Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Joe's Oriental Diner: Luxe Versions of Nonstalgic SEAsian Dishes

Joe's Oriental Diner at Hyatt Regency Perth
Located at Hyatt Regency Perth in Perth CBD, Joe's Oriental Diner serves a good mix of South East Asian (Thai, Vietnamese, Malaysian/Singaporean and Chinese) dishes.

If you are from Asia, you will understand that Asian dishes typically cost a few dollars at the hawker centres or food stalls. As such, you get dishes that taste great but these dishes typically do not contain a lot of ingredients or use expensive ingredients. Doing so will keep the price point low and make it more affordable for the masses. However, you can "upgrade" your dish and ask for more ingredients at an extra cost.

Considering the its CBD location, there is no qualms about keeping the costs low since Joe's Oriental Diner is catered to the executives and well-heeled masses. Even when you benchmark the prices at Joe's Oriental Diner against the inflated prices we pay for such dishes in Perth, Joe's Oriental Diner is considerably more expensive. However, the ambience, location, quality and service make Joe's Oriental Diner a worthy dining location.

On my first visit, my dining companion and I ordered the Nasi Goreng and Pho Bo to share.

Nasi Goreng ($18): Wok Fried Rice served with Grilled Chicken and Beef Satays, and Achar
Nasi means "rice" in Bahasa Malayu (the Malay language) while Goreng means "fried". Put together, you get fried rice. While there was nothing special about this fried rice, I cannot fault this fried rice because it was a textbook fried rice- individual grains, slight wok hei ("breath of the wok") and tasty. While one will definitely balk at paying $18 for fried rice, what makes this humble rice dish so special at Joe's Oriental Diner is actually its accompaniments. The grilled chicken and beef satays were outstanding by Perth standards. (Sorry, but it's true that you can get better in Asia!) Tender well marinated meat on wooden skewers- these are your Malay-type satays. What is lacking is the peanut sauce that usually accompanies satays! As for the achar, it was piquantly sweet, sour and spicy all at the same time. Achar is something uniquely Singapore/Malaysian. In English terms, it is pickled vegetables. What makes it different from the English gherkins or pickles is that achar is spicy, sweet, sour and saliva-stimulating. It gets your salivary glands pumping and I am salivating as I type. Ahhh.... I miss my grandmother's achar...

Pho Bo ($19): Rice Noodles in Spiced Soup with Grilled Marinated Tenderloin Beef, Red Onion, Been Sprouts, Spring Onions, Coriander, Mint, Fresh Chilli and Lemon
I was surprised when this dish first arrived. The beef came in huge strips and frankly speaking, I was initially worried that the beef was overcooked. Needless to say, I was just being a worry-wart. The beef tenderloin strips were tender and had a good bite to them. This pho is different from the pho that I am accustomed to (with thin cut slices of beef instead) but I enjoyed the beef here very much. The other praiseworthy aspect of this dish is the broth. It was flavourful and full of umami that can only be achieved by using a superior stock. The broth was hot and slightly spicy which was perfect for the cold weather that day. The heat slowly built up in my mouth but the sensation was very satisfying. However, this dish's downfall was the noodles. Considering that noodles is a major component of any pho dish, it can make or break the dish. The noodles were hard and frankly speaking, I thought I was going to get indigestion from the noodles. I felt that my noodles could do with a longer cooking period and the amount of raw onions in the dish was slightly over the top.

If Joe's Oriental Diner wants to cater to the CBD lunch time crowd, perhaps they should be concerned whether the amount of raw onions, or the use of raw onions in this dish is appropriate. ***Onion breath alert!*** One suggestion is to put all the garnishing separately on the plate so that the diners can choose which and how much garnishing they want to put into their pho. I know of a few coriander and spring onion haters who will appreciate this very much.

On my second visit, my dining companion and I ordered the Malaysian Mee Goreng and Malaysian Curry Laksa to share.

Malaysian Mee Goreng ($18): Stir fried egg noodles cooked with free range chicken, tomato, onion, tofu, bean sprouts, spring onions and served with shallots.

Mee means "noodles" and Goreng means "fried". Mee Goreng is unlike your typical fried noodles because it has a sweet tomato-ey taste to it. In Singapore or Malaysia, hawkers sometimes use ketchup to flavour their mee gorengs. This mee goreng is textbook perfect and chock full of ingredients. I daresay that almost half of the dish consisted of ingredients! What striked me as queer is the use of free range chickens in a dish that focuses on the harmony of dishes and not the individuality of the ingredients. To be honest, I wouldn't have known the difference between the use of a normal and free range chicken in a mee goreng dish but for the price tag.

Malaysian Curry Laksa ($18)- Egg and rice noodles served with shrimps, chicken, fish cake, fish ball, coriander in a curry coconut cream soup.
(PS: I increased the brightness of this picture.) This dish bears a closer resemblance to Curry Mee or Curry Noodles instead of Curry Laksa. Laksa usually comes a broth that has more coconut milk and is thicker in consistency. As for Curry Noodles, the broth usually utilises more stock, less coconut milk and is runnier in consistency. Once again, the dish was packed full of ingredients and we had plenty of ingredients between the both of us. Standard tasty broth, well cooked noodles, tender chicken and plump prawns... If I had to be picky, I wasn't a fan of the fish cake and fish balls. While it is probably impossible to find hand made fish cakes and fish balls in Perth, it is not difficult to source for reasonably ones. Another bone to pick is that the dish arrived in a small but high bowl which made eating slightly difficult. If you see the picture, the bowl is brimming with all the ingredients on top. If you want to get to the noodles, you will have to dig deep to get the noodles and it's not easy, considering the brimming bowl and the ingredients on top. This dish is better served in a bigger bowl for the diner's ease.

Having said so much, what Joe's Oriental Diner lacks in the fireworks department, it makes up in the nonstalgia department. I have also visited this place more than once and found the food to be consistently good. I know I am very fussy but when you pay more to eat better food at a better place, you expect more in terms of presentation, service and quality. While it isn't cheap, prices are still affordable and the serving portion for each dish is enough for a filling one-course-lunch. Joe's Oriental Diner is also great for casual business lunches.

If you purchased the 2013 Entertainment book, you can make use of your Entertainment card for a discount off your total bill. Club Hyatt Members receive 50% off their total food bill at Joe's Oriental Diner when dining in pairs.

Joe's Oriental Diner
Lunch Hours:12 noon-2:00pm (Mon-Fri)
Dinner Hours: 6:00pm-10:00pm (Mon-Sat)
Address: Hyatt Regency Perth, 99 Adelaide Terrace, Perth, Western Australia 6000
Tel: +61 8 9225 1234
Web: http://www.joesorientaldiner.com.au/

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