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A stellar performance

STAR Bistro in the heart of Claremont is a relatively small, cosy

restaurant that sits

about 50 people.

The Saturday night I visited the bistro was almost full, and booking would be advisable on most occasions. For those of you with bambinos, don’t worry, they are more than welcome, although big prams will be hard to negotiate around the confines of the restaurant.

One of the least appealing aspects of my role as a critic is the requirement to say it as I see it, especially when what I have to say may not please those about whom I am writing. I don’t like criticising in print. I figure that, although people need to know if things at an establishment are not good, you are often better to tactfully avoid overt criticism for fear of killing off any attraction the place may have for others.

If things are really bad you would think the public would make the judgement.

With that in mind, it was hard to find a fault with the Star Bistro. I was particularly impressed with the staff, who are very professional and experienced food and wine lovers – a feature lacking at many restaurants in Perth.

Too often these days you are confronted with front-of-house people reading off their menu pads still trying to get to grips with the special of the day. Or else a request for a recommended wine from the wine list is met with no more than one of the usual suspects, without any imagination or real interest or knowledge in their recommendation being shown.

The Star Bistro provided a level of service that was not intrusive and overbearing. Their knowledge of each of the dishes was competent and they were able to offer a wine choice complementing the food. And it’s a wine list that has obviously been put together to match the food being created. Although a little top heavy with sauvignon blanc for me, there are plenty of appealing wines to select from.

The menu itself shows passion, which is evident in the delights we were presented with.

Duck liver parfait with quince chutney and crisp baguette, was equal to any parfait the French provided for me a few years back when I was trekking around Vinexpo wine exhibition in Bordeaux. Parfait is not that hard to make, but to make it well often seems hard to accomplish. The parfait at the Star Bistro hit the spot. But why is it you never seem to get enough bits of baguette to finish mopping up?

The tasting palate gave our table a sensual and seductive leg into the rest of the entrée delights, as it included tastes of most of the entrée dishes. Seared scallops and Jerusalem artichoke tart was an unusual combination that I had not ever thought of, however it didn’t hang around waiting to be devoured for long and provided inspiration for my next dinner party.

Our table of five shared a couple of tasting plates and the parfait, which was more that enough for an introduction for the main meals to follow.

I really love peasant food cooked really well, so I found it hard to resisted the cassoulet. A confit of duck leg and a fantastic slice of smoked pork belly surrounded with boudin blanc and braised borlotto beans filled my ever-increasing waistline in no time. The smoked pork belly was tender and had flavour that intrigued and delighted. The cassoulet, although not quite traditional, was one of the better winter meals I have enjoyed. All we now need is a bit of winter to go with it. Another of the winter dishes includes good old lamb shanks, and one of my fellow diners was triumphant in his choice. Together with the braised tomato and wine on some mash with wilted greens and gremolata, he praised the tenderness of the shanks and marveled in his mash.

The salmon and prawn ‘coulibiac’, which can simply be described as wrapped in homemade filo pastry, but a little more technical, was served on fennel and potato puree with wilted spinach and a champagne sauce. This looked like a tapestry interwoven with rich flavours and delicate, subtle surprises inside the pastry, and was so good I have asked if we can print the receipt next week.

Star Bistro is firmly written in my little book of places I want to visit on a regular basis.

It has all the right ingredients to rank up there with Alto’s, Star Anise, Frasers and Friends.

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