Gerard's Bistro, Fortitude Valley, Brisbane

The plate arrived with perilla leaves face down over small parcels of yellow fin tuna, salted mulberries and black ants.

It was my first pick when perusing the menu at Gerard's Bistro in Brisbane's food centric James Street, where Chef Ben Williamson's food has almost reached legendary status.

When I peeked under the leaves the ant bodies, mixed with the tuna and mulberries, were clearly visible. The idea is to grab the leaf and wrap it about the contents it covers and swiftly put it in your mouth. Surprisingly, the pungent, slightly citric taste that matched the smell of squashed ant was actually a great foil for the deep fleshed tuna.

Don't try this at home.  When you eat ants you also eat what they have on their feet and you would want to be very sure they haven't been walking in poison recently.  Gerard's ants are specially bred and farmed in Melbourne.

Gerard's has a well deserved Good Food Guide hat and wears its Middle Eastern cuisine style loosely but with consistent hints of origin.  The menu is overflowing with dishes that demand to be tried.  They look even better than they read and the flavours surpass even further.

Amongst the first dishes to arrive was crisp chicken skins with aleppo  kimchi custard and barberry salt, a total flavour assault.

We followed this with roasted baby beets filled with kashk, a fermented yoghurt, black garlic, and elderflowers (pictured at the top).

The tiny soft fried quail eggs were beautifully runny and the lamb tartare a much more delicate flavour than I expected with its preserved lime, harissa, radish and cured yolks.

And the dishes kept coming - Murray cod with smoked mussels, roasted chicken fumet (I'm almost scared to ask what that is) all on the most creamy potato  mousse and shallots stuffed with smoked eggplant, which I didn't sample but they do look delicious.

Presentation is a big part of the dishes at Gerard's and this salad of spring leaves, flowers, cucumber, hazelnuts and sumac certainly lives up to the promise and tastes as good as it looks.

My favourite meal was, as it seems to be every time, the pork.  Think suckling pig, fossilised pear, caramelised blood, Jerusalem artichoke and walnuts.

Gerard's is certainly a restaurant that should be on your list for a regular dining treat.  Find it in James Street, off the street behind Bucci.

Best tip: Gerard's Bar is just behind the restaurant, across the lane way. Do take a look at their well-stocked charcuterie cabinet and vegetarian cold cuts, all available by the slice.

Bottom line: Entrees range from $7 to $19, mains from $14 to $48, and desserts $16.

Kerry Heaney

Disclaimer: Ed+bK was a guest of Gerard's Bistro.

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