Melbourne has one of the liveliest restaurant scenes I’ve ever had the pleasure to explore. At the irresistible Books for Cooks (233 Gertrude Street), the knowledgeable Amanda White told us that some of the most exciting places are those where chefs are creating Asian fusion dishes. We heeded her advice and found Asian influences on many menus. But we also enjoyed restaurants where the cooking was more traditional and equally merits attention. It is worth noting that many of the city’s most popular spots do not take reservations for groups smaller than six. To avoid tedious waits, we visited many places later at lunchtime. We also frequently opted to eat at the bar.
If one restaurant exemplifies Melbourne’s Asian fusion movement, this is it. In a large, bright, open space, the restaurant has both table and counter seating (and can get noisy). The menu offers a tour of Thailand with exciting side trips elsewhere in Southeast Asia. Among the best dishes we tried were the spicy corn and coriander fritters embellished with house-made chili jam, and a just-fiery-enough rendang curry of spice-crusted braised brisket enlivened with chili oil.
125 Flinders Lane. Tel. (61) 3-8663-2000.