One of the most hyped Asian restaurants in Melbourne has finally opened in Surry Hills. Follow the glow of the hot-pink neon bunny into a colossal dining room where spice is spun through jungle curries and miang kham. Executive chef Benjamin Cooper sums it up nicely: “We don’t view ourselves as purely a Thai restaurant. We’re an Australian restaurant cooking Asian food.” Turn left for Go Go Bar, where Micahel Chiem’s (PS40) cocktails are poured under giant portraits of dominatrix figures.
Potts Point’s Macleay Street needed a Korean option. The trio behind the now-closed Moon Park in Redfern has opened Paper Bird in the former Bourke Street Bakery site opposite Apollo, which is off the main drag.
While the menu isn’t strictly Korean (it takes inspiration from Japanese, Chinese and Taiwanese cuisines) subtle cues are seen here and there, particularly through the famous soy-and-maple fried chicken. Come for eggs on toast in the morning (sprinkled with a Japanese fish and seaweed seasoning called furikake) and stay for kingfish sashimi with miso and crab; or bowls of rice piled with clams, zucchini and nori.
The wine list ventures into natural territory. A range of sakes and tinnies from Korea is also available.
Hanging its hat on sambal (it serves seven different kinds), the CBD’s new Indonesian is worth a weekly visit. Full up most nights, patrons go for fried chicken dipped in a chunky, fragrant eggplant sambal and lesser-known dishes such as Padang-style tendon curry. Serving sizes are small (with fair pricing to match), which means you can really go for it and order half the menu.
Designed by co-owner Nessiana Pamudji, the space channels a rustic street stall complete with folding tables, a wooden counter and a garage-door-like entrance.
Imagine Paramount Coffee Project, but Italian. The CBD’s latest arrival sits somewhere in-between visually, with bespoke light fixtures and leather-bound chairs, which surround the Neapolitan pizza oven (the same one Maurice Terzini’s Da Maria uses).
The team includes chef Mario Izzo, who has been turning this concept over in his mind for a long time. For breakfast, impressive plates of salty prosciutto, Vanella burrata, poached eggs and focaccia line the tables. Later in the day there’s wood-fired pizza and homemade spanner crab rigatoni, made shiny with lots of garlic butter and bottarga.
The wine list leans towards Italy, with a handful of cocktails and local beers.
On warmer nights, oily parcels of fish and chips are sold through the takeaway window, while inside it’s a more serious affair; trimmed with velvet and brass. David Koorey (ex-Bambini Trust, Jamie’s Italian) plates up potato crisps with vinegar foam and stuffs mini doughnuts with a salty crab and fennel mix. Japanese flare can be seen through sashimi and the octopus with black miso eggplant, as well as the green salad dressed in wasabi.