Our restaurant critics' picks of the latest and best eats around the country this week, including Bistro Mint, Chuckle Deli Shop and Madame Wu.
"A fool leaves them." Sot-l'y-laisse, the term for chicken oysters, is quite possibly one of the highlights of the French language. Their appearance on the menu as a snack (with brown butter, shallot and a good whack of sage) instantly raises your estimation of Bistro Mint, the new breakfast and lunch eatery upstairs at the historic Macquarie Street building. And there's plenty more interest in Sebastien Lutaud's menu, whether it's the liquorice crumb that distinguishes a plate of radishes and goat's curd, or the Basque twist to his beef tartare. Manager Nic Whalley, a veteran of the likes of Tetsuya's and Rockpool, brings wit and substance to the floor, pouring wine over flathead sitting in an iron pot over rock salt, letting it steam tableside before deftly plating the fillets with gnocchi, cime di rapa and a classic beurre blanc. It's bankable. Bistro Mint, 10 Macquarie St, Sydney, NSW, (02) 9232 2293. PAT NOURSE
Chuckle Deli Shop
The owners of outdoor laneway bar Chuckle Park have moved inside to neighbouring Hub Arcade for their next venture, Chuckle Deli. The compact space has a design-conscious, cubby-house feel: white and green wall tiles, sensuously curved shelving and an illuminated wall menu and red neon sign. The owners' nightclub credentials (they also own New Guernica) and the name might have you making assumptions about the place. But the kitchen, headed by Brian Narciso (ex-Gorski & Jones), keeps the menu compact, interesting and fun. They cure their own fish, make their own pickles, smoke chicken and trout, and offer a small, revolving roster of salads (zucchini ribbon salad with feta and mint, Smokey's potato salad) and sandwiches (a classic Reuben, prawn cocktail on baguette). They also have a good cheese and cured meat selection, and a small range of quality booze, all available to take away or have at one of Chuckle's parquetry-topped tables. Chuckle Deli, Shop 5, Hub Arcade, 318 Little Collins St, Melbourne, Vic, (03) 9650 4494. MICHAEL HARDEN
Chef Brendon Barker's finely tuned flavour-radar hit the mark consistently at Embassy XO in Sunshine Beach. His recent move to more upscale digs, overlooking the Brisbane River at this mod-Asian newcomer, shows he's lost none of his flair for conjuring crowd-pleasers. Rice-crusted chunks of wagyu brisket arrive strewn among a stir-fry of wood-ear, shiitake, oyster, enoki and king brown mushrooms, dotted with slices of pickled green chilli. Tsingtao beer adds a pleasantly bitter note to fillets of mahi mahi, swimming in a sauce aromatic with ginger, chilli and garlic, and grated fresh horseradish kicks a side of miso-buttery sugarsnaps and snow peas up a gear. There's a slick-looking bar, replete with a fancy wine room, and plenty to mix and match by-the-glass, including a couple of junmai-shu. With its broad deck perched above the river and a mix of seating options, this versatile first-floor eyrie seems set to come into its own as the weather warms. Time to fling some Wu. Madame Wu, Upper Plaza Level, Riparian Plaza, 71 Eagle St, Brisbane, Qld, (07) 3229 5070. FIONA DONNELLY
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