Aru
Southeast Asian flavours, native Australian ingredients and ancient techniques intersect at this highly anticipated new CBD restaurant, by a star chef who knows how to nail the formula: Khanh Nguyen, the man behind Sunda. In sultry, shadowy surrounds, expect playful riffs on classics – like banh mi, Peking duck and mi goreng. But not in ways that feel gimmicky, thanks to “precision, technique and an obvious respect for the source material”, as Broadsheet editor Chynna Santos so perfectly put it. There’s also an unexpectedly extraordinary duck-sausage sanga, for which Nguyen pulled inspo from both Vietnamese nem nuong (grilled pork sausage) and Bunnings snags.

Order takeaway from Aru here.

Al Dente Enoteca
Carlton’s new pasta paradise opened on Nicholson Street in early 2021, but liquor-licensing delays meant it was unable to serve booze for months. But now it’s all systems go, and there’s a helluva lot to love about it. Most importantly, it’s a visa-holder – and lockdown – success story. Al Dente was originally a pasta-delivery service set up by Italian-born chef Andrea Vignali when he was stood down from his job at Melbourne institution Grossi Florentino during last year’s shutdowns. Now it’s a swish, fully fledged restaurant serving popular spanner-crab ravioli; tortellini with fillings such as cacio e pepe, and duck; and a standout dessert. Plus, you can buy house-made pasta and sauces to-go.

Order takeaway from Al Dente Enoteca here.

Farmer’s Daughters
Four years in the making, Farmers Daughters is Pastuso chef Alejandro Saravia’s three-storey love letter to Gippsland – smack bang in the middle of Melbourne at the burgeoning 80 Collins precinct. Here, the celebrated, locally based Peruvian chef puts his roots aside to showcase his obsession with the Victorian region’s produce and the people behind it. On the ground floor is a casual, grab-and-go deli serving house-cured meats, and pies. Next is the suave restaurant powered by a smoky “campfire kitchen”, with delicately roasted alpine trout and clam-buttered sugarloaf cabbage. And up top is a greenhouse-like rooftop oasis with a “very dirty” Martini.

Farmer’s Daughters is not currently offering takeaway.

Hero
This is a next-level museum restaurant. At the recently reopened Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI) in Federation Square, celebrity chef Karen Martini helms an elegantly understated all-day diner turning out uncomplicated, “gutsy” dishes that lean European but tap into what’s trending in Melbourne. That means a sandwich, of course – it’s a white-bread number with crumbed fish, crisp iceberg and a slathering of tartare, which Martini regularly ate for lunch during lockdown. (The fancified Filet-o-Fish is one of the city’s best new sandwiches.) Other highlights include potato focaccia with a Noma edge, red-pepper Gilda pintxos and spicy crab cavatelli.

Hero is not currently offering takeaway.

Dom’s
Beautiful CBD bar Peaches and downstairs meat-focused sibling Cheek are no more. In their place: Dom’s, a killer new pizzeria and rooftop bar – that’s like a fancy RSL – by the guys behind Dexter and Takeaway Pizza. While you might recognise the lit-up stairs, the revamped three-level spot now bears little resemblance to its former self. On the first floor is the pizzeria, doing focaccia-like pies with house-made mortadella and garlic-fermented honey, chevre-stuffed potato skins, and plenty of Aussie spirits. Upstairs, find royal-blue carpet surrounding a wood-panelled bar and a pool table. And, of course, the breezy rooftop.

Dom’s is not currently offering takeaway.

Lona Misa
Plant-based dishes take pole position at Lona Misa, Shannon Martinez’s new all-vegan, all-day diner with Latin flair (and beautifully brash mid-century style). Inside the new luxury Ovolo hotel, it’s a symbol of the hotel group’s pledge to go meat-free for a year. It’s ambitious, but if anyone’s up for a challenge it’s Martinez – a trailblazer of Melbourne’s vegan scene. Alongside veteran chef Ian Curley (Kirk’s Wine Bar, now-events space French Saloon and ex-European Group executive chef), she’s serving Josper-fired peri-peri cauliflower, steamy tamales and blood sausage that might freak you out. “It was time for vegans to be the priority and everyone else to make the alterations,” Martinez says.

Order takeaway from Lona Misa here.

Chancery Lane
With ritzy deep-green marble, dramatic arched windows and candelabras throughout, Scott Pickett’s latest brings old-world European elegance to a heritage-listed CBD building. And it hits you the moment the doors open, and your eyes adjust to the dim lighting in the historic Normanby Chambers on Little Collins Street. (Pickett says it’s inspired by “those wonderful bistros in the backstreets of Paris”.) Led by Merricote’s Rob Kabboord, the kitchen turns out extravagant seafood platters; gnocchi Parisienne (French-style gnocchi made with choux pastry) with Victorian mushrooms; and lavish grill-for-one and grill-for-two options. Also on the menu: four types of caviar, with buckwheat blini and classic condiments, by the gram or tin.

Chancery Lane is not currently offering takeaway.

Audience picks
Two of our biggest-hitting restaurant-opening stories of the year (so far) have been for Chef David’s new neon-lit Kew outpost with all-you-can-eat hotpot and sushi train; and Va Penne, Northcote’s flashing-neon-hand-signposted Italian bar and eatery from the owners of Joe’s Shoe Store.

Order takeaway from Chef David here and Va Penne here.

Additional reporting by Chynna Santos, Stephanie Vigilante, Sofia Levin and Quincy Malesovas.