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Thursday, March 11, 2010

Something's cooking in the kitsch'n

When asked by the West Australian in July last year about the new small bar he was planning to open in Leederville, Iain Lawless said it was going to be a bit more bohemian and interesting than what was currently on offer to Perth eaters and drinkers, saying
"Unfortunately, most of the bars and restaurants here look as though Jamie Durie did the fit-out. You look at it and go, 'Oh that's nice - for me house!' People can do what they like but for me I don't want that, I want people to either love it or hate it, not just think it's all right."

Hmmm, so no quaint water features or a nice bit of sponge work on the walls then I take it. He then went on to comment on the lack of mutual respect between Perth bar staff and customers:
"There's a lot of people here who think they're a bit too cool for school for my liking and I'm sure they think the public don't notice it. They'll judge you on buying a cheap bottle of wine . . . you see it in their eyes, they're going, 'That's the wine you're having and you're only having one entree? For God's sake, piss off'.It drives me bananas! I don't care if you sit there for four hours and have a glass of wine between you."
Hmm, he had me until the part about sharing my wine. Strangely enough though, I have actually had an experience with bar staff not letting me have half a drink...I had a strangely boozy tasting white wine spritzer at tiger, tiger in the city a couple of months ago, which we discovered was actually half white wine, half sparkling wine when we received the bill. Perhaps I should have said "soda water" instead of "sparkling water" when I had to explain my drink to the waitress.

The July article also said that he was planning to open this new small bar - Kitsch Bar - in seven weeks. Fast forward seven MONTHS and the dream has come to fruition. In a more recent article in the West Australian, he explains that it took much longer than expected to get their small bar licence, but this gave them time to get the concept right. It doesn't seem as though Iain's thoughts on service have changed in that time, with him saying
"You can walk into Rockpool in Sydney, with its $36 million fitout, order a glass of their cheapest wine and you'll be welcomed by staff who are happy to see you. We're a long way from that in Perth."
Iain, I've never met you but I like you already, and I was very keen to see if you'd managed to succeed in these noble plans with Kitsch Bar in Leederville. I was even more keen after noticing on Twitter (yes I have finally succumbed to peer pressure, you can follow my ramblings here) that Matt from Abstract Gourmet was a fan of the place. So last Saturday night some friends and I battled the highly entertaining AC/DC crowds, making our way into Leederville to investigate Iain's creation.

Kitsch front area

Well, I didn't get any Jamie Durie vibes when we arrived. Rob Broadfield's description of the decor - "an old house on Oxford Street crammed with a mish-mash of bric-a-brac, recycled furniture and a cacophony of paint finishes" - was a little over the top but gives a good idea of what to expect. I really liked the feel of the place, and we kept commenting on big features and little touches that we noticed throughout the night - the beautiful big frangipani tree, a wooden staircase leading nowhere with lamps to guide you there, very pretty light shades, a wooden canoe filled with candles hidden in a little alcove - and I'm sure there are many things that missed our attention.

Service was really very friendly from the get go, and after being lead to our table we were brought out water promptly and left to have a look over the menu. After giving it a once over we realised that although it is not a large menu, it was going to be difficult to narrow it down to a few dishes. Leaving that problem aside for a minute, we ordered drinks - Magner's Cider ($9), Jed Blanc de Blanc NV ($9) and Ad Hoc 'Strawman' Semillon Sauvignon Blanc 09 ($7.50).

The drinks came out quickly, and we took a moment to admire the glassware before knocking them back. All hit the spot on the warm night, with particularly good reviews on the cider (which I personally didn't like, but I'm not a big cider drinker).

With drinks in hand we felt better equipped to tackle the task of menu perusal, and eventually settled on "steamed pork dumplings with hot chilli sauce and sticky soya" ($8), "deep fried salt and pepper tofu with hoisin peanut dipping sauce" ($8), "spiced green papaya salad with peanuts, cherry tomatoes and sweet, salty pork ribs" ($17.80), "coconut mussel pancake with bean sprouts, green mango and sweet chilli vinegar" ($16.80), "braised angus beef with black vinegar and hot and sour salad" ($23.80) and "stir fry greens with ginger and yellow bean" ($8). Our waitress informed us that the dishes come out when ready, tapas style to share, which was fine with us (as long as I don't have to share my wine).

"steamed pork dumplings with hot chilli sauce and sticky soya" ($8)

First out from the kitchen were the dumplings, luckily in a serve of three so we had one each. I would have liked to have dissected mine a little to investigate the separate tastes, but it was much easier to just pop the whole thing in your mouth with a little of the sauce so I did just that. There was none of the fatty, overly 'porky' taste that is often found in such pork mince dishes, which I do not enjoy, and I found this to be surprisingly fresh in taste. The wrapper was a good thickness and texture, and we agreed that these were a great way to start our meal.

"deep fried salt and pepper tofu with hoisin peanut dipping sauce" ($8)

Up next was the deep fried tofu. The tofu was firm and easy to break into chunks, dunking them into the flavoursome hoisin sauce before dunking into your mouth. I've said before how much I like a good hoisin peanut sauce, and this was no exception. I could drink the stuff. The tofu was fried and drained really well, and had no unpleasant oiliness to speak of. I was a little disappointed with the slightly bland taste and texture of the tofu on its own but I suspect this is because I was comparing it with the silken tofu that I have been eating a bit of lately when dining out.

"spiced green papaya salad with peanuts, cherry tomatoes and sweet, salty pork ribs" ($17.80)

It was hard not to widen our eyes at the sight of the sweet, salty pork ribs with the papaya salad. The friends I was dining with spent a few weeks in Thailand a couple of months ago, and seemingly ate their weight in papaya salad whilst there so they were very curious to see how Kitsch's measured up. One of them remarked that this salad did not seem quite as fresh as the ones they had eaten in Thailand, but the other didn't entirely agree, so we were at a stalemate. I, as an independent adjudicator, found the salad to be quite fresh in taste and texture, and although I found the overall taste a little too 'fishy' for my liking it did not stop me going back for seconds.

The ribs were fantastic. Sweet, salty, porky, delicious. Beautiful chewy morsels that you happily dirtied your hands to pick up and gnaw upon.

"coconut mussel pancake with bean sprouts, green mango and sweet chilli vinegar" ($16.80)

The coconut mussel pancake was declared by two of us to be the standout dish of the bunch. The mix of super fresh flavours was just perfectly balanced, and as my friend put it - you couldn't quite pick out any particular flavour or ingredient in each mouthful, it all worked together so well. The pancake was crisp though not at all overcooked, and had a number of tender mussels. I really enjoyed this dish and hope that it remains on the menu for me to order again next time I am there.

"braised angus beef with black vinegar and hot and sour salad" ($23.80)

I did not try the braised angus beef dish, funnily enough, but it looked beautifully fall-apart-at-the-slightest-touch tender, and by all accounts it was just that. 

"stir fry greens with ginger and yellow bean" ($8)

Even the stir fry greens were moreishly delicious, with the light, delicious sauce and beans being a lovely change from the good old standard oyster sauce that I do generally enjoy with greens but was getting a little sick of.

Service was a little confused throughout the night - a couple of times other people's drinks were brought to our table, and we were also given someone else's bill at the end of the night (which we were tempted to pay - it was around $100 cheaper than what ours ended up being) but the rest of the service was both so warm and efficient that we happily overlooked these little slip ups.

Word of mouth must be working well for Kitsch, as it was reasonably busy when we arrived at 6:30pm and steadily got busier until it was pretty much full when we left a couple of hours later. Not bad at all for a place that has only been open for a few weeks and is a bit of a walk up from the busy area of Leederville (it's next door to Re Store for those familiar with this Perth institution). With this popularity, it is probably a good idea to book if you are planning on going for dinner on the weekend, although they only accept reservations for between 5 and 7 pm.

I will definitely be returning. The decor, the vibe, the service, the drinks and above all the food all got big ticks from us. Tuesday nights offer a "pad thai and chang beer $18.80" special which I am quite curious to investigate as a good pad thai is a glorious thing but many poor ones abound. Given the quality of the food we have enjoyed thus far I am hopeful that the kitchen is capable to whipping up the former rather than the latter.

Iain, I liked you before but I really like you now. Well done.

Fish in the cool room greet you on your way to the loo; comic collage

Kitsch Bar
Phone: 08 9242 1229
Menu: Food and Drinks 
Bar Open: Tuesday 5 - 10.30pm; Wednesday to Saturday 5 – 12midnight; Sunday 2 – 10pm
Kitsch'n Open: Monday – Cooking School; Tuesday 6 - 10.00pm; Wednesday to Saturday 6 – 11.30pm; Sunday 3 – 9.30pm

Kitsch Bar on Urbanspoon


Renee March 11, 2010 at 5:17 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Renee March 11, 2010 at 5:18 PM  

this looks great! I checked out their website earlier this week and I am keen to go for pad thai and beer nights! I like the look of the decor!

Rose March 11, 2010 at 5:50 PM  

When I last went back to Perth a lot of the pubs felt like they were trying too hard to be Melbourne hipsters. These guys sound really chilled out (and nary an $18 beer in sight), so will def try this place out when I go out to WA next.

boroca March 11, 2010 at 5:58 PM  

I will have to try it out when I am back in Perth. Like the sound of the vibe, not sure if it is my kind of casual drinking food though...

penny aka jeroxie March 11, 2010 at 5:59 PM  

wahh! I love the fish in the window. Weird funny though.

Emma @CakeMistress March 11, 2010 at 6:54 PM  

Wow, Perth is fast becoming a hip and happening place. What next, extended trading hours? ;)

Hannah March 12, 2010 at 2:09 AM  

I've wanted to try papaya salad for years now, YEARS I SAY, and this post isn't helping. How dare you eat delicious food and make me upset inside! :P

MaryMoh March 12, 2010 at 4:49 AM  

I just love every dish here. I wish I can all of them now! They make me hungry.

Steph March 12, 2010 at 9:31 AM  

I'm torn! As somebody of Chinese descent I can't stand the "All in Asian" decor and themes (a la Tiger Lil's) and usually find them culturally insensitive.

This aside, kitsch is just down the road and looks lik it could be fun/delicious?

What a dilemma!

Anonymous March 12, 2010 at 10:37 AM  

Wow, those coconut mussel pancakes sound spectacular!

Jo - SecondHelping March 12, 2010 at 1:09 PM  

Kitsch is an apt name for this place it sounds! I do like the sound of the coconut mussel pancake that you enjoyed. Nice review.

Maria@TheGourmetChallenge March 12, 2010 at 6:45 PM  

This place sounds fantastic, and all the dish sound and look pretty darn tasty. Cant go past the deep fried tofu!! I'm a sucker for anything deep fried and crispy!!

Pam March 12, 2010 at 11:42 PM  

Another great review...the coconut mussel pancake sounds amazing.

Di March 13, 2010 at 8:53 AM  

the deep fried tofu looks fantastic and i love thai style dishes. Thanks for the great review.

Sarah Vino March 13, 2010 at 9:59 AM  

Looks interesting will keep it in mind if I visit!! :) I blog about Sydney restaurants if you're interested :)

Amy March 13, 2010 at 2:54 PM  

I love all things kitsch. I must pay a visit the next time I'm in WA

Kitchen Butterfly March 13, 2010 at 4:10 PM  

Sounds like a lot of fun.....whole dumplings in the mouth. Sounds like heaven too.....

Trisha March 16, 2010 at 6:46 AM  

I shouldn't be coming here just woken up and starving! The food looks absolutely delicious especially that angus beef!

Anonymous March 19, 2010 at 2:46 AM  

That's a really great review of Kitsch, and I love the way you intertwine it with personal anecdote and observation. Yum!

One thing is missing though -- who's in the kitchen in this place and are they unusual? The answer is yes, head chef at Kitsch is my sister -- Annita-Marie Potter -- and she's not Thai and she is a woman, two unsual things for this kind of resto.

Make sure if you are heading in there you say hello to her (from me), and enjoy the rarity of eating out at a brilliant restaurant that supports ladies (and not just as dishwashers) in the kitchen!


Conor @ HoldtheBeef March 19, 2010 at 8:03 AM  

Renee - very glad to see a restaurant actually bother to have a decent website up when they open, too!

Rose - yes you have to bite your tongue in some new places to stop yourself saying it is "very Melbourne". $18 beers should be outlawed (well, unless it is La Fin du Monde or something!)

boroca - yes you must! Yeah perhaps a little pricy for casual drinking.

penny aka jeroxie - I know, I was looking around for where the toilet was and suddenly found myself face to face with Messrs Fish!

Emma @CakeMistress - Or... heaven forbid... frequent and extensive public transport?

Hannah - well, you're the one off galavanting around all over the globe, young lady. How dare you travel to exciting locales and make me upset inside!

MaryMoh - they make me hungry too. Just be thankful you didn't taste them :)

Steph - yes I tend to agree with you, but I was quite taken by the decor here. You lucky thing, I'd love to live in Leederville! Well, to be honest I also love living in Northbridge so I can't complain. Give Kitsch a go, I think your tummy might thank you? Let me know if you do!

5 Star Foodie - oh it was, it sure was. So fresh.

Jo - SecondHelping - yes I like the name, though not as much as the pancake :) thanks!

Maria@TheGourmetChallenge - deep fried and crispy sounds just fine with me too. Hey.. it's Friday today.. the day to celebrate all things deep fried and crispy! Woo :)

Pam - thank you! It's 8am and I could go one of those pancakes right now :)

Di - thank you and welcome! Off to visit your blog now...

Sarah Vino - ooh off to visit your blog too, thanks for visiting :)

Amy - fingers crossed it will be around for some time to come!

Kitchen Butterfly - haha, I love the thought of whole dumplings in the mouth (and hoping noone asks you a question just as you pop one in!)

Trisha - We'll never learn will we?

Anonymous - Hi Claire, thanks for visiting and for your comment! I actually didn't realise that the chef was a woman, nor not Thai (nor your sister in fact!) so thank you for letting me know! So great to hear of a successful female chef, given that it seems to be such a male dominated industry. I will be sure to say hello next time I'm in, which hopefully will be soon.

Mardi @eatlivetravelwrite March 20, 2010 at 5:43 AM  

That sounds like my kinda bar and the guy running it - what a top bloke! We need a few more less pretentious places like this with good food at decent prices and a laid-back atmosphere over here in Toronto...

Conor @ HoldtheBeef March 24, 2010 at 8:04 AM  

Mardi @eatlivetravelwrite - for sure. I wouldn't mind having a yarn with him over a cold beer, actually. And some pad thai :)

Kristian March 29, 2010 at 12:58 PM  

Really looking forward to trying out this place.

I do want to mention the talk about beer prices, though.

A couple of times here, people have laughingly mentioned "$18 beers" as the yardstick of over-pricing.

My question is: Why is $9 for a bottle of Chang OK?

Conor @ HoldtheBeef March 30, 2010 at 11:07 PM  

Kristian - I hope you like it. About the beer, I have to agree with you that $9 is not exactly reasonable, but I guess perhaps we're getting more numbed to the prices we're often being charged at such places these days, and have to go nuts with our hyperbole about the $18 beers (well, it would be nice if it were purely hyperbole). I guess an upside to being charged $9 for Chang meant that I didn't feel quite so badly done by with beer prices at Blues and Roots on the weekend.

Max April 20, 2010 at 9:18 AM  

Nice review and blog. Kitsch is a very welcome addition to our fair city's dining landscape. Loved that last sentence of yours!

Conor @ HoldtheBeef April 20, 2010 at 10:51 AM  

Max - thank you, and great to have you visit! I agree, and it is good to see the landscape growing and broadening.

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My love of cooking is surpassed only by my love of eating, though I never quite recovered from the beef I was served at college. I'll try almost anything once, but it takes a very special piece of offal or beef to get me to try it again.

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