The must-try dishes of New Year Street Feasts

Published on 23 December 2020

Photo: Matilda's Fraser Island spanner crab with flatbreads

A stellar example of Peking duck. One of Melbourne’s best-loved bar snacks. Exciting one-off menus created just to see out the year. This New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day in the CBD and surrounds, there’s plenty to excite your tastebuds. From the 50-plus menus on offer as part of New Year Street Feasts, these are dishes we reckon you should plan your celebrations around.

Spanner crab miang at Chin Chin

Is there a better way to start a Chin Chin banquet than a round of miang and a glass of something fizzy? On New Year’s Eve, the leafy wraps will hold a mix of spanner crab, pomelo, coconut, chili and lime. Don’t want to spring for the crab? There’s kingfish miang on the $88 menu – and we’re sure they’re every bit as tasty. Take your pick.

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Peking duck at Bamboo House

It’s the house signature, and with good reason. Good Food critic Gemima Cody wrote in 2019 that the dish comes “with a properly high ratio of crisp, glassy skin to juicy meat”. But even before you get to enjoy the eating, the deeply burnished duck is presented to the table for your eyes to feast on, and then assembled into piping hot pancakes. Who doesn’t love a bit of theatre with their dinner?

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Bamboo House's Peking duck

Matilda’s dressed spanner crab with flatbreads

At Matilda, Scott Pickett is focused on finding the best Australian produce and cooking it in the simplest of ways – over fire. The Fraser Island spanner crab doesn’t hit the grill, but the flatbreads that come with it do, providing the perfect vehicle for that tender crab meat and the prawn butter that accompanies it. It’s part of the bargain four-dish menu for $120 with cocktails included.

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RuYi’s numbing beef

Lovers of ma la, that numbing and warm sensation that’s the telltale giveaway of Sichuan peppercorns, shouldn’t miss RuYi’s hot and spicy New Year’s Eve menu. The grand finale of the five-course chilli-spiked feast is the numbing beef: eye-fillet in a caramelised soy sauce infused with fresh lime, star anise, cinnamon and, yes, a little Sichuan pepper for that trademark tingle. Are you ready to see out the year with a bang?

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RuYi's numbing beef

Bar Saracen’s Egyptian seafood banquet

If you’re the type of diner who seeks out the new, the rare and the never-to-be-repeated, don’t go past Bar Saracen this New Year. For one night, the restaurant is switching up its usual array of Middle Eastern cuisine for an entirely new menu where seafood is the star of the show and Egypt is the inspiration. Chef Tom Sarafian is keeping the specifics under wraps for now, but with his track record, we say expect something very special.

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Sunda’s roasted cabbage with Victoria Bitter and macadamia

Follow the lead of Sunda chef Khanh Nguyen and wear your Victorian pride on your sleeve at your end-of-year celebrations. He’s using the state’s namesake lager to make an emulsion that also brings together Vegemite and savoury yeast flakes for a deliciously toasty sauce. It’s drizzled on deeply roasted cabbage, with shavings of macadamia the finishing touch. It’s one of the many highlights on Nguyen’s 15-course Australia meets Southeast Asia tasting menu that, from the looks of his Instagram posts, is going to be one to remember.

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Bar Margaux’s comté Gougères

Crunchy, cheesy and bite-sized, there’s a lot to like about these choux pastry puffs. The fact that they’re not always on the menu at Bar Margaux is even more reason to make tracks for this Lonsdale Street bistro-bar on New Year’s Eve. The rest of the menu is no slouch either, with air-dried and roasted Great Ocean duck, pommes Anna, gateau Opéra and more fine French fare.

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Becco’s olives Ascolane

The tiramisu is good, the cotoletta is renowned, but the olives Ascolane at Becco are the thing. Green olives are stuffed and fried, resulting in golden and crunchy little morsels that are an essential part of any opening line-up at this Crossey Street institution. And that’s no different on New Year’s Eve – in fact, we think they’d be perfect with a glass of bubbles.

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Entrecote's steak frites

Izakaya Den’s new menu

Are we cheating by telling you to try an entire menu? Well, you could argue that, but it’s a momentous occasion when one of Melbourne’s dining stalwarts decides to relaunch. Izakaya 2029 is Simon Denton’s name for a new era of his basement Japanese restaurant that defined a relaxed yet slick style of dining in Melbourne. On New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, you can try the new menu by Jarrod di Blasi (most recently at Ezard), which might feature a ceviche of tomatoes at their peak, sashimi with fresh Tasmanian wasabi or char-grilled oysters marinated in saikyo miso. But who knows? Anything is possible at Izakaya 2029.

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Flower Drum’s siu mai

You know the siu mai at Flower Drum are a lesson in precision. But on New Year’s Eve, you get to see that skill multiplied, with three different siu mai on offer as part of the special Hong Kong street-food menu that father and son Anthony and Jason Lui have dreamt up. Scallop, pork and prawn, and Angus beef will star in each creation, followed by a wave of other treats: chicken poached in 30-year-old master stock, braised Angus brisket and egg tarts. Treat yourself.

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Lee Ho Fook’s crisp eggplant

The popularity of this eggplant is so great, it’s never been able to leave the menu at Lee Ho Fook. But for New Year’s Eve, chef Victor Liong is doing a spin-off, giving the eggplant its own show so diners can get their fix along with a glass of bubbles. The eggplant is deep-fried and tossed in a sticky, spicy and salty red vinegar sauce that’s, yes, a little bit addictive. If you haven’t experienced it, consider this your calling.

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Entrecote’s steak frites

Is it the Cape Grim beef? Is it the “secret” green sauce? Or is it the French je ne sais quoi that comes in ample quantities at this South Yarra bistro? Whatever the reason, Entrecote’s steak frites is a dish people will cross town for. The grilled porterhouse is accompanied by a mountain of slender fries, just the thing to dip into the sauce of shallots, mustard, capers, anchovy, lemon, walnuts and lots of butter. It’s on the menu on New Year’s Eve – snap up a seat now.

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Hardware Club’s cotechino with lentils

The Hardware Club is bringing a slice of Italy to Melbourne’s CBD, with a menu designed around lucky dishes that are traditionally served during New Year celebrations in the old country. Cotechino sausage with lentils is the most well-known of these. The lentils, with their coin-link shape, are supposed to symbolise wealth while the thick slices of pork sausage represent abundance. One look at the dish and you’ll see why: this is hearty stuff.

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By Emma Breheny