It's entirely possible that I have a problem when it comes to Mr James Trevor Oliver.
This post is also a great way to celebrate Mothers' Day, with my parents and some of our close friends. My parents share a good relationship with not just me, but also my close friends, so it is normal for us to sit together and have meals or catch up. We actually do a Christmas and Chinese New Year meal annually as a group, so it makes sense for me to celebrate Mothers' Day, or most birthdays, or anniversaries, or random visits to each others' homes...
Before I prattle on, here's my third review of Jamie's Italian, but this time, on home soil, at its Forum outlet.
How could you not be happy, being welcomed by these very purposefully rustic, aged wooden walls and those fluorescent lights, or those enamel merchandise sitting at the window. It's a hive of Italian home decor, clay dishes and yellow lightbulbs.
In preparation for the weekend crowd, I made my reservation on Chope for my group of six online, and was seated at a round table in a private corner. The only issue for me about this was that I was seated in front of what I could only imagine is the pizza section, where it radiated a fair amount of heat against my back.
It wasn't too bad, but I had to ensure my mother (who gets warm very easily) was sitting as far away from this area of the table as possible. We got seated, menus passed around, tables set, Bloody Marys', Refreshers, soft drinks and iced waters ordered as I set about ordering for our lunch ahead.
We kicked off with some antipasti starters, of Crispy Squid ($12), Ultimate Garlic Bread ($9) and Italian Nachos ($8.95).
Two of the three starters were a little underwhelming, the squid was lovely, a little on the tough side, but crispy enough as per their name, sprinkled with chilli and crispy garlic bits. The Italian Nachos were confusing to me, since the ones we were served had no stuffing in them, and were not crispy at all. In fact, they were on the other end of being crispy, just soft and chewy, dipped in their zingy tomato sauce.
Oh but that garlic bread.
Soft buttermilk buns, similar to those little square loaves of hotel breakfast rows - except these buns are glazed and baked to a golden brown top, and absolutely stuffed with a herbed butter, heavy on rosemary, bits of garlic and salt.
Pulled apart they are steaming soft inside, deliciously pale and soaked in a fragrant butter garlic with just a touch of crustiness at the edges, and topped with a sprinkled heap of toasted rosemary and golden garlic strips.
I also got two antipasti planks to share, one cured meats and the other with seasonal vegetables. If anything, the planks are a signature sharing plate (or, well, plank) for anyone dining at Jamie's Italian, and depending on the amount of people on the table, you could change the variation accordingly - I ordered up three servings of each.
The Seasonal Vegetable plank ($14.50 per person) consists of sliced, chargrilled and marinated vegetables like aubergine, peppers and chillies, in a garlic and herb oil, served with sections of crostini topped with whipped ricotta, thin sesame seeded cracker-bread topped with roasted pumpkin, little lumps of buffalo mozzarella.
The Cured Meats plank ($16.50 per person) consists of ribbons of San Daniele prosciutto, pistachio mortadella, bresaola and hot soppressata, with the same little buffalo mozzarella, aged pecorino cheese on music bread topped with chilli jam.
Both planks also come with a heaped bowl of rainbow coleslaw, and a selection of lovely pickles and olives.
There's very little to describe about these planks that I have not said before - but what I can tell you, is that the quality and presentation of these antipasti sharing planks are exactly the same from when I dined in the Perth outlet the last two times.
I have my favourites, of course, the buffalo mozzarella, the chilli jam, pecorino cheese on music bread, and especially the ability to combine the different types of cured meats onto different types of cheeses, olives, pickles and breads to have varying taste results. I may be wrong, but I think that's the entire point of these antipasti planks - that you can switch it up, and see what results you get out of your favourite Italian combinations.
Just looking at the cured meats makes me so happy - I've never been a big lover of cured meats, since they are often too salty for me, but these strips and folds of lovely cured meats just work so well on crusty breads and velvety whipped ricotta. You get a spicier kick out of the oilier soppressata, or a marbled prosciutto with a depth of sweet and savoury, roll them under some nutty cheese on a slab of bread, and you've got a winner.
I also really the slight oiliness of the crunchy shallots, the sour-spicy chilli pickles, and the good old rainbow coleslaw from the vegetable plank, but too much of this would no doubt have left a greasiness on my palate.
My dad is a big eater, and hungry since our lunch was later than usual - so we got him the Jamie's Italian Burger ($29.50) with a side of Funky Chips ($4). My father was very much in love with this enormous burger, and he was entirely silent through his process of scarfing this down.
Look at this beauty - piled high with a dripping juicy beef patty, some pancetta, sweet balsamic onions, tomatoes, sharp provolone cheese, pickles and chillies. We did not have one bit of this burger since my dad finished it in about 15 minutes. If you can get my father to not want to share, or be this quiet, your food is already a success in my books.
Pasta - that is one of my favourite things in the world to have. Especially at Jamie's Italian, where the noodles are made fresh for your pasta choice.
I ordered up three plates - Tagliatelle Bolognese ($26.50), Penne Carbonara ($24) and Fresh Crab Spaghetti ($26.50). I also got a pizza, cheekily called the Gennaro's Italian Sausage ($24.50).
The world and its people can promise you many things and never fulfil them, but I can definitely swear -- on my never ending appetite for pasta -- that you will never be disappointed by the pasta dishes at Jamie's Italian. Big on flavour and big on texture as well, so, so good.
Speaking of big, I am also very big on the staple tomato-based Bolognese, and the dish at Jamie's is a winner, this comforting recipe from his mentor Gennaro - a stew of pork and beef and topped up with crispy herbed breadcrumbs and parmesan. It's almost a ragu, sticky-savoury on the silky egg tagliatelle and just so lovely from start to finish - it remains one of my all-time faves.
Carbonara is a hot favourite with our group, with sweet, soft leeks and crispy pancetta with a traditional, creamy, buttery carbonara sauce with tubes of penne. Lemony and indulgent with absolutely no residual greasiness from the sauce, it can get on the heavy side especially after a significant amount of starters.
What was new on the table for us on this meal, was the Fresh Crab Spaghetti - which I decided to order so our lunch would have three different variations of pasta. This was a clean and fresh plate of goodness, the sauce barely a hint of oiliness despite a visible sheen coating the lovely spaghetti, sweet crab meat with garlic, spicy kick of chillies, punch of salt from the anchovies and capers.
Generally speaking, I'm not a big pizza eater when I have pasta on the table, but I can tell you the leftovers we brought home are no longer in the refrigerator anymore.
It'd be difficult to find any faults with a crispy, freshly-made pizza with a Bianco (white) base of bechamel sauce, Italian sausage filling, crispy rosemary, sweet piles of balsamic onions, and black olives. I hate eating olives in any form, but they are there on the pizza for a reason, so if you, like me, don't prefer these ebony pitted monsters, order up a standard tomato basil (I had my heart set on that, but the name of this pizza made it impossible for me to ignore).
You'd think dessert was a far away dream after all this food, but post-meal sweets are never off the table when I have six of us together in a place like Jamie's Italian.
Two desserts were requested, Amalfi Lemon Meringue Cheesecake ($13) and Vin Santo Tiramisu ($11.50).
Both of which we have had in some variation before in Perth as well. While we have a lemon meringue tart in Perth's outlet, the tiramisu is the same - just a smaller slice. The cheesecake, like its namesake, was a creamy slice of lemon curd and tart blackcurrent sauce, which would be quite tangy on its own, but paired with the barely charred meringue and the sweet cheesecake - it's a treat. It was not cloying at all, almost refreshing for a cheesecake.
The Vin Santo Tiramisu, as I mentioned, tastes the same to its variation in Perth, and this Italian dessert is just perfection on its little clay dish. Deep, bittersweet cocoa, creamy-light souffle of a tiramisu with a hint of orange and coffee liquer darkness. It's almost a complete opposite to the cheesecake in terms of the flavour palate, but this was a personal favourite between the two desserts ordered.
Service, as always, is busy and very friendly, so as long as you've got yourself a booking, you'll most definitely be set with a lovely meal regardless of whether it's a long lunch, or a relaxed dinner. I spoke fondly of my experiences in Perth with the maitre d, and also had a short conversation with one of the chefs - who'd met the man himself and told me what we see on television, is 100% how he is when he is face-to-face with you (The man is also not as short as he appears on the telly).
So, with that extremely filling, and lovely meal, here's to all the mothers in the world, and especially mine, from whom this blog would not even have its name.
Jamie's Italian can be located at:
Forum, Orchard Road
583 Orchard Road #01-04
Tel: 65 6655 7676
Sunday to Thursday
1130AM to 10PM
Friday to Saturdays
1130AM to 11PM