BEFORE writing Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov read about an ape raised in captivity and given a set of crayons and paper. The first thing it drew were the bars on its own cage.
For a long time, Perth’s dining scene felt like a flatulent ape, trapped inside a cage of high prices and self-congratulation.
Thankfully the re-birth of Northbridge has been the catalyst for a number of vibrant cafes with lower prices.
The latest addition is OEC Bob, a small Japanese number on Newcastle Street.
On a bright winter’s day we sat in the small stone courtyard, ignoring the smattering of tables inside.
Most of the menu was Japanese- or Korean-based, including sushi, mains (soft-shell crab, donburi, pork belly) and “sizzlers” (yakiniku beef, piggy platter, unagi).
There was also a small western breakfast section, including the compulsory eggs benedict and “big breakfast”.
We opted for the vegetarian gyoza ($7), beef bulgolgi ($12.50) and bibimbob ($13.50).
Glancing around, the clientele was pretty random: two businessmen were trying to impress each other, a table of students was staring at phones and a bloated man, wearing a pince-nez and plum blazer, was reading Fifty Shades of Grey.
Thankfully the entrees arrived and I was transported from the land of trouser dumplings to fried ones. The gyoza had a nice crispy carapace and were crammed with fresh vegetables.
I prefer my gyoza steamed, but these were tasty and a pleasant overture to the meal.
As the poor demented soul reading Fifty Shades harrumphed, a smiley waitress slid two huge bowls onto our table. The bibimbob—a signature Korean dish—featured a mountain of rice topped with sauteed vegetables and spicy pork.
It was a beautifully presented dish and all the ingredients were separated into bright piles of colour.
Complementing the meal was a small pot of chilli paste, which added a fiery kick to the unsuspecting carrots and spring onions.
The bibimbob was an interesting dish which I had never tried before, and although hard to pronounce—I challenge you to do so without conjuring a mental image of Billy Bob Thornton — was a new favourite, combining soft vegetables with slivers of rich pork.
Across the table my friend was devouring his bulgogi, a delicious medley of marinated beef, lettuce, chives and honey soy sauce.
“It’s very addictive,” he mumbled, before spearing another mound of juicy beef.
We finished off the meal with a large cappuccino ($4.50) and a short macchiato ($3.70)
I liked OEC Bob: the service was friendly and the food tasty, with a hint of sophistication.
I also liked the informal cafe vibe and the quirky menu.
These two apes, unlike Mr Nabokov’s, left the restaurant happy.
O-ec-bob: light of my life, fire of my loins…
by STEPHEN POLLOCK
Cafe OEC Bob
145 Newcastle Street