Atlas Dining review

Squid, spring onion and sweet potato noodles.
Squid, spring onion and sweet potato noodles. Photo: Bonnie Savage

133 Commercial Rd South Yarra, VIC 3141

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Features Degustation, Gluten-free options, Open fire, Licensed, Accepts bookings, Vegetarian friendly, Outdoor seating, Bar, Wheelchair access
Prices Moderate (mains $20-$40)
Payments eftpos, Cash, Visa, Mastercard
Phone 03 9826 2621

Southsiders have embraced this neighbourhood gem serving modern Vietnamese food. No, make that Israeli. Sorry, Korean. Actually, it's option D – all of the above – as this 50-seater embarks on a fresh culinary journey every four months.

Even more improbably, the expedition is led by a 23-year-old chef in his first venture. But Charlie Carrington is a precocious talent whose youth belies his experience in kitchens such as Vue de Monde and Sydney's Marque and Firedoor. 

Carrington engaged Sydney-based studio GelliKovic Architects to refit a former Indian restaurant with blond timber, tan leather and pale walls stripped back to the original crumbling paintwork, a neutral backdrop that lets the food shine bright.

Go-to dish: Korean birthday soup.
Go-to dish: Korean birthday soup. Photo: Roslyn Grundy

Carrington's time at Firedoor strongly informs his cooking, no matter the cuisine he's exploring. Smoke and heat from the wood oven and custom-designed grill touch every dish on the five-course set menu, currently in the guise of a Korean passport. At $65 a head, it's excellent value. For another $15 you can extend the trip with banchan, a clutch of small, sparky side dishes – optional, but recommended.

Considered details abound, as in the custom-made leather knife rolls delivered at the start of the meal. These allow you to choose your weapons for the succession of small, mostly vegetable-based courses that follow, each infused with so much flavour the relative absence of meat might not strike you until you reach dessert.

The dishes change incrementally from week to week, so what you taste now won't be exactly what lands on your table in September, when the Korean stay ends.

Atlas Dining's globe-trotting menu changes cuisine every four months.
Atlas Dining's globe-trotting menu changes cuisine every four months. Photo: Bonnie Savage

But pray for birthday soup, based loosely on a traditional seaweed soup. Carrington's version is an umami-tastic combination of dehydrated seaweed and roasted pine mushrooms bedded on barley and brown rice, equal parts comfort and joy.

And look out for Atlas's refined riff on army stew, a fusion dish that pairs house-made kimchi with crisp shards of American jack cheese, which melt and enrich the broth.

It's such clever, nuanced and, yes, mature cooking that what might have been dismissed initially as gimmickry has diners scheduling future meals to see how this young upstart handles Mexican and Peruvian food.

Buckle up, Melbourne. Atlas Dining is cleared for take-off. 

Go-to Dish: Birthday soup.

http://atlasdining.com.au/