Last year, we told you that 2022 was a relatively quiet year for traditional restaurant openings. And so far in 2023, that’s remained the case, with bar and cafe openings outnumbering restaurant openings. Our six favourite new restaurants of the year so far include three Asian restaurants – one Thai fusion spot, another that’s a return to a chef’s Malaysian roots, and a third from a first-time restaurateur whose first foray into hospitality has been a hit. There’s a French brasserie with a neighbourhood feel, a Hills restaurant from a major player on the Adelaide food scene, and a menu from a local favourite that actually tastes better when you’re hungover.
Here, in alphabetical order, are the new restaurants that have caught our eye so far this year (along with a few honourable mentions).
Kiin opened late last year (missing out on our best restaurants of 2022 wrap), but this Thai-fusion restaurant was too good to leave off this list. The CBD restaurant is a collaboration between sommelier David Wickwar, who founded Melbourne’s Vaporetto wine bar and chef Ben Bertei who has spent decades merging Thai flavours with Western techniques at Melbourne’s Longrain, Spirit House on the Sunshine Coast and Brisbane’s Same Same. The menu playfully crosses cuisines while staying true to the core tenants of Thai food – the right balance of salty, spicy, sweet and sour. There’s a red curry cheeseburger with crispy onion, fish fingers with sweet chilli and fried basil, and a rich, oozy burrata served with green nam jim and roti which Bertei refers to as “a more upmarket version” of Philly cream cheese with sweet chilli sauce. Wickwar’s wine list is a tight selection of largely South Australian wines that complement the food.
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Paper Tiger, CBD
Since landing in Australia 13 years ago, Malaysian-born Benjamin Liew has worked in several notable Asian restaurants, including Vietnamese-French restaurant Madame Hanoi, noodle bar Minimono and Japanese barbeque joint Kyoku Yakiniku. His new restaurant, Paper Tiger, sees Liew returning to his Malaysian roots. Opening in April this year, Paper Tiger joins a clutch of cool Southeast Asian restaurants on Rundle Street. Aware of the steep competition on the road, Liew has leaned into Malaysian and Indonesian flavours to stand out from the crowd. Share plates include green nam jim oysters in coconut cream infused with makrut and kombu, a Malaysian-Chinese Wagyu brisket stew with a “slightly more than five-spice” master stock, and Balinese-style crispy pork belly marinated in galangal, chilli, garlic and turmeric. Liew also takes his desserts very seriously (his first job in Australia was as a pastry apprentice at Rockpool). The signature sweet is a coconut-shaped chocolate sphere filled with tropical jam and coconut mousse (which is a nod to the coconut dessert at Hunter Valley’s Muse). A cocktail list includes a pandan Whisky Sour, five-spice Paloma and a Pina Colada spiked with jasmine rice syrup.
In February, chef Andrew Davies (co-owner of Osteria Oggi and formerly of Press Food & Wine, Bread & Bone and Maybe Mae), wife Belle Kha and two long-time friends from the wine industry, headed to the Hills to open a new restaurant that highlights slow living and simple dishes. The aim is simply to serve quality food in a relaxed environment; guests can come by for a long lunch, stop in for a beer, or just enjoy a coffee and a sweet treat in the garden. Alongside Davies, chefs Damiano Pellegrini and Tim Caputo are churning out dishes that focus on flavour and texture, rather than shoehorning as many elements as possible onto the plate. The desserts are particularly impressive, with Davies describing them as some of “the best desserts in Adelaide” – they include in-house gelato, a warm and fluffy soufflé, and a silky brûlée.
A Prayer for the Wild at Heart, CBD
An unpretentious neighbourhood brasserie (with a lengthy literary name), A Prayer for the Wild at Heart opened in December 2022 in a breezy indoor-outdoor space in Hurtle Square. From the owner-operator of My Kingdom for a Horse, the slightly more grown-up venue opened with a host of francophone talent including chef Stéphane Brizard (ex-Crafers Hotel), who was born in Brittany. Serving simple French fare, entrees such as a colourful carpaccio of mixed beetroot served with black garlic and textural granola are followed by mains including a flat iron steak with cafe de Paris butter (which according to Brizard has more than 40 ingredients in it).
Thirsty Tiger, CBD
Late last year, Nina Hadinata and Morgen Wynn-Hadinata opened Thirsty Tiger in the space above their diner 99 Gang Social. With a bright summery fit-out, and slightly removed from the hustle and bustle of Hindley Street, Thirsty Tiger’s menu stays true to the pan-Asian and California-inspired through-line found downstairs (and at the duo’s Parkside eatery), but with a bigger emphasis on shared dishes like cream cheese and chive wontons, or buttermilk-fried chicken tenders dipped in hot honey and served with kimchi and fries. Mains include a Wagyu steak with miso butter, and ramen noodles with buttery garlic confit, egg yolk and parmesan. Recently the team have introduced a “recovery brunch” on Sundays to cater to the party crowd (you could be there drinking until 2am the night before and roll back in at 11am for a hearty, hangover-curing breakfast). Hearty booze soaker-uppers such as a Wagyu rump, served with a cafe de Paris butter, fries and a sunny-side-up egg, sit alongside beloved – and basic – brunch fare such as a smashed avo drizzled in that famous hot honey.
Tiki’s Thai Cuisine, Semaphore Park
If you told us one of the best new restaurant openings in Adelaide would come from a first-time restaurant owner who didn’t know how to cook at the start of the year, we’d have laughed you out of the room. Tiki’s Thai Cuisine is a wonderful surprise, a simple corner spot serving sumptuous Thai curries, soups and noodle dishes. Owner Phatsachon Ritnayom, known as Tiki, enlisted the help of chef Jukkit Suwannakhot, and now their crispy bao with crunchy pork belly, pickled cucumber, crushed peanuts and fiery chilli is being called one of the best bao in the western suburbs.
House of George, CBD: much-loved Yiasou George has been rechristened House of George with a brand new nostalgic menu from chef Sav Sexton (Good Gilbert). One of our favourites on the menu is a fancified ’70s dinner party canape with a coil of anchovy-style whiting on a dollop of “café de Vardon” butter – a spin on cafe de Paris butter that swaps out curry powder for tabil, a North African spice mix – and a dollop of smoked Yarra Valley salmon roe.
One Sneaky Cheetah, Melrose
Park: the second spotted shop from the Pizzateca crew is serving an experimental menu with bold takes such as a seafood pizza with a sugo infused with South Australian blue swimmer crab, and their own house wine which “pairs perfectly with pizza”.
Taco Libre, South Brighton: three nights a week the Mollymawk by [Hark] space in South Brighton is transformed into a lively takeaway taco joint serving birria tacos. It’s run by Yolanda Mendez, who grew up in Jalisco (the birthplace of birria). Mendez is using her mother’s recipe to make birria slathered in melted cheese, meat and the traditional dipping sauce made from tomatoes, dried chillies, onion and garlic.
Additional reporting by Alexis Buxton-Collins, Daniela Frangos, Helen Karakulak, Tim Watts and Nicole Wedding.