As Perthians see our state’s casino offering ‘The Burswood’ transition into a Crown Casino, we have also watched a new evolution of dining locations emerge. There’s the glisteningly gold Yu, which is a western take on Chinese cuisine. It’s elegant, unassuming and has some incredible standout dishes such as their scallop san choy bau and peking duck.
Also on the eastern spectrum, we have Robert de Niro’s famed Nobu. A Japanese restaurant that has Portugese fusion in it’s impressive dishes. See my blog on Nobu here. In traditional casino fashion, there is the buffet offering The Atrium (see my blog post here) and then of course we have Neil Perry’s household name Rockpool (see my blog post here), which is known for it’s incredible steaks and high end ingredients.
This Wednesday sees the opening of the latest in the wave of upscale and impressive dining options, a French bistro. It seems that Crown are transforming our tired casino into a venue that is worth a visit for just the food alone.
It was certainly the case for Jeremy and I tonight as we headed in to a late booking at Modo Mio, the Italian restaurant headed by Italian born chef GiamPaolo Maffini. A chef who’s philosophy is quite simple – a use of fresh ingredients that are cooked with love. Yes, that is simple, but what you get is beyond any expectations.
The decor here is wonderfully European. It’s opulent and lavish. Spirals of what looks like bone or coral cover the mirrors and windows, and there are soft curtains curled in a circle with uplights to give the appearance of columns. It’s chic and cream and just has this other worldly appearance that transforms you to another place to experience your night out.
The staff here are attentive, guiding us to our plush leather seats and immediately topping our glasses up with crisp icy water. The glasses themselves are goregous. Wafer thin glass highballs that are modern and elegant.
We’re both very much in the mood for pasta, so we’re pretty excited as we peruse the impressive menu for what to eat. After some negotiation (we never order the same thing), we’ve made our minds up and place our orders accordingly.
I’m starting my night with the Vitello Tonnato, Insalata di Sedano, Tartufo Nero ($26). It’s roasted veal in a tuna and capers sauce with crispy celery salad, a gooey quail egg and shaved black truffle. It’s been a long time since I’m eaten vitello tonnato, and that has always been homemade rather than in a restaurant, so I’m really eager to try this version.
It doesn’t disappoint.
The veal is cooked rare; red in the centre and just lightly brown on the edges. It’s cut wafer thin; and the slices are piled along a lengthy rectangle plate atop the creamy tuna caper sauce. The celery salad is vibrantly crunchy; and adds a nice textural element to the dish. The shaved truffle is decadently rich; fresh and just a great use of local produce. And then that quail egg. Well that just takes this whole dish to another level. It’s yolk is slightly runny; the whites set just right. I’m wishing so badly there is more so that each bite can have a taste of every ingredient present. It’s just magic in those bites.
Jeremy’s entree is the Salmone Affumicato Con Blinis di Grano Saraceno e Caviale ($32). This is a plate of finely sliced homemade smoked salmon with soft blinis, sour cream and Osetra caviar. Though I’m not usually a big fan of smoked salmon, this is really nice. It has a softness to the flesh of the fish that reminds me of sashimi, and the sour cream pairs really well. The blinis are what they should be – tiny little pancakes and the caviar is salty and pops in your mouth.
We also share a Insalata Caprese, Avocado e Olive ($27) since we’re making a big night out of it. While a bit on the expensive side, it’s a really delicious buffalo mozzarella and fresh tomato salad. Chunks of mozzarella sit on top of avocado, tomato and olives, and pine nuts are scattered around. And that spoonful of homemade pesto, well that’s probably the best I’ve ever had. It tastes particular good with a mouthful of the cheese which is just so soft and moorish.
Accompanying our entrees is the complimentary crusty Italian bread that comes with olive oil, balsamic vinegar and pink salt. It’s a really nice touch that adds to the dinner – especially because that balsamic is so sweet and goes down so well. Just one of those touches that adds some extra sparkle to our night out.
With a nice pause after our entrees, our mains arrive – two plates of pasta that is delivering the most incredible scents. Jeremy’s chosen the Tagliatelle alle Castagne, Panna, Asparagi e Anatra Affumicata ($32). It’s a heaping pile of homemade tagliatelle with smoked duck breast, chestnuts, asparagus and cream.
Last time we came here his dish was the black ink fettuccine, and I know it’s a coin flip mentally for him as he eyes that again on the menu. But his choice to be daring and adventurous wins out, and he seems really happy with what comes out (though he does tell me the squid ink pasta was better).
The tagliatelle is perfectly al dente; the smoked duck breast strong in flavour. The use of fresh vegetables keeps this dish well balanced, and the sauce is light but delicious. It’s a dish that keeps hold of it’s Italian roots but embraces some unexpected flavours.
My Ravioli di Pomodoro e Mozzarella Con Salsa Agli Spinaci e Pecorino ($31) is a main I’ve had and loved here before. But while there are so many dishes on the menu I long to try, I just have an incredible love for what comes with this. To me, it’s everything a pasta item should be.
Homemade tomato and mozzarella ravioli that is soft and cooked just right. The filling inside is creamy and silky smooth; sliding around my mouth temptingly. The six ravioli sit atop a thick spinach sauce that is made in combination with a high quality olive oil, and there’s a small diced salsa of tomatoes and pecorino flakes in the centre. It’s a combination of textures, temperatures and intensity of flavours. And between Jeremy and myself, we both declare it the dish of the night. It’s just phenomenal and progressive.
Though we could have happily stopped after our carb loading mains, we both are in the mood to go all out since every dish here is so impressive. And so desserts are very much in order.
Jeremy’s attention goes straight to the Cioccolato Fondente con Gelato alla Vaniglia ($17). It’s a slick of rich, dark chocolate with a creamy vanilla ice-cream scoop, a chocolate disc, cream and a steaming chocolate fondant. When he cuts into the cake, warm chocolate spills out all over the plate enticingly.
Like all dishes at Modo Mio, the presentation is as pretty as a picture; and the taste even better. It’s a sweet and rich way to finish off the night for him, and I know if we were at home he would have happily ran a finger through the sauce to mop it all up.
For my dessert option, I’ve chosen the Panna Cotta con Fragole Marinate All’aceto Balsamico e Basilico ($14). It’s a traditional Italian custard (pannacotta) that is wobbly and soft to penetrate with my spoon. It’s flecked with little specks from a vanilla bean; and just melts in my mouth with each bite. Surrounding it is a sea of sliced strawberries marinated in aged balsamic and fresh basil.
It’s just so delicious. A quality balsamic clings to the fragrant and sweet strawberries and sings in my mouth with each bite. It feels like the food equivalent of love and I continue eating until every drop is gone.
Modo Mio is a fantastically impressive Italian restaurant smack bang in the middle of a casino location. But while the people milling about in the lobby outside might be your rich miners drunk on their earnings, and your typical Aussie bogans, inside is like being in a completely different country.
There’s so much to say and rave about here. But at the end of the day, perhaps I’ll just say the food can do the talking. Because as much as I can tell you how amazing things taste here, it’s just so much better if you try it out yourself.