Imagine the dark, comforting flavour of barbecued onion dressed in a seductive new way. Adam Liston achieves this at Shobosho, roasting whole leeks (or eggplant in the off-season) in the firepit, scorching the outer layers, then splitting them to reveal a tender core. The smoke-sweet flavour is underscored by the sour tang of smoked buttermilk dressing, with a bright herbal accent provided by drops of brilliant green oil rich in wakame and parsley.
17 Leigh St, Adelaide, SA, (08) 8366 2224.
This dish is comfort food at its most elegant. Whipped and seasoned fresh ricotta is cut into small portions, buried in semolina for 36 hours, then briefly poached. They're served tossed with brown butter, currants, toasted almonds and spinach, and topped with seasonal herbs.
45 Flinders La, Melbourne, Vic, (03) 9650 1445.
Eggs and tofu make fine bedfellows. That goes double when the tofu is silken, fried in a rice-flour coating, and sprinkled with sesame salt, and the eggs are double-cooked, crisp on the outside and honeyed of yolk. Set them on a smoked shiitake broth with some mushrooms and a charred frond of wombok for a real party of rich texture and flavour.
89 Croobyar Rd, Milton, NSW, (02) 4455 7261.
It looks more like a sweet choux-pastry style dessert rather than one of the best potato-based treats you'll ever eat – but appearances can be deceptive. A crackled, crisp-edged sebago with a fluffy interior is dolloped with crème fraîche enriched with malt vinegar and topped with shavings of cured yolk and smoked onion salt. Order two.
77 Grey St, South Brisbane, Qld, (07) 3638 0431.
5 / 0
Shaved sprout, macadamia, yeast, The North Room, Mermaid Beach
The salty, cheesy richness of nutritional yeast takes this refined reworking of coleslaw to the next level. Shavings of Brussels sprouts and a nutty snow of macadamia are lightly dressed with apple cider vinegar, yeast flakes, oil, garlic and soy, creating a dish packed with flavour and crunch.
1/2527 Gold Coast Hwy, Mermaid Beach, Qld, 0468 311 003.
The Japanese classic nasu dengaku gets a local twist when Mat Lindsay throws eggplants into the flames of the Ester oven, then peels them and marinates them in wattleseed and miso, drapes them in enoki, warms them up in a gentler corner of the oven and sauces them with a kombu and smoked-potato-skin dashi.
46-52 Meagher St, Chippendale, NSW, (02) 8068 8279.
Chef Ali Currey-Voumard's menu changes daily but this dish, praise be, is a permanent fixture. Slices of local potato are coated in a batter made with The Agrarian's sourdough starter, which turns crunchy in the fryer. The sauce varies – a kasundi-like number one day, say, a rich ketchup the next.
11A The Avenue, New Norfolk, Tas, (03) 6262 0011.
Beaches. Barbecues. Road trips. Grilled baby zucchini with papery golden-orange flowers still attached, crowning ribbons of raw zuke "cooked" in a bath of hot oil spiced with cumin, fennel, coriander and mustard seeds. This is summer in the West on a plate.
Old Chestnut La, Jarrahdale, WA, (08) 9525 5796.
9 / 0
Peas with chicory, lovage and sweet onion, Longsong, Melbourne
At Longsong David Moyle cooks everything on, over or next to a grill, including this dish of baby peas. They're chucked in a chinois and held directly above the coals, blistering their skins and giving them a suggestion of smoke. Moyle tosses the peas with grilled chicory and a lovage and sweet onion dressing (made simply with an onion reduction, oil and vinegar). This is one of those dishes that feels elemental, stripped back so each ingredient gets to do its best work.
Upstairs, 40-44 Little Bourke St, Melbourne, Vic, (03) 9653 1611.
The name mightn't set the heart racing but this combination of mushrooms, green papaya and black vinegar could attract even the most carnivorous among us. The combination of mushrooms changes – you might get enoki and pickled king browns, or perhaps wood ear and oyster – but they'll always be joined by salted edamame and green papaya, steamed in the residual heat of the mushrooms, giving them a kohlrabi-like texture. A black vinegar dressing adds sharp and sweet notes. A textbook performance of balance and texture.
56 Little Bourke St, Melbourne, Vic, (03) 9654 6627.
Words: Fiona Donnelly, Michael Harden, Pat Nourse, David Sly & Max Veenhuyzen
Photography: Julian Kingma (Annam), Ryan Noreiks (Shobosho), Earl Carter (Cumulus Inc), Mark roper (Longsong) & Max Veenhuysen (Zucchini)