21/05/2008 - 22:00

Something to get your teeth into

21/05/2008 - 22:00


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Carnivores who feel their needs aren’t being catered for in a world of fusion food and cafe culture fear not – two recently opened venues in the city are a timely addition to Perth’s culinary scene.

Something to get your teeth into
Photo: Grant Currall

Carnivores who feel their needs aren't being catered for in a world of fusion food and cafe culture fear not - two recently opened venues in the city are a timely addition to Perth's culinary scene.

And if American-style grilled ribs tickle your fancy, then look no further than Tony Roma's, which opened last month at 919 Hay Street, in the Woodside Plaza complex.

The Tony Roma's restaurant chain was started 35 years ago in Miami, and although it has about 200 restaurants around the world, the Perth eatery is only the second franchise in Australia, after Sydney.

Although the brand may be new to many home-grown Western Australians, the local American expat community rushed in the doors when Tony Roma's opened to devour the signature dish, baby back ribs, according to franchisee Harry Djakaria.

The restaurant has been very successful for business lunches and, to Mr Djakaria surprise, the new CBD eatery is even busier for dinner.

"We found a niche in this area; it is an uncatered market for travellers, looking for something familiar.

It is a good time for a restaurant like this," Mr Djakaria told Gusto.

Aware of the negative perceptions the words 'American' and 'franchise' can create, Mr Djakaria says Tony Roma's aims to provide value for money and "excitement" for the people of Perth.

Mr Djakaria hasn't been spared from the usual hurdles of licence approval, as the restaurant it is still waiting for its tavern licence to be granted, five months after lodging its application.

Finding staff was also tricky, especially since Tony Roma's head chefs have to be trained in the closest Tony Roma's training centre, in this case Singapore.

"You have to be sure that you hiring the right people because the kitchen manager has to be trained for six weeks in Singapore, and you are looking at a $40,000 exercise here," Mr Djakaria says.

Tony Roma's is open for lunch and dinner five days a week, and dinner only on the weekend.

A completely different type of American-style grill venue was opened in Northbridge six months ago on Lake Street.

While the franchise Tony Roma's has a rather slick feel to it, Lackers Grill is run independently by Frenchborn Cheyenne Nguyen, and only has American cuisine.

"It's very mixed; I am French originally, and we do American-style cuisine with the ribs and the steaks and I dig on my French background to add a bit of flavour," Mrs Nguyen says.

The restaurant, which seats 60 people at the front, has a comfortable feel to it.

Velvet booths inside and a garden at the back with a pool table and a jukebox add to the atmosphere.

Mrs Nguyen says the meat is served "as fresh as it gets".

"You can see the meat that is going to be cooked because of the open kitchen; we get all our meat from next door butcher, Torre, we buy it fresh everyday," she says.

Mrs Nguyen runs the restaurant with her partner and her son, and says Lackers Grill opens late at night to cater for those who want eat after 10pm, whether they are hospitality people or party-goers.

"We thought it was really missing in Perth, a place for people to chill out at night and have a decent meal," she says.

Mrs Nguyen used to run the French restaurant La Cascade in Nedlands in the mid-1970s, and has since lived in Tahiti, Bali, Hong Kong and Kuala Lumpur, among other places.

Lackers Grill is open from 6pm to 3am during the week and 8am on the weekends.


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