Hamer Hall's new Fatto Bar and Cantina hosted an A-list of Victoria's best-loved and hottest new restaurant talent last week to launch Melbourne's inaugural Good Food Month, presented by Citi. Rene Redzepi dropped by the former Trocadero, which is now an elegantly white-tiled Italian after a redo by owners Frank and Sharon van Haandel.
The following night featured a thoughtful hour with Scandinavian superstar Redzepi at the Wheeler Centre, telling kitchen stories and talking about the challenges of staying creative when you're the centre of global attention.
Friday marked the start of the weekday Breakfast Club - restaurants and cafes starting the day with $20 meals, including tea or coffee - along with Let's Do Lunch, another month-long weekday deal with select Melbourne and regional restaurants offering $38 set lunches. Many more events through the month are one-offs being staged especially for the festival - get in or miss out.
Here are some highlights of the week coming up:
1 When Michael Ryan gets away from the Beechworth two-hatter he owns with winemaker-sommelier wife Jeanette Henderson, he heads for Japan and its smoky, sizzling izakayas. Ryan's take on this casual food happens this Friday night and warrants a road trip: Ryan was Chef of the Year in The Age Good Food Guide 2013. The restaurant scored Regional Restaurant of the Year in the same edition and Regional Wine List of the Year for 2014. Memories of Izakaya, Provenance, November 8, bookings 03 5728 1786.
Also try … Producers' Dinner, The Argus Dining Room, November 8, bookings 03 5348 4199.
2 Celebrate the 1960s, silver-fox style, with internationally acclaimed chefs Greg Malouf and Raymond Capaldi and channel your inner Don or Peggy with Mad Men-styled martinis, canapes and dinner at host Matteo Pignatelli's flamboyant two-hat Fitzroy North restaurant. Get your glad rags on - the dress code is 1960s chic - and get ready for an all-inclusive night of exciting cooking, louche lounge entertainment and decadence. The Rat Pack Dinner at Matteo's, November 12, bookings 03 9481 1277.
Also try … Marque Modern, Pei Modern, November 12, bookings 03 9654 8545.
3 Four of Victoria's finest young cooking talents in one restaurant, for a one-off dinner, cooking one course each. Oliver Gould, The Age Good Food Guide 2014 Young Chef of the Year hosts fellow former winners of the same title - Mark Briggs, Michael Fox and Justin Wise - at the glamorous beachside Stokehouse. It's not often that these guys get the chance to get together, so get in while you can. Four Young Top Guns, November 12, bookings 03 9525 5555.
Also try … Sinful Saturday, Saint Crispin, November 9 (and other dates), bookings 03 9419 5101.
4 David Zhou's recently renovated Prahran restaurant is known for its cool Shanghainese style and specialties but next week the kitchen takes a tour of regional China, from Sichuan to Hunan, Zhejiang and Fujian. The deal can include matched wines, if you like, from David's well-regarded cellar. Beyond the Bund, David's, November 12, bookings 03 9529 5199.
Also try … Take a Trip to the Kingdom of Cambodia, Red Spice Road, November 10, bookings 03 9603 1601.
5 Think you like it hot? Take yourself to Toorak on Saturday for a spicy cocktail; a tasting of nine dried and fresh Mexican chillies; and a three-course chilli meal. For a broader spice experience, there's a class tomorrow at the same venue where you can learn to cook Mughal fish stew and peaches poached with Mexican vanilla and rose petal. Let It Burn and 263 Spices and Counting, both at Gewurzhaus Cooking School, November 6 and November 9, bookings 03 9654 0282.
Also try … Pickling and Preserves Party, Relish Mama, November 8, 03 9553 4846.