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Erotic prawns beckon palate

THE transformation of the former over-the-river Oyster Beds into the Red Herring has been a metamorphosis masterminded by long-time hospitality industry player Ivan Rutherford.

Ivan came to the fore as the grocer on Rottnest Island where he successfully operated the general store and boutique for 13 years.

After many years away, the call of the island came back and he is now a partner in the famous bakery there.

There is a lot more than a grocer to Ivan Rutherford. He is a man determined to achieve fine things in the hospitality industry and there have been many stepping stones on his yellow brick road to reach his goal.

His CV includes ownership of a city hotel, Fremantle food halls, restaurant partnerships with Warren Mead and Ian Love and shares in a wine merchant’s operation.

Those who know him accept that he is a businessman who will do what it takes to achieve his goal.

He masterminded the Red Herring’s simple decor and the partnership of the quartet of businessmen who own it and the Surf Club restaurant at Leighton Beach.

The Red Herring features local seafood with an Asian influence.

With its minimalist décor, beautiful Swan River backdrop and fine timber furniture, this is a bonus dining room on our long list of seafood restaurants.

The Red Herring’s prawns are a perfect example of its cuisine.

The prawns wore their tails and heads in an erotic display of bare flesh which made them easy to eat.

The delicately cooked crustaceans were served with a refreshing Asian salad of fresh coriander leaves and julienne vegetables with peelings of coconut flesh adding chips of texture.

Palm sugar mixed into a syrup with lime juice in a light fish sauce with finely chopped birds eye chillies mixed with the haunting flavour of the coriander to make one of the most spectacular prawn dishes I have tasted. Entrée size costs $19.50 and a main course $29.

Ivan’s experience in the Rottnest Bakery shone through in the stunning fresh loaf presented in the early stages of our meal.

Everybody was impressed.

Nothing enhances the taste of oysters better than the spiced flavours of pink, pickled ginger. Stronger sauces disguise the flavours such as the overpowering flavourings of kilpatrick which spoils the shellfish.

The fresh South Australian Smokey Bay oysters at $2.75 each were served as I requested with a quarter of lemon and finely sliced pickled ginger.

These are a naturally salty oyster – a character I delight in.

The Red Herring’s oyster and sushi bar offers a number of sauces and preparations including tabasco and lime, a Japanese avocado salsa, tempura, a miso and ginger sauce or served with Japanese cucumber and sesame seeds.

The good portions of Japanese cuisine make a fine, health way to begin your meal.

Vegetarian nori rolls are available on request along with sushi and sashimi as the Japanese entrée plate – a collection of sashimi, oysters, tempura prawns, nori roll and tataki costing $38.50 for two.

The Red Herring’s food selection is a tribute to the way the cooks of Asia respect the ingredients from the waters of the world.

Led by ginger, the balance of herbs and spices they combine uplift seafood rather than dominate it – as happens with the heavy, rich sauces of some continental cuisines.

The ever-changing menu is influenced by the availability of the freshest seafood.

The fish of the day was a blue spotted emperor from the Abrolhos Islands off Geraldton, but I was attracted by my favourite, the prince of the Indian Ocean, dhufish.

I chose it battered in the cloud-light Japanese-style tempura ($24.50).

Two fillets were deep fried swiftly to emerge wrapped in a light, golden, crispy web. The two fillets were ample for me.

If you enjoy a thicker fillet of flaky dhufish then order either of the other two options: grilled or battered.

Considering the quality of the food served, the prices are reasonable but a selection of nine condiments lifts the price.

There is nothing ordinary about these condiments which include buttered spinach ($4.50), tomato and bocconcini salad ($7), steamed greens with oyster sauce and garlic ($5) and homemade fat chips ($5.50).

The outstanding wine list rates as one of the best in the State because of its creativeness and thoroughness.

However, it is pricey with only five wines under $30.

Wine by the glass might be the best way to go with more than 30 to choose from.

To its credit the Red Herring has installed a wine preserving system which guards the open bottles from air-borne nasties.

Dining above the river on a fine, sunny day or a balmy summer evening in East Fremantle is simply magic.

The place has evolved into a premium restaurant with a casual air and excellent standard of service.

The staff must do an hour’s smiling practice before they start work.

Functions from weddings to corporate seminars are big business at the Red Herring.

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