Our restaurant critics' picks of the latest and best eats around the country this week including Saint Crispin, Moga, Ramen Ikkyu, and The Old Crow.
Scott Pickett (formerly of The Point, still at The Estelle) and Joe Grbac (ex-Press Club) teaming up in Smith Street in the space formerly known as Cavallero got the town talking, and all the anticipation has proven justified now that Saint Crispin is up and running. The austere timber-floored space skirts sterility with flattering lighting, a few well-placed religious icons, an open kitchen providing some welcome flash and dazzle, and a menu full of clever, pretty food. There's value for money here if you take the set-price path (two courses for $50, three for $60, a seven-course tasting for $120), and some artfully plated eating. Flinders Island lamb, pink and tender, is teamed with nettle purée, slippery jack mushrooms, tiny radishes and crunchy fried potato pillows, while hapuka (pictured) is served with diamond clams and confit lemon. It's good stuff, skilfully cooked. Saint Crispin, 300 Smith St, Collingwood, Vic, (03) 9489 4609. MICHAEL HARDEN
Chunks of robata-grilled rib-eye, tempura-coated greens, a small plate of palpably fresh sashimi - simple pleasures can be hard to come by, but seem easy to find at this appealing neighbourhood hang-out. Witness the savoury goodness of the crisp oxtail gyoza and you'll get the point (especially with a frosty Asahi). Do this from a cosy berth inside, where it's all about the sushi train, or opt for izakaya-style treats served in an indoor-outdoor brick-wood pavilion in a Japanese-style garden. The name references the 'modern girl' movement, Japan's answer to 1920s flappers, and the team isn't afraid to mix contemporary smarts with tradition. Moga Izakaya & Sushi, 146 Baroona Rd, Paddington, Qld, (07) 3367 2808.FIONA DONNELLY
"No more wandering a winding path. With certainty and purpose I dedicate my life to perfection." That's Haru Inukai's explanation behind the name of Ramen Ikkyu, the ramen shop he has just opened at the Sussex Centre in Chinatown. It certainly takes stones to step away from your restaurant to dedicate yourself to making noodles in a third-floor food court but, following the warm reception chef Inukai got for the soups he was serving for lunch at BlancHaru in Potts Point, that's exactly what he's done. And hey, it's damned fine ramen, if the house-standard is any guide: diced soy-braised pork, good chunks of preserved bamboo shoots, black fungus, spring onion and a good egg on a salt or miso base in a paitan-style chicken and pork broth. That clocks in at $10.50, but the basic ramen is a reasonable $6.50 and extra noodles (aka kaedama) for the broth are yours at no extra cost. I see a franchise in the making. Ramen Ikkyu, level 3, Sussex Centre, 401 Sussex St, Sydney, NSW, (02) 9281 0998. PAT NOURSE
The Old Crow
The name might sound Game of Thrones-ish ("You know nothing, John Snow!"), but Northbridge's newest diner leans less north of The Wall and more south of the Mason-Dixon. Step into the reclaimed heritage-listed cottage and that southern American connection becomes clearer. Blues tunes fill the room. Cornbread, succotash and black-eyed peas dot the menu. Ben Atkinson's handiwork isn't wholly southern, but blackened Brussels sprouts, a subtly spiced boudin noir and charry curls of squid with chickpeas and chipotle hint at where his heart lies. Early signs indicate this is cooking worth exploring, especially with breakfast and lunch also on offer. The Old Crow, 172 Newcastle St, Northbridge, WA, (08) 9227 9995. MAX VEENHUYZEN
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