THE superb pre-summer sunshine we are experiencing brings alfresco dining to the fore and the options available are wide and varied.I have discovered delightful garden dining in West Perth in the walled courtyard of Julio’s Restaurant on busy Hay Street. Some eight well-dressed tables inhabit this quaint, inviting spot and you can be secure in the consistency of food and service.It was here I visited the asparagus season we are thankfully and currently passing through. Happily feasting on the green stalks, which have been labelled as aphrodisiacs since Roman times. Methinks, the shape of these stalks contributed to this dubious reputation rather than the actual chemistry of the vegetable.Apart from the uniquely flavoured green asparagus I took advantage of there being the more rare, white aristocratic cousins available at Julio’s.Traditionally, white asparagus is deep-planted and harvested beneath the surface and a special long bladed knife of some 40cm was designed to harvest the subterranean delicacy.Asparagus blanc offers more subtle flavours than the sauvignon blanc tastes of the common green, the textures are softer but like all asparagus preparation should be a brief steaming or boiling and its dressing should be kept simple.Aldo Dichiera had the delicacy harvested from his mothers’ vegetable patch that has had the plants for well over a decade. She has declared the plant are so elderly that new plantings are due.Aldo and wife Connie work Julio’s as a team, he remains executive chef in a kitchen he has worked in since day one of Julio’s 15 years ago – though patrons see the superbly dressed chef on the restaurant floor much more often these days.A bright yellow saddle of Hollandaise dressed the white spears that were deliciously served in a delicate lemon butter sauce; this was capped with small slivers of shaved parmesan cheese. In all, a magnificent treat and an excellent combination.Julio’s is a comfortable restaurant that presents with a spoonful of formality yet this mood isn’t overbearing.Generally the immaculately presented couple greet patrons and oversee all that takes place guaranteeing the quality of your visit. Be it indoors or outside, the tables are always smartly dressed and the quality of service matches.A small, well-appointed room of this former two-storey West Perth mansion makes a cosy and sometimes ever-so-squeezy cocktail bar.From here, and the cellar room adjacent, a fine selection of international beers and wines are served. Prices of wine are uppish but reasonable in the context of the style of Julio’s.Sometimes the Julio’s cuisine seems at odds with the immaculate presentation of the place.It is munificent, almost farmhouse serves of generously flavoured Italian tucker with a regional lean to the south of this slither shaped country.Sicily comes to the fore when the kitchen plays with traditional recipes. The food makes little pretence to be refined though served in an elegant manner.I often feel the same cuisine could as easily be served in a small trattoria and it would still be in place.Not everything on the Julio’s menu is distinctly Italian cuisine; such is an entrée on a set menu for lunch ($26) and dinner ($32) of a roulade of smoked salmon and chicken in a light curried sauce.This dish is one of five offered. A similar number of major courses are available to choose from including the non-Italian cajun spiced chicken with a contrasting Italian accompaniment of a tomato and basil sauce.On the same, affordable menu four desserts are offered including the “pudding del giorno”, the pudding of the day. Tea or coffee and chocolates are included though garlic or herb bread adds $2.50. Hand made coffees from the espresso are $3 more.Of course a la carte is available and this menu has pasta entrees at $14.50, a seafood risotto with champagne, lemon and thyme with tomato and the classic, Italian arborio rice $16.50, marinated calamari grilled or fried $14.50.The pick of the main courses are the roasted lamb rack stuffed with a farce of spinach and pine nuts and served with a clever mint glaze ($25).This is a place for a steak cut like a brandy flambéed, peppered, beef fillet and Aldo’s pepper sauce ($25). Or at the same price my favourite cut, a sirloin served over garlic, mushroom and a red wine reduction.The veal is always good here as you might expect, try it in a white wine sauce with garlic spinach and sliced pan-fried potatoes. It’s not on the menu in that form but I find they are happy to tailor-make the dish on request.Certainly a Julio’s night out will be a full on event and Aldo and Connie Dichiera and their staff are excellent hosts.They have very high standards and this restaurant appears as their life work.Invite gourmet friends for full flavoured, handsome portioned meals served with friendly elegance.
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