So 2017 is officially half done and dusted. When the hell did that happen? Apparently it’s July already, despite the fact that Christmas clearly happened only a few weeks ago. (We dunno about you guys, but we’re still trying to shift that holiday turkey weight.) And it doesn’t help when you live in a city that treats restaurant openings like some kind of Olympic sport.
There’ve been a bunch of new venues popping up over the last six months, but if you’re struggling to keep tabs, these are the five you need in your life. Eat now, thank us later.
Bosozoku Burger Bar
A Japanese burger bar inspired by outlaw biker gangs? Yep, that’s now a thing. Well played, Melbourne. Well played. Bosozoku comes courtesy of the guys from Lady Grange and Bird Watching Society, and looks like a neon cross between Bladerunner and a Tokyo gift shop. Expect burgers, bubble cups, bento and booze. Our pick of the bunch is the Big Lobster BLT: a $42 monstrosity, stuffed with fresh-caught lobster tail (well, the lobsters were fresh-caught...the tails came with). This place would make one epic date night, but it’s good for a cheeky Sunday burger too. Shotgun the Jacuzzi table.
Has there been a more hyped opening in 2017? Unlikely. Kisume took social media by freakin’ storm back in May, proving that Kenzan and Izakaya Den didn’t put a dent in Melbourne’s appetite for top-notch Japanese. If you haven’t been to Kisume yet, you really should check it out. There’s nothing else really like it in the CBD: spread over three levels, including a hot kitchen, sushi restaurant and bar/omasake space (basically a private degustation arena where you’ll be force-fed kingfish sashimi until you plead for mercy). The phrase game changer gets thrown around a lot, but we’ll chuck it in here anyway. What else would you expect from The Lucas Group?
Another CBD gem that’s popped up this year. Hana is the latest venture from Matteo Bruno, the meaty visionary behind Meatball & Wine Bar. Don’t expect more spherical-meat here though: Hana is a kickass Hawaiian seafood restaurant, with epic cocktails to match. A neon-lit, jungle-clad, tropical paradise, dishing up share plates like kingfish sashimi, seafood croquettes with ginger-honey aioli, and tapioca crisps with poke, avocado and yuzu. We can’t in good conscious recommend Hana without giving a nod to the Honolua Bay Sharknado: a fruity mix of dark rum, Cointreau, passionfruit, lime and orange… served in a giant shark head. Effing delicious.
Wilson & Market
If you’re popped into Prahran Market over the last few months you would have noticed the gradual roll-out of Wilson & Market, a three-part restaurant from British chef and restaurateur Paul Wilson (The Botanical). First came Mr Wilson’s Tuckshop, then the café, and now there’s a classy brasserie to complete the set. The concept is well-sourced and in-season produce, prepared fresh every night. There’s a custom-designed rotisserie, wood grill and smoker for the meats, and Four Pillars brand ambassador Sam NG mixing cocktails behind the so-called ‘Luxe Bar’. There’s a new trend in Melbourne for all-day eateries that morph from café to classy date-night restaurant, and Wilson & Market certainly fits that mould.
Sezar’s new (more relaxed) little sister, Shukah has taken up residence on Chapel St’s jam-packed Windsor strip. Armenian food doesn’t often crack many people’s desert island lists, but it bloody well should. If you’ve dined at Sezar, you’ll know what we’re talking about. Shukah’s menu is all about meaty shared dishes, crusty flat bread and epic dips (it’s probably the greatest baba ganoush we’ve ever put in our mouths—no joke). Think entrees like corn and herb fritters with tahini, sumac and baby cos, and pant-stretching mains like Wagyu striploin (accompanied by a bone-marrow and red pepper salsa) or pomegranate-glazed lamb shoulder. Carnivores, get ready to drool.
Image credit: Shukah | Jenna Fahey-White