1. Chaco Bar
It’s been called Sydney’s hidden gem because of its size, but don’t underestimate this 25-seat yakitori bar. This Japanese eatery will serve you skewers of wagyu tongue, fatty chicken heart, spicy lamb shoulder, chicken crackling and more on beds of raw cabbage. Not to mention some of the best gyoza (pan-fried Japanese dumplings) you’ll probably ever taste. Don’t go past the nibbles either – stir-fried spinach in ramen stock, Hokkaido scallop cooked with anchovy butter and leek, and duck breast sukiyaki-style (simmered in a soy sauce-mirin sauce). The service is quick, the food great and atmosphere jovial.
If you’re ticking off tourist attractions, then a lunch at Icebergs, serving up regional Italian cuisine based on the best of Australian produce, is a must. It overlooks the ocean pool and has some of the most spectacular views over south Bondi. Because of its popularity, we highly advise that you book. Once you’re there, we recommend starting with local oysters with champagne, followed by charcoal-grilled baby octopus with beetroot and potato gnocchi with slow-cooked duck and mushroom. It’s pricey but worth every cent.
MV Pasta and Wine is an authentic Italian restaurant with a daily changing menu, which is scrawled on a chalkboard inside. On Tuesdays, a four-course regional Italian menu is offered and even that changes weekly. The only thing that you are guaranteed is being put on a wait list – enjoy a glass of wine while you wait for a seat – and loud chattering and food that will inspire you to go to Italy.
SEE ALSO: A local’s guide to Sydney, Australia
4. Mr. Wong
There is absolutely nothing on this menu that isn’t delicious. The chicken wings, duck pancakes and Peking duck are all must-tries. If you’ve got a sweet tooth, you’ll have to save some space for Mr. Wong’s deep-fried vanilla ice cream and butterscotch sauce – it may be a cliché dessert found in many Australian-Chinese restaurants, but that shouldn’t detract from the experience. Mr. Wong isn’t kind on the wallet but it sure pleases every one of your senses.
5. Spice Temple
Chef-author-TV presenter-restaurateur Neil Perry owns the Spice Temple, an award-winning modern Chinese restaurant which focuses on the lesser-known regional dishes from Yunnan, Jiangxi, Hunan, Sichuan, Guangxi and Xinjiang. Signature dishes include hot and fragrant prawns and Hunan-style steamed blue-eye trevalla fillet. He promises customers that the chilli “isn’t just about blowing people’s minds out. It really is about adding that flavour and mouth-feel excitement”. Try as many dishes as possible and know that you’re eating at a world-famous restaurant.
Located inside the famous Sydney Opera House, Bennelong is helmed by one of Australia’s most well-known and awarded chefs, Peter Gilmore. The multi-level layout comprises Cured & Cultured as well as The Circle for casual dining, while the lower level is where diners tuck into chef Gilmore’s upmarket à la carte selection. Everything on the carte looks good, in particular the grilled Tasmanian octopus with radishes and smoked almonds, and the crispy McCleay Valley suckling pig with confit organic carrots and pickled onions. There is also a Bar for light bites with drinks. Whether you’re grabbing a quick bite pre- or post-theatre, or if you’re making a night of it, Bennelong has the food, the views and the buzz.
Chef Federico Zanellato, Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide’s Citi Chef of the Year 2017, serves up modern Italian food with a Japanese twist. The dishes are works of art and look simply too good to eat. Only five-course and eight-course menus are available – there is a full vegetarian option offered. The restaurant makes a special effort to accommodate dietary requirements if previously advised.
Sepia Restaurant & Wine Bar is a collaboration between chef Martin Benn and well-known seafood wholesaler George Costi. Drawing inspiration from Japan, the menu is filled with duck, Blackmore wagyu and seafood delicacies fresh from the ocean, such as spanner crab, black lip abalone and deep sea scarlet prawn. Tuesdays to Thursdays have a five-course and nine-course tasting menu. Friday nights, Saturday lunch and evenings are filled with a different nine-course tasting menu which changes each week. Sepia requires 24-hour advance notice for dietary requirements and makes no provisions for vegans.
This has got to be one of the most fun restaurants in Sydney. The old Marie-Louise Salon is the secret portal to this Turkish restaurant on Enmore Road. Its baby-blue and pink walls add to the atmosphere that co-owners Joe Valore, Elvis Abrahanowicz and Ibrahim Kasif have created. The menu may be small but the food is to die for and will transport you to cobblestone streets and brightly lit restaurants of Istanbul. Expect meze such as Gavurdagi Salata (chopped green olives, walnuts, pistachios with spanner crab and pomegranate), and charcoal-cooked mains like lamb forequarter chops with tomato-braised white beans.
.Executive chef-owner Nelly Robinson has created something special with this restaurant. At just 15, he apprenticed at Michelin-star Northcote Manor. Chef Nelly was 29 years old when he opened Nel and it has been hugely successful. The eight-course menu changes every six weeks to flaunt the seasonal produce Australia has on offer. Nel caters for vegetarians and vegans, as well as glucose-intolerant and lactose-intolerant customers. Just remember to tell them ahead of time if you have special dietary requirements.
11. Billy Kwong
Celebrity chef and veteran restaurateur Kylie Kwong believes in sustainable food and ethical eating; in moving her Australian-Chinese restaurant Billy Kwong to Potts Point, she has become even more involved in the community. There are daily specials that will showcase what’s in seasonal best at the markets but the crispy organic saltbush cakes and steamed mini pork buns are on just about everybody’s must-order list. The atmosphere is casual and many people pop in for a few light snacks before heading home.
The power team comprising chef Brent Savage (2015 Sydney Morning Herald Chef of the Year) and sommelier Nick Hildebrandt (2015 Gourmet Traveller Sommelier of the Year) of Bentley Restaurant + Bar saw a gap in the market for a quality European-style vegetarian bistro and opened Yellow last year to great adulation from the public. Savage focuses on getting interesting and heirloom vegetables while Hildebrandt sources natural and organic wines to complement them; all at super-affordable prices. Only tasting menus are available on Saturday nights, including a vegan option.
Located in the heart of downtown Sydney, Restaurant Hubert is a French dining destination opened by the Swillhouse group – they own bars The Baxter Inn, Shady Pines and Frankie’s – with one of Sydney’s most innovative chefs, Daniel Pepperell, of 10 William Street fame, at the helm. It’s moody and woody, just what you might expect when you step into the subterranean dining and drinking spots in Paris. The dinner menu is meant for sharing: the whole chicken fricassée with bread sauce; beef tartare made from wagyu topside and served with French fries; and Le Grand Aïoli, raw and cooked vegetables with pickled mussels served with a garlic mayonnaise dip, to name a few.
– TEXT BY JESSICA FARAH
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This article was originally published by Singapore Press Holdings.