Dinner the night before EDB13 at Cantina 663

Twas the night before Eat Drink Blog and 3 bloggers had been planning for weeks where to dine. We researched menus, asked around for recommendations from Perth foodies and discussed our options – and finally the booking was made to dine at Cantina 663.

The SO and I were a little surprised to find Cantina 663 was actually in the arcade – obviously I hadn’t read too many reviews. We weren’t the first or last to arrive, but were just as excited as everyone else about sharing our first Perth foodie meal.

Rosa's Chorizo (AUD$13). Conquistador Jamon Cerrano. AUD$16.

Rosa’s Chorizo (AUD$13). Conquistador Jamon Cerrano. AUD$16.

Usually I talk about the service of an establishment last in almost all my articles. But in this case, I’m gonna talk about that aspect first, so let me paint the picture.

Our designated waiter was quirky adorable. If you grew up in the 80s, you might remember the character Kevin Arnold from the sitcom Wonder Years. Imagine an older version of him with a relaxed and friendly air, dressed with the non-descript dark clothes and apron one might come to expect from wait staff across the country these days. His banter was easy and approachable, and incredibly patient and good natured with our group looking to have a good laugh and a great dinner. He went over the menu, made some recommendations and kept our water topped up. So far so good.

We had some discussion about what to order and were disappointed that their chef’s selection was an all-or-nothing deal (ie. Everyone at the table had to order it, or else no one could order it). This ordinarily wouldn’t be an issue, but one of our party couldn’t have dessert and so for the sake of equality when we split the bill later, we were resigned to ordering individual meals.

Beetroot carpaccio, aged goat's cheese with walnuts. AUD$14

Beetroot carpaccio, aged goat’s cheese with walnuts. AUD$14

And that’s when things got tricky with our Wonder Years Waiter.

Rather than write our orders on an order slip, he tried to memorise our entrees and mains orders (there were 6 of us), and recited them over several times… initially to our amusement. But there comes a point when the repetition of one’s order no longer holds any comedy. By the 4th round of our waiter’s chanting as he tried to cement the dishes to faces, I was rolling my eyes and citing everyone’s entrées and mains along with him like a parrot. When asked if Cantina 663 has a policy against writing orders down, he shrugged his shoulders and said they tried not to… and that it was a new menu that day… except that there’s a new menu every day.

Riiiiiiiiight.

Zucchini & chickpea fritters, peperonata, yoghurt. AUD$15

Zucchini & chickpea fritters, peperonata, yoghurt. AUD$15

Grilled sardines, escabeche, migas. AUD$15

Grilled sardines, escabeche, migas. AUD$15

Duck liver parfait, onion jus. AUD$15

Duck liver parfait, onion jus. AUD$15

Each of us quite enjoyed our entrees, including I who went with the lambs brains (not pictured). I didn’t have to share it since everyone else seemed to have an aversion to the crumbed creamy offal, but to each their own. I liked that this bite sized morsels were well crumbed, yet soft and delicate on the inside.

The duck liver parfait went down particularly well due to its silky smooth texture and surprisingly clean taste. It is also an extremely generous portion and despite everyone’s best efforts, wasn’t finished. This one was definitely a winning entree.

Unfortunately the mains did not match up to the prelude the entrees had set.

Gnocchi, cauliflower, walnut, chevre. AUD$26

Gnocchi, cauliflower, walnut, chevre. AUD$26

Open lasagne, caponata, pecorino, rocket, pine nuts. AUD$26

Open lasagne, caponata, pecorino, rocket, pine nuts. AUD$26

Fremantle swordfish, green bean, oregano salsa, almond. AUD$34

Fremantle swordfish, green bean, oregano salsa, almond. AUD$34

Organic lamb, silverbeet, eggplant, pumpkin, broad beans. AUD$33

Organic lamb, silverbeet, eggplant, pumpkin, broad beans. AUD$33

Arroz caldosa, cuttlefish, morcilla crumbs. AUD$27

Arroz caldosa, cuttlefish, morcilla crumbs. AUD$27

The SO was disappointed that his lamb didn’t have as much flavour as he’d expected. Both dining companions who ordered the open lasagne barely touched their meal. One commented the sauce was sweet and too watery. The arroz also suffered from being too watery. My Fremantle swordfish was firm and well-cooked, although its presentation initially made me wonder if I had ordered firm tofu or haloumi. I probably enjoyed the fresh bed of green bean, oregano salsa and almond better than the fish.

The gnocchi was the only main without complaint. In fact, everyone picked at the cauliflower puree and enjoyed the smooth thick cushion that had the chevre mixed through.

We walked away from Cantina 663 disappointed the dinner hadn’t matched up to our expectations, which were raised by the encouragement of locals and the stellar reviews we had read about. Unfortunately given our limited time in Perth, we didn’t have another opportunity to give them a second go to see if this had just been an off-day.

The all-or-nothing chef’s deal later sparked a conversation at the table about whether the rumour chefs dislike those who are vegetarian/vegan/gluten/lactose/nut intolerant is true. I’d like to think not and that many chefs have risen to the challenge of delivering tasty food to those who have to suffer allergies and food intolerances, but someone proposed that some chefs adopt a take-it-or-leave-it attitude due to their creative natures and didn’t want to be limited by other people’s dietary restrictions. If you’re a chef/cook, I’d love to hear your view.

 

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