Forget the boring banquet menu. At these standout restaurants, the chefs choose their favourite combination of dishes for you.
With two tandoors glowing in the kitchen, each one piloted by a seasoned expert, Melbourne’s Tonka gives familiar Indian concepts a modern twist. Leave it to the chefs to choose your courses and expect vindaloo steak tartare, tandoor-blackened ocean trout or duck korma with apple and vanilla-spiced beetroot.
Image: Tim Grey
It’s easy to be intimidated by a restaurant that offers roasted oysters, fermented potato bread, blood sausage and Leftover Sourdough Ice Cream. But the set menu at Ester in Sydney’s Chippendale will win you over with its 10 or so unique dishes.
Passage to Peru
Pastuso chef Alejandro Saravia offers a generous tasting menu that showcases Peru’s culinary diversity, with zingy ceviches, chargrilled meats and street foods that will transport you from the laneways of Melbourne to the avenues of Lima.
Lulu La Delizia innovates without forgetting what we want most from an Italian meal: comfort. Opt for the chef’s menu at this intimate, bright trattoria in Subiaco, Perth, and watch the open kitchen send out a parade of classics injected with bravery. There’s deep-fried spaghetti, anchovies served with lemon-and-parsley doughnuts and the most triumphant marriage of the modern and traditional: smoked pasta.
Spain in a lane
Original laneway institution MoVida is a Melbourne icon that’s almost as famous as the city’s trams and graffiti. This place has perfected the art of tapas, with options such as air-dried Wagyu topped with aromatic truffle foam and smoked tomato sorbet with hand-filleted Cantabrian anchovies. For the true Spanish experience, ditch the menu and ask the waiter to deal out the day’s best dishes.
Not normal, Supernormal
Just down the road from Chin Chin, Pastuso and MoVida, Supernormal has an Asian-inspired menu that doesn’t cling too closely to its defining cuisines. Chef Andrew McConnell (left) serves vegetable dumplings alongside New England lobster rolls, followed by a selection of world-class sashimi. The two banquet options feature highlights from the main menu.
Image: Nikki To
Melbourne’s Chin Chin is the inventor of the “feed me” concept, where plates are shared and the waiter takes care of choosing the dishes. It has built its mighty reputation on big South-East Asian flavours, executed with contemporary culinary prowess and finished with an explosion of herbs. Tell your waiter how hungry you are and let the kitchen take you on a journey, which could include coconut-milk-drizzled kingfish sashimi one day and sticky twice-cooked beef ribs another.
With Analiese Gregory at the helm, Hobart’s Franklin is one of Australia’s most talked-about diners. The mod Oz menu changes daily and relies on local ingredients prepared without fuss, such as the housemade stracciatella with Jerusalem artichoke and saltbush. The tasting menu showcases the best, not only from the kitchen’s 10-tonne Scotch oven but also from all over Tasmania.
Top image: Ester