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

Afghani Chicken, Lamb Kebab, Butter Chicken, Royal Goat and Other Curries at Citrus Indian Restaurant, Leeming

Sunday night dinner was at a local Indian place I’d been wanting to try for a while: Citrus Indian Restaurant.

Complimentary papadums, $2, arrived. They came warm with a mild, onion chutney. 

It wasn’t a busy night. Out of the kitchen came food for the two tables before us and a few UberEats orders.

An hour later, the entrées, two sizzling plates, arrived in smoking hot style. 

The Afghani chicken, ‘chicken fillets marinated in mild spices of saffron, lemon juice, garlic, smoke roasted in a tandoor’, $16, was a highlight. Tender chicken thigh had been beautifully grilled, keeping the moisture. It came with a cool mint yoghurt dipping sauce. Fragrant with lemon and the smokiness of the tandoor, it was a dish that excited then left you wanting more. And by more I mean like a big bucket of it. The Afghani chicken I crown winner of the night.

The lamb Seekh kebab ‘succulent lean lamb mince with cumin, fresh coriander, ginger, garlic spices on a skewer grilled on charcoals’, $16 was like a skinless, lamb sausage. Tasty, but ordinary.

Twenty minutes later came the main courses: two vegetarian curries, two meat curries, and one seafood curry.

Aloo mutter, ‘a refreshing potato and pea curry cooked with tomato and onion sauce’ $14, was a thinner curry, not mushy at all, and the vegetables cooked so they retained their shape. The strongest notes were of tomato. The tomato is the flavour I’d mutter about, favourably so, if asked.

Palak paneer, ‘paneer cooked with spinach, ginger, tomato and spices’ $16 was cheese done in a very visibly spinachy curry. The paneer were bocconcini-like in taste, but cubed, soft and light. Highly pleasant and frankly perfect rubbed in the green curry. It was a pity the portion of paneer was as paltry as it was. That is to say that because of the pure and piquent flavours exemplified by this dish, it was my pick for the particularly pleasing dish of the day. 

Butter chicken, I had to order: it’s the litmus test of a good Indian restaurant. The butter chicken ‘tender pieces of tandoori chicken tikka engulfed in an aromatic tomato cream sauce’, $18, was a thicker orange curry that was nice but presented like a Pataks base with a few spices. The curry was exceedingly mild, it was as if toned down to be acceptable to some wildly mistaken idea of the Western palate. What I can only imagine was a misguided attempt to make Indian flavours more palatable, presented as overzealous innocuity​ on a plate. 

As we travelled further down Citrus lane, it seemed unexciting and bland was a running theme. Where were the popping flavours of spices, fried and aromatic? Where was the chilli, or hints of chilli? The strong, knockout kick of aromatic spices? Did I mention the spices? Where was the part where I’d be in tears at how good the food was—or if I cared to admit because I’d not been able to handle the heat? There was a lot right but also a lot missing.

Royal Goat Curry ‘goat meat on the bone cooked with tomato, onion and aromatic spices’, $20 was a royal display of how to cook meat so it is tender but doesn’t fall of the bone. As alluded to just prior, the meat was in fact of an appropriate level of tenderness and, for what it’s worth, the meat did not fall off the bone. As a dish, it was again very tomato-y and again lacking in aromatics. It was suffering from the same unfounded repression as the butter chicken. Why were they subduing the spices? This was a goat curry, but it was unfortunately far from a G.O.A.T (that’s greatest of all time) curry.

Prawn malabar, ‘prawns cooked with fresh curry leaves and mustard seeds in a mild flavoured creamy sauce’ $24 was another adequate dish that  lacked the X Factor. Creamy coconut coated just-cooked prawns in a joyous combo of seafood and curry. It was another dish that could have stood on its own. Along with a bowl of steaming hot rice, this would have been a great dinner. The dish was good enough: had it been an act on the X Factor, it would made it through to the next round.

Steamed basmati rice and plain naan accompanied us on the Indian food safari. Both were like the sightseers who’d found no reason to leave the safari van: they stayed nice and comfortable and safe, but probably didn’t make the best use of the trip. The rice and naan were served almost at room temperature, and the room, because the sliding door kept sliding open and close, was not warm.

The Chai tea I ordered didn’t arrive. Upon settling the bill, I mentioned this to the cashier—who had also been our waiter for the night and who was also the manager of the place. He said ‘sorry about that’ then asked if I’d like it taken off the bill. ‘Yes, can you take that off the bill’ was my dumbfounded reply. It was very concerning that he had to ask. Service throughout the night had been okay—acceptable, not unfriendly but not friendly either; Citrus needs to get staff with customer-service know-how.

Overall, Citrus does good food. It is well worth a visit. One thing I neglected to mention is that the venue is wonderfully spick and span: I imagine that Citrus would be up there with the best clean local restaurants if there was such a list. The set tables speak of attention to detail, and care for cleanliness and presentation. In terms of quality, Citrus brings it: there’s no doubt that the food is delicious. My only major gripe is I wish they would showcase Indian flavours a bit more. I wish they didn’t ‘go light’ on spices that are a cornerstone of Indian cuisine. Citrus needs to hero the richness of aromatic sauces, fragrance underscored by heat that warms the entire palate, and the uniqueness of the Indian cuisine. It also needs some bubbly front of house staff. If that happens, this place will go from good to awesome.

Taste verdict More drama in the dishes needed. Delicious food that needs to start heroing Indian cuisine.

⭐⭐⭐

Compared to the last Indian place we went, I have to say Kauphy trumps Citrus. The Kauphy does not have as aesthetically polished a restaurant as Citrus, but what it lacks, it makes up for in flavour. They also have bubbly front of house staff at Kauphy, if that’s the swinging vote.