With Alissa and I having travelled a lot in the last 6 months, it seems like a long time since the Ministry of Gluttony has had a chance to really focus on our continued coverage of developments in Perth's food scene. With a glut of posts from our Sydney trip spilling over into a glut of posts from Bangkok and Hong Kong, its nice to finally be out from the over east/overseas backlog and be able to shift our focus back to our hometown. The timing is particularly momentous as this month marks two years since our first post as the Ministry of Gluttony, as well as our second wedding anniversary and four years since our first date. To mark the occasion, Alissa and I decided to make a booking at restaurant we've had our eye on for some time - Shadow Wine Bar in Northbridge.
Back in the early days of Perth shaking off its Dullsville tag, the empty space that now houses Shadow Wine Bar was a popular pop-up location for exhibitions and one-off events, and I remember it being an excellent source of free bottom shelf wine at gallery openings and one-off events. The vintage, 1960s façade has been lovingly restored and accompanied by a simple but elegant monochromatic interior that oozes style. Keeping with modern trends away from quiet and inconsequential background muzak, the restaurant's playlist featured a mix of soul and funk influenced grooves played at a volume loud enough to give the room vibe, while artfully avoiding the trend of obnoxiously obtrusive and conversation killing blaring all too common in restaurants with more hipster-oriented aspirations.
Alissa and I are quite fond of the recent revival of the Aperitif's fortunes in Australia, and started our meal with a refreshing Sbagliato and a Siciliano respectively. Basically a Negroni with Prosecco instead of Gin, the Sbagliato was a refreshing take on the Italian classic, with the lower alcohol level and the bubbles from the wine giving the drink a lighter edge. While not necessarily boozy, the Siciliano was a much stronger tasting drink, with the bitterness of Amaro Averna nicely paired with coffee for a different but equally delicious start to the evening.
Although their menu does feature a small number of traditional entree-size dishes, Shadow Wine Bar's menu focuses on tapas-like single bites called Cicchetti. The first two Cicchetti arrived together, consisting of Potato Crisp, Crab, Lemon Aioli and Sticky Pork Cheek & Radicchio Crostini. The Crab was delicious, with the delicate, sweet Crab Meat being nicely paired with a Potato Crisp that certainly lived up the crisp part of its name. We both really liked the oily fattiness of the Crisp too, which was balanced out nicely by the acidity from the creamy Lemon Aioli. The Sticky Pork Cheek & Radicchio Crostini were even better, with the bitterness of the Radicchio and the sweet, vinegary glaze on the Pork providing a wealth of flavour on a thin, perfectly crunchy crostini.
Cheese Puff, Honey followed. This was a dish Alissa was particularly interested in trying, especially since it sounded a bit like the Amuse Bouche we were served during our Honeymoon at Caprice in Hong Kong. Sure enough - these were similar savoury profiteroles, with a distinctive parmesan flavour. These were arguably even better, as they seemed to be filled with yet another cheese before being topped with Goats Cheese and drizzled with Honey. Crispy, light and airy, these would be highly recommended for the cheese lovers out there.
Feeling like trying one more Cicchetti, we decided to order the Pickled Sardine, Toast. Served on really thin pieces of bread that appeared fried, the pickled flavour of the Sardines and the Carrots on top seemed a little one note compared to the previous three items. This was not necessarily a fault on the part of the restaurant so much as the inherent, dominating flavour of the Pickled Sardines at work, however I felt it could have been better balanced out to create a dish of greater complexity. Nice enough, but in hindsight I would have preferred trying something else instead.
With the Cicchetti and our Aperitifs finished, we were ready to shift gears towards our mains. Being a wine bar, Shadow have a predictably solid wine list, however what impressed us most was the fact they had a good selection of wines by the carafe! I had said that carafes were probably more fitting for quaffable if not entirely serious wines when we visited Swing Taphouse in Margaret River earlier this year, however I had to admit I was wrong - Shadow have definitely proved its a format that really should be more widespread. Being able to order Barbaresco (Nebbiolo) by the carafe and have it served in varietal specific Riedel glassware is a rare treat indeed, and one can only hope that Shadow are at the vanguard of a more widespread trend.
Although a few other dishes piqued my interest, I was particularly drawn to the Pan Fried Gnocchi, Asparagus, Zucchini, Goats Feta. Gnocchi is one of those dishes that can be terrible when done wrong. Not the case for Shadow; the pillows of potato served here were excellent, having a texture so smooth that there was almost no lumpy trace of their potato origin and finished of with a good pan fried sear. I liked how the Zucchini (or more properly, baby courgettes) and the Asparagus were cut into similarly small slices, and how you couldn't quite tell where the Asparagus began and the Courgettes started when you had both on the fork. The Goats Feta finished it off beautifully, with a nice salty, sour pop of flavour.
Alissa went with the Confit Duck Leg, Sugar Snap Pea and Kale Salad, Pear Vinaigrette. Alissa and I were both particularly impressed with the Quatre Epices spice flavour that permeated the Duck Leg as well as the glaze on its exterior. Although not necessarily the most fall apart piece of Confit Duck that we have eaten, this was nevertheless an nice meaty and unctuous piece that was not overly boney as Duck can sometimes be. Beneath the duck was either a Parsnip or sweet tasting Potato Puree which provided a lovely creaminess that went well with the spiciness of the Duck Meat. The Sugar Snap Peas were fresh and sweet, while the Kale had been cooked in a way that took away some the edge of the vegetables inherent bitterness, while adding a pleasing crispness. Finally, the Pear Vinaigrette provided sweet fruitiness and acidity to complete a well balanced and enjoyable dish.
As a side, Alissa and I shared a bowl of Crispy Potatoes, Salsa Verde. The was a good side dish that went particularly well with Alissa's main. The Potatoes were nice and crispy on the outside, however their crusts were not quite on the level of the benchmark setting version we tried at Cape Lodge in Yallingup. We did however appreciate having the parsley hit of the Salsa Verde to provide herbaceousness and flavour to the proceedings.
Although fairly full, we were keen to try the restaurant's desserts. Being a berry fan, the Mascarpone Cheesecake, Raspberry Meringue, Berries was an easy dish to like, with the light and airy Mascarpone Cheesecake served as an ice cream-like quenelle. I liked the thin, wafer-like Meringue with its mild berry flavour bolstered by a pleasingly tart Berry Sauce, as well as the fresh Blueberries and Macerated Strawberries. This was all very good, however I felt it was missing a Granola or Crumble that would have filled the role of the Biscuit Base of a traditional Cheesecake. To me, the base is one of the best parts, and Crumble on the side here would have taken this to the next level of awesomeness.
After eating her dessert of Pear Tarte Tatin, Tonka Bean Ice Cream, Alissa boldly stated that it was "the best dessert ever in the history of the world of desserts". This statement was only partly hyperbolic, as it seriously was one of the best examples of a Tarte Tatin Alissa and I have had the pleasure of eating. The Tarte was superbly made, with the pastry being buttery and crisp, while the nicely layered slices pear were sweet and juicy. The Caramel Sauce had been taken right to the perfectly dark edge before being burnt, giving the dish great complexity of caramelised flavour. Clearly made to order, Alissa appreciated the single serving portion versus a slice, as it meant more of the delicious edges (the best part). I have to admit dish envy, and would definitely order this for myself next time we were at Shadow.
The Verdict: Excellent +
Shadow Wine Bar definitely lived up to expectations, and was a worthy choice for our anniversary dinner. The food was almost uniformly excellent, from the wonderfully flavoursome Cicchetti, mains that were classical while still very much on-trend, and a truly superlative Tarte Tatin. The wine list and Aperitifs were just as strong, with the ability to buy a wide variety of wines by the carafe a particularly impressive element that we hope to see become a much copied trend. Accompanied by a great soundtrack, stylish surrounds and service that was both friendly and professional, Shadow Wine Bar is a worthy and distinctive addition to Perth's every growing restaurant scene.