What does underrated mean from a dining perspective?
Is it a place that doesn’t get talked about enough? Is it a place that people just don’t “get”? Is it an established place that people have forgotten about? Is it a new place that zoomed right past us?
After emailing, texting and sliding into the DMs of a bunch of notable Perth chefs and asking them this (deliberately) open-ended question, Broadsheet has assembled this wrap of under-the-radar addresses that warrant consideration next time you’re deciding where to eat. Get Google Maps ready: you’re going to need it.
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Blaze Young, Nieuwruin
Penang Hawker Food in Shelley is so underrated. The experience starts with navigating your way through suburban backstreets to find it. Whoever is manning the wok there is one of the better chefs in Perth. You can't really order wrong, although the dish I find myself fantasising about is its claypot fish wing curry. The wings exemplify that “crispy-soggy” phenomenon and are drowned in a savoury, richly spiced curry sauce crowned with a fragrant, bright red oil. You'll be battling to finish one portion between two people, but if you do want to go overboard, I’d also recommend the loh bak, the lemongrass fried pork ribs and the sambal kangkong. It's also BYO, so don’t forget the riesling.
Justin Wong, Millbrook
Back when [William Street Indonesian restaurant] Sparrow was open, I went there exclusively for Indonesian food. When it closed and I needed something to replace it, a dear Indonesian friend who lives in Melbourne told me to go to Manise Cafe. Everything I've eaten there is just so delicately balanced. The gulai ayam [chicken curry] is bang on. I really like the oxtail soup, and the auntie is just so personable. Even with the facemask on, you can tell she's really about the hospitality.
Rohan Park, Old Young’s Kitchen
I eat a lot at Coventry Village in Morley. It’s like stepping into a hawker centre in Southeast Asia. My first stop when I go there for my weekly Asian grocery run is always Bak Kwa King for the best bak kwa [Chinese-style pork jerky] in town and something to snack on as I wander around. A lot of people know about Roll vs Bowl and its banh mis are among my top three for the eastern suburbs, but I get my pho fix from Uncle Lam Vietnamese Noodle House. For Japanese, I go to Ramen Eki. Although the ramen, takoyaki [octopus balls] and agedashi tofu are amazing, the rock star is the chicken katsu curry. Duck Duck BBQ House is also worth mentioning. A whole take-away roast Peking duck is an easy dinner option that only needs a quick breakdown of the duck and some salad prep to get into the family’s good books for the week.
Melissa Palinkas, Young George
We like going to 1934 Ristorante at the WA Italian Club on Fitzgerald Street. The fried dough ball appetisers you get on arrival are amazing and all the pasta is handmade. My favourite is the squid ink spaghetti with squid. The restaurant also serves a great bistecca, but we usually go pasta and antipasti to keep it light. All the staff are Italian and the restaurant has great Italian wines and service.
Emily Jones, Republic of Fremantle
Usually when I go out to eat and catch up with friends, I like to go to places where we can order too much food and share. Two of my favourites are in Victoria Park. The first is Ssam Korean BBQ. Everything is always fresh and tasty, but I generally get the tteokbokki [spicy rice cakes], kimchi pancake and a pork set. The other is Sedap Place which does great nasi lemak [coconut rice with side dishes], rendang, fried chicken skin and roti canai.
James Cole Bowen, The Corner Dairy
I have good memories of going to City Garden Chinese Restaurant in Chinatown after a long week at work with your crew on a Sunday night. The more the merrier, as it means you can order more plates of food. I usually spot some other large tables of friends from other restaurants who are there for the same thing. We’ll fill our round table with Tsingtaos and grape soju and high-rotation dishes such as chilli vinegar chicken, hot and sour cucumbers, xiao long bao, sizzling Japanese bean curd and fried chilli pepper squid or tofu. There will be kailan with oyster sauce, and a big plastic tub of rice that’s seen at least a decade of service helping the drunk patrons of Northbridge soak up the booze after a big night. In addition to the staples, we’ll always throw in a wildcard dish none of us has had. The staff are always friendly and welcoming and we love going there time after time.
Paul Bentley, Casa
Hong Kei is a small, hallway-sized space in a shopping centre that does the best barbeque pork noodles in Perth. It’s very authentic Malaysian-style char siu. The wonton soup is absolutely banging as well. If you don't know about it, you don't know it's there. They've given zero fucks in terms of the fit-out. You go there and there are staff members packaging up the sauces for the to-go stuff on the table next to you. It's pretty fucking legit.
Sofika Boulton, Bar Rogue
I'm going to go with handmade udon restaurant, Hifumiya. It feels weird to say it's underrated because it’s not unknown, but I believe it deserves more credit. Out of all the many great places that get a lot of attention, I feel we don’t give enough to the places that we can confidently go to when we don't know what we want or there’s not some new place to check out. Hifumiya is comfortable, consistent and impressive. Depending on my mood, I’ll usually go a curry udon or spicy pork but there’s also cold udon for when it’s too hot to eat hot food. I doubt anybody leaves Hifumiya not content.
Christopher Caravella, Testun
One of the most underrated places to go and eat would be Coventry Market. I feel like there’s this really unfair preconception that it’s a bit yobbo, a bit suburban, perhaps a little grotty, and that the people that go there aren't particularly “cool”. In my opinion, there's something special about being able to wander around specialty shops looking for inspirational ingredients and building up an appetite, then being able to stop at a little mum and pop joint to fuel up.
One of my favourite restaurants to grab a bite is D Big Mama. It might not be the fanciest and there are probably 101 arguments as to why there are better Malaysian spots, but as someone that grew up in a family restaurant, I'm a sucker for close-knit family joints where you can feel a genuine love for hospitality, the food and customers. All the noodles are made in-house, but I can't go past the star anise-spiked bak kut teh [pork bone soup] with youtiao [Chinese crullers]; the smoky char kway teow, or Big Mama special noodles. It's functional food for people on the move that is priced ridiculously. There's nothing over $20 on their menu, but it's delicious, and most importantly, made with respect, love and care. It’s a place that feeds the workers from the surrounding businesses as well as the shoppers in the market. I wish I had the time to visit more often.
Scott Brannigan, Bread in Common
If I'm going to have a cheat meal, Deebo Burgers & Beer Bar is where I go. It has its own butchery where they break down beef to make their own burgers. You can tell. The meat tastes like meat and isn’t squeaky. Deebo has its own beef farm and sells a lot of premium cuts through its side supermarket in Riverton. The burger is one of those burgers that you can pick up and eat. It’s nice and simple: just the patty, cheese and pickle on a bun with sauce and that’s it. There are heaps of screens everyone with heaps of sports on, from American sports to the footy, whatever. It’s a good vibe.
Gurps Bagga, Sauma
Ming’s BBQ House on William Street fits the definition of underrated. It’s a small family-run place and never gets a mention. Its roast duck, pork and chicken are just amazing.
Ryan Bookless, Monsterella
We're loving Ma Kin Thai down on Broadway in Crawley. It’s a great family experience for us. We've been getting takeaway from there but when the kids haven't got sport, we'll head down there for a quick feed. Luckily our kids love everything so we can order pretty much everything on the menu, but we love the chicken wings. All the curries are delicious. When I walk in there, I feel like I'm in Thailand: the smells, even the feel. It's pretty down-tempo and understated and low-key. The other place we love is Suku in Freo. I can't get enough of the beef rendang and the sambal. [Wife and Monsterella co-owner] Tania and I drive down every week to have a bowl and a chat on the way down: a bit of business and some family matters and then we’re out of there. We'll slide a Bintang in when we've got the time.