Our restaurant critics' picks of the latest and best eats around the country this week including Alfredo's Pizzeria, The Commoner, Nom Japanese, and Mary Street Bakery.
The music is raucous, the tables are crammed, and you can't book - but this recent Valley arrival (pictured) stays pumping until 3am on Friday and Saturdays. From the same stable as neighbouring Alfred & Constance, Alfredo's is a similarly eclectic spot, jammed with the unexpected. A handsome wood-fired stove is put to good use, producing a stream of rocking pizze, puffy-edged and topped with the likes of Joan Jett (black olives, onion, chilli, capers and anchovies), Ray and Dave Davies (nothing kinky about scamorza and eggplant) while the Margherita, inexplicably, is named for Chuck Berry. There's a small selection of pasta dishes, and they do takeaway, too - should you want to preserve your hearing. Alfredo's Pizzeria, 39 Alfred St, Fortitude Valley, 07 3251 6555. FIONA DONNELLY
The Commoner's lengthy trial by fire (a blaze destroyed the Fitzroy restaurant's kitchen and parts of its dining room earlier this year) finally runs its red tape- and tear-strewn course this week as it reopens with a new kitchen, a freshly painted dining area, and co-owner Matt Donnelly as head chef. The opening menu for the post-blaze era includes much-missed favourites such as the brown ale pudding with salted caramel sauce, and wood-roasted carrots with egg and harissa, sticking closely to the meticulously sourced, modern British-influenced template that has earned the restaurant a loyal and fervent following. Donnelly also runs a foraging business, so expect to see the fruits of his labours (wild mushroom croquettes, for example) as a feature. The Commoner, 122 Johnston St, Fitzroy, (03) 9415 6876. MICHAEL HARDEN
Darlinghurst's backstreets don't give up their secrets all that willingly. That's usually a good thing, but in the case of Nom, a Japanese eatery tucked away in a slender Riley Street terrace, it's a secret that really ought to be more widely known. It's a sake bar/izakaya, but rather than sampling and remixing Japanese culture for a gaijin audience, this one's as real as it gets this side of the equator, with a distinctly homely vibe that's utterly charming. At lunch it's a short and sweet menu: well-made gyoza, some grilled fish - mackerel with sake paste, perhaps - and then apple pie or custard pudding to finish. After dark the blackboard menu comes alive as Kinuko Uriu dispenses $5 glasses of sake (hot, cold and sparkling) along with the likes of grated radish with whitebait, tofu wakame salad, fried oysters, tempura okra, potato salad, pickled onions, sashimi, grilled cuttlefish and things with natto in them. With its retro beer posters, the look is vaguely reminiscent of the bar in Okinawa where Beatrix Kiddo buys her katana, and the prices are low, low, low - all the more reason to put Nom on your radar. Nom, 166 Riley St, Darlinghurst, (02) 9332 1156. PAT NOURSE
Mary Street Bakery
Why did local hospitality veterans Michael Forde, Alex Cuccovia and Paul Aron open an inner-city bakery? Because they kneaded the dough. Or, more accurately, their bakers did, led by former Greenhouse head chef Courtney Gibb. Considering the trio opened nearby Ace Pizza in May, the axis of eating behind Beaufort Street hotspots El Público and Cantina663 has sure been busy of late, but kept all eyes firmly on the prize. In this instance: great sourdough bread and baked goodies - chicken and leek pies, say, or featherweight wedges of lamington cake - memorable enough to turn morning smokos into the working day's high point. It's not all death by carbohydrates, however. Cold-pressed juices go some of the way to alleviating any guilt lingering after a fried chicken roll binge. Mary Street Bakery, 507 Beaufort St, Highgate, 0499 509 300. MAX VEENHUYZEN
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