Summer seems to be moving away from us, and as the wind begins to whip the foreshore and the rain begins to hit the sand, it’s obvious that our days at the beach are numbered. Luckily, the Henley Beach neighborhood has steadily expanded its collection of restaurants, giving us delicious new places to take refuge and enjoy other goodness the ocean and land have to offer as winter approaches.
The latest is Blue Rose, which opened quietly but confidently just off Henley Square towards the end of 2021. That confidence is not without merit either. The owners already operate Peel Street’s favorite Gondola Gondola, and if you’ve been lucky enough to eat there, you’ll know they’ve got all the essential ingredients to bring another venue for Pan-Asia-loving punters. .
Moving away from the heavy influence of Vietnamese cuisine in their city home, the owners have crafted a menu that captures the culinary spirit of Taiwan and China in their new interpretation. Where Gondola Gondola’s interior is warm, textured and comfortable, reminiscent of a peddler’s stall in a restaurant format, Blue Rose has become stripped down. It’s a stark contrast in every way, with carefully chosen abstract art reflecting the glossy tiled walls and dark burnished floors. Different hues of blue form the majority of a color palette that reflects the ocean, visible from the main dining room, with splatters of paint on selected surfaces and selected furnishings and fittings that only slightly distract attention from the shadow of their namesake. Upstairs is even more striking, where the use of painted steel and fully tiled walls with bare tables and metal stools for seating gives this area a subway feel.
From our vantage point on this mezzanine, we can just see the action in the open kitchen at the back on the lower level, where grills and flames take center stage. I’m making note of a few Gondola favorites that cross the pass: their signature salt and pepper eggplant is the first on the Blue Rose menu, along with dumplings (of course) and their classic and delicious spicy papaya salad, but we’re here to try. Something. New.
Golden eggs are boiled then carefully peeled and dissected before being fried to form a crispy exterior: the skill here is maintaining a runny yolk, and they do, with flavors of tamarind, shallot and jam. chili infusing the dish which was presented with a base salad of greens. It could do with a little more heat, both in temperature and spice, but it’s a satisfying start. Next is the sweet corn ribs, a simple but tasty starter that seems to be on every new modern Asian menu lately. Blue Rose’s version is cooked well with a strong smoky flavor with just a hint of curry offered by crispy leaves scattered on top.
Our final entry is Pork Yin-Yang, and it’s a dish of opposites in taste, texture, flavor, and presentation. Arranged beautifully around the plate in a deconstructed fashion, this photogenic dish intentionally combines a series of flavors from different places that perhaps shouldn’t go together. Individually, each ingredient does its best to stand up to its neighbour, with slices of pork as crispy as promised but perhaps a little overdone, mashed cauliflower with a mealy taste and texture, and pickled nashi pear. beetroot offering little but a fruity bite. A brushed Sichuan peppercorn soy glaze tastes really delicious, but there’s not enough on the plate, and a piece of turmeric-marinated cauliflower seems out of place – an addition that probably only helps. a little color to brighten up the dish.
The three-cup Taiwanese chicken takes the spotlight away from that average starter: it’s a juicy, flavorful dish that hits all the right notes and has us coming back to sing the kitchen’s praises. I’ve tried a few different versions of this traditional Chinese or Taiwanese dish, but Blue Rose’s edition seems to hit a different note: where others might be rich and heavy, this one seems light and fragrant. A fresh, zesty dressing and an herbal ingredient list that includes Thai basil, cilantro, and mint are probably why. I am addicted.
Finally, a plate simply titled ‘Magic Mushrooms’ intrigues us. It’s a cheeky pun, but the dish itself is serious: filled with earthy flavors, textures, and different treatments for a variety of mushrooms. Layered and cubed homemade rice noodles form the base of an assembled tower swimming in a delicious thick and sweet soy sauce. It features clusters of crispy fried enoki and shitake topped with shredded nori seaweed. It’s a feat in flavor, texture and layered presentation.
Blue Rose isn’t quite Gondola Gondola, but does its own thing in its own laid-back way. The successes outweigh the failures and that’s another reason to hit the beach, rain, hail or shine.
28/220 Seaview Road, Henley Beach
Tuesday to Sunday from 12 p.m. to 2.30 p.m. and from 5.30 p.m. to 9.30 p.m.
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