Our restaurant critics' picks of the latest and best eats around the country this week, including Etsu Izakaya, Tipo 00 Pasta Bar, Three Japanese, and Lonsdale Street Eatery.
Hauling back the sliding door at Etsu is like stepping through the wardrobe into Narnia. The long room stretching beyond, replete with bare-limbed tree, vibrant Japanese murals and neon signage, is a magical contrast to the dreary Gold Coast Highway outside. On the back wall is a brightly-lit kitchen with a wide, glassed-in robata grill out front. Skewers of wagyu sprinkled with sesame and blistered cherry tomato kushiyaki show that the griller means business. Fat slices of tuna, kingfish and salmon served on ice and a standout carpaccio speak to the skills of the sushi chef. A half-dozen nicely made pork gyoza seal the deal. Seating options include tatami-style tables, but the highly polished concrete bar is a fine vantage point from which to break out the Japanese whisky, explore sake and Japanese beers on tap, pick an Asian-inspired cocktail or select a glass from a tight but savvy list. Etsu is a very different proposition to Commune at Burleigh Heads, the owners' artsy café, but it's a wholly impressive next step. Etsu Izakaya, 2440 Gold Coast Hwy, Qld, (07) 5526 0944. FIONA DONNELLY
Tipo 00 Pasta Bar
Melbourne might appear to already have a full complement of Italian restaurants, but there's always room for one more when flair and authenticity are part of the equation. Enter Tipo 00, where chef Andreas Papadakis (ex-Vue de Monde) and Luke Skidmore (ex-Estelle) have joined forces in a former Chinese restaurant in Little Bourke Street. The essentials are the theme here, both in the room, which has been stripped back to a chic marble bar, concrete floor, white-walled minimum, and the menu, which pulls a tight focus on excellent house-made pasta. Sure, there's (gratis) rosemary-fragrant toasted focaccia served with fresh ricotta, brilliant grilled ox tongue shaved thinly like ham and splashed with balsamic vinegar, and simply cooked fish, but pasta and risotto are Tipo 00's true mission. Saffron tagliolini tossed with crab meat and zucchini, say, or beautifully formed casarecce with a chunky, full-flavoured Bolognese ragù, or gnocchi with braised duck and porcini. The dark-emerald nettle and saltbush risotto is another winner, as is the wine list: an Italian-leaning document that holds affordability and interest in equally high esteem. Tipo 00 Pasta Bar, 361 Little Bourke St, Melbourne, Vic, (03) 9942 3946. MICHAEL HARDEN
Chicken bits and charcoal? Yes please! The Japanese know how to use every piece of a chicken to its best advantage and this is the first place in Hobart to really demonstrate what that means. Grill master Ken Hirai gently coaxes the best out of chicken skin, gizzards, the heart, liver and tail, as well as more commonly-eaten parts of the bird, over binchotan charcoal. The skewers come with spicy powders (including excellent shichimi togarashi) on the side so you can season them as you wish. Order them à la carte or as part of a set menu that always includes a sublime chawanmushi, Japan's silky steamed custard, and yakionigiri, a rice ball that's also grilled over charcoal. The house-made pickles are especially good and on Wednesdays there's also sashimi. The three Japanese behind the name (Ken Hirai, Yasuko Hayashi and Yuya Hayashi) are serving Hobart Japanese food of a quality we've never seen before. Three Japanese, 133 Elizabeth St, Hobart, Tas, (03) 6231 8035. SUE DYSON AND ROGER MCSHANE
Lonsdale Street Eatery
You could almost be forgiven for expecting to see The Dukes of Hazzard's General Lee idling outside the Civic Pub, such is the amount of interest in Southern-style cooking in Braddon these days. The gang from Lonsdale Street Roasters have joined the hoedown with "BBQ and BYO" nights on Fridays and Saturdays over summer. Grab a brew next door at The Bottle-O then settle in to savour some Johnny Cash - and the hickory smoke wafting from the custom-made Missouri-style 'cue pit. The tasting platter, stacked with ribs, beef brisket and pulled pork shoulder, served with dill pickles, coleslaw and corn bread, is definitely the way to go. There's also plenty of Southern sensibility in Lonsdale's fried chicken with chilli mayo, while the burger makes for some serious competition to Kingston's Brodburger. Lonsdale Street Eatery, 23 Lonsdale St, Braddon, ACT, (02) 6247 9882. GARETH MEYER
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