Rockpool, Street-ADL, The Town Mouse, Fifth Element

Photography: Courtesy The Town Mouse

Our restaurant critics' picks of the latest and best eats around the country this week including Rockpool, Street-ADL, The Town Mouse, and Fifth Element.

What a saucy, glossy thing this new Rockpool is. Fifty shades of black create the Bridge Street room's delicious backdrop, contrasting a matte pressed-tin ceiling with shiny black wall tiles. At lunch, it's a prix-fixe affair: $52 for one course, $69 for two and $72 for three. Thus far we've been most taken with the entrées, not least an intensely flavoursome bowl of silken prawn cake, shreds of prawn, coriander and peanuts bathed in a prawn broth, and the superb salad of shredded poached chicken and bamboo fried in pork fat, dressed with a fine XO sauce. Dauphine potatoes, creamy inside, crisp of shell and drenched in a kombu-amped butter, make a very persuasive argument for sides, and the wine list is a document at once thrilling and dangerous. We're looking forward to dinner. Rockpool, 11 Bridge St, Sydney, NSW, (02) 9252 1888. PAT NOURSE

Orana, Jock Zonfrillo's fine-diner, is set to open this week, but his bustling downstairs bar and casual dining space, Street-ADL, is already attracting enthusiastic crowds. The concept here is street-food favourites given intriguing twists with Australian native ingredients. A pulled meat sanga is stuffed with hot-smoked kangaroo shoulder with piquant Kakadu plum and pickled wild garlic, while a plate of green beans comes with a delicious XO sauce made from bush tomato and pepperberry. Big pork ribs are marinated, slow-cooked, glazed in quandong and then fried, the quandong adding a tangy-sweet note to the crust. Flavours are subtle rather than blaring, but distinctive enough to prompt questions from diners about their origins. Street-ADL, 285 Rundle St, Adelaide, SA, (08) 8232 3444. DAVID SLY

The Town Mouse
With Melbourne's seemingly endless reprise of winter weather finally on the wane, the scramble for alfresco seating has begun in earnest. One of the smartest outdoor areas around opened recently in the backyard of Carlton's Town Mouse (pictured above). It's a compact space deftly designed by Allistar Cox (the New Zealander also responsible for the interiors), with daybed-like cushioned bench seating, a tessellated tiled floor and festive party lights strung overhead. It seats about 20 people - nearly doubling the restaurant's capacity - and is a good place to get a load of the clever and intricate food Dave Verheul has devised for his summer menu. It's a joy to announce, too, that gems such as the venison tartare have been retained among a swathe of new dishes, including poached chicken with shaved artichoke and ricotta, and asparagus with pecorino custard. There are new season-appropriate cocktails, too, involving rum, roast pineapple and the like. It's another great excuse to get outside this summer. The Town Mouse, 312 Drummond St, Carlton, Vic, (03) 9347 3312. MICHAEL HARDEN

Fifth Element
There's a sixth element at play temporarily at Fifth Element: the surprise addition of Jake Nicolson. The former head chef of Melbourne's Circa has relocated to Brisbane to head Ghanem Group's ambitious Blackbird restaurant at Eagle Street. That isn't set to take wing until early 2014, so in the meantime he's raising the bar here. The crisp fried snapper is a cracker; its eye-catching fish frame is wrapped around three crunchy battered fillets served with a fragrant Thai-style slaw and tomato chilli jam. Fat hand-cut chips get the triple-cook treatment, served with a whipped-tofu mayo and ginger and beetroot-flavoured salts. The restaurant itself might be showing a little age, but the new carte means there's a whole set of fresh reasons to stop by for something to pair with your glass (or half-pour) of Burgundian Mischief and Mayhem, say, or a chilled Petit Chablis courtesy of William Fevre. Fifth Element Bar & Dining, cnr Tribune & Little Stanley sts, South Bank, Qld, (07) 3846 5584. FIONA DONNELLY

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