A new chef in the kitchen creating new menus is an exciting thing. All the more so when the new chef has the creative flair of Melissa Palinkas. You may have previously enjoyed Chef Melissa’s food in Mt Hawthorn at The Cabin or at one of her pop up Alphabet Soup Dining events at various venues around town (currently with truffle on the menu at 399 Bar) but recently she became part owner and executive chef at Young George in East Fremantle.
I had never been to Young George, even in its past life as The Wine Store, but since the re-name I had followed along on social media and seen many tempting looking dishes they were serving up (including pizza and everyone loves pizza!). I was asked if I would be keen to head in and try out some of the new dishes from the menu. The added appeal was Chef Melissa would choose the dishes she’d send out. I mean she’s the chef, she knows best and it meant I didn’t have to stress over the menu 🙂 Lock it in!
My handsome dining companion GG and I visited Young George on Friday evening. Located on George Street in East Fremantle we managed to find our way there successfully with thanks to the GPS. I wouldn’t say I’m overly familiar with Freo and some of the narrow streets can be a little confusing, but we made it! Despite the chilly weather, as soon as we were inside it was toasty warm and there was a real vibrancy to the place with many happy Friday folk in attendance, clearly celebrating the start of the weekend. It was probably bigger than I had expected in size, with a variety of seating options – couches, tall tables and stools and also a decent bar area for people to perch around. We were shown to a table in the more traditional dining area and our super friendly waiter (who had a real Jon Snow look about him with his curls) helped us to choose a nice bottle of red since I’m all over red wine now, and we sat and enjoyed the Izway Shiraz as we eagerly anticipated our mystery meal.
We had also been given a menu so we could check out the latest offerings and it was a looker! Split into various sections – smalls, plates, wood roasted, sweets, etc… it outlined some really interesting flavour combinations, that on paper got you wondering, wow would that and that actually work?
Before any of the official dishes arrived we were presented with a small dish of tortilla chips and what looked like guacamole and salsa. As we soon discovered through it was actually ‘broccamole’ and things had been mixed right on up by subbing out the more traditional avo for broccoli! Say what? Now I know there was recent internet furore over someone’s audacity at suggesting adding peas to guacamole so I can appreciate that to some this may seem like sacrilege, but it actually tasted pretty similar and for someone who knows someone who is allergic to avocado and has never been able to indulge in guacamole before I was excited that she could try this quasi-guacamole and no longer miss out on the magic. It got the taste buds firing and ready for the next adventure.
A series of dishes from the ‘Smalls’ section were then delivered in an exciting flurry.
- milk bun, char-grilled beef tongue, cabbage, pickled onion, mustard aioli ($6.50 each)
- char sui carrot steam buns, soy, vinegar ($5.50 each)
- crispy rice cake, aka miso, black sesame, lime ($8.50)
We started with the two buns, with GG expertly halving them, before we each took an eager first bite. We had started with the beef tongue and while eating tongue could potentially sound slightly confronting, when you have someone in the kitchen who knows how to prepare it then it is really no worry at all. It tasted so entirely delicious I’m pretty sure I actually sighed out loud in happiness. That warm pillowy bun, the melt in your mouth beef, the crunch from the cabbage, the sweet zestiness of the pickled onion and the creamy goodness of the mustard aioli. It just ticked so many boxes, a real flavour sensation. I loved everything about it and it reminded me of the importance of being adventurous with food, otherwise you can miss out on some delicious dishes! Tongue, prepared well, was wonderful.
I had been intrigued by what a dish with carrot as the star would taste like, but turns out done in a char sui marinade it was actually really flavoursome, with some lingering crunch from the carrot as a nice contrast to the soft, steamed bun. I feel happy too when I try interesting vegetarian options, because while I am not one, I know a few and I don’t want their life to have to be one big mushroom risotto….. not sure why that’s my go to stereotypical dish for vegos but for today it is. This is a fun and creative starter that the vegetarian set should be right on board with.
But if they are missing their risotto then perhaps mix things up on the rice front with an order of the rice cakes. The dainty orange cubes, artistically sprinkled with black sesame seeds had such an interesting texture, with the rice sort of sticky and chewy in your mouth. Flavourwise there was a citrusy freshness from the lime which was a pleasant contrast to the saltiness from the miso. Definitely a little different, but another creative offering from the kitchen.
With our foray into the smalls sorted we moved on to a combination of dishes from the Plates, Wood Roasted and Winter Veggies sections
- chicken&dumplings, fried chicken, sage dumplings, white bordelaise, samphire ($26)
- duck steak, caramelised fennel & smoked ham hock, maple, pickled orange ($32)
- roasted cauliflower, cauliflower hummus, petite capers, truffle ($18)
- beetroot, persimmon, smoked mozzarella, puy lentils, almonds, px vinegar ($17.5)
The beetroot salad came first and I marveled at the bright, mixed beetroot colours carefully arranged throughout the leaves. In one regard I marveled because I had never seen anything other than regular beetroot in the stores! Where are they hiding these candy striped beets? But Chef Michelle had found them and they looked pretty as a picture with the thin disks of golden beet and regular baby beets, along with the green from the beetroot leaves and the torn smoked mozzarella, crumbles of almonds and the puy lentils. It’s a solid skill to plate up a salad and have it look effortlessly artistic like this one did. Was there someone in the kitchen carefully arranging each leaf? Flavourwise it was refreshing and tasty and as much as the beetroot was the star of the salad, that smoked mozzarella did manage to steal some focus because I love cheese and it was very, very good cheese. Will also have to hunt down some of that too while I’m searching for beets.
As we were putting a dent in the beetroot salad the next three dishes arrived and we played a game of tetris to fit all the plates on the table. We got there though. I’m quite good at tetris.
It was hard to know where to start, but I turned my attention to the chicken & dumplings. Plump morsels of chook had been lightly battered and fried crispy and were served alongside these amazing herby breaded dumplings and then sauced up with white bordelaise, which is a white wine style sauce. Samphire is an interesting ingredient and added some green to the plate and some crunch to the dish. The chicken was tender and along with the sage dumplings and the sauce, which was fairly light but had plenty of depth of flavour, it was just wonderful. I’d say this dish was actually my favourite, just so tasty!
The duck presented beautifully and I loved the plate too, such a cute print. Arranged on the caramelized fennel and smoked ham hock medley were chunky slices with expertly crispy skin. I feel that’s a life skill I’d like to learn, to successfully roast a duck. I’ll put it on the list along with choux pastry and quenelles, but I digress. It was divine duck and having the pickled orange pieces dotted around the plate was also a unique take on the classic duck and orange, a l’orange if you will, pairing. It was actually a fairly rich dish, compared to the chicken & dumplings, but I did enjoy it and again, great to see fennel on the menu. I love fennel and its beautiful aniseedy flavour.
Our final savoury dish was another one for the vegetarians and as someone who has eaten an abundance of cauliflower since returning from holidays I’m always keen to see what else you can do with this versatile veg. The decadent aroma of the black truffle included in this dish reached our table before the plate did. It’s such a heady smell the ol’ truffle! Having the cauli done two ways, both as the smooth and creamy hummus along with the more crisped up roasted pieces are the perfect pair. I also really enjoyed the capers in this dish, because cauli on its own doesn’t have a particularly strong taste, but it was enhanced by the offsetting salty kick from the capers and the lingering loveliness from the truffle. It was another winner and I look forward to roasting some cauli at home sometime soon.
We did our best to polish off as much as we could and I’d say that our efforts were respectable. Thankfully though there was just enough room left for dessert. Isn’t that always the way?
- pumpkin pie ice cream, bitter chocolate cookie dough, wattle mocha cream ($15)
This dessert was one of those menu items that had me wondering would these flavours all go? I mean pumpkin pie ice cream alone was intriguing enough and each element on its own, sure, but together in the same dish? I couldn’t wait to find out! It looked fairly rich, the perfect sphere of ice-cream, sprinkling of chocolate and the bed of mocha mousse, but it proved to be surprisingly light. The sweetness of the pumpkin actually made for a really interesting ice cream flavour and the spiced pie crust added a gingerbready element to this entirely creative dessert. I liked too that the chocolate was dark and did add more of a bitter flavour then adding to the sweetness. Contrast is key and everything had been well balanced and well considered in this bowl.
I was thoroughly impressed. I love a menu that embraces creativity, incorporates seasonal ingredients and keeps your taste buds thoroughly entertained with interesting and different flavour combinations. This new winter menu did just that. My thanks to Chef Melissa for the invitation for GG and I to dine at Young George and try out some of these delicious new dishes.
Young George Opening Hours:
And they have a Doughnut French Toast on their breakfast menu that I cannot wait to head back and try! According to Chef Melissa….. It’s our house brioche sandwiched with bacon jam, then egg washed & cooked in butter then dredged in cinnamon sugar like a doughnut. It’s served with blue berry mascarpone and maple syrup.
How amazing does that sound! 🙂