Our restaurant critics' picks of the latest and best eats around the country including Alice's Makan, Bia Hoi Brunswick East, The Survey Co, and Garagistes.
Thornleigh's loss is the CBD's gain as Makan@Alice's, one of the nation's most respected Malaysian restaurants, reopens as Alice's Makan in a spiffy new food-court setting near Town Hall. Alice Tan's outstanding char kway teow (pictured), nasi lemak, airy rotis, gutsy fried radish cake and signature kuih sweets are all here, along with chicken rice that puts most of its city competitors to shame. Alice's Makan, 580 George St, Sydney, NSW, (02) 9262 7771. PAT NOURSE
Bia Hoi Brunswick East
When is a pop-up not a pop-up? When it's a summer fling, of course, which is what this Vietnamese kitchen occupying Small Block café in Lygon Street two nights a week is all about. Semantics aside, it's a whole lot of fun with excellent Vietnamese street food (banh mi, sugar-cane prawns, grilled eggplant with shrimp) cooked by chef Tom Stanislavski (ex-St Judes, Next Door Diner) to go with small-batch beer brewed fresh from local outfit Thunder Road. The hospitality veterans working the floor - Chantelle Kallmeier, Kath Utry and Peter Healy - dreamed up the idea travelling together through Vietnam. It's cheap, very cheerful and cash only. Bia Hoi Brunswick East, 130 Lygon St, Brunswick East, Vic, Thursdays and Sundays (until the end of March), 6.30pm-9.30pm until March 24. MICHAEL HARDEN
The Survey Co
With just token signage and a tucked-away laneway location, places like The Survey Co can easily fall under the radar. But try one crisp tostada-scoop of chef Nick Stapleton's orange-scented slow-braised pork shoulder and you won't have any problems finding your way back. This banana leaf-wrapped flavour-riot of pulled goodness, tarted up with zingy tomatillo, comes topped with a sprinkle of seeds and nuts for extra crunch and texture. It's just one of a raft of share dishes referencing everything from Mexican to Asian in a relentless drive for flavour. It may be fewer than 12 months since the opening, but aside from the industrially chic, moodily-lit glam-grunge interiors, The Survey Co offer is light-years away from its original Euro-leaning classic entrée, main and dessert beginnings, and very much worth rediscovering. The Survey Co, 32 Burnett La, Brisbane, Qld, (07) 3012 8725. FIONA DONNELLY
Things have changed at Garagistes, Gourmet Traveller's top-rated Tasmanian restaurant. Until recently, Luke Burgess ran an à la carte list, with most dishes designed for sharing. In a major shift, he has just switched to a set menu - either three or five courses at $55 or $85 per person. What used to be a free-wheeling ride is now a much calmer experience, and the extra control over produce and cooking, with a more compact menu, is making for some intensely interesting dishes, especially in the five-course option where there's more room to play. Last week a dish of chargrilled smoked eel, eel dashi, shiitake, puffed wild rice and basil was masterly, and cherry kernel parfait with redcurrant and Kentish cherry ice-cream and anise hyssop flowers an expression of summer. They may not last but something equally interesting is likely to take their place. The restaurant still doesn't take bookings but, now that the great January tourist rush has subsided, it's relatively easy to negotiate a table. Garagistes, 103 Murray St, Hobart, Tas, (03) 6231 0558. SUE DYSON & ROGER MCSHANE