The wonders of the bao

Fried silky tofu gua bao.
Fried silky tofu gua bao. Photo: John Laurie

Fried silky tofu gua bao - Wonderbao

Wonderbao is the new cool kid on the block, the kind of place you feel smug for "discovering" before having to cool your boots in the long queue of other discoverees. Hidden at the back of an arcade near RMIT, it's geared towards the student population but enjoys wider purchase thanks to the trending status of the bao, the fluffy steamed Chinese buns popularised by David Chang's Momofuku in New York. The folded-over version known as gua bao includes a most Momofuku-esque roast pork number with cucumber, pickled carrot, daikon and hoisin but this vegetarian version wins the day: fried silken tofu with pickled mustard greens, crushed peanuts, coriander and sweet soy sauce. It's delicious, and the merest snip at $3.80. David Chang, eat your heart out.

Wonderbao, shop 4, 19-37 A’Beckett Street, city, 9654 7887

Spanish mackarel with kritharaki pasta.
Spanish mackarel with kritharaki pasta. Photo: John Laurie

Suckling pig - Rosetta

Neil Perry doing Italian is a reason to be happy. Italian suits his style – simple, unfussed, produce-driven.
Tradition trumps the ego. The restaurant itself is a different story. A grand show-off by the riverfront, it's blindingly opulent. It's lovely, but the food shoves it all into the background. Try the pasta – the rabbit, pork and veal agnolotti is a good place to start – try the charcoalgrilled sardines and try the suckling pig, which emerges from the wood oven all milky-fleshed with crackling that shatters like glass, finished perfectly with a splash of olive oil and balsamic and the zing of mustard fruits. Rosetta does not come cheap – although the porchetta seems a reasonable $42 – but it's worth the splash.

Rosetta, riverside at Crown Complex, Southbank, 8648 1999

Fried Calamari - Henry and the Fox

Fried calamari.
Fried calamari. Photo: John Laurie

Fried calamari. Two of the most uninspiring words in the food lexicon rise above their everywhere status at Henry and the Fox, which plays a straight bat but does it with great style, thanks to the food smarts of chef Michael Fox. His fried calamari ($14) is a crunchy tumble of gently scored body and tentacles, all dusted in rice flour before a grease-free end in the fryer. It’s then married happily to a zippy coriander puree flavoured to the max with Dijon mustard, chardonnay vinegar and chives. A little pile of five spice provides another Asian accent.
It’s all you need to prove that there’s life in the old workhorse yet.

Henry and the Fox, 525 Little Collins Street, city, 9614 3277

Spanish mackarel with kritharaki pasta - Shed 5

Why don’t we have more of this? Smart Greek food, I mean – a concept that should have a greater presence
in Melbourne with our significant Hellenic population. South Wharf’s Shed 5 is a natural pioneer of the approach, with a subtle seafaring vibe and a likeable menu from chef Vasilios Donoudis that takes Greek food out of the taverna. Greek concepts underlie his main of Spanish mackerel ($32) – ruddily dotted with coriander, fennel seeds and black and white peppercorns – but the execution also speaks of his classical training, with a loose  take on risotto involving kritharaki, peas, green and white asparagus and artichoke in a saffron-scented broth.

Shed 5, 37 Dukes Walk, South Wharf, 9686 1122


Our pick of the month's best spots for ...

Social life Richmond’s Noir restaurant has gone up and out, opening wine bar Swan Street Social on the first floor and next door with a small menu of Euro-leaning tastes. 177 Swan Street, Richmond, 9428 3585

Pizza, darling? Pearl is dead, long live…Baby. Chris Lucas does pizza and pasta for the Chin Chin crowd. It’s no bookings so join the queue. 631 Church Street, Richmond, 9421 4599

Vegan leanings Get your mint tea on arrival at Mama Roots and sit back for a guilt-free meal at this humble spot with a vego soul. 599 High Street, Northcote, 9481 5558

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