It would be overhyped if it wasn't totally deserving of all the hoopla. Golden Fields is the schizz.
There are 3 reasons I know some of my London readers at least will clutch their heads and grimace sceptically:
1. It's "pan Asian" (sorry Mr Noodles); and
2. It specialises in small plates..
3. ... for sharing.
Ok, ok, I hear ya. Yes, these things are often a red flag for a place trying too hard to be trendy and take the best from a few Asian food cultures, while achieving neither. But at Golden Fields, everything just works.
To start with, it looks inviting. The dining room is open, white and airy, with dark wooden tables and contemporary style. The full length marble bar overlooks the open kitchen - prop up for a drink and a snack, or settle in to one of the larger tables in the sunny and spacious space for a bigger feast with friends. Move it all outside on a sunny day, and watch the world of St Kilda go by.
The marinated cucumber, radish, ginger and garlic ($7) is a refreshing opener to a salad of juicy poached chicken ($15) and the mud crab with fried egg aioli, scuds and holy basil ($21). Or try whole roasted John Dory with Chinese olives and cauliflower ($32) or Cape Grim scotch fillet (not nearly as grim as it sounds) with black fungus and shitake ($37). For dessert there's a peanut butter parfait with salted caramel and soft chocolate ($10) or crispy black sesame, lime and a dollop of yoghurt ($15).
It won the 2012 The Age Good Food Guide Best New Restaurant. You can't book ahead for tables of less than 8 people (the current annoying trend in Melbourne) but there are plenty of places to have a drink nearby while you wait - it's worth it.