04/04/2006 - 22:00

Degustation at Divido the start of something special

04/04/2006 - 22:00

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Almost a year after opening in Mt Hawthorn, Divido Restaurant has hit its straps and is offering some of the most interesting Italian-inspired food and wine this side of the Spanish Steps.

Degustation at Divido the start of something special

Almost a year after opening in Mt Hawthorn, Divido Restaurant has hit its straps and is offering some of the most interesting Italian-inspired food and wine this side of the Spanish Steps.

Divido sprung up on Scarborough Beach Road in the middle of last year and, since then, the team led by head chef and co-owner Jason Jujnovich has warmed up to the locals of Mt Hawthorn’s emerging dining crowd.

It has been a mixture of a flexible, relaxed atmosphere and a creative menu that has earned Divido its spot on Perth’s food map.

Meanwhile another Jason, Jason Hampton, has crafted an eclectic wine list that, to quote its architect, is full of “weird and wonderful” treasures ready to entice those who order a little out of left field.

The two Jasons are doing everything right and with the first of a permanent fixture of degustation evenings already completed, Divido is sharing its message with Perth’s diners.

The degustation menu held on April 4 was a seven-course smattering of what the Jasons think is tasting and drinking best right now.

The option of extending the a la carte menu in this fashion has proved popular with a number of Perth restaurants in recent years, but it is equally not for the faint-hearted diner or restaurateur.

“With the degustation menu, it was very much a marketing tool to show people what we can do and to offer them something different,” Mr Jujnovich says.

“It is really for those who appreciate their food. But it is also good for us in the kitchen too. It helps with kitchen staff development and it definitely keeps you moving.”

And it’s also a springboard into the new menu, allowing the chef to trial new dishes in preparation for a change this month.

With its structured procession of courses the degustation is also something of a change of pace for Divido; for as the name suggests, many of its dishes are meant to be shared among the table.

But in the midst of entrée sized portions, Mr Jujnovich sent down a whole wood-roasted rabbit that was shared between two.

“The degustation moves from lighter to heavier and finishes quite simply with a torrone. It’s essentially seven entrees but you shouldn’t be stuffed, we just want people to leave content,” he says.

The rabbit may well have stolen the show, and there is an almost cult following for Mr Jujnovich’s wood-roasted pork belly, but there is a lot to like about his menu.

In a time when modern Italian food is just as hard to pin down as modern Australian cuisine, Mr Jujnovich says it should start with good Italian influences and extend into a modern context.

But the truth of the matter is that Italy is vastly over-represented on the dining tables of the world, and nowhere more so than Australia.

And while Italians typically have a great passion and rich legacy to offer diners the world over, this legacy can be diluted in unskilful hands.

This is the paradox often found with Italian food – there’s frequently a difference between what it should be and what it is.

On this, Mr Jujnovich says there is a lot more to Italian cuisine than what people are led to believe.

“There is so much more to it than pasta. It is about picking out those little treasures. It doesn’t have to have two cups of cream in it or be drowned in cheese,” he says.

“Take the pizza, for example. We use pancetta not bacon, prosciutto not ham. Nothing comes from a can and we have only a few toppings, not 1,000.”

There is also a definite passion for discovering what Italy has given the wine world in the work of Mr Hampton. In his words, “passion and opportunity” both presented themselves with Divido and allowed him to take a decidedly left field approach to a wine list.

“The initial phase was interesting,” he says about coaxing diners out of a routine of BYO associated with the previous establishment.

“But as we started to evolve, I went about devising a systematic approach to the wines – to develop it as a document that could be easily read.

“[I was] trying to make it as non scary as possible.”

And really there is nothing scary about it, save for a few strange varieties that might not get a regular turn at home, such as Arneis and Tempranillo.

But in a mix of a few iconic wines and a few new favourites from the real world, there is definitely a bit of the weird and different and value for money.

Divido will run a degustation event every six weeks with the next one scheduled for May 16.

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