why. ‘Grill D’ just seems right. Earlier this week, my obviously strange pronunciation made for a very amusing discussion with a colleague. Humour and a sprinkling of embarrassment came part and parcel, naturally. 

I have since decided to go with it. Where opportune, I’ll include it in conversation with nonchalence. Will more people notice? Time will tell on this little social experiment. 

Grill’d, as it happens, is currently running a promo for the World Cup. Every time the Socceroos score a goal, that’s one free drink with a purchase banked if you’re signed up to the offer. Not bad at all. 

Lunch at Grill’d was decided. I ordered the Summer Sunset ‘Grass fed lean beef, avocado, crispy bacon, charred pineapple, salad, relish & herbed mayo’ for $14, and of course scored my free drink. The drink is any from their chiller. I grabbed a lime bitters.

There was hardly a wait once they’d managed to sort the troubled cash register. 

The first thing I noticed when the burger arrived was how solid it was. The bread bun and ingredients were compact and robust. I kid you not, this burger was assembled with a remarkable level of structural integrity. In all the burgers I’ve had this year, I haven’t had the pleasure of seeing such an exhibition. You could say I was more than impressed.

Tastewise, I couldn’t really have asked for more for the price. The seeded bun was a good quality bread. There was an abundance of fresh avocado and salad in every bite. The pineapple was a juicy addition. The patty was well-salted and grilled. The sauces were adequate. The entire offering was a thoughtful construction. It was simplicity executed well.

The venue was hip enough for the office crowd, cool enough for the cool cats, and loud enough to make lunch lively. The noise was good, a change from the staleness of the quiet office.

Expectation vs Reality: It did look fairly similar to the advertised picture… 

This burger exceeded expectations by a long shot. Grill’d grills a great burger. I’ll be back.

Taste verdict A burger place that is kicking goals.

⭐⭐⭐⭐

Mojo’s Burger and Salt & Pepper Fried Squid at Mojo’s Restaurant, Bunbury

I perused the menu and decided to go for the burger this place had the confidence to put its name to: Mojo’s Burger a ‘local beef patty, lettuce, cucumber, aioli, pickled cucumber’ with a side of ‘hand cut chips’ for $22. 

The phrase ‘hand cut chips’ caught my attention.

Is the specific method utilised to arrive at chips, ‘cut’ chips, from the humble potato a feature worth denouncing in the modern world?

My knowledge on chip cutting methods is admittedly limited. For all I know, there exists a plethora of methods, a range of ways, to achieve the chip. Is ‘hand cut’ a preferred approach? Can a subject expert chip in? At the very least, I suppose ‘hand cut’ is an acceptable method. 

I mean in the alternative there are certainly a million more questionable or downright unacceptable methods. 

Foot cut chips—eww. 

Uncut chips—is an uncut chip a mere potato? 

Santa Claus-cut chips—because this would be an indication of something amiss in the Northpole. It would only birth a snowstorm of questions. Why would Santa have been relegated to the relatively menial task of splitting potatoes, whether by hand or not? Elves revolting? Issues with upper-management? Misaligned organisational goals and priorities? World happiness through gift-giving decried as an outcome unachievable? Percentage of ‘believers’ at an all time low? Boy, I could go on. You get the picture. Santa Claus-cut chips would be all manner of outrageous.

For simplicity’s sake, I’ll assume Mojo’s menu drew attention to the hand cut aspect to rebut, from the outset, any presumption of these being machine cut chips. Because machine cut—while wonderfully engineered for efficiency, and a feat from that point of view—is rather unpreferred from a middle-class dining perspective. I refer of course to connotations, rife attitudes within the populace, that serving up cookie-cutter chips means cheaper, boring and flavourless, lowbrow. Should we really be judging chips on how they are cut? 

While this spiel possibly suggests that I hold some passion about the matter, I can confirm that I do. Where the method of chip cutting is concerned that passion is my declaring ambivalence. I’ll happily stomach all and any of the acceptable methods. 

Mankind advances on many fronts. Indiscriminate and far-reaching are the impacts of technology.  It’s commendable. Technology even impacts the all-important Realm of Potato Chips—now this, I wouldn’t have thunk. There’s comfort also in knowing that the only thing being completely uprooted by technology as far as potato chips are concerned are potatoes. Clearly not the practice of cutting chips by hand.

Machine cut or hand cut, dissected potatoes better be worth their salt. 

Chips just better be bloody tasty. 

And so, the burger arrived looking hot and the perfect plate for a cold evening. 

Here we have the stabbed beast and the decidedly hand cut chips. 

The bun was a shiny, sesame seed one. Lovely and soft, toast marks apparent. Unlike the last burger named after its joint I had, this bun was as it should be: fresh and unstale. 

Inside was a heap of meat, sauce, and onions. I realise on writing this now that the lettuce and tomato this was stated to have were non-existent. Dammit, meat-heavy I expressed at the time but it hadn’t registered back to their menu. Oh well. It came with a large patty and crispy bacon. (Bacon for brekky and for dinner was making the day amazing.)

The thick meat patty held its juices. Together with the layered on bacon, and a sizeable portion of very wilted down, fried barbeque-flavoured onions, it was a substantial lot. Joyous to bite through. Flavours of the meaty heap jumped out, violently hitting the palate with enthusiasm and chutzpah. Yum. 

The burger​ was so good. It could have done with the salad elements.

The hand cut chips were good. Better than those I’ve had of late. Perhaps I need to revisit the subject. Perhaps hand cut connotes more than the method: a description of the layer of care applied, the time spent on sculpting perfection… 

We had the ‘salt and pepper spiced squid’ with tartar sauce, $16, as a shareplate. The soft, lightly-battered deep-fried squid tasted delicious. They were the type you’d order a stackload of, munch on, then wonder where it’d all disappeared to. Dipped in the sauce, the squid was a winner.

Taste verdict Great burger. One of the best ones I’ve had this year. Great hand cut chips. Great squid. 

⭐⭐⭐⭐

3 Courses (Gnocchi, Beef Steak, Pannacotta) at Amano Restaurant, Elizabeth Quay

This was an experience I’m going to remember for a long time yet. Like a Myer sale, it scarred the hip pocket. The invitation to treat was the devil’s work. The devil’s got a good knack for enticing people to eat things. Eve, after today I totally get it. Apple of your eye, it appeared didn’t it? I get it. Thankfully, unlike a Myer sale, the pleasure measured up to its cost. Well, in tasty kilojoules. The Mother’s Day outing that I’d planned a week prior, triumphed at bagsying a table, and been hinting at all week, had come through with flying colours. The food was delicious. The location on the Quay was just fantastic. Mother’s Day was made amazing. On another note, I am also now the favourite child.

Amano Restaurant does Italian and Modern Australian cuisine. The four of us each took something different and between us covered a fair bit of their menu.

Being an Italian place, trying pasta dishes was a must.

I went the Gnocchi Giardino for $29 ‘served with aged parmesan, pecorina, ricotta, salata, pea puree, sugar snap, basil cured tomato petals’. Delicate, soft cylinders had been lifted from a sauce, that had kept them moist and flavourful, and mixed through the garden of greens. Not being a fan of a pungent cheese smell I was slightly apprehensive about the addition of parmesan. Any notion of the former was promptly eviscerated on tucking into this dish. This was light and fresh, creative and clean. It made sense.

The parents had good feedback about the squid ink tortellini and seafood fettuccine. The brother’s lamb papadelle won best entree. Served steaming, it was packed full of flavour. The bit I tasted gave me a pang of food envy.

For main course, I took the Bistecca Al Ferri for $42, ‘wagyu beef chargrilled served with potato fondant, pumpkin puree, wild fungi, fermented garlic jus’. It was a highbrow, cheffy take on the classic steak and mash. The beef was tender and perfectly rare as ordered. The barbeque-y notes from its chargrilled exterior added sophistication. The potato fondant was smooth and buttery. The wild fungi was an interesting, thin-textured element that melded into the other items on the plate. The dish was a thoughtful, clever reinvention.

Our table’s other mains, lamb shank, kangaroo loin, and pork belly, were mostly received well. Our waiter had made specific mention of the pork belly’s crispy skin; it was not crispy. Disappointing, and of the dishes, the least impressive today.

The third course was a pannacotta ‘served with summer berry coulis, Persian fairy floss and sorbet’ for $14. The pannacotta was creamy and and the sorbet refreshingly sour. The fairy floss was a smart textural element that also introduced a mild sweetness to the dessert. This, the sorbetto and the affogato we ordered were a fitting finish to lunch.

One and a quarter hours after the feasting had begun, we departed satiated and very satisfied. The food had been great. Hidden gem you are now just a gem, fortunately.

Taste verdict Dining that was perfect for Mothers Day.

⭐⭐⭐⭐