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20 Top Dishes You Need to Try in Melbourne 2020

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What are the 20 must try dishes in Melbourne right now? Here is our selection - 

Ocean Trout Cigars at Omnia Bistro and Bar

Omnia Bar and Eatery is a revelation in South Yarra, bringing a fine dining feel to a bistro dining experience inside the premium Capitol Grand.

Ocean Trout Cigars is an indulgent and luxe dish with punch of trout flavours inside these clever cigars with fine crunchy casing. The entrees at Omnia are next level and you may want to sample many of their crowd pleasing offerings. 

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This is smart modern dining at its best, and a great example of over delivering on the bistro menu. The restaurant itself is spacious and funky, bringing an exceptional experience to the precinct.

Cacio e Pepe at Oster Eatery

Oster Eatery has made a big impact in Richmond, with a crack team bringing the best of authentic Italian fare. None more compelling than the Cacio e Pepe, a simple indulgent dish, done with class. 

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Paccheri rigati features Cacio e pepe, guanciale, and is a must order dish. Silky cheese sauce covers firm artisan-made paccheri rigati - the striped pasta that grabs all the sauce. Cracked fresh black peppercorns jump around crispy pork cheek morsels. As they say this is a not-so-peasant version of a traditionally peasant or shepherd feasting dish. One of the few things Oster they import is the first class artisan semolina from Italy.

Fish Mackerel Dumplings at ShanDong MaMa

World class dumplings and iconic in Melbourne. In every sense Mackerel is an expensive luxe ingredient for a dumpling. This is not a cheap filling. Being from the coastal city of Yan Thai in Shandong Province Mama has an affinity with the sea and loves to cook seafood.

My dining partner Jeffrey Merrihue CEO of global food site FoodieHub was able to cut through the dumpling with his chopsticks with ease; showcasing the lux mousse-like texture.

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A bite into these dumplings is a flavour explosion. The Fish Dumplings consisted of fresh mackerel fillet mixed by hand with coriander ginger and chives, into a mousse-textured filling, wrapped in home-made thin dumpling skin. The dumpling holds together well, and is tasty without being overpowering. This is a delicate dumpling.  Fish Mackerel dumplings (above) are possibly the best dumplings in the world - and we're serious! A creamy mousse like texture from the lux Mackerel (expensive ingredient) dumplings.

Jeffrey Merrihue said of the Fish Mackerel dumplings, "This boiled mackerel dumpling is so tender that you can cut it with chopsticks. This wonder from Shandong is the masterful creation from ShanDong MaMa in Melbourne." Recently Melbourne restaurant icon Andrew McConnell heaped high praise on the dumplings at ShanDong MaMa in The Weekly Review: When Andrew finds the time to pop out for dumplings, ShanDong MaMa is always high on the agenda. "This is great, street-style restaurant that does everything from scratch," he says."The skins they make for their boiled dumplings are a little bit thicker than usual and are wheat-based. To me they are just incredibly authentic. They are filled with fish paste and fresh mackerel, coriander, ginger spring onion and chives."

We tried the pan fried version of the Fish Mackerel dumplings, but felt the boiled version is superior with it's silky delicate texture.

Shandong Mama can lay claim to the best dumplings in Melbourne. Mama is a retired ex accountant from China who spent years cooking for friends in her social circle in Shandong Province. She's had the courage to start this homely restaurant with her delightful family here in Melbourne. Friends and relatives are part of the scene. Mama has a passion for healthy, delicate cuisine. It's exciting to see a Shandong Restaurant (one of the 8 major Chinese cuisines) in Melbourne.

Cotoletta alla Valdostana at Giro D'Italia

Domenico de Marco is taking all before him at Giro D'Italia in Carlton North, serving up stunning regional Italian dishes with authenticity and flair. Cotoletta alla Valdostana is a rock star dish: a fillet that's rolled thin with a rolling pin so it can be folded "like a wallet" according to Dom. Then it is infused with creamy fontina cheese and smoked ham. It's cooked to golden in butter and topped with triple-cooked potatoes. Indulgence on a plate.

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Meat Lovers Pizza at Leonardo's

When you're out on the town and craving pizza head for Leonardo's in Carlton. Meat lovers is an epic pizza featuring tomato and nduja, cheese blend, bolognese, pork & fennel sausage, pepperoni, pancetta, onion, honey, thyme. This pizza has it all with delectable dough and crust, cheesy and tomato hit, some heat and top quality meat with a hint of sweetness. The sort of pizza you would drive across town for. plummweb 124

Check out the relaxed even retro vibe at Leonardo's preserving the charm of Carlton.

Moroccan Tagine of Lamb Shoulder at Prince Dining Room

Prince Dining Room brings accessible and approachable dining with flair to St Kilda with Mediterranean influences. The pinnacle was the Moroccan tagine of Flinders Island lamb shoulder, prunes, sesame, pilaf, smoked yoghurt for two. Brilliantly presented, the lamb is cut up in front of you by wait staff and is designed for two.

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The dish comes with several accompaniments; joyous dining that is not too heavy. Don't underestimate the deliciousness of the prunes, pilaf and the kale. 

Pork Katsu Sando at MrRYU 

Comfort food much? MrRYU brings excellence and great value with a selection of Japanese dishes including amazing katsu sandos. 

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Pork katsu sando is a standout, and one of the best in Melbourne. Bread crumbed and a generous 200g pork loin cooked to perfection, with tang of mustard and BBQ sauce, this is a superb dish for a reasonable price. The thick pork loin has a good amount of fat and is juicy, perfect against the soft white bread. If I was working near this precinct I would order the Teishoku and the pork katsu sando regularly. There's a whole sando range you can choose from including Chicken katsu sando, seafood salad sando, potato salad sando, cooked tuna sando and creamy tamago sando.

Eggplant Buns and Toasted Breadcrumbed Eggplant at Maha

The new lunch menu at Maha shines with big flavours and playful dishes. A highlight is what Shane Delia does with eggplant. The Eggplant buns are like doughnuts with delicious eggplant filling; one of the best dishes we've eaten in 2019. Then came the Toasted Breadcrumbed Eggplant looking like skewers and we were satiated. Who said top dishes had to be meat based?

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Roast Chicken at Carlton Wine Room 

Half roast chicken, kohlrabi remoulade, leek, sorrel is simple as it is stunning. Tender juicy chicken (how do they retain so much juice?) with crispy skin. The kohlrabi remoulade, leek and sorrel are fabulous accompaniments.

Pouring the gravy on the chicken before our eyes was a great touch of theatre. Best roast chicken in Melbourne? Served with Iceberg salad, honey dressing along with Sweet corn, smoked ricotta, basil. What was touted as a winter warmer is still on the menu and we think it will stay for a while.

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Peking Duck at Flower Drum

A Melbourne classic still powering on. Flower Drum is one of the few Melbourne restaurants that can be spoken of as an icon over decades. This year Flower Drum, founded by Gilbert Lau, celebrates the fine achievement of 40 years as a world class restaurant (30th at current Market Lane address). We've had some icons come and go over the years, and only a few are at that level today. But 40 years and at the top! 

Consider it takes enormous effort and skill to stay at the top for so long. Impeccable service day after day, no matter the circumstances. Extraordinary skill in the kitchen when there may be a temptation to cut corners.

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Peking Duck is the signature here and the presentation is first class. Perfectly cooked duck with crispy skin and slight pink, and the decoration of the sauce on each plate is a different animal character. Pictured here with Jeffrey Merrihue CEO of The skilled waiters bring a portion of duck out and assemble the dish on a tray next to your table; with the glistening duck arranged inside translucent pancakes.

Stir fried Whole Live Lobster with Chilli Sauce at Yu Kitchen

In cold yet pristine waters approximately 100m deep off the shores of Apollo Bay you’ll find small bee hive pots that are home to Yu Kitchen selected Southern Rock Lobsters.
Lobsters are selected from Apollo Bay as the colder water makes the lobsters flesh sweet, firm and white. The chilli is a nuance but is not overdone, with the lobster as the hero ingredient. Lobster perfectly cooked and spectacularly presented.

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Hoji tea smoked duck breast at Wa Kenbo

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Hoji tea smoked duck breast, duck neck Chorizo, soy soaked grilled Shishito, pickled quandong, Sansho pepper corn jus. This was duck done two ways with Kenji not wasting any of the produce. Succulent smoky duck breast along with the duck neck made into a chorizo made for elevated dining. Wa Kenbo is a top notch Japanese restaurant that respects tradition but also brings a modern twist and interpretation.

Menemen Turkish Baked Eggs at Babajan

Menemen Turkish Baked Eggs, Spiced Tomato, Spinach, Pistachio Dukkah with lamb shoulder. A hearty brunch dish with standout Middle Eastern flavours. You may love Turkish eggs but have you tried this version? Highly recommend the lamb shoulder as it's melt in your mouth and goes so well with the eggs. Babajan is a joyous cafe with bakery strength with imaginative dishes that are vibrant with big flavours.

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Lamb Rump at Sunda Dining

Our vote for dish of the night at Sunda Dining was the Lamb rump, cashew nut, native curry. Melt in your mouth lamb with crunch of cashew and a killer curry sauce. Sunda has made a big impression in Punch Lane since it opened as a joyous and innovative restaurant.

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Salted Mushrooms and Cos Lettuce at IDES

Two of the smaller dishes at IDES have proved to be popular favourites of Melbourne dinners, showing what can be done with simple quality ingredients. Salted mushrooms has the illusion of looking like pebbles or rocks; in fact the mushrooms are served on pebbles. The Cos lettuce is "heroed" with a delightful topping.



Wagyu Bowl at Calia

Wagyu Bowls have become a trendy dish in Melbourne and our favourite version is from Calia in the CBD or Chadstone.

Calia's most famous dish is the Calia Wagyu Bowl with 63 degree egg featuring Australian Single Origin Full Blood Wagyu from Robbins Island. This is the best wagyu bowl I've ever tasted without doubt. The quality of the full blood wagyu is unsurpassed (and for the cost) and the chefs don't overcook it but let the produce remain the hero. Egg was perfect oozing all over the dish when broken. (You can also get the premium grade A5 wagyu directly air flown from Japan). 
Interestingly there was a smear of a hot paste on the side of the bowl if you wanted to ramp up the heat! This dish is all about taste and texture. 

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Pasta at La Cucina Di Sandra Cooking School

The World Loves Melbourne highly rates fabulous pasta cooking classes at La Cucina Di Sandra Cooking School in Richmond, which includes an engaging class, sumptuous finger food and 3 course meal with glass of wine. It's a dinner party as much as a cooking class and a unique foodie experience in Melbourne!

La Cucina Di Sandra has proved popular with groups of friends, cooking enthusiasts, people interested in Italian cooking, and corporates. One group of corporates took a long lunch at the cooking school and left at 5.30pm!  Sandra immediately engages you with her humour and personality and her passion for Italian food is infectious.

La Cucina Di Sandra is the masterstroke of Melbourne foodie Sandra Del Greco who has pursued her love of Italian cooking after being schooled in cooking in Melbourne and honing her skills on regular trips to Italy, spending time in her Zia’s kitchen. Sandra has collected hundreds of Italian recipes from family and friends in Italy, as well as growing her collection of cookbooks. 

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The cooking school offers a fabulous selection of classes with bookings available online through the website at 

Kung Pao Chicken at Spice Temple

Kung Pao Chicken has to be one of my favourite dishes and no one does it better than Spice Temple. Addictive dish featuring perfectly cooked deep fried tangy chicken with heat of dry chillies and Sichuan pepper. With crunch and nutty nuance of cashews, as well as greens. 
Many people eat this dish without eating the chillies but I can't help diving in to eat a few chillies for extra heat. My kind of Chinese stir fry. 

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Sardinian Fregola with lamb ragu at Giro D'Italia

OK so we are featuring two dishes from this restaurant. But it could have been more. Sardinian Fregola with lamb ragu was one of my favourite dishes on our visit to Giro D'Italia; the intense flavour packed in the ragu surprises, and we are told by Dom that he cooks the pasta in the ragu so that the pasta absorbs even more flavour. Pasta and ragu game is strong here.

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Marron at Attica

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Marron at Attica is a quintessential Australian dining experience. Current version is the Marron with Desert Lime XO (picture credit @isa_eats_and-wanders) and below is of version from  our second visit to Attica. Super impressive with every single dish being a showcasing and triumph of native Australian cuisine. Sometimes playful, sometime humorous, and with a great deal of theatre, Ben Shewry and team take us to places that are only unique to Australia.

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The menu shows the ground taken by Ben Shewry and team; it includes saltbush but takes Australian native cuisine way beyond innovative use of saltbush into a myriad and plethora of Australian native tastes, textures and thrilling combinations.

The table agreed the favourite dish of the night was the Marron. Lux Western Australian freshwater crayfish has a mesmerising texture and sweetness. The head removed, presentation was spectacular with elegant and elongated crayfish draped across the plate.  Something simple showcased to perfection with understated brilliance. (Image above: Jeffrey Merrihue).

What do you expect from a World 50 Best restaurant? According to Jeffrey Merrihue, "Agree with experts this is Australia's best restaurant combining quality, freshness, expertise and theatre." Kristy the Queen of Bad Timing from Perth described it as an "epic dinner". Thanks to and Jeffrey Merrihue, as well as Attica, for a fabulous world class evening. Simply spectacular.