Our restaurant critics' picks of the latest and best eats around the country this week, including St Michael 6003, Belle's Hot Chicken, and Bar de Thé.
St Michael 6003
Jackson's - the restaurant that taught Perth the joys of dégustation dining - is a tough act to follow, but ambitious restaurateurs Scott O'Sullivan (Red Cabbage) and Todd Stuart (Petite Mort) are up for the challenge. While many of their compatriots chase the almighty casual dining dollar, O'Sullivan and Stuart stay true to their fine-dining roots as well as the site's history at St Michael 6003, a street-smart dining room specialising in intricate, technique-forward cooking. While it's still early days for the operation (some aspects of the service and aesthetics remain works in progress) the cooking of former Red Cabbage sous Adam Sayles is already in the zone. Meaty strips of bresaola paired with fermented vegetables make for an on-trend opening, as do a pair of scallops smartly accessorised with swatches of blackened corn, spinach purée and a tagliatelle-like squiggle of shaved squid. It's a promising start indeed and proof that fine dining is very much alive out west. St Michael 6003, 483 Beaufort St, Highgate, WA, (08) 9328 1177. MAX VEENHUYZEN
Belle's Hot Chicken
Clearly we've not yet reached the fried chicken saturation point. In fact, the way the local fried chicken scene is fragmenting, not just on nationality (Korean, Japanese, Taiwanese, American) but also across US state lines (Kentucky, Louisiana, Alabama), there looks to be plenty of life in the old bird yet. Belle's Hot Chicken, the latest addition to the scene, welcomes Tennessee to the Melbourne fold. It also brings a couple of chefs - Aaron Turner and Morgan McGlone - better known for their fine-dining prowess and the rarefied experience shown in the care and attention paid to the well-sourced fowl. The menu is refreshingly straightforward. You pick a combo of dark meat, wings or tenders, then choose your chilli heat level from a five-point scale starting at Mild and moving on up to Really F-ing Hot. They mean it, too. Even Hot (one up from Mild) will bring sweat to the brow but the brilliant textural crunch of the batter, the juiciness of the chicken and the array of sides - everything from a pretty good macaroni cheese to a ripper potato salad and excellent house-fermented pickles - is well worth the eye-watering and lunging for tinnies of Pabst Blue Ribbon. Being Gertrude Street, there's natural wine and a vegetarian option, too, but it's best just to pull yourself together and stick with the chicken and beer. Belle's Hot Chicken, 150 Gertrude St, Fitzroy, Vic, (03) 9077 0788. MICHAEL HARDEN
Bar de Thé
With credits for the way the room smells on its carte ("scents by Maison Balzac"), backing from the Cîroc Collective (whatever that is), and the offer of Martinis both kale-infused and gold leaf-adorned (for a preposterous $100 no less), Bar de Thé and its restaurant counterpart, Salon de Thé, seem all but made for mockery. But there's a bit of substance here. Icebergs' Maurice Terzini is involved, and there's the offer of good, strong stirred cocktails like the mighty Boulevardier alongside the flowery vodka drinks, and, as misguided as the made-up French-Vietnamese-ish menu may appear (chips with green tea aïoli? "oak-roasted" calamari with organic brown rice and lotus seeds?), the flavours are much more fully realised than the concept. Salon de Thé and Bar de Thé, upstairs, 225a Victoria St, Darlinghurst, NSW, (02) 8958 3002. PAT NOURSE
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