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Persian red lentil soup with tahini, beetroot and fried mint

Lentil soup may not sound like the sexiest of dishes, but rest assured, it's a heart-warmer. We've added warming spices and served the soup with a dollop of garlicky tahini. Thin slivers of shaved raw beetroot add earthiness and texture - the beetroot is also excellent simply grated and served piled on top. The poached egg is optional, but highly recommended.

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Blue Nile's Ethiopian eggplant dip

"I'd love the recipe for the eggplant dip the wonderful Fatuma Tikuye serves at Blue Nile in Blacktown." - Helena Rosebery, Annandale, NSW REQUEST A RECIPE To request a recipe, email fareexchange@bauer-media.com.au or write to Fare Exchange, Australian Gourmet Traveller, GPO Box 4088, Sydney, NSW 2001. Please include the restaurant's name and address or business card, as well as your name and address.

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Surry Hills Eating House, Lucy Liu, Ben's Burgers, Mr Chow's Saloon & Dive Bar

Surry Hills Eating House

Surry Hills Eating House

Our restaurant critics' picks of the latest and best eats around the country this week, including Surry Hills Eating House, Lucy Liu, Ben's Burgers, Mr Chow's Saloon & Dive Bar

SYDNEY
Surry Hills Eating House
First there was Spice I Am, then more Spice I Ams (Spices We Are?), then House, the north-eastern Thai offshoot. Now, at the same pub that House calls home, comes Surry Hills Eating House, chef Sujet Saenkham's tribute to the cooking of southern Thailand. Set in the thoroughly renovated space upstairs at the not entirely salubrious Triple Ace Bar, the Eating House presents a menu rich in dishes not often seen elsewhere, some straight from the southern Thai/island canon (Phuket-style kanom jeen, say, with fish curry sauce and greens), others a bit more freestyle (Brussels sprouts stir-fried with Chinese sausage, say or a Sichuan-influenced chicken with dry chilli). Deliciousness is the reward whichever path you choose, and the classics (green curry of beef with fine roti) are rendered with as much brio as the more unusual stuff (such as the chilli, lime and pork floss miang done with Chinese broccoli in place of betel leaves). It's nightly dinner-only for now, with lunch in the offing later in the year. A big win for fans of big Thai flavours. Surry Hills Eating House, upstairs, Triple Ace Bar, cnr Elizabeth & Campbell sts, Surry Hills, NSW, (02) 9211 8107. PAT NOURSE

MELBOURNE
Lucy Liu
Lucy Liu, with its slatted timber wall, ceiling screens and comfortable, golden-hued lighting, is a looker. The sound levels are right, too, even when the place fills up, and this, along with a readiness to take bookings, makes chef Michael Lambie's latest venture one of the more user-friendly pan-Asian canteens in town. The menu is an exercise in pleasing the crowd - Korean fried chicken, kingfish sashimi, green papaya salad, dumplings, pork buns, soft-shell crab pancake, tick, tick, tick, tick - but when the cooking is strong and the flavours are clean, it's hardly something to complain about. The Korean-ish pork hock, rubbed down with spices, slow cooked and then fried to order, is worth a visit alone. It comes with pancakes, cucumber, spring onions, hoisin sauce and an apple and kimchi slaw to make your own rolls. It's a generous dish, so bring some friends - Lucy Liu is that kind of place. Lucy Liu, 23 Oliver La, Melbourne, Vic, (03) 9639 5777. MICHAEL HARDEN

BRISBANE
Ben's Burgers
Fat juicy patties, lightly buttery buns and a gratifyingly fast-moving queue. The management doesn't accept order changes and there are only three burgers - a classic, a special and a veg option - but the conga-line of cool kids kicking their heels on the Astroturfed square of laneway outside couldn't be happier. This replacement for Flamingo Café rocks. House-made ginger ale and cherry cola (in a plastic cup) can be amped up with a $3 shot of spiced rum or Ketel One, and there are a couple of Burleigh Brewing's craft beers also on offer. Inside it's all clean white and blue, with timber tables and zinc stools. Feeling the need for a burger-me-up breakfast? The BB Elvis offers an artery-hardening combination of bacon, peanut butter, banana and maple syrup, probably safest consumed in tandem with a heart-starting Coffee Supreme double-shot ristretto. Ben's Burger's, 5 Winn St, Fortitude Valley, Qld, (07) 3195 3094. FIONA DONNELLY

PERTH
Mr Chow's Saloon & Dive Bar
Don't be fooled. Mr Chow's isn't really a saloon, nor does it fit the description for rundown neighbourhood watering hole. Instead, look for it inside Low Key Chow House, Leederville's new high-water mark for Asian eating. Just as the menu crosses borders with alacrity, the drinks' list borrows liberally from liquor cabinets throughout the region. Korea, for instance, brings soju to the party. Japanese sake, meanwhile, is available by the tokkuri, tasting flight and one-cup. And then there's 100Plus, Singapore's greatest gift to post-exercise rehydration: enjoy it straight out the can or in the refreshing grapefruit-powered 200Plus, just one of Mr Chow's terrifically on-theme libations. While guests are welcome to drink without eating, scoring a table - particularly during the crush of Friday and Saturday nights - can be tricky. The solution? Make a play for one of the stools that ring the blondwood bar or drop in during the day to meet this good-natured mister. 140 Oxford St, Leederville, WA, (08) 9443 9305. MAX VEENHUYZEN

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