This post could also be called, "How to Please a Best Friend with One Meal"...extended title? "How to Please a Best Friend who just spent 5 years living in Melbourne with One Meal". Sub plot - convincing said best friend who is also incredibly squeamish over offal anything, to try duck liver parfait. Personally, it's one of my favourite foods and something that I always look for on a menu - Cantina's rendition? Definitely one of my favourites.
As far as introductions go - Cantina needs very little of it. This Beaufort Street food icon has not only captured the affection of us Perth folk, but also managed to command attention from interstate bloggers whom visited Perth last year for Eat Drink Blog 2013. Good news does indeed travel and I get such a gleeful sense of satisfaction when friends who visit Perth, leave feeling thoroughly impressed by the delicious offerings from the West. Call it the triumph of Australia's culinary underdog!
As far as parfaits go, I'd say that this is the original and still the best in Perth. I love the way each mouthful rounds out lusciously - it's the epitome of lunch time indulgence and one to make you close your eyes, sit back a little in your chair and let out a satisfactory "mmmmmmm".
Where there is parfait - there is generally not enough bread to go around. Some like it lathered on thick and some like it sparingly scraped. Either way, ordering extra bread from Cantina is never a bad thing; chewy, charred and with a life of it's own, I'd say it's the perfect canvas for a slick of such savoury perfection.
Epilogue: Best friend was well convinced and exclaimed how she never knew that something that sounded so confronting like a duck's liver could be so delicious!
Bread perfection continues through to the mains - it's a sandwich that boasts crisp, on crisp, on crisp. The robust and buttery bread encloses fresh shards of iceburg lettuce and caps off a mammoth, golden brown hunk of eggplant.
The eggplant batter made the sandwich seem heavy and it got increasingly harder to enjoy this as time passed and the sandwich got colder. The first few mouthfuls were kept interesting by the crunchy textures and the punchy parmigiana sauce, but the smoked potato aioli was too scarce for my liking.
I thought that I would steer away from my usual gnocchi, which has been on a long time favourite at Cantina for me. Instead the waitstaff suggested a refreshing olive oil based pasta made with orecchiette.
Pangrattato is a spectacularly fancy word for "breadcrumbs", which were generously scattered throughout the pasta. The tender asparagus and al dente pasta all came together in a zesty dressing - the only thing missing for me was the creaminess of savoury ricotta.
Why Cantina works so well, I think - is largely due to how approachable and versatile the menu is. It's a perfect place for middle of the week lightbulb moments that are bound to satisfy your comfort food cravings and need for an congenial place to unwind in. The menu introduces interesting components, like a smoked potato aioli for example without straying from food that people are familiar with, such as pasta or sandwiches. For weekends, special occasions or larger groups - I strongly recommend making a reservation a few days in advance. Do also keep in mind that the coffee and desserts have so far also proved to be worth saving room for!