The dishes we keep coming back for

Steak frites, Montrachet, Brisbane
Montrachet’s steak, frites and salad has achieved legendary status with Francophile Brisbanites, and the appeal of this simple dish – the chips hand-cut and bronzed, the beef tender and pan-fried exactly to your personal taste – shows no sign of abating. About 150 orders are dispatched from Thierry Galichet’s Paddington kitchen each week. The difference lies, as ever, in the detail. “Steak is one of the hardest things to do for a chef," says Galichet. “We all have our own way of doing it. I’ve never been one of those people who say it must be rare – you can still do a beautiful well-done steak, although some do kill them on purpose. You just need good meat, and you must finish it in the oven for 20 minutes at a low temperature.’’
Montrachet, 224 Given Tce, Paddington, Qld, (07) 3367 0030.

Chicken rice, Abla’s, Melbourne
This is one of Lebanon’s most haunting traditional dishes, fragrant with sweet spices, delicate poached meat, nuts and… a touch of magic that comes from doing it all your life. Owner/chef Abla Amad’s chicken rice is simply unforgettable.
Abla’s, 109 Elgin St, Carlton, Vic, (03) 9347 0006.

Daube of lamb, Lebrina, Hobart
This dish is so comforting, it’s just about impossible to tire of it, especially during winter. The meat is braised for many hours in red wine until it’s so soft it’s possible to eat ‘à la cuillère’ (with a spoon). A cannellini bean puree soaks up the juices.
Lebrina, 155 New Town Rd, New Town, Tas, (03) 6228 7775.

Charcuterie plate, Must Winebar, Perth
Perth people who are after a good porking head for Must, where head chef André Mahé’s charcuterie plate has been on the menu since the place first opened in 2001. Mahé trained as a charcutier under his father in Brittany, so it’s little surprise that the plate is his most enduring dish: jambón persillé, the classic jellied ham, a pork, chicken and pistachio paté en croute with some seasonal fruit chutney, pork rillettes, and just a dab of velvety black olive tapenade on the side, and a house-baked baguette. Owner Russell Blaikie, who isn’t averse to mucking  around with the classics when the mood takes him wouldn’t dare to touch Mahé’s charcuterie. “Some iconic dishes are perfect just the way they are,” he says. “You just shouldn’t mess with them.”
Must Winebar, 519 Beaufort St, Highgate, WA, (08) 9328 8255.

Pappardelle with goat ragù, Bar Alto, Brisbane
It takes an average of three goats a week to sate Brisbane’s seemingly insatiable hunger for Bar Alto’s earthy, rich home-made pappardelle with goat ragù. The dish has been on the menu since Alto opened, and chef Pablo Tordesillas says that, though it’s hearty, it remains popular even when the mercury rises. “I never worked in an open kitchen before, and you get constant feedback,” he says. “It’s one of the dishes we get the most compliments for.” The pasta is made in-house from Bellata Gold durum semolina to which Tordesillas adds a little plain flour. “It’s a great local product with a beautiful colour,” he adds. “It makes a very smooth pasta with just a tiny bit of water and free-range eggs from the farm.’’
Bar Alto, 119 Lamington St, New Farm, Qld, (07) 3358 1063.

Congee, Supper Inn, Melbourne
Late at night, when the kitchens are closed, do you think chefs just go home? You’ll find a few every night enjoying a bowl of Supper Inn’s wonderful fish congee, with fresh chilli and long batons of extruded Chinese doughnut. The Inn has a separate congee list but the fish will always be the post-midnight favourite. A perfunctory but highly satisfying experience.
Supper Inn, 15 Celestial Ave, Melbourne, Vic, (03) 9663 4759.

Coniglio al forno, Chianti Classico, Adelaide
It’s half a rabbit slow-cooked with pancetta, onions, port and sage, served with rosemary potatoes, and chef Tobias Gush has been cooking it year-round since he started at Chianti Classico more than five years ago. Fortunately, Gush has been able to source enough rabbit to meet the growing demand of diners by forging a close relationship with boutique producer Bushmin Farmed Rabbits of Mallala, north of Adelaide. It’s made to the Tuscan recipe sourced by Luisa Favaro, the mother of Chianti Classico owner Frank Favaro, who still has a hand in assembling the restaurant menu.
Chianti Classico, 160 Hutt St, Adelaide, SA, (08) 8232 7955.

Maltagliati di pane con calamari, Café di Stasio, Melbourne
One of our favourite pasta dishes of all time, reason enough to visit di Stasio: wide ribbons of pasta with breadcrumbs in the dough, sautéed with garlic in butter and olive oil, baby calamari, white wine, fish stock, stems of spring onion and, finally, torn radicchio. Ah.
Café di Stasio, 31a Fitzroy St, St Kilda, Vic, (03) 9525 3999.

WORDS JANE CORNES, FIONA DONNELLY, SUE DYSON & ROGER MCSHANE, JOHN LETHLEAN AND DAVID SLY PHOTOGRAPHY BRETT STEVENS

This article appeared in the April 2008 issue of Australian Gourmet Traveller.

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