“These hand-cut chips are life-changing. They’re triple-cooked, once to 30%, then we let them cool down, then again to 70%, then cooled down, then fried right before service. Ah-may-zing. Soooo good.”
Our plank of Pork Belly, Confit Tomato Crumble, Chips ($25) is delivered to the table with a dramatic flourish, accompanied by the above effusive commentary by Hipster-Waiter-Number-One, whom I identify throughout the night by the purposefully-ripped hem of his ironic statement t-shirt that’s also several sizes too large for him.
When service staff make such hearty recommendations of their products, it sets a standard of expectation that I fully expect the dish to meet. I had goosebumps of anticipation as I reached for a chip. Was my life really going to change? Was I never to go back to the mere single-cooked chips that I knew before?
Unfortunately (or fortunately – depending on which way you see it, for I cannot imagine a life where I am no longer satisfied by a late night hit of fries from McDonalds) – the Precinct’s chips didn’t really live up to their reputation. Hipster-waiter, I felt so let down! You could’ve just gone for “They’re really good” instead of the whole “They’re life-changing” spiel.
Not that the chips were bad, not at all. Yes, they were softish on the inside, but not the transcendent level of fluffy, falling-apart chip perfection. Sure, the skins were sufficiently crispy to the bite, but not with a glass-like shatter. Of course, I fully admit to being pedantic at this point. There are bigger problems in the world to worry about than chips. But when you’re promised a certain level of goodness, and the product barely meets its self-made target… Plus, I suspect that the chips were based on Heston Blumenthal’s famous Triple-Cooked Chips recipe. It just seems somewhat… dishonourable to use an unoriginal recipe (and one that’s easily achievable by millions of home cooks all over the world) and not have it perfectly made.
Before I start to sound like the most critical food snob here, I have to commend the Tomato Crumble that came with the dish. It ended up being the unexpected star of the show – intriguing and surprising, both sweet and savoury, simple yet unassumingly yummy in the way it let the produce speak for itself – the way a good dish should.
Unfortunately, I cannot say the same for the other two dishes I had – Cauliflower Risotto ($14) – underseasoned, woeful presentation, overpriced, and the Truffle Mac & Cheese ($9 – seen above, in a plate smaller than the size of my palm) – also rather bland, considering I expected the truffle to make it pop, but I was sick of this by my third bite.
While I did very much want to like the Precinct based on the fairly good reviews circling around,, I arrived expecting much and was promised much by our Hipster Waiters, but the food was a general disappointment. Though their menu hints at an experimental, almost irreverent David Chang dude-food kind of vibe (e.g. Turkey wings with Nam Jim sauce), the actual dishes served were underwhelming and overpriced, with no real feel of effort or generosity. Looking at its recent reviews on Urbanspoon, it looks like I’m not the only one feeling that way, which is a worry, given that it’s still a rather new establishment, and it’s a little early to start declining in standards.
I do have to give them massive bonus points for the service – all of the staff at The Precinct were wonderfully cheerful and personable, and incredibly accommodating to our group of twenty-odd rowdy Asians. I work in hospitality, and being Chinese, I feel like I can say this without sounding racist – but every time a big group of Asians come into my shop, a chill goes up my spine. We were an absolute nightmare to deal with, but they remained helpful throughout the night. Many thanks, dear Hipster Waiters! I actually feel like a horrible person now for giving you such a bad review.
Food – 3/10, Service/Ambience – 7/10
834 Albany Hwy
East Victoria Park
(08) 9310 8255