There’s a new guy in the neighborhood up Beaufort Street Perth and he’s pretty much the perfectly formed restaurant. And bar. And provider.
Tom’s is light, bright and airy. Food is ordered at the counter from dozens of presentation trays inside a refrigerated cabinet. There’s also a cheese display jam-packed with high-end French and British cheeses and a few Australians too. There are shelves of produce, from which, we are assured, punters buy, sometimes hundreds of dollars worth of sauces, dressings, condiments, pastes and preserves, as they go.
Tom’s has “it,” that hard-to-define combination of charisma, hospitality, helpfulness, and fun. For a business that’s only been open a few weeks, it has an air of professionalism and control. It’s basically a fine dining deli with a liquor license and boutique: a sophisticated take on a hip New York bar in one of New York’s best neighborhoods. It has a dining area, spacious interiors, gold-hued wooden floors, Rodeo Drive-style awnings out front, marble countertops, and pale cream and white interiors.
If Tom’s doesn’t go like a frog in a sock this summer, we’ll be very surprised.
And somehow it doesn’t matter that you go to the deli counter and order your food. That’s how it is and we’re happy to comply.
However, it is important that the pasta dishes, once ordered from the glass display, are sent to the kitchen to be reheated. Reheated pasta isn’t its highest calling, though to be fair, lasagna is a pasta dish that responds very well to a second cook. Not so safe for cannelloni, because no matter how good the cooking and the flavors, reviving pre-baked pasta is like applying the cardio paddles to a long-dead patient. That said, the dishes we ate were damn good. I was listening to the ping of a microwave. No luck, but the dishes came out very quickly. Temperature wise, both doughs arrived lukewarm, but the quality of the dough and sauces was obvious to see and taste.
The bolognese sauce on the lasagna was a star, but why so much? “Proper” lasagna relies on just a smear of meat sauce and béchamel between each layer of pasta. It’s a tall, multi-layered construction that holds together like a tough, soft brick of sauce-stained pasta.
Owners Tom, team brother and sister Tom and Lara Lukich, are generous and smart people who love to feed their guests, which may explain the overreach of the bolognese that makes the dish sloppy and crumbles. They also feed Australians and for many locals an oversupply of meat sauce represents value and, as some say, a good food companion. Oh, and – I’m sorry, I realize I’m talking like a nag now, but these things are important – get rid of the thick layer of cheese on top. Within seconds of landing on the plate, the gooey, stretchy cheese cooled into an unappetizing slab of rubbery protein, hard to cut and virtually devoid of flavor. It was about as welcome as Kanye at a bar mitzvah. Lasagna is best eaten with a ladle of fresh, tangy tomato sugo poured over the top before placing in the oven to reheat. All you need is a sprinkle of parmesan to decorate. Work done. Reduced costs. Eat better.