|Chin Chin’s lychee cocktail|
1. The Commoner
There is nothing common about The Commoner, a restaurant I’ve eaten at multiple times this year. It’s located in an unpreposessing shop front on Johnson street but as soon as first I opened the door I knew I was somewhere special. The tiny space is filled with bric a brac from wooden shoe lasts to vintage kitchen utensils while tables are set with white linen, flowers and flickering candles. Every detail has been thought of and catered for with love and flair. Whether there with a large group of friends in the courtyard out the back or for dinner with just me and Meat-And-Three-Veg, The Commoner always delivers tasty, clever and brilliantly executed food.
|Bone marrow and mushrooms at The Commoner|
2 Chin Chin
I am one of the hordes of people who worship at the temple of Chin Chin. Yes the no bookings system and the restaurant’s incredible popularity are painful (I once waited two hours for a table) but the place has a great buzz to it and sensational Asian fusion food. My must order dishes are the kingfish sashimi and the crunchy deep fried corn and coriander fritters, essentially the culinary equivalent of crack cocaine.
3. Gorski and Jones
I love Gorski and Jones because it is equally as good for breakfast first thing in the morning as it is late at night. For brunch try the sensational baked eggs and in the evening don’t miss the suckling pig night. I have been known just to pop into Gorski and Jones for a cheeky glass of red wine at night time and the chocolate pudding which oozes runny chocolate and comes with a quenelle of great vanilla bean ice-cream with shards of caramel scattered underneath to give some textural contrast. Heaven.
|Baked eggs at Gorski and Jones|
4. Nama Nama
Hands down my favourite city lunch spot is Nama Nama. It specialises in the thick, wriggly noodles alongside bento boxes and there’s a great bar upstairs called Hi Hou once it gets to night-time. But back to the noodles, they come in a Kanto style broth which is rich and salty but refined and have to be eaten fast so the liquid stays hot and the noodles retain their koshi, or toothsome bite. The udon noodles are like bouncy little snakes, wiggling away from my chopsticks totally slurpy and supple.
5. Easy Tiger
It seems that white boys can cook Thai food. Jarrod Hudson is the chef behind Easy Tiger in Collingwood and boy does he know his way around a wok. This is not your typical neighbourhood Thai restaurant. The first giveaway is the space with lots of low slung communal seating and a huge mural of a yellow carp along one wall. Through the restaurant proper there is also a covered courtyard at the back with fairy lights, bamboo and a cheery pot belly stove for heating. It’s a tiny slice of urban jungle and you can pretend you are in Thailand, or at the very least Sydney.
|Noodles at Nama Nama|
6. Union Dining
Like art, sunshine, good wine and great food? Then you’ll love Union Dining in Richmond. Chef Nicky Riemer is doing fabulous things at this European bistro style restaurant. I love the roof terrace and the spatchcocked baby chicken on the new Spring menu. It comes with a rich creme fraiche sauce, roasted sweet garlic and earthy Otway shiitake mushrooms to give a real depth of flavour to the dish.
There’s two levels of pleasure in store at Shark Fin Inn up the top end of China Town. Not much has changed here since the restaurant opened in the 1980s, the carpet is pretty retro and the rooms are full closely spaced tables topped with lazy Susans. But it’s all about the yum cha goodness that never fails to deliver. Particularly brilliant if you are hungover.
Burgers have taken Melbourne by storm this year and as much as I love old favourite’s Danny’s burgers and Andrew’s Burgers I had to give the gong to the new kid on the block Huxtaburger. The burgers are hilariously named after the Cosby Family members. There’s the Bill with the lot – pineapple, beetroot, bacon and egg or my favourite – the Denise a sweat inducing combination of beef, cheese, salad, fiery jalapenos and sriracha mayo. The thing about the burgers at Huxtaburger is that they’re made with top quality ingredients – the meat is outstanding, seriously beefy Moondarra wagyu and even the sweet brioche buns are addictive.
|Burger and crinkle cut chips at Huxtaburger|
9. Mekong Pho
Service is brusque and the setting is pretty utilitarian with vinyl tables and diners crammed in side by side but Mekong Pho is my go to pho place. There’s over 20 different pho variations on offer but the traditional beef stars as the beef is tender and cooked to medium rare. The pho made with chicken breast ($8.50) is clean and fresh but lacks the depth of flavour of the beef pho. What I really like at Mekong Pho though is all the accompaniments that you can add yourself to customise your pho. This should be standard but is sadly lacking at many spots. Some lime, beanshoots and hot chilli really make pho sing. Bonus points for the flasks of tea on the tables as well.
10. Golden Fields
You have to order the lobster roll at Golden Fields. That’s the rule. Soft, slightly sweet, buttered brioche bun sandwiches a whisp of water cress and chunky pearly white crayfish meat. That’s not all that’s good coming out of the modern open kitchen at Golden Fields. The food is exciting with a great mix of sweet, sour and spicy Asian flavours. Don’t miss the desserts either – they are excellent.
Tip: All summaries on this top ten list link through to a fuller review. Just click on the title.