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RESTAURANTS

BABKA
358 Brunswick St., Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Phone: 03/9416-0091
Under A$10 to A$20
Fitzroy
Cafes
Although Fitzroy Street is the neighborhood's bustling hub, those in the know are often found loitering at this modest café. Try the excellent pastries, fresh-baked breads, or more substantial offerings like the omelet spiced with dukkah (an Egyptian-style spice and sesame blend). Reservations not accepted. No credit cards. Closed Mon. No dinner.


BECCO
11-25 Crossley St., Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Phone: 03/9663-3000
A$21 to A$35
City Center
Italian
Every city center needs a place like this, with a drop-in bar, lively dining room, and groovy upstairs nightclub. At lunchtime, no-time-to-dawdle business types tuck into whitebait fritters, tagliolini with fresh tuna, and ricotta cake. Things get a little moodier at night, when a Campari and soda at the bar is an almost compulsory precursor to dinner. Reservations essential. AE, DC, MC, V. Closed Sun.


THE BOTANICAL
169 Domain Rd., Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Phone: 03/9820-7888
A$21 to A$35
South Yarra
Modern Australian
From one side it looks like a bottle shop -- and it is. From the other it looks like a modern bistro, serving chateaubriand in an opened-out hotel space -- and that it is, too. Here, Chef Paul Wilson redefines the art of eating out with a casual Aussie ambience and bucket loads of flavor. Retro touches mix effortlessly with 21st-century choices like flounder with a gaggle of wild mushrooms strewn across the top. Reservations essential. AE, DC, MC, V.


BRUNETTI
198-204 Faraday St., Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Phone: 03/9347-2801
Under A$10 to A$35
Carlton
Cafes
What came to fame nearly three decades ago as a Romanesque bakery is still just as heavenly, and it's still filled with perfect biscotti and mouthwatering cakes. However, more substantial pastas and risotti are now on the menu, perfect openers before a tremendous espresso and cornetto con crema (custard-filled croissant). AE, DC, MC, V.


CAFÉ A TAGLIO
157 Fitzroy St., Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Phone: 03/9534-1344
Under A$10 to A$20
St. Kilda
Italian
Rarely has Roman-style pizza been this delicious, or this groovy. Although there's a blackboard menu of pastas and other Italian dishes, regulars prefer to cruise the counter, choosing from the giant squares of pizza on display. Toppings include bright-orange pumpkin, strikingly pretty rosemary and potato, tangy anchovy and olives, beautifully bitter radicchio, pancetta, tomato, and more. Reservations not accepted. AE, MC, V. Closed Mon.


CAFÉ DI STASIO
31 Fitzroy St., Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Phone: 03/9525-3999
A$21 to A$50
St. Kilda
Italian
This upscale bistro treads a very fine line between mannered elegance and decadence. A sleek marble bar and modishly ravaged walls contribute to the sense that you've stepped into a scene from La Dolce Vita. Happily, the restaurant is as serious about its food as its sense of style. Crisply roasted duck is now a local legend, char-grilled baby squid is a sheer delight, and the pasta is always al dente. If the amazingly delicate lobster omelet is on the menu, do yourself a favor and order it. Reservations essential. AE, DC, MC, V.


CAFFE E CUCINA
581 Chapel St., Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Phone: 03/9827-4139
A$10 to A$35
South Yarra
Italian
Close your eyes and think of Italy at this always-packed café. It draws the fashionable, look-at-me crowd for a quick coffee and pastry downstairs, or for a more leisurely meal upstairs in the warm, woody dining room. Order melt-in-the-mouth gnocchi, calamari San Andrea (lightly floured and deep fried), prosciutto with figs, and a glass of Victorian pinot noir. For dessert, the tiramisu is even better looking than the crowd. Reservations are essential upstairs, but not accepted downstairs. AE, DC, MC, V.


CIRCA THE PRINCE
2 Acland St., Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Phone: 03/9536-1122
A$36 to A$50
St. Kilda
French
It feels somewhat like an Arabian dream, all Egyptian tea lights, white leather lounges, and walls masked with organza and silk. Here, chef Michael Lambie serves such dishes as rabbit cappuccino with white beans. The U.K.-French inspired fare is a very good match for the exhaustive and very tempting wine list. Reservations essential. AE, DC, MC, V.


DOG'S BAR
54 Acland St., Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Phone: 03/9525-3599
A$10 to A$35
St. Kilda
Mediterranean
With its blazing fires, artfully smoky walls, and striking wrought-iron chandeliers, the restaurant has a lived-in, neighborly look. The regulars at the bar look as if they grew there, while the young, artistic-looking groups who mooch around the front courtyard seem so satisfied you can practically hear them purr. They take their wines seriously here, and you can find some particularly fine local pinot noir and sauvignon blanc at prices that won't break the bank. Put together a selection of antipasti from the tempting counter display, or opt for one of the daily pasta specials. Reservations not accepted. AE, DC, MC, V.


DONOVAN'S
40 Jacka Blvd., Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Phone: 03/9534-8221
A$21 to A$50
St. Kilda
Modern Australian
This bay-side hot spot has all the allure of a smart beach house. Try to get a window table and enjoy wide-open views of St. Kilda beach and its passing parade of rollerbladers, skateboarders, dog walkers, and ice-cream lickers. Owners Kevin and Gail Donovan are such natural hosts you may feel like bunking down overnight. Homespun decor dominates, with touches like plump and plush pillows, graceful flower arrangements, and a cozy, open fireplace. Chef Robert Castellani serves wonderful pasta and risotto, a thoroughly delicious fish soup, and a memorable baked Alaska. Reservations essential. AE, DC, MC, V.


EZARD AT ADELPHI
187 Flinders La., Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Phone: 03/9639-6811
A$21 to A$35
City Center
Modern Australian
Few chefs build slicker bridges between the flavors of East and West than Melbourne's Teage Ezard. His adventurous take on fusion is pushing boundaries. Some combinations may appear to verge on the reckless -- crème brûlée flavored with roasted Jerusalem artichoke and truffle oil, for example -- yet everything works. Try the roasted barramundi with Chinese broccoli, fragrant rice, and yellow curry dressing, and baby bamboo shoot salad. Reservations essential. AE, DC, MC, V. Closed Sun. No lunch Sat.


FLOWER DRUM
17 Market La., Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Phone: 03/9662-3655
A$21 to A$50
City Center
Chinese
Superb Cantonese cuisine is the hallmark of one of Australia's truly great Chinese restaurants. The restrained elegance of the decor, deftness of the service, and intelligence of the wine list puts most other restaurants to shame. Simply ask your waiter for the day's special and prepare yourself for a feast: perhaps crisp-skinned Cantonese roast duck served with plum gravy, succulent dumplings of prawn and flying fish roe, a perfectly steamed Murray cod, or huge Pacific oysters with black bean sauce. Reservations essential. AE, DC, MC, V. No lunch Sun.


GROSSI FLORENTINO
80 Bourke St., Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Phone: 03/9662-1811
A$21 to A$50
City Center
Italian
For more than 80 years, to dine at Florentino has been to experience the height of Melbourne hospitality. Upstairs, in the famous mural room with its wooden panels, Florentine murals, and hushed conversations, everything conspires to make you feel special. So, too, does Guy Grossi's full-bodied Italian cooking, running from a delicious braised rabbit with muscatel and farro (a speltlike Italian grain) to a tender veal shank with basil broth and black cabbage. Downstairs, the Grill Room has more businesslike fare, while the cellar bar is perfect for a glass of wine and pasta of the day. Reservations essential. AE, DC, MC, V. Closed Sun. No lunch Sat.


JACQUES REYMOND
78 Williams Rd., Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Phone: 03/9525-2178
Over A$50
Prahran
Modern Australian
French discipline and an Asian palette delightfully intertwine in this glamorous, century-old Victorian mansion with its modernized interior. The wine list is the stuff an oenophile dreams of, and service is intelligent, intuitive, and informed. The Burgundian-born chef uses the finest Australian produce to create such classics as roasted veal loin with ginger-and-soy butter, and fillet of barramundi hot-pot with fresh rice noodles as part of set menus (A$65-A$115). Australian wines complement each course, including such richly prepared desserts as millefueilles of blue cheese with walnuts and grapes. Also available is the highly acclaimed six-course vegetarian option. Reservations essential. AE, DC, MC, V. Closed Sun. and Mon. No lunch Sat.


LADRO
224 Gertrude St., Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Phone: 03/9415-7575
A$10 to A$35
Fitzroy
Italian
Rita Macalli's awesome Italian bistro emphasizes flavor rather than starchy linen (and even stiffer attitudes). Eggplant is moulded into gentle round polpette, lamb rump is scented with garlic and parsley before being slow-roasted to impossible tenderness, and the service is as upbeat as the wine list. Add wood-fired pizzas that would look good in Napoli and it all adds up to a suburban gem you can thankfully walk to from the city. Reservations essential. MC, V. Closed Mon. and Tues. No lunch.


LANGTON'S
Sargood House, 61 Flinders La., Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Phone: 03/9663-0222
A$21 to A$35
City Center
French
Both the upscale restaurant and the easygoing wine bar have excellent values, considering chef Walter Trupp's London pedigree and sommelier Stewart Langton's epic wine list. In the wine bar, tuck into a sensational spit-roasted Barossa Valley chicken with confit potatoes and roasted ratatouille. In the restaurant, choose between the rotisserie of duck with creamed polenta, a shellfish lasagne with basil veloute, or a parsley cappuccino with ham Pithivier. Reservations essential. AE, DC, MC, V. Closed Sun. No lunch Sat.


MECCABAH
55A New Quay Promenade, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Phone: 03/9642-1300
A$10 to A$20
Docklands
Middle Eastern
One-time Greg Malouf (Mo Mo) protégé Cath Claringbold is cooking with pizzazz down at the rejuvenated Docklands. With its water views and harbor-front position, the crowds keep giving her please-all menu a big thumbs up. Claringbold's food is gloriously redolent of the Middle East. Delicious chicken and green olive tagine, lemony grills, and sumac dusted salads are good, honest food that mum would've served…if she were from Lebanon. It's a terrific, energetic place to migrate in the evening, when you can dine to splendid sunset views of the city skyline and the bay. Reservations not accepted. AE, DC, MC, V.


MELBOURNE WINE ROOM RESTAURANT
125 Fitzroy St., Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Phone: 03/9525-5599
A$10 to A$35
St. Kilda
Italian
Although the Wine Room itself buzzes day and night with young, black-clad types, the adjoining restaurant is far less frenetic. Elegantly whitewashed, with a moody glow that turns dinner for two into a romantic tête-à-tête, it possesses a gloriously down-at-the-heels sense of glamour. The Italianate fare, at once confident and determinedly single-minded, runs from powerful risottos to forceful pastas and grills that make you sit up and take notice. Reservations essential. AE, DC, MC, V. No lunch Mon.-Thurs.


MO MO
115 Collins St., basement, enter from George Parade, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Phone: 03/9650-0660
A$21 to A$35
City Center
Middle Eastern
One of the defining features of modern Melbourne dining is the Middle Eastern theme. This pillow-laden basement restaurant nails the flavors completely by using a pungent mix of spices in such entrées as bastourma (cured beef) salad with wild arugula and goat cheese, and tagine (Moroccan stew). AE, DC, MC, V. Closed Sun. No lunch Sat.


MRS JONES
312 Drummond St., Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Phone: 03/9347-3312
A$21 to A$35
Carlton
Modern Australian
If only all restaurants could be trusted as much as this cute cube of a space. There's a choice of only two starters and two main courses, and the price is a set A$35 for both. Thankfully, it takes the trouble out of deciding; either you want the chilled beetroot soup with crème fraîche (a soured cream) or the pot-au-feu (boiled beef slow-cooked in broth with vegetables), or you don't. Luckily, there's not a thing coming from this backstreet kitchen that isn't fabulous. The BYOB option and the interesting wine list makes it all the better. Reservations essential. AE, DC, MC, V.


PEARL
631-633 Church St., Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Phone: 03/9421-4599
A$21 to A$35
Richmond
Modern Australian
Geoff Lindsay's restaurant is mostly white and shimmery inside, a glittering gem beloved by Melbourne's beautiful folk. But it's also home to one of the best local chefs, whose menu balances on the fork's tip, making the clear distinction between cutting edge and pure novelty. Some of his best flavors include a watermelon and feta salad with satiny tomato jelly, and a sour yellow curry of Queensland scallops. Pure culinary wizardry. AE, DC, MC, V. No lunch Sat.


RICHMOND HILL CAFÉ AND LARDER
48-50 Bridge Rd., Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Phone: 03/9421-2808
A$21 to A$35
Richmond
Cafes
Leading chef and food writer Stephanie Alexander is the force behind this bright and buzzy café-cum-produce store. The bistro fare brims with wonderful flavors, from the chicken, almond, and mushroom pie to a "hamburger as it should be." After you've eaten, pick up some marvelous cheese and country-style bread from the adjoining cheese room and food store. AE, DC, MC, V. No dinner Sun. and Mon.


VERGE
1 Flinders La., Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Phone: 03/9639-9500
A$10 to A$35
City Center
Modern Australian
Beloved by the local arts set for its brains as much as its body, this restaurant fits Melbourne like a glove. Office workers drop in for a mid-morning coffee, or for after-work drinks and dinner. The split-level space's hard edges are warmed considerably by Simon Denton's impeccable service and Karen White's modern bistro food. Try the roast chicken with parsnips or angel hair pasta with prawns and chili. AE, DC, MC, V.


YU.U
137 Flinders La., Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Phone: 03/9639-7073
Under A$10
City Center
Japanese
This hard-to-find, must-reserve, very modern Japanese restaurant with barely a sign is tucked behind a graffiti-covered door. But find it you should, because awaiting your undivided attention are all the grills, salads, and nabe hot-pots (simmering one-pot dishes with fish, tofu, and vegetables) you'd find in a Tokyo restaurant -- other than sushi, that is. From gleamingly fresh edamame (soy beans) with sake, to the lotus root salad, this restaurant is a little bento box in the back lanes of Melbourne. Reservations essential. AE, DC, MC, V. Closed weekends.

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