My swimming pool had a leak - or should I say, leaks - and they were proving difficult to rectify, which was depressing me no end. Coupled with that, a category 10 cyclone was raging outside, so all in all, I was in no mood to go out and review a restaurant - but duty called, and so off we dutifully went. Well, let me tell you, if you need an antidote for the blues and a haven from the storm, head off down to Southern Star.
We began with the deep-fried spring rolls ($6.90), which were straight from the fryer to the table, crunchily crisp, and nicely presented with chamfered ends. By the time we had decided that they possibly needed a chilli dip of some sort, we had eaten them all - so perhaps they were fine with the dipping sauce they came with.
Barbecue quail in soy sauce and chilli was accompanied by the following dialogue:
Wife: "Does it taste nice, my dearest?"
Me: "Does it look as if it tastes nice, my sweet?"
Wife: "Well, you're eating them with your fingers, my petal, and you've stripped the bones clean, so I guess everyone in the restaurant will think so."
Too right they did. And at $8.90 they were a bargain: plump, tender and subtly sauced.
Whether justified or not, I fancy myself as a student of Vietnamese restaurants, and fresh rice paper rolls are a good indicator of a restaurant's commitment to quality, since there are so many ways of ruining them: the rice paper can be old, dry, or overly chewy; they can stint on the meat or prawn filling and overdo the vegies; they can be made too far in advance and the crunch of whatever fresh vegies are used dissolves into flabbiness; the dipping sauce can be too thin, have insufficient ground peanuts, or be bulked out with a mountain of grated carrots. The rice paper rolls ($8.90) at Southern Star avoided all of these sinful practices - six attractively presented mouth-stuffing parcels packed with pork, vermicelli, fresh vegies and a prawn top and bottom.
The star of the evening, though, was the prawn bird's nest ($27.90): a very generous serve of lightly wok-tossed prawns and firmly moist vegies splendidly presented in a nest of crispy fried noodles. Hot plate duck with silken tofu ($26.90) was again unstinting in its portions. The boneless duck fillets were cooked to juicy sublimity, but the "silken tofu" was disappointingly flaccid rather than silky. Infused with a satisfyingly large quantity of coconut, the coconut rice ($3.90) we ordered with this dish was a must-have.
Few Asian restaurateurs lay claim to being wine-savvy and many leave their list to a single wholesaler. Southern Star is no exception. The list is small but adequate, with six wines by the glass.
And if you think a Cullen Red at $35 or a Moss Wood Cab Sav at $60 are bargains, you'll agree the list is well-priced.
Address Unit 1/132 Terrace Road, Perth
Open Lunch: 11am - 2pm Mon - Fri; dinner: 5.30 - 10pm Mon - Sun
The buzz Well-presented, well-cooked food at reasonable prices, a stylishly understated environment, and prompt, courteous service are enough to drive away the glums.14/20