Harry’s the seafood master

HARRY Ferrante can sauté up a debate on almost any subject as quickly as I can say deep-fry a potato chip. If it’s a subject I’m blatantly not interested in, I sit to his deaf left ear, should it be about food and wine, I ensure I swap sides because he certainly knows his subject.

He once served an intriguing risotto that forever stays recorded in my palate floppy-disc.

The rice masterpiece was certainly designed to capture attention. A bright green vegetable shone out against the white pearls of stock-cooked grain, which was explained as Poison Ivy.

My fear and trepidation, along with very hesitant acceptance of the dish, drew a broad smile from Ferrante.

Was he at last going to reduce the number of restaurant critics by one, what happened to good old concrete shoes? Understandably, these were the questions spinning through my mind.

Not so, because the brilliant green nettle loses its toxicity when cooked and I lived to write the tale.

Any story about Harry Ferrante reads like a script of a passion play because of the intensity and fervour he applies to food, wine and anything to do with the hospitality industry.

This identity, who once studied architecture, comes from a culinary dynasty, three generations of the family have operated restaurants in Italy, the United States and Australia.

Harry is a Fellow of the Catering Institute of Australia and has been inducted into the Catering Industry’s Hall of Fame.

He has two restaurants in Northbridge within strolling distance of each other so he can be checking on entrees at Simon’s Seafood Restaurant and moments later on principal courses at Harry’s Seafood Garden Restaurant.

However, there would be little cause for concern at the latter establishment because his sister Lietta is in charge.

Simon’s I believe was bought as a buffer against the uncertainty of tenure at Harry’s Restaurant with the Graham Farmer Freeway Tunnel running under the backyard.

Certainly, Simon’s is one of the best restaurant rooms in Northbridge. This is actually a huge restaurant with a function room, but you would never know because of the intimacy of the areas.

Simon’s is essentially a seafood house. Considering the fish market price of this commodity, this is an affordable dining room, by its very nature seafood is expensive to buy and therefore, value added, the ingredient prices are handed on. While they buy daily, the end prices are quite reasonable.

Returning attention to Harry Ferrante’s great passion – food. I once enjoyed a truffle feast here with a multitude of dishes infused with the powerful flavours of these subterranean fungi with the wrinkled appearance of an aging potato.

One particular dish was so impressive I suggested he preserve it on future menus and he has.

Fresh truffles can cost $2000 per kilo.

At Simon’s the truffle experience is offered as an entrée at $9.75, no doubt these are preserved truffles used in the pie crusted consume laced with truffle-infused chicken dumplings, served with iceberg lettuce, eggs and parmesan cheese.

Simon’s a la carte menu is physically large, displaying a collection of family recipes, but in terms of dishes it is fairly petite. Other set menus are available on request.

As the king of the Indian Ocean makes a fine marker guide for seafood restaurants, a good sized and well-balanced fillet of dhufish, grilled, pan-fried or beer battered with stir-fried greens and a butter sauce costs $26.

Barramundi with all the same options $23.40, but I do believe the great barramundi experience is when the fish is pulled straight from the warm waters of the north, immediately battered in small filets and deep-fried. Certainly it’s not a fish to freeze.

King George whiting baked fillets are prepared in three options – grilled or fried in breadcrumbs or beer battered are $24.90, served with lemon, sweet red capsicum and snow peas.

Being the crayfish season, green lobster dishes decorate the a la carte menu, but it carries a price tag. Whole or half at $45.75 and $27.75 the chef will serve it mornay, a lobster mayonnaise, thermidor or simply grilled green.

In addition there is scampi and lobster bisque flavoured with a belt of cognac at $8.25.

You would expect pasta in any restaurant where recipes of an Italian grandmother decorate the menu and Simon’s obliges.

A spaghetti marinara with seafood jewels and a tomato based sauce ($15.10) or home made egg fettuccine simply done with a tomato and sweet basil sauce ($11.90) and lastly smoked salmon fettuccine with snow peas in a cream sauce ($13.50).

Kids are catered for with two dishes, fish and chips ($11.50) and for the more sophisticated little dears, fried prawns and chips ($12.50).

Should you not fancy a seafood main course, limited options are available in chicken, a veal cutlet or a beefsteak cut.

But the non-fish dish on the menu is the pistachio stuffed whole quail with sage chips and a wild mushroom demi-glace ($24); this is Ferrante at his non-fish best.

Simon’s Seafood Restaurant

73 Francis Street, Northbridge

Reservations 9227 9055

Smoking and non-smoking

Fully licensed and BYO (corkage $2.75 per person)

Lunch Monday to Friday

Dinner Monday to Saturday

Parking Francis Street

Car Park 8

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