The night we frequented Italian eatery, Cucina on Hay, in Perth, things were pretty quiet. There were only two other people in the restaurant, which didn’t bother me, as when I go out to eat, it’s more about the food than it is about the ambience. That said, I did have good company with me, to help pick from an expansive menu of tantalising dishes.
Open from 11am through to beyond dinner-time, Cucina on Hay is a café, buzzing lunchtime spot, cosy dinner venue (when the crowd does fill it up, particularly on weekends), and laidback cocktail lounge at various times during the day. Whatever moment you happen to be there, though, you can rest assured the food coming out of the kitchen is always of high standard.
Executive chef Sharath Kancharla brings with him experience from the Swissotel in Sydney, and says he admires the dining market in Perth since it “always appreciates new trends and supports them”. Which is a good thing considering Sharath’s bold menu with a contemporary edge.
Forget spaghetti and meatballs and the average pizza, Sharath delivers Italian dishes that’d make even the strictest Nonna proud.
We started by sharing a Cucina Charcuterie, consisting of various delicious meats – prosciutto di Parma, casalingo salami, soppressata (seasoned with chilli and peppercorns), and cacciatore (even spicier salami). The accompanying baby tomatoes helped soothen the spice, and never did I taste tomatoes so succulent and fresh.
For entrees, we also opted to share, choosing mini arancini, a citrus salmon gravlax, and grilled octopus, the freshness again apparent in each and every dish.
Mains arrived more in the form of traditional small plates, so again we chose to share. My choice of duck cappelletti was a very wise one, the homemade pasta filled with delicious duck and leek, then drizzled with a sage brown butter that melted even more-so in the mouth. My guest selected the lamb osso buco which had been slow-cooked for 18 hours beforehand, then served on a bed of appropriately potent Grana Pradana polenta.
Chef Sharath likes to call his dishes “comfort food that’s not fancy” but we’d beg to differ. His menu items arrive looking like mini works of art, like something out of a Caravaggio painting. As for the taste? Well, let’s just say that art is lapped up, including a cheeky swipe of sauce from the plate on occasion!
We didn’t get to try Sharath’s own favourites from the menu (pork bites with walnut praline, or the trio of gnocchi with gorgonzola cream), but then that’s a good excuse as any to make our way back to this very impressive venue. Antonino Tati
“I decided to become a chef when I was 17, when I first attended hotel management school… I always enjoyed the cooking lessons and was pretty good with unfamiliar skills. Soon enough, it became an obsession for me to be around food.”
Sharath Kancharla, Executive Chef, Cucina on Hay
Cucina on Hay is situated at 477 Hay Street, Perth, open daily from 11am through to dinner and beyond.
View their full menu at http://www.cucinaonhay.com.au and phone (08) 9326 7000 for bookings.