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Aløft

There's nothing new about Nordic interiors - blond timbers, concrete surfaces, warm, mid-century charm without the twee - and thank heavens for that. It's a style that augments the beauty of everything around it, in this case, gorgeous Hobart harbour, which makes up one whole wall. What is new here, however, is the food - by veterans of Garagistes, which once dazzled diners down the road, Vue de Monde in Melbourne and Gordon Ramsay worldwide. There's a strong Asian bent, but with Tasmanian ingredients. In fact, the kitchen's love of the local verges on obsessive - coconut milk in an aromatic fish curry is replaced with Tasmanian-grown fig leaf simmered in cream to mimic the flavour. Other standouts include a gutsy red-braised lamb with gai lan and chewy cassia spaetzle, pigs' ears zingy with Sichuan pepper and a fresh, springy berry dessert. While the food is sourced locally, the generous wine list spans the planet. 

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Brae

Prepare to enter a picture of the countryside framed by note-perfect Australiana but painted in bold, elegant and unsentimental strokes. Over 10 or more courses, Dan Hunter celebrates his region with dishes that are formally daring (Crunchy prawn heads! Creamy oyster soft-serve! Sea urchin and chicory bread pudding!), yet rich in flavour and substance. The menu could benefit from an edit, but the plates are tightly composed - and what could you cut? Certainly not the limpid broth bathing fronds of abalone and calamari, nor the clever arrangement of lobster played off against charred waxy fingerlings under a swatch of milk skin. The adventure is significantly the richer for the cool gloss of the dining room, some of the most engaging service in the nation and wine pairings that roam with an easy-going confidence. Maturing and relaxing without surrendering a drop of its ambition, Brae is more compelling than ever.

Stirfried calamari with chilli and black bean sauce


You'll need

350 gm cleaned calamari, tentacles reserved 80 ml (1/3 cup) vegetable oil 1 small onion, thinly sliced 2 tbsp very finely chopped ginger 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped 1-2 long red chillies, minced 2 tbsp salted black beans, rinsed and coarsely chopped (see note) ½ small green capsicum, seeds removed, quartered and cut into 2cm lengths 2 tbsp Shaoxing wine 1 tbsp oyster sauce 1 tsp white sugar ½ tsp sesame oil 80 ml (1/3 cup) chicken stock 1 green onion, cut into 2cm lengths To serve: steamed rice

Method

  • 01
  • Halve calamari tubes lengthways, score inside skin in a criss-cross pattern and slice into 4cm x 6cm strips.
  • 02
  • Heat a wok over high heat, add vegetable oil and as soon as the oil starts to smoke, add onion, ginger, garlic, chilli and salted black beans. Stirfry for 15-20 seconds or until fragrant. Add capsicum and calamari and stirfry for 2-3 minutes or until calamari begins to curl. Add wine, oyster sauce, sugar, sesame oil and stock, reduce heat to medium and simmer, stirring constantly, for 1-2 minutes or until reduced to a sauce consistency. Scatter with green onion and serve with rice.
Note Salted black beans (fermented and salted soy beans) are available from Asian grocers.

The trick to preparing calamari is to cook it quickly so it remains tender. Chinese cookbooks will often say to blanch it in boiling water to make it tender. This step is not necessary in this recipe because we use small calamari. This is a family favourite – the combination of garlic, ginger and black bean is irresistible.

At A Glance

  • Serves 4 people
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At A Glance

  • Serves 4 people

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