Cho Cho San, Moon Dog Brewery & Bar, Little NNQ, Settlers Tavern

Photography: Jason Loucas

Our restaurant critics' picks of the latest and best eats around the country this week, including Cho Cho San, Moon Dog Brewery & Bar, Little NNQ, and Settlers Tavern.

SYDNEY
Cho Cho San
Ishtar. Heaven's Gate. That unspeakable sequel to Get Shorty - even with a dream team, things can go horribly wrong. So Cho Cho San, the latest collaboration between chef Jonathan Barthelmess and restaurateur Sam Christie, following The Apollo, wasn't necessarily a sure thing. But who are we kidding? Barthelmess is a quiet achiever, a head-down, work-hard kind of guy, and he has former Billy Kwong/Ester chef Nic Wong on his team; Christie's gift for giving Sydney what it didn't know it needed (Longrain for instance) is iron-clad; and designer George Livissianis (The Apollo, Café Paci) is one of the hottest new guns in town. Together they've created a modern Japanese restaurant that eschews clichés, ignores a fair whack of tradition and has completely captivated Potts Point in less than a week. The booze focus is apt and well-handled - great beers, sake, JJ Prüm riesling, Pyramid Valley sparkling, decent cocktails - and Jedi sommelier Charles Leong is there to pour it. The food, as at The Apollo, is well-priced, easy to share and comes out fast. Rice Bubbles make the fried chicken breading snap, crackle, and pop, ginger-tinged brown butter makes the surprise dressing for raw beef short rib, while coddled yolk and soy enrich sashimi snapper. Make a feast of it over a mud crab with Japanese curry, or just split some smoked duck buns with a pal over a fancy beer or two - it's a win either way. Cho Cho San, 73 Macleay St, Potts Point, (02) 9331 6601. PAT NOURSE

MELBOURNE
Moon Dog Brewery & Bar
Moon Dog, an eccentric and experimental craft brewery in an industrial Abbotsford backstreet, has added a bar to its repertoire. Perhaps unsurprisingly for a brewery that makes Perverse Sexual Amalgam (a black ale fermented with wild yeast and aged in oak with cherry plums), Black Lung (a smoky stout aged in American oak barrels), and Henry Ford's Girthsome Fjord (a Belgian-American India Brown Ale), the Moon Dog bar has a handcrafted, slightly studenty feel. There are lumpy recycled couches, communal tables surrounded by mismatched chairs, bits of stencil-art pasted onto white painted brick walls, indoor plants and a background of the tanks and barrels in which the beers on tap were made. It's a lot of unpretentious fun, nowhere near as uncomfortable as it sounds, and, for those a little worried about sinking beers with an alcohol content that can climb into the double digits on an empty stomach, there's an ever-changing roster of quality food vans - the Pizza Wagon, the Digging for Fire BBQ Kitchen - parked out the front. Moon Dog may be the opposite of glamorous but their often beautiful beers, some of them so chunky it feels like you're chewing on them, are reason enough to step inside. Moon Dog Bar & Brewery, 17 Duke St, Abbotsford, Vic. MICHAEL HARDEN

ADELAIDE
Little NNQ
Finding Adelaide's best Vietnamese food used to require a trek deep into the north or western suburbs, but now a junior sibling to the renowned Ngi Ngan Quan at Ferryden Park has opened within the crowded scrum of Gouger Street eateries in the heart of the city. Headed by Jennifer Luong, daughter of the family who run Ngi Ngan Quan, Little NNQ is all about simple street food-style dishes at lunch, while dinner reflects classic Vietnamese home cooking, from French-accented slow-stewed beef stew to gently cooked pork belly with eggs. Try the latter with a delicious savoury rice cake, enhanced with pickled daikon, onions and carrot, and the fragrant duck and banana blossom salad. Popular among the drinks list is young coconut juice, but there's also a smart contemporary wine list with about 50 choices. Little NNQ, 125 Gouger St, Adelaide, SA, (08) 8211 8558. DAVID SLY

WESTERN AUSTRALIA
Settlers Tavern
Oysters shucked to order, excellent house-brewed beers, an award-winning cellar - rural watering holes are rarely better than this Margaret River institution, but owners Rob and Karen Gough aren't the sort of publicans to rest on their laurels. Meet the Frontiersman, a new one-and-a-half tonne wood-fired barbecue-smoker producing smoky, slow-cooked American barbecue. If rocking sandwiches filled with Carolina-style pulled pork and juicy Texan brisket are anything to go by, it's fair to say the Frontiersman - the only one of its kind in Australia - is earning its keep, although the soft and sweet bread rolls (specifically made for Settlers by a local baker) and crunchy house pickles play their parts, too. While the sarnies are available all week, pork aficionados are advised to get down on Tuesday and Wednesday nights for sweet Kansas-style ribs. Prefer your beef brisket with cornbread, baked beans and other trad fixings? Consider your weekend dinner plans sorted next time you're down south. Settlers Tavern, 114 Bussell Hwy, Margaret River, (08) 9757 2398. MAX VEENHUYZEN

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