LEE HO FOOK

92 Smith Street, Collingwood, 9077 6261

Victor Liong (ex-Sydney's Mr Wong) reawakens Cantonese food in a cheeky 45-seater on white-hot Smith Street, Collingwood. A city sibling is expected in early 2015.

What the 2015 Good Food Guide reviewer said:  Chinese? Well, yes, but not as we know it. Young gun chef Victor Liong (ex-Sydney's Mr Wong) is busy challenging tradition at this cosy 45-seater with a cheeky attitude driving modern, mostly Cantonese mash-ups with the odd look-in from Sichuan. Tea-smoked eggs with a slick of spring onion oil and caviar-like Avruga, and a mini slider of pork belly, pork floss and pickled cucumber share their self-confident swagger with the hipster-friendly fitout, with fishbowl pendant lights fixed to the ceiling with occy straps. While not everything works – a mandarin emulsion with an excellent prawn toast is a bridge too far – Liong generally makes a party on the plate, whether it's an amazingly textural, chilli-powered salad of pig's ear, jellyfish and tripe; a licorice-root-powered hotpot of beef short ribs; or an ethereal dessert of jasmine tea custard and burnt caramel. A restaurant in bar disguise, Lee Ho Fook has staff more than capable of managing the crowds and the two sittings a night policy.   

And … Look out for the CBD Lee Ho Fook in early 2015.
Vibe Hipster party.
Best bit It's fun.
Worst bit It's noisy.


UNCLE

188 Carlisle Street, St Kilda, 9041 2668

Queues form early at this buzzing no-bookings joint where banh mi and Vietnamese drinking food lure the south-side's bright young things. Cool your boots in the downstairs bar with a Viet- themed cocktail.

What the 2015 Good Food Guide reviewer said: In familial terms, 'Uncle' might be more the raucous nephew: it's new-school Vietnamese with a New Order soundtrack. The rooftop garden's colourful communal tables were among the hits of last summer. It's a cool setting in which to enjoy Dai Duong's (ex-Dandelion) food, which combines Aus-modernity with enough traditionalism for even Vietnamese-born purists. Starters such as lime-cured hapuku with pomegranate, chilli and shreds of coconut on betel leaves are bright to both eye and palate. The best mains are generous and vibrant, too, exemplified by the stack of steamed clams in coconut broth dotted with lime leaves and lemongrass (mopped up with the excellent accompanying baguette), or crisp-skinned pork belly, to be wrapped in lettuce with banh hoi noodles, perilla and mint, and dipped in nuoc cham. Desserts, including a colourful tumbler of jackfruit, lychee and watermelon, with coconut cream, lychee sorbet and house-made honeycomb, are a pleasure.

And … The downstairs bar eases the wait for an upstairs table.
Vibe Hoi An-style hipster.
Best bit Bright, clean flavours.
Worst bit Waiting for a table.