The Mantle is one cool venue. Sort of a refurbed warehouse style space, it has been sectioned off into several different dining venues. You want a burger? Head along to Short Order Co. Or pizza, off you go to Magna Pizza. Or if you fancy a small shared plates experience at an eatery that has signed on as a Buy West Eat Best venue (meaning A minimum of 70% of their kitchen ingredients will be local and West Australian which means you can trust you’re eating local) then you gotta go to Don Tapa!
We headed along earlier one Saturday and were fortunate to be able to snag a table before their 7pm official booking arrived. Wasn’t going to be a problem because this pair of early birds had arrived around 5.45pm. We’d been at a friend’s birthday drinks at another Freo venue, so decided to dinner it up nearby before trekking home. I say trek, but the more often I head to Freo the more I realise it really isn’t that far away. I’m perhaps just a little slack on the driving further away front.
So Don Tapa. The kitchen team is headed up by the very talented Chef Stuart Laws who I was fortunate to meet at the Gascoyne Food Festival Long Lunch. I had decided in my head that this is where we go for dinner when I’d spied some particularly delicious looking croquettes on offer, made with chestnut fed pork from Chestnut Brae. The menu was one where it was hard to not get carried away. However clearly for a table of two, the decision to have one of everything wasn’t going to work so we ordered:
- Koji Fried Chicken Bao – Chipotle aioli, pico de gallo ($8 each)
- Goats Cheese Sake Wontons – Truffled palm heart, fresh apple ($15)
- Pork Croquettes – Pickled broad beans, rocotto and radish ($16)
- Don’s Ceviche – Market seafood, tiger milk, chilli ($18)
- Ancho Smoked Lamb Ribs – Chargrilled organic lamb ribs, chilli, mint & cucumber ($29)
We had to start with the croquettes that has lured us here. As a first introduction to Don Tapas’ fare it was beautifully presented and as we eagerly cut into a croquette, teaming it with a few of the other interesting components on the plate, it was a bite that was a delicious combination of flavours and textures. The light crumb provided a welcome crunch and behind that crunchy shell was a very generous amount of entirely flavoursome pork. Just delicious and I thought the pickled broad beans added a welcome zap that further enhanced this dish.
It is so hard to say no to bao any day of the week and made with fried chicken it was as though there was literally no chance. That soft little bun, crispy chicken, some refreshing salad and just the right amount of spice and they were some kinda wonderful. A heavenly lil’ morsel are the bao.
Up next we’re the goats cheese wontons. I mean come on! As if I wasn’t going to order these. How good does a goats cheese wonton sound! And they looked the goods all carefully lined up on the plate. The wontons had been fried to a perfect golden hue and it was a complete delight to bite through the crisp pastry wrapper and be treated to the delectable creamy goats cheese inside. Plus there was the distinct aroma of heady truffle, just bliss! It was definitely the first time I can recall cheese being included in any sort of wonton situation so I enjoyed this dish both for its creativity and for its supreme tastiness.
Now earlier in the year I’d visited Carnarvon for the Gascoyne Food Festival and Carnarvon native Chef Stuart was part of the line up of chefs who had attended and prepared a course for the long lunch. He made an amazing snapper ceviche. So when I spied a ceviche on the Don Tapas menu I knew it would be getting a run again. This time it was trout we’d be enjoying, but I thoroughly enjoyed the recipe that is used, must be the riger’s milk. There is just so much depth of flavour, expertly balanced and as it turned out, despite a different fish, it was similarly as delicious and seriously just melted in your mouth. I’m glad my GG got to try it because Don Tapas ceviche is a definite winner.
The final dish we ordered was the lamb ribs. It presented very well with the charred meaty bones dressed with a smattering of greenery on a bed of cucumbery salsa. I eagerly reached for a rib. I did enjoy the first rib I swiftly devoured, such well rendered fat and plenty of lamby goodness, with meat that literally fell off the bone. Couldn’t fault the generosity of the serving, it was an ample mountain of ribby goodness.