Spice Kings (and Queens) Bringing the Heat to Subiaco’s Dining Scene

With colder weather comes a desire to stoke the internal flames with something spicy, tasty and a reminder of warmer days. Fortunately, there are plenty of options to fulfil this desire right here in Subiaco, as Gail Williams discovers.

SHUI SUBIACO

There’s a reason Leigh Power is known as the Director of Flavour. As Shui’s Head Chef, he presides over the wood-fired oven and keeps a cool head, despite the heat.

Power also has a fiery hospitality history of effortlessly walking the delicate balance between salty, sweet, sour and spicy, and has garnered a legion of fans as he churns out modern Asian crowd-pleasers such as wood-roasted pork belly with mien (spicy pepper) crack sauce and spicy coconut red chicken with fried curry leaves.

His winter menu promises to brighten up any wintery day, the standout being massaman curry – slow-roasted lamb shoulder with carrot and cumin.

“It’s always warm in here with the fire grill,” he says. “We are doing spice-driven, heartier dishes with star anise, cinnamon and cardamom. I would definitely suggest the lamb shoulder with coconut rice bread and chilli butter.”

He suggests washing it down with a spicy lychee margarita with a dash of chilli. Now, that’s snug.

Also, don’t rule out al fresco dining just because the mercury drops. Shui has taken delivery of some whizz-bang outdoor heaters which are about to get fired up. So there’s no excuse for not taking a seat and enjoying the winter night outside.

WEI’S DUMPLING HUT

If you’re hankering for a mouthful of winter comfort that has you dreaming of a mother’s hug, look no further than Wei’s Dumpling Hut. For the new kid on Subi’s spicy block, it sure is packing a punch, albeit a light, fluffy, tender melt-in-your-mouth one.

Owner Ryan Wei should know how to make the perfect pork dumpling. He began making them under the watchful eye of his mother when growing up in Shandong, China’s second most populous province.

She taught him well. Don’t overwork the dough. Steam the dumplings for perfect texture and keep the lid closed while they cook.

After immigrating to Australia in 2018, he worked in the restaurant industry and took a risk to open his dumpling hut in January, and soon a loyal band of dumpling lovers were beating a path to his door.

His team make them fresh each day, watched by a band of eager dumpling lovers who are after the most popular – pork and prawn dumplings, closely followed by the spicy wantons.

“I would advise to eat them fresh,” says Wei, who also turns his deft hand to traditional Shandong dishes like sweet and sour pork, ginger and onion beef and braised pork trotter.

The dinner specials are not only toasty warm but jaw-droppingly cheap. Take Wei’s advice and drop in to his hut instead of ordering take away. Add a bottle of BYO wine and a gaggle of friends to the mix and you’ll be soaking up the warmth in no time.

SIX SENSES THAI

Regular customers in this character-laden Subi institution don’t need a sixth sense to know their souls will be soothed by king prawn Pad Thai.

Owner/Chef Mol Anutarasoti, however, did have a sixth sense 11 years ago when he moved from Sydney and opened his restaurant, taking over the site of a popular pizza shop at the bottom end of Rokeby Road. He has since opened other outlets in Leederville and Elizabeth Quay.

But Subi, where he occasionally plies the trade he learnt in Bangkok to offer up a massaman lamb shank, is his favourite.

Six Senses is also the favourite of many a customer seeking a post-Regal show bite. What’s their go-to? Five Spices Duck – a lightly spiced side of tender, roasted duck with plum sauce, shiitake mushrooms and herbs. $29.50 is a small price to pay for something so delicious. And staff won’t mind if you ask for extra spice. That’s nice.

MADRAS INDIAN

In a Subiaco Mews venue which once served up icy cold gelato, head chef Sabas Nathan is proving that Subi people really do like it hot. He’s ready to assume his crown as Subi’s new King of Curry, after serving up his fiery northern and southern Indian cuisine to devotees on the other side of the river for over two decades. Now he’s brought those well-loved dishes to his new 25-seater eatery where he also offers favourite Sri Lankan dishes. After refurbishing the premises in a labour of love, he opened the doors last month, with fans already crossing the river to get their fangs around his Dosa and Tandoor – he’s the only one offering Dosa in Subi.

They’re also signing up for his hands-on cooking classes, which take place on the last Monday of the month for groups of 8-10 people. Gather round the fire and listen to the King’s curry speech.

Other hotspots spicing up Subi life…

AMARIN THAI RESTAURANT

Wanna take a trip to warm and sunny Phuket without needing to pay for flights?

Forget the travel agent and just book a table at one of Subiaco’s original Thai eateries, Amarin Thai. Order the seasoned boneless chicken breast wrapped in fragrant pandan leaf and served with thick, sweet soy sauce topped with sesame seeds and you’ll be Instagramming all your jealous buddies.

In fact, order anything else from the well-loved menu – dishes such as Thai green chicken curry, tamarind prawns – and you’ll get a tried and true meal just like those that have been keeping Subi customers satisfied for decades.

It’s BYO, with corkage of $2.50 pp.

Six Chopstix

If you hear slurping, smell chicken, see yellow broth, feel slippery noodles and taste salty broth, you have arrived at Six Chopstix, where there is often a queue for the $17.90 chicken soup. Add prawns and it’s yours for $20.90. Heaven in a bowl.

MUI MUI SECRET CHEF

The secret’s out. Her name is Mui Leung Khor and she makes the meanest chicken curry in town.

So say the glowing online reviews which read something like this: “Relatively new restaurant, but it’s here to stay! Lovely owner who knows her authentic Malaysian/Singaporean dishes. Highly recommend trying their signature laksa and mee goreng! They can make it authentically spicy if you ask. Oh, and there is unlimited free Chinese tea!”

One thing Mui is not giving away, though, are the secrets of her grandmother’s recipe. They date back 60 years and that’s why she’s been keeping mum.

NIPPON FARE

You may not know it (because sushi feels ubiquitous these days), but local couple the Gliddons were the clever pair who, back in 1990, introduced Subi to top quality ingredients and precise Japanese cooking techniques with Nippon Fare.

The formula has seen them constantly top the polls for the city’s best sushi. Since their son, Andrew, and his wife, Sinead, took over in 2007 the tradition has continued as they serve up takeaway and dine-in quality sushi, sashimi and other Japanese staples. But for winter, think of a warm and spicy chicken katsu don which will keep the hunger pangs away while giving you an inner glow.

Atakakute supaishi na. That’s Japanese for warm and spicy.

KOBA

It’s been a while since we have heard the satisfying rumble of a dim sum trolley in Subi, but if you head down Rokeby Road you will, along with the satisfied rumblings of diners checking out what’s on Jack Lee’s trolley as it gets wheeled around the ambient space.

Seize the day – or any time of night – with in-house-made dumplings, fluffy BBQ pork buns and squid tentacles.

Or if you are after more fire in your life, take the flaming prawns route.

In Vietnamese, Koba means second oldest sibling, but this newbie to the Subi Asian family definitely needs to be looked up to like an older bro for Korean fried chicken and bao buns. Beware though, the trolley sells out fast.

THE RED CHAIR CAFE

No surname is necessary for Thuy, the Vietnamese chef responsible for the best laksa in Perth. He’s been serving up his secret recipe for seafood, chicken and vegetarian laksa at The Red Chair for 15 years, and has a huge following of fans who come from as far away as Mandurah to bathe in laksa glory.

Take up a red chair and act like a character from the bestselling Japanese novel, Before the Coffee Gets Cold. In that novel, customers sit in a chair to time travel. But here it keeps you in the zone while you are transported to laksa heaven.

BIBIK CHAN’S

Ask Lyn Tien what the secret is to her incredible beef rendang that she has been making for customers for 34 years at Bibik Chan’s, firstly in Nedlands and now – for the past nine – in Subiaco Village.

She’ll just laugh and say “Sorry, that is a well-kept secret!”

What is public knowledge is that she has a loyal following who beat a path to her door with bottles of wine in hand. No corkage is the other enticement, along with suntan boneless chicken and mee goreng.

BUN MI

Whether you go for a Big Bite or a Little Bite in this popular Vietnamese bahn mi takeaway, you will get a mouthful of freshness with a thin crispy crust and a soft airy texture.

That’s how things flow here at Bun Mi – where the buns are filled with your choice of meat, pickled carrots, coolly cleansing cucumber and coriander.

There’s also deep-fried spring rolls and vermicelli bowls to cheer you up.

It’s comfort food which makes you audibly sigh.

VSF STREET FOOD

Locals are rejoicing as they discover a little touch of Hoi An on Rokeby Road. Wander down the strip and you’ll come across a string of colourful lanterns which, in Hoi An, indicate good luck is in the house.

Newcomers to Vietnamese Street Food, as VSF stands for, are finding good luck and plenty of warmth in bowls of bun ho yu, Owner/Chef Huyen Nguyen’s spicy beef soup which she learned to cook in Ho Chi Minh City when she was growing up.

Others are finding plenty of solace in the fact that it’s happy hour all day at VSF. That means you get two cocktails – any two – for $32. Make that two Sex on the Beach cocktails please, as we soak up the vibe.

CHUTNEY MARY’S

Who can remember what was on the old prominent site of Chutney Mary’s? We certainly can’t.

But we do know that it was back in 2002 when restaurateur Sid Grewal and the late Murray Kimber paired up to bring Subi its first authentic Indian eatery.

And it seems like it’s been there forever, serving steaming plates of fragrant curry to the hungry hordes and introducing many to their first taste of India.

Each spice mix is prepared fresh daily and the tandoor oven turns out an excellent chicken tandoori which will add a spicy zing to any cold, wet day, courtesy of Chef Dinesh.

Even reading the menu brings a bit of sunshine into one’s day. Mmm… half chicken marinated in yoghurt, garam masala, ground cinnamon, chilli roasted in the tandoori oven.

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