When I heard that Perama was closing down soon I knew I had to make myself a booking soon as it had always been on my wish list of places to try. I gathered a group of food bloggers for a final feasting at Perama. Perama has been running for an impressive 18 years so it was quite sad to be dining here for the first and last time. Chef and owner, David Tsirekas, will be opening up a new Greek bar and restaurant, Xanthi, in Westfield Sydney on the 15th of August 2011. We learn that there will be filo pastries made to order, a trolley of over 20 different varieties of Ouzo on offer, traditional sand-pit coffee, 2 spit roasts offered every lunch and dinner service and of course some of the favourites from Perama at the new premise.
We had the Special Farewell Banquet (at $55/person) which showcased the some of best dishes to come out of the Perama kitchen.
We started the night off with a trio of dips and bread and also Greek salad. The dips we had were Taramasalata, Tzatziki and Split Pea. I was told to pace myself and not to fill up on too much on bread as there would be an onslaught of food to follow, but I couldn’t help myself, I must have had 3 or more slices of bread to mop up the yummy olive oil/salad juices and the delicious dips.
The Greek salad was fresh and I absolutely loved the soft, creamy and slightly salty feta cheese used in this salad.
The first of many entrees of the night was the zucchini fritters served with pickled cabbage. Slightly crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, although I did find them to be a little doughy/heavy but in saying that, the tartness of the pickled cabbage did help cut through this. I really enjoyed that picked cabbage.
What visit to a Greek restaurant is it without some squeaky cheese? The BBQ haloumi cheese with honey peppered figs were welcomed by all as they arrived. The haloumi cheese was not too salty nor hard and the addition of the honey peppered figs provided a subtle sweetness to the dish.
A selection of filo pastries was brought forth to the table and we squealed in glee at the magical sight that is the pork belly baklava. Sandwiched in between layers of flaky filo pastry are pork belly meat and a mixture of date and pistachios served with a drizzle of date and mastic sauce, but the best part of this baklava had to be the uber crunchy crackling that sits on top of the baklava. I pretty much scoffed the entire thing down very quickly, saving the crackling (the best bit) to last. This is the stuff dreams are made of. I really wished I had a whole plate of this all to myself (I’m sure everyone around the table was thinking the same thing).
Also featured were the spanakopita, once again, flaky filo pastry crumbles as you take a bite into the delectable rolls which are filled with a mixture of spinach and feta cheese.
Next up were the BBQ octopus which have been char-grilled and have a pleasant smoky taste to them. They were very tender and served with a spicy tomato sauce. A nice and simple dish but one you can’t stop picking at, I can picture myself having this during Summer at BBQs with a cold and refreshing drink in one hand.
Another dish that I have now learnt to love are dolmathes, the first time I had them was at a restaurant in Melbourne and they were serve cold. A few of us had a discussion about this, warm vs cold dolmathes, I personally love them warm but some have only ever had them cold. A mixture of rice and vegetables is wrapped around vine leaves into logs and served warm and with an avgolemono sauce (a thickened sauce made with eggs and lemon) which provides a creamy yet tangy zing to the dolmathes.
When we thought it was almost over, the main dish comes out. Lamb skaras, a slow braised lamb dish which has been braised with oregano, olive oil, garlic and lemon, is irresistibly tender and simple melts in the mouth. Whilst the addition of the baked potatoes and string beans may appear a little “simple” on this dish, they were most welcomed when some of us were starting to feel our bellies beginning to bulge. This is the most perfect comforting dish anyone can ask for!
I think David had an evil plan to fatten us all up as there was an extra dish to this banquet. My first impression of the mushroom and truffle moussaka was that it was going to be extremely heavy but it was far from that. Layers of potato, eggplant and mushroom form the basis of this dish and it is smothered in a black truffle and wild mushroom paste and topped with rich creamy béchamel. You could definitely smell the earthy, mushroom aroma permeating through the gooey, cheesy mess.
To combat this “heavy” dish, a side of green apple and cucumber salad was served along side the moussaka which was refreshing and the balsamic glaze that was lightly drizzled on this salad provided a nice sweetness.
“Oooo…. Jenga!” I heard someone say. We were all having fun trying to guess what this dessert was, for some it reminded them of snickers but in ice cream form. The Dionyssian Indulgence dessert consist of slabs of milk and dark chocolate ice cream with crumbled sesame halva in between and served with some sour cherries. The ice cream was incredibly decadent and creamy, the sesame halva was similar in taste and texture to chewy nougat and the sour cherries provided a much needed tart contrast to the sweetness of this dessert.
One of the desserts I knew I had to try from Perama was the caramel baklava ice cream. Nothing like the baklava ice cream I’ve had at another Greek restaurant, this version features layers of vanilla bean ice cream with a nutty baklava filling and served with a caramel sauce. Delicious!
The bougatsa are piping hot parcels of flaky filo pastry filled with a smooth semolina custard and (not traditionally) seasonal fruits. Small chunks of mandarin gave the bougatsa a lovely citrus flavour. Apparently the other seasonal fruits used are passionfruit and mango, I would have loved to try the mango version.
When we thought it was the end, David kindly brought out more desserts for us to have. The Byzantine ekmek features a toasted thick slice of sweet brioche drowned with a spiced honey syrup and topped with clotted cream. I found the syrup insanely sweet, that or maybe my body was telling me that I had too many sweet things already (never too many, I’d say).
The very last dish to conclude this epic meal was poached pears in spiced red wine syrup served with vanilla bean ice cream. Very minimal effort was required to cut through these luscious and tender pears.
The final service is on the 7th of August, so if you are quick be sure to book yourself in. Otherwise, you’ll just have to wait until Xanthi Bar and Restaurant opens on the 15th of August. Good luck David, I’m coming for that spit roast and pork belly baklava!