Our restaurant critics' picks of the latest and best eats around the country this week, including Assámm, Kappo, Homage Restaurant, and The Dominion League.
It calls itself an "Asian eating house", with Chinese, Vietnamese and even Japanese influences around the fringes but, like Surry Hills Eating House, Thai food is the engine that drives this roadster. And like its Surry Hills counterpart, it has the backing of one of the most respected names in Sydney Thai restaurants backing it - in this case Amy Chanta of Chat Thai fame. So whether you keep it classic (grilled cuttlefish with nahm jim; boat noodles; fried chicken) or take the road less travelled (a Viet-leaning cold rice noodle salad with grilled pork neck; crab-roe fried rice; a clever play on chicken pad krapow with chopped preserved eggs), the results are sharp. And the décor is no slouch, either - this basement corner of the QVB pops with Chat's signature bold graphics. Get a load of the lightbox image of neo-Bangkok, replete with Godzilla and kangaroos. We like. Assámm, shop 17, lower-ground floor, Queen Victoria Building, Sydney, (02) 9261 0204. PAT NOURSE
Anyone in need of a little more Tokyo in their life will be well pleased with Kappo, the latest venture from the team behind Izakaya Den and Hihou. Simon Denton, Miyuki Nakahara and Takashi Omi have turned the former Nama Nama space below Hihou into an intimate kappo-style counter restaurant, where, in traditional style, chef Kentaro Usami (ex-Kenzan) prepares food to order from behind the central bar. Sharing the same entrance with Hihou (on Flinders Lane, where you have to ring the doorbell to gain entry), Kappo is beautifully detailed, from the gorgeous timber bar and shoji screens on the two small booths to the easy-listening Japanese soundtrack, and the selection of chopsticks offered at the start of the meal. The menu offers five-, seven- and nine-course options ($80/$110/$140), plus a list of ingredients being used by the chef that day (sea urchin, broccoli leaf, wakame, tofu, and so on). You can opt in or out of any ingredient, but otherwise what lands is a surprise. Usami's food is both pared back and lively, using mostly fish and vegetables. Lightly pickled vegetables come with a walnut miso. Tofu is wrapped in pickled daikon and topped with lemon zest. A tartare-style dish of separate ingredients - shaved calamari, sea urchin, salmon roe, chopped prawn, wakame and crumbled black rice cracker - is mixed together with a squeeze of lime to create a surprising and exciting whole. There's sashimi, too, and a wagyu rump cap for those missing the red meat, plus a superb selection of sake and a clever off-the-beaten-track wine list. With only 25 seats in the house it's a good idea to plan ahead, but the anticipation's worth it. Kappo, ground floor, 1 Flinders Ln, Melbourne, Vic, (03) 9639 9500. MICHAEL HARDEN
Cute kitchen garden and orchard? Tick. Foraged, native ingredients? Tick. Beehives? Tick. When it comes to on-trend rural dining, the recently rechristened Homage appears to have it all - including a smokehouse currently under construction. The dining room retains an old-school homestead feel and a wide veranda, with impressive vistas of some of the retreat's 12,000 acres, is a cool spot to savour a glass from a cleverly overhauled wine list (which now includes half-pours, ahlleluja). Floor staff are friendly and the pace is appropriately relaxed. Dishes tend towards the technical, showcasing kitchen skills as much as the local bounty. Gympie lamb shoulder is worth the hour's drive from Brisbane, arriving under crunchy puffed quinoa with a vivid pea purée and artichokes barigoule, while chicken is paired with smoked home-grown carrots and a creamy puff of goat's milk fromage blanc. To finish, a deconstructed lemon tart continues the theme - it's a tasty twist on an old favourite, featuring bush lemons and thyme both plucked from the property. Fair dinkum! Homage, Spicers Hidden Vale, 617 Grandchester Mt Mort Rd, Grandchester, Qld, 1300 179 340. FIONA DONNELLY
The Dominion League
"It is mandatory that you partake in some mischief." As far as cocktail menu directives go, this is one instruction we'll happily obey. Despite being open for little more than a week, the rebooted Court Wine Bar is already exhibiting the sort of swagger synonymous with the owners' other watering holes, Mrs Brown and Mechanics Institute. The serious focus on drinks, spirits in particular. The easy-going service. The idiosyncratic fit-out. Snacks-wise, however, The Dominion League is way ahead of its brethren, but that's to be expected when you have someone like Kurt Sampson (ex-Pata Negra) on the pans. While atypical yet brilliant, combinations such as white asparagus with haloumi and dates demonstrate Sampson's Moorish bent, he's also capable of dazzling with more conventional offerings like a boss fried chicken and a fine pissaladière. It all makes for a welcome and compelling addition to Beaufort Street's rich drinking landscape. The Dominion League, 84 Beaufort St, Perth, WA, (08) 9227 7439. MAX VEENHUYZEN
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