When you have small children (especially of the very tiny and solely breastfed variety), it can be difficult to leave the house for a meal. I am pleased to report that it doesn’t have to be this way. You just need to book yourself in to attend one of Perth’s newest culinary events — a raw degustation night at CNR Cafe — and your 3-month old will be as welcome as you are.
After months (literally!) of trying to find a date that suited us and the Cafe, we managed to book places at the 18 May dinner.
On arrival, we were greeted warmly and seated quickly at our table, which comprised my partner and newborn, friend (Angie) and new friends, Daniel and Sarita. And me. Conversation flowed easily over our acai/cacao smoothies and sparkling mineral water and it was clear from the outset that we would have an enjoyable night that was not solely about the food. Martine, our gracious host, had clearly made an effort with respect to the seating arrangements.
So what did we eat? First course consisted of a foamy red pepper chowder, balanced with ‘roasted’ portabello mushrooms and hazelnut yoghurt. In the spirit of raw, it was served warm rather than hot, however this was well balanced with the heat of the chilli. The highlight of the dish was the marinated, dehydrated mushrooms and, I think at the point of tasting these, everyone in the cafe who didn’t have a dehydrator at home vowed to own one.
Second course was refreshing: vegetable norimaki with marinated portabello and pickled ginger. You would not have guessed from the flavour that cauliflower was used in place of rice, and the beetroot-stained ginger was a striking touch.
Third course was my favourite: spaghetti puttanesca, adorned with peppered ‘parmesan’ that was surprisingly similar to the real thing in look and texture. I loved these bold, decisive flavours; I will be emulating this at home.
In the course of our meal, our table reflected on the fact that raw food does not have to be treated as special. Raw food just opens up other meal options, but it can be difficult to know where to begin. Attending events like these can renew your vigour for healthful eating, as well as providing inspiration for creative family dinners. So much awesome at once.
*** Speaking of healthy, creative dishes, there are still places left at my Decadent Desserts uncooking class, running on 6 June in Perth. ***
Our fourth course, pad thai, was delightfully light. The chilli lime almonds that crowned each vegetable noodle stack primed our tastebuds for the fresh spice hit to follow, and the combination of carrot and young coconut flesh had the appearance of crab meat on the plate. My mind reeled with possibilities for future dishes at home, and I could imagine an easy conversion of this dish into a laksa with the addition of coconut milk and extra spice.
Even though the third course was my favourite, fifth course was my star of the evening: chai sago with cinnamon sugar. The chia seeds were an ideal impostor for sago in this dish, which was perfectly spiced and not overly sweet.
The final course, a raw chocolate ganache tart, was decadent and delicious. It certainly had tongues at our table wagging due to it’s decidedly un-raw, too-good-to-be-good-for-you taste. I had trouble finishing my generous and richly sweet serving.
Most people will understand the concept of a degustation menu to comprise small bites of spectacular culinary acrobatics. At this meal there were no bites, just full portions. Ordinarily, six full-sized dishes in one meal would leave me feeling bloated and tired. Not so with raw. We ended the night on a pleasantly full, happy and inspired note.
My final verdict? Beautiful company [great as a meetup.com event!], fabulous fare and the chance to discover new techniques and flavour combinations. A steal at $75 per ticket.
Raw degustation nights happen every month at CNR Cafe (at the far corner of the Northbridge Piazza – corner of Lake and James Streets – ph: 9228 8861). To find out more, check out CNR’s facebook page [link defunct > removed].
Thank you to Martine, and my fellow dinner guests, for a most excellent evening.