Our restaurant critics' picks of the latest and best eats around the country this week including Chow Bar & Eating House, Uncle, Dell'Ugo Trattoria, and Enrique's School for to Bullfighting.
Chow Bar & Eating House
Is Chow Sydney's answer to Golden Fields? It certainly has the all-day openness and drop-in vibe of Andrew McConnell's St Kilda pan-Asian smash hit. But though the menu doesn't owe allegiance to a single country or culture, it's not quite so wide-reaching in its inspiration. The food of China and Malaysia were ever a touchstone for chef Chui Lee Luk in her years at Claude's, and here her interests in the cuisines find a fuller flowering. The omelettes known as or luak are reinterpreted with a dash of Korea in the pancakes with rock oysters, shredded cabbage, carrot and fried chips of garlic. The lamb might be "explosive" in name only, but if the dried chilli and Sichuan peppers don't quite light your fire there's fresh chilli, chilli oil and chilli vinegar on the table for kindling. Smoky "wild" pickled greens with diced five-spice tofu is an early favourite, while the whole flounder doused in a blackbean is made for a crowd. Portioning and pricing is still a work in progress - at the moment it seems oddly overpriced - but the vibe is good. The former Bentley site has been transformed with timber, poster art, mahjong-tiled tables and many a waving cat, while the hip-hop soundtrack keeps the mood upbeat. Chow, 320 Crown St, Surry Hills, (02) 8095 9058. MAYA KERTHYASA
The arrival of Uncle, a good-looking, double-storey modern Vietnamese joint in Carlisle Street, has St Kilda all aquiver. Opened by chef Dai Daung (ex-Dandelion) and Rene Spence (ex-Pelican), it has a small bar downstairs, a larger eating area upstairs, and a very smart roof terrace with planters full of baby bamboo. Design studio Foolscap has it all decked out in an apt palette of reds and yellows with impressive lantern-like light fittings, lots of timber and impressive wall graphics. The menu plays it modern Vietnamese, with traditional pho sitting alongside pâté served with rice crackers, betel leaves topped with lime-cured hapuku and banh mi stuffed with fish, fresh herbs and mayo. Be prepared to wait - the queues started forming on day one. Uncle, 188 Carlisle St, St Kilda, Vic. MICHAEL HARDEN
The previously dead footpath space behind the more formal Dell'Ugo ristorante has been pressed into use as a new streetside "trattoria". Nabbing one of the pretty cane chairs arrayed here, you can't help wondering why this hasn't been done before. A clipped lunch menu offers just 10 main courses, all priced at $18. Seafood linguine arrives nicely al dente and tangled with strips of zucchini, cherry tomatoes and sweet, crunchy prawns. The squid-ink risotto accompanying it won't win any beauty competitions, but it's buttery and laden with calamari and peas, with each grain charged with decent stock and white wine. Just two wine options make the cut, a pinot grigio and a red blend, both house offerings from Italy available by the glass ($7) or carafe ($25). Dell'Ugo Trattoria, 182 Grey St, South Brisbane, Qld, (07) 3844 0500. FIONA DONNELLY
Enrique's School for to Bullfighting
It's going to be another great summer on Beaufort Street, at least if the buzz surrounding this week-old pop-up is any indication. While the kooky name, menu Spanglish and '80s soundtrack scream fun, there's some polished eating and drinking on offer, too. In the kitchen, Iberian staples are reimagined as intricate, deeply seasoned constructs: think salty snapper ceviche with blood orange accessories plus crisp tuilles enriched with jamón and a sweet Parmesan ice-cream. Bold vino choices belie the space's lo-fi aesthetics. Gun bartender James Connolly oversees a winning cocktail program: say hola to cold-drip coffee Negronis and gin and tonics customisable right down to your choice of garnish. Enrique's School for to Bullfighting, 484 Beaufort St, Mt Lawley, WA, (08) 9328 9918. MAX VEENHUYZEN
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