Our restaurant critics' picks of the latest and best eats around the country this week, including Café Nice, Entrecote, Rough Rice, and Coppa Spuntino.
Café Nice, the Provençal offering from the Fratelli Fresh gang, has done perfectly apt food since it opened in 2013. But since the recent arrival of Josh Niland, a talented young chef who has cut a streak through such Sydney standouts as Est, Fish Face and The Woods, things have got both sharper and more interesting. The olives, anchovies and tomatoes are still here in force, but so too is a paradoxically light gratin of eggplant amped up with the meat from a pig's head. The roast chicken for two isn't going anywhere, but it's now joined on the menu by a trout cooked in fig leaves. The pissaladière no longer shatters when it's bitten (a good thing) and there's a Champagne jelly with sweet figs and rose-geranium granité for dessert (a very, very good thing). Catch a chef on the up trying his hand at one of the world's great summery cuisines - it's impressive stuff. Café Nice, 2 Phillip St, Sydney, NSW, (02) 8248 9600. PAT NOURSE
In Entrecôte, you not only get a well-executed simple idea but also the welcome rehabilitation of one of Melbourne's most-loved restaurant venues. A collaboration between very busy restaurateur Jason M Jones and Adam North of Hopkins River Beef, this no-bookings, Parisian-style steakhouse has seen the former Lynch's restaurant in South Yarra thrum with more buzz and energy than it has in years. A simple makeover (mostly paint, furniture and some eye-catching art) has restored a bohemian feel to the two-storey Victorian building and the similarly simple menu (steak frites served with an anchovy, herb and mustard butter, an excellent cheeseburger) has the crowds flocking. There are oysters and gougères to start, a series of smartly turned-out French classic desserts (the summer-berry millefeuille is a standout), a well-priced Francophile wine list and a separate bar menu that includes a terrine and gravlax. Chef Simon Moss (ex-Sapore) is in the kitchen and doing a remarkable job of pumping out hundreds of steaks cooked exactly as requested while overseeing fries that are as crisp and salty as you need them to be. But the happiest thing about Entrecote is seeing this iconic space with its mojo back. Entrecôte, 131-133 Domain Rd, South Yarra, Vic, (03) 9804 5468. MICHAEL HARDEN
Rough Rice at MONA Market
The start of MONA Market's 2015 season didn't go quite as planned, with the first market cancelled at the last minute because of strong winds, but things are looking up for this weekend. Set on the lawns of the museum, the market is yet another excuse to spend some time on this surreal peninsula just north of the city. Food is one of the main attractions and we're especially excited about the début of the Rough Rice stall. Over the past 18 months Adam James, part-owner of Tricycle café, has been perfecting a brown-rice bowl. Sometimes it's vaguely Mexican teamed with spicy, deep-flavoured moles; at others it veers towards Korea with pungent house-fermented kimchi on the side. At MONA Market, he's also upping the heat and complexity with his own version of doubanjiang, a condiment he made last spring by fermenting locally grown broad beans and chilli, this week served with braised wallaby tail. There's plenty more, including Bruny Island Seafood's oysters and Nicholls Rivulet Organic Farm's pies made with their own organic beef and Moo Brew's dark ale, both of which are perfect picnic fare. MONA Market, Sundays, 25 January to 5 April, 12pm-5pm, MONA, 655 Main Rd, Berriedale, Tas, (03) 6277 9900. SUE DYSON & ROGER MCSHANE
Practice makes perfect, they say, and operators Bonnie Shearston and Tom Sanceau (co-owners of Public Restaurant) are clearly on a roll. Their compact New York street-food venture, Red Hook on Gresham Lane, has been pulling the crowds since opening mid-last year. The latest project, Coppa Spuntino, a pizzette toss away from Red Hook and facing onto Creek Street, seems set to do the same. Looking suave and rocking a palette of pale tones and bold black and white, it's a stylish all-day proposition. Generously sized, puffy-based pizzette, like the eponymous coppa, pecorino and rocket-topped number, make for admirable snacking at lunch or dinner, especially with a coppa or two from a commendably slick Italian/Aus-Italian wine list. Or perhaps a couple of spuntini from a baker's dozen of options - plump baby squid stuffed with Italian sausage and paired with caponata, say, or a mixed salumi board. A thorough exploration of the drinks list's "Il Viaggio del Negroni", ranging from the pared-back delights of the Milano-Torino to the Bourbon-pumped Boulevardier, is another equally tempting prospect. Coppa Spuntino, Shop 4, 88 Creek St, Brisbane, Qld, (07) 3221 3548. FIONA DONNELLY
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