Brush up on your merci and s'il vous plait. French is the new black when it comes to eating out.
Escargot, entrecote and beef bourguignon are appearing on menus everywhere, led by veteran chef Alain Fabregues and patissier Emmanuel Mollois in Bistro des Artistes, which has breathed new life into the Subiaco food scene.
"In fact, it's one of the best things to happen to WA dining this year," Rob Broadfield, editor of The West Australian's Good Food Guide 2013, says.
Make no mistake, it's not fussy French as we knew it in the 70s and 80s. This is French with a bistro accent - democratic, inexpensive and well cooked - and it's taking Perth by storm, with Xavier Pique's P'tite Ardoise pulling a full house mid-week in Highgate and Guillaume Brahimi's Guillaume Bistro set to open at Crown Perth.
The gallic revival is one of the trends defining Perth's dining scene that has finally come of age in a breakthrough year, with an array of big-bucks restaurants opening their doors, including The Trustee Bar & Bistro and Heritage Brasserie on St Georges Terrace as part of the Brookfield Place redevelopment.
Print Hall, in The West Australian's former headquarters, is set to open this week and Nobu, at Crown, opened in April.
"I think it's the Packer effect," Broadfield says.
"He's put a billion into Crown and given the industry confidence to invest in what is often a very volatile sector.
"The other big trend is Mexican, led by La Cholita and El Publico - and that's Melbourne-driven with Newmarket, in St Kilda, and Mamasita at the cutting edge of modern Mexican street food," Broadfield says.
Then there's steak. Not just T-bone and porterhouse, but "steak with an address", like David Blackmore's dry-aged full-blood Wagyu, Cape Grim 36-month-old grass fed and Rangers Valley 300-day grain fed. It's about food with a provenance and it means getting up close and personal with your meat.
Dude food is picking up pace, too, thanks to New York restaurateur David Chang and Los Angeles food truck vendor Roy Choi, who's drawn on his Korean heritage to revamp US junk food classics like hot dogs with loads of grated cheese and Asian flavours (yes, kimchi is the next cupcake). It has also morphed the flavours and textures of childhood favourite chocolate bars, lollies and ice-cream into gourmet desserts that appeal to the kid in us all.
"It's all high-end hand food - tacos, steamed dumplings, sliders, kimchi, Japanese mayo and deep-fried everything - and The Cabin in Mt Hawthorn is dude food central," Broadfield says.
More than 300 restaurants, small bars and cafes are wrapped up in the third edition of the guide, which will be in good book stores from September 18 and, again, includes a section on Bali, where eating out has come along in leaps and bounds in the past year.
"The food, really, is to be reckoned with now," Broadfield says. "Particularly the bar offerings; even in little shacks beside the road, the cocktail scene and the dude food scene is just genius."
ROB BROADFIELD'S FAVES
Vitello tonnato at The Trustee. It's an up-tempo take on the classic Italian cold dish of poached veal and tuna mayonnaise. It came with three house-made grissini (bread sticks), thinly sliced and perfectly cooked veal fillet fanned out around the plate, a scattering of salty, crunchy, deep-fried capers, a punchy mayonnaise booming with tuna flavours and a few peppery rocket leaves. The tweak? The mayo - traditionally smothered on top of the veal - was the base for the dish, which made it pretty and better to eat.
Arroz negro "paella" at Pata Negra. It's a traditional Catalan dish, cooked in the wood-fired oven and one of the all-time faves here; made with Spanish rice, cuttlefish, squid ink, aioli and lemon. Pure Mediterranean flavour. A brilliant take on a seafood staple.
Rockpool's mixed mushrooms. It's the signature side and the most expensive but it's unbelievably good. A meal in its own right; slippery, meaty and seared just right with king oyster, shimeji, oyster, shitake and Swiss brown mushrooms.
For sheer fun, the chocolate fudge sundae at Heritage Brasserie. It was a curious, infantilising addition to the menu (there was also a banana split) but the comfort- food factor seemed to outweigh the public awkwardness of being seen eating such cream-gunned, topping-drenched, chocolate- sauced, nut-clustered, cherry- topped kiddy pud.
Tuna sashimi at Nobu. It's the best fish I had all year. 1cm-thick triangles of jewel-like flesh from the pectorals that was so fresh it didn't even taste of fish; all you taste is the ocean. It was served to me sitting at the sushi bar. My instruction to the sushi chef was simple: "Bring me your best."
Best Dude Food:
Quail breast Kiev at The Cabin. Take a quail breast, bone it, flatten it and wrap it around a slug of garlicky butter. Cut it into morsel-sized pieces, crumb and deep-fry it. It was served simply in a small earthenware bowl and delivered with a slug of dill mayo on the side, just in case you're not getting enough fat. It was seriously good, and seriously tasty.
GOOD FOOD GUIDE 2013
TOP 5 BUDGET ASIAN
15/66 Roe Street, Northbridge, 9328 4003
Cheap, cheerful, basic. And open until 3am, later on weekends. This is a fave for the Northbridge nightlife set. Chilli pepper squid, Singapore-style noodles and sang choy bow are pick of the bunch.Pepper Lunch
5G/95 Barrack Street, Perth, 9325 3532
This part of the CBD has become Korea Town. Pepper Lunch delivers Korean faves with a Japanese accent. Pepper beef rice comes with soft, pink slices of beef, rice, corn and eggs. This is a big hit with the cheap-eats crowd.Red Teapot
413 William Street, Northbridge, 9228 1981
Budget prices and good cooking in this popular, tiny dining room. The signature prosperous fragrant chicken is the most requested dish and deep-fried squid tentacles are the best beer food around.Viet Hoa
1/349 William Street, Northbridge, 9328 2127
No one makes pho quite like the Viet Hoa cooks (it's all about the stock) and no one seems to mind the plastic bowls and tatty furniture. Noodles, done in the fragrant Vietnamese way, are also recommended.Shanghai Tea Gardens
399 William Street, Northbridge, 9227 7066
It's good to find a Chinese restaurant in WA that's not Cantonese. Shanghai's dishes are from the subtler cuisine of the north and west of China, but also include the lip-numbing black vinegar specialties of Szechuan cuisine.
GOOD FOOD GUIDE 2013
TOP 5 BURGERS
Five locations: Subiaco, Joondalup, Claremont Quarter, Hillarys and Mt Lawley
It's almost a chain these days - there are Grill'd shops all over Australia - but the choice of buns, the superb beef patties and the vegetarian options make this one of the best bun'n'beef operations in town.Jus Burgers
Four locations: Subiaco, Leederville, Fremantle and Northbridge
Justin Bell is WA's burger entrepreneur. All Jus Burger meats are processed in-house (no pre-packaged minces here). Free range chicken and the best beef make these some of the juiciest, tastiest burgers around. And now you can order online and beat the queues.The Burger Bistro
Two locations: Perth and Leederville
Burgers come with names here. And quite right, too - they're very special. Good buns and superb meat make these burgers shine. No prizes for guessing what meat the patty in the "Lamburghini" is made from. Try the "Smoked" as well.Flipside
Two locations: North Fremantle and Wembley
As they say at Flipside: "There is no love more sincere than the love of a good burger." And they mean it. Prime cuts of meat for the patties, properly toasted buns and superb dressings and salads make for burgers as good as they are big. Our favourite? The Blue Train: beef and blue cheese in a bun.Alfred's Kitchen
One location: Guildford
Burger purists drive to Alfred's from all over the city. There's none of the modern gourmet malarky going on at Alfred's - just great hamburgers, made in the traditional Aussie way with great meat and, yes, even beetroot if you want it.