Our first real 'group' booking, and a test run for the Perth Food Underground dinners, a group of 12 PFB'ers hit up St Michael 6003 in Highgate.  Big food. Tiny plates. Big table. Not-tiny bill.

Given the size of our group, while the team at St Michael's were happy to take our booking we were required to pre-order our meals and pay a $200 deposit before we sat down.  I can understand the reasoning behind this, but that doesn't mean I have to like it. St Michael's comes across as quite a fancy restaurant, and asking us to put down a deposit before we sit down cheapens the experience.  Well, to be precise, it demonstrates their fairly cheap evaluation of us, which in turn cheapens our experience with them.  

As to the pre-order thing, well, if you haven't been to St Michael's before (and you haven't had the privilege of reading this review) you are probably going to get the pre-order thing wrong.  St Michael's do a 3 dish special and a 7 dish special and, given we were a table of 12 and had to pre-order ahead of time, it wasn't altogether surprising that most people went with the 3 dish special. But, even though St Michael describes itself as a 'small plates venue', it's very difficult to appreciate exactly how small these plates really are. What that means is, if you (naturally) assume that the 3 dish special should translate into a starter, main and dessert, you're going to be sorely disappointed.  And hungry. And perhaps, if you're at all like me, also a little underdressed. 

What's more, although we were allowed to order extra desserts on the night, it wasn't possible to order any extra savory plates.  This means that if you're going to pre-order your meals you should absolutely go with a mix of the savory dishes (sorry, vegetarians, from memory there are only one or two of those anyways).  Otherwise you will be left watching longingly as half your table make their way into their third savory dish, and still hungry after you finish off your dessert. 

Food

  • There are no entrees or mains to select from at St Michael's, but rather a selection of plates that will be brought out in the order that you select them.  
  • St Michael offers on its menu 'Bread, Lavosh + Butter .... On Us", which is a very fancy way of saying that they will bring out a free basket of bread when you sit down. It's a fair description, though, because it's very fancy bread. See below. 
  • I understand the fancy sine-wave bread is actually the 'Lavosh'. I understand that now but did not on the night, and as you can see below I tried to butter the stuff like some kind of uncultured monster. It wasn't easy to butter, either, and that probably should have been the first giveaway that I was doing it wrong. 
  • Overall, the bread, lavosh and butter were nice, but not nearly enough was served.  A theme that was to continue throughout the evening. 
  • Set out below is the 'Ricotta Tortelli, Radicchio, Hazel Nuts + Pecorino' dish and the 'Ocean Trout, Salmorejo, Octopus + Chorizo' dish.  
  • The Tortelli was actually one of the more sizable dishes of the evening, and most reports came back positively, suggesting it was probably one of the better tasting vegetarian options Perth Food Blog has seen over the past year.  
  • Sister 2 commented, 'the ravioli was delicious, both bites were great.' No-one had the heart to tell her neither of her two bites were in fact ravioli. 
  • Although it was one of the bigger dishes of the evening, four parcels of pasta isn't going to ruin your ketosis. 
  • The Ocean Trout received universally rave reviews.  Euhorne commented that he wished he ignored the rest of the menu and ordered 3x goes of it.  You can see from the photo (click for a bigger version) just how tiny these dishes are, though.  Four, maybe five bites. It's extreme. 
  • Below is the 'Pork Belly, Red curry, Jasmine rice + Lychee'  and the 'Cauliflower Cheese Risotto, Parsley + Capers' dish. 
  • The Pork Belly below is one of the dishes I ordered, and I must say it was nice but left me wanting more and not necessarily in a complimentary way.  What I now know to be jasmine rice at the time I thought was some kind of popcorn.  The pork belly didn't have any kind of crunch to it, but it was clear that's on purpose and it didn't necessarily ruin the dish.  The red curry sauce, together with the lychee, really ties everything together nicely.  A good dish, but just so god damn small. 
  • The Risotto brought the table into disrepute. If the Tortelli above was in the running for one of the best vegetarian meals of the past twelve months, it's in there only to give the competition a sense of legitimacy as the Risotto is the clear winner.  We had non-vegetarians going nuts for this stuff (we can't discount the fact they were simply hungry due to the size of their clearly superior meat dishes, but still).  Again, the amount of food served up was just too effing small, but we can't deny it was lovely to eat while it lasted. 
  • Below is the "Scallops, Roast Chicken, Mushrooms + Dashi" dish and the "Air Dried Tuna, Mussels, Fennel + Spinach". 
  • The Scallops were not well received by anyone that ordered them.  Fairly bland, perhaps lacking the dashi. Euhorn commented it didn't taste like something he couldn't do at home (whereas he was blown away by the trout, and so I don't get the feeling he was just in the mood to be a prick to the kitchen). The dish isn't really all that great to look at, either.. it is presented unadorned; bald. Like the life of a Japanese Salaryman, crammed into an evening metro.  
  • The Tuna was another of my selections.  It was pretty good, really. The mussels weren't all that noticeable (all three of them?) but the tuna itself combined with the fennel resulted in a fresh, pleasant dish.  
  • Describing food as 'air dried' is taking food wankiness to a new level. As I understand it, it's simply a different way of drying something  (as opposed to smoking or freeze-drying something, for example) but I will put my hand up and say I could not taste the 'air-dried' element to the dish. 
  • After we got through our second courses, I was one of the unlucky few that had ordered a dessert for my third plate and was left to watch the others eat their third savory dish.  It might have been ok had the plates not been ludicrously paltry. There were, though and it was not fun. 
  • At this point some of the table became a bit rowdy and wanted to know why the bread, so graciously stated on the menu to be 'on us', had dried up.  The majority of our table of 12 were not too proud to ask for more bread. 
  • You can see to the right, though, we hadn't yet worked out a way to butter our sine-wave bread. Also, they hadn't provided us with any butter knives.  So we used spoons. 
  • St Michael's comes across as a very fancy restaurant, but on occasion you will be seated next to a table of twelve that's buttering their lavosh with the back of a spoon. 
  • Eventually, desserts came out for those of us that had pre-ordered them and for the lucky two (i.e. one - read below) that ordered them on the night. 
  • Below is the 'Dark Chocolate Tart + Mint Sorbet' and the 'Parsnip, Vanilla + Cornflake Crunch'. 
  • The Tart was somewhat divisive, as many people (myself included) quite enjoyed it and yet there were one or two people vehemently against it.  Its critics say that the tart is too rich, the sorbet way too minty. I admit, the sorbet did remind me of listerine, and so perhaps it goes slightly overboard. I thought though that when taken together the two components were really nice.  
  • Although small, I didn't feel as though the tart was quite so obviously insufficient as the other plates.  It's small, sure, but when the flavours are that rich I think it's possible to get away with such a tiny dish.  Particularly a dessert. 
  • The Crunch, however, is a total crock. It looks like the remains of some other dish, perhaps something cakey, that they've added a scoop of something-creamy to and served for at least $12.  Not only is it unbelievably stingy, but it just didn't taste all that great either. This is one of the dishes that left me feeling mad. I knew that the dishes were to be small going in, and so in part I was willing to forgive them for the meager meals above, but this 'crunch' is taking the piss, surely. 
  • By the end of the 'meal' I felt as though I hadn't been to a restaurant, but an art gallery.  Where the art is a series of works juxtaposing the absence of food against a tiny amount of food presented, almost as a commentary about some bullshit thing somewhere. 

Drinks

  • Not all of the table were drinking (for various reasons) and so one end of the table loaded up on wine and the other table ordered one or two single serves.  
  • When I say loaded up, that is to say they ordered two bottles of grossly expensive red.  I'm guessing these were one of the cheaper bottles on the menu, because I know these people, but to look at the bill I really can't be sure. 
 
 

Service

  • Service was average, and almost poor.  This is a real shame because if St Michael's wants to be the kind of place that can charge $12 for per plate, that is, a canvass used predominantly as a backdrop for a non-existent meal, it needs to really nail the service component of the evening and it really didn't. 
  • Our water was not replaced after we got through the first bottle.  For a place like St Michael's that is simply unforgivable. 
  • One waitress couldn't speak English well enough to explain that we were able to order extra desserts only.  This meant that more than a few of us were lead to believe we had an extra savory dish coming, only to later find out we didn't.  That's annoying, sure, but we can get past it. Except, upon looking at the bill and sorting out who owes what after the night, we discovered (based on the best though imperfect information available) we were charged for one of the extra meals even though it never came out. 
  • What's more - and hopefully I'm not going to be roasted for this - I'm not sure that it is acceptable for one of their waitresses to be unable to speak to us in English.  I'm an inclusive guy and I'm all for people of other countries and cultures working here.  But we are talking about a service profession, a key component of which is to speak to English speaking customers, and so surely it's hard and perhaps almost impossible for a waitress to serve us to the standard we would expect at St Michael's if they can't speak English.  I think, overall, I'd be willing to give them a pass on this (perhaps largely because a girl with a French accent is always going to be gorgeous to me) but the waitress that was called over to explain what the first waitress couldn't seemed real pissed off about it. It didn't leave us feeling warm and fuzzy.  
  • In summary, the service was not good. 

Amenity

  • Place looks good. I should have taken more photos.  
  • Perhaps only comment is that the tables are a bit squished together.  However, I think this is deliberate as I'm getting the feeling St Michael's is very much a romantic date night place, and not a place for a (somewhat rowdy by the end) group of 12. 
 
 

Overall

This review is perhaps a bit harsh, because: 

  1. I don't think St Michael's is the right kind of place to bring a group of 12; and
  2. we knew going in that the plates were small, and so at the end of the day it's a bit rich to later complain about how small the dishes were. 

However, all that being said, KDFJ@#%@#%@ look at the amount of food served up on each dish!  At the end of the evening it felt like our $49 got us perhaps half an entree. No wonder one end of the table got boozed on wine, they were starving! 

I think St Michael's could be a quite nice place for a date night, provided neither of you are vegetarian, you're willing to do the $79, 7 Course Chef's Tasting Menu, and you don't prioritise dessert. Also, you speak a European language of some kind. And you've fleshed out a suitably ample wine budget. 

So, with all that being said, St Michael's was ok but certainly not as good as I was expecting. 

6 air-dried empty plates out of 10

 
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