Our restaurant critics' picks of the latest and best eats around the country this week, including Chaco Bar, Polepole, and The Lane Vineyard.
And just like that, Sydney suddenly has a credible yakitori bar. But Chaco is more than that. In addition to a roster of all the chicken-skewer essentials, including crunchy gristle, pink-centred liver, juicy hearts and gizzards, stunning kokoro nokori (aka aorta), golden skin and deftly cooked thigh meat, they push the boat out a bit. Sticks of lamb shoulder are reminiscent of China's cumin kebabs, and the dishes of salt and shichimi togarashi on the table are complemented by another filled with chimichurri. And there's plenty to like beyond the stuff from the bincho-tan grill, whether it's an intriguing spicy salad of sliced pig's ears and seared tuna belly, dressed with chilli oil and Sichuan pepper, or simply today's rice special, enriched with porcini. Better still, there's no green-tea ice-cream or mochi to be seen - the signature dessert is a scoop of vanilla ice-cream set on a granita of banana-infused brandy. Great little room, friendly, knowledgeable staff - could it get any better? Well, cheapskates, for the moment Chaco's licence hasn't come through, so if you get in quick you can enjoy all this with a bottle of something brilliant from Best Cellars down the road. I can't get enough of the place. Chaco Bar, 238 Crown St, Darlinghurst, NSW, (02) 9007 8352. PAT NOURSE
The space formerly known as Tony Starr's Kitten Club has been given a thorough going over, emerging as an East African-inspired bar and kitchen called Polepole - Swahili for "take it easy" or "go slow" - serving African beer and cider (from Kenya, Mauritius, Namibia and South Africa) and theme-appropriate cocktails (the tequila-based Dr Livingstone) alongside a list of East African bar snacks designed by consulting chef Andy Mac (Axil Coffee Roasters). The snacks include some rather good corn and chickpea "cakes" (more like fritters) topped with kasundi, lamb ribs slathered with harissa and served with tahini yoghurt, some curious but satisfying squid-ink crackers topped with cold curried sea bream and salty, deep-fried goodness in the form of pork, almond and cinnamon cigars. It's an interesting mix made even more palatable by the owners, husband and wife team Dean and Jeanelle Mariani, who have travelled extensively in East Africa and are supporting a couple of African aid organisations (YGAP and Women for Women in Africa) through the sale of African beers and ciders. Surely the perfect excuse to order another round. Polepole, level 1, 267 Little Collins St, Melbourne, (03) 9650 2811. MICHAEL HARDEN
The Lane Vineyard
The picturesque cellar door setting at The Lane Vineyard in Hahndorf turns itself over to comfortable dining with the opening of a new wine tasting room that has been separated from the dining space overlooking the vineyard and surrounding valleys. Chef James Brinklow is celebrating by adding a decent blast of spice to his late-winter menu - most impressively in a carefully balanced Sichuan-style black pepper and basil saucing of blue swimmer crab ravioli, and a measured pinch of chilli adding bite to tuna tartare with yuzu custard and peanuts. The Lane Vineyard, 5 Ravenswood La, Hahndorf, SA, (08) 8388 1250. DAVID SLY
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