1 Macquarie Street
East Circular Quay
Tel: 61 2 9252 2555
Aria gives newcomers a crash course in Aussie pop culture. Views of the iconic Opera House and Harbour Bridge? Check. Native A-listers like Nicole Kidman? Check. A local celebrity chef? Check. Matthew Moran, star of the foodie documentary Heat in the Kitchen and a judge on a popular reality TV show My Restaurant Rules, is king of the kitchen here. All fun, but as with so many made-for-TV chefs, Moran's taste for drama outshines his food. A VIP table for eight in the kitchen trumps more important items such as, well, appetizers; the pan-fried scallop tortellini, for instance, are just tiny, overpriced morsels. The main courses, only slightly more expensive than the apps, are a better bet; try the flavorful baked snapper fillet or the zucchini flower with crabmeat.
Open Mondays through Fridays noon to 2:30 pm and 5:30 to 11:30 pm, Saturdays 5 to 11:30 pm, Sundays 6 to 10:30 pm.
St. James Trust Building
185 Elizabeth Street
Central Business District
Tel: 61 2 9283 7098
Despite the cute Italian name and historic building, the interior of this place is pure Paris. Dark wood paneling, black-and-white photographs, mirrors scrawled with the daily specials—all of it evokes a romantic Left Bank bistro. The menu is largely French, too, although Italian and Mod Oz dishes—cracked-pepper spaghettini with sautéed prawns, crispy-skinned barramundi with truffle mashed potatoes—are the standout main courses. Be sure to save room for the chestnut-and-honey crème brûlée. For pre- or after-dinner drinks, the newly opened Bambini Wine Room across the hall is a little jewel box of a bar, glittering with chandeliers and Italian marble. Just around the corner, the Bambini-fication of the neighborhood continues with the addition of Bambini on Park, a more casual café (open for breakfast and lunch only) that exists largely to service the well-heeled journalists at publishing house ACP, in whose foyer it resides.
Open Mondays through Fridays 7 to 11 am, noon to 3 pm, 5:30 to 10:30 pm; Saturdays 5:30 to 10:30 pm.
4 The Esplanade
Tel: 61 2 9969 5050
A quick ferry ride to Middle Harbour will bring you to one of Sydney's classic eateries. Set in a restored 1920s Spanish Mission-style building on Balmoral Beach, it was once a changing parlor for beachgoers. These days, it serves up food that's a little local, a little Mediterranean, and a little Asian—the fusion otherwise known as mod-Oz cuisine. The seared Moreton Bay bugs (don't be afraid—they're like small lobsters) steamed with pork belly and Asian mushrooms in double consommé are especially good. Another of our favorites: Murray cod grilled with crab and tomato, and served with a lentil and celery ragoût.
Tel: 61 74 946 8580
Husband-and-wife chef team Danny Chapman and Lisa Mackay took over The Beach House kitchen in July 2006, fresh from Melbourne's sophisticated dining scene. Ever since, they've been getting raves for their beachy, light cuisine; the flash-fried whole baby barramundi on rice noodles with an Asian herb salad is fast becoming the restaurant's signature dish. An extensive wine list includes top Australian labels in all price brackets, plus acclaimed special-occasion vintages—all housed in an impressive climate-controlled cellar. The resort at Hamilton Island is an easy day trip from Airlie Beach on the mainland, but since the ferries only run until 6 p.m., lunch is the better choice if you're just stopping by.
118 Queen Street
Tel: 61 2 9328 7997
Breakfast at Bills is a near-religious morning experience for Sydneysiders. This location (the original is in Darlinghurst) has a cluster of tables in a sunny outdoor courtyard. It's the perfect place to greet the day with Bill Granger's "sunrise drink" of orange juice, banana, yogurt, and berries, or his mouthwatering ricotta hotcakes with bananas and honeycomb butter. Lunch dishes include linguine with fresh crab and chiles, and grilled chicken salad with grapefruit, pistachios, and mint.
Open Mondays through Fridays 7:30 am to 5 pm, Saturdays and Sundays, 8 am to 5 pm.
3/355 Crown Street
Tel: 61 2 9332 3300
Chef Kylie Kwong introduced the masses—or more accurately, the few lucky enough to nab a table in her tiny restaurant—to Cantonese home cooking, and her star has yet to wane. The restaurant is more of a casual neighborhood eatery than a big-occasion place, and it doesn't take reservations, so come by about 6:30 pm to learn why this convivial little box of a room and its frenetic kitchen has such a cult following. A huge light fixture casts a flattering glow over tables of young, local families and arty types, who perch on stools while tucking into plates of cloud fungus and pickled cucumber, steamed scallop wontons with piquant chile dipping sauce, and the swoon-worthy signature crispy-skinned duck. Kwong is a chef with a conscience, sourcing organic and biodynamic produce and actively supporting worthy causes such as Oxfam's Make Poverty History initiative.
Open Mondays through Thursdays 6 to 10 pm, Fridays and Saturdays 6 to 11 pm, and Sundays 6 to 9 pm.
116 Queen Street
Tel: 61 2 9363 2519
Ask any stylish Sydneysider for their favorite neighborhood bistro, and chances are at least a few of them will grudgingly give up this name. Bistro Moncur is an antidote to the flashy, harborside marquee names: Tucked on a quiet, leafy side street opposite Sotheby's, this is the kind of place you'd make a Monday night tradition if you lived here. A recent makeover—a timber barrel-vaulted ceiling gives the impression of sitting in a chic aircraft hangar—has only enhanced the grown-up yet lively feel of the place. The food coming out of chef Damien Pignolet's kitchen is unfussy and well executed; representative dishes include house-marinated salmon, twice-cooked gruyère soufflé and homestyle "bangers and mash." The wine list is extremely well priced—there's an excellent pinot noir for under $30. Reservations are not accepted, so arrive before 7:30 or wait in the adjoining bar of the Woollahra Hotel, a well-heeled scene in itself.
Open Tuesdays though Sundays noon to 3 pm and 6 to 10:30 pm.
Above Fratelli Fresh
7 Danks Street
Tel: 61 2 9699 3174
One could be forgiven for failing to consider the once-gritty industrial neighborhood of Waterloo as a likely location for one of the best new cafés in town. Nevertheless, that's where you'll find Sopra, tucked away above Fratelli Fresh, which supplies many of Sydney's restaurants with quality Italian goods and fresh produce. The whitewashed, slightly churchlike room (presided over by two mosaics of the Madonna) is open only for breakfast and lunch, but it does those two meals to perfection. Begin with a Campari and fresh blood-orange juice and work your way through the extensive blackboard menu, which is intensely, exuberantly produce-driven—chef Andy Bunn changes items to reflect the best of what's in season each day. There are ample temptations like comforting roast pork belly or oyster mushroom salad with kipfler potatoes and asparagus, but the antipasto plate best reflects Bunn's reverence for flawless ingredients done simply.
Open Tuesdays through Fridays 10 am to 3 pm, Saturdays 8 am to 3 pm.
2 Acland Street
Tel: 61 3 9536 1122
The place that made Three, One, Two chef Andrew McConnell a household name in 1998 is still going strong. Though McConnell is no longer in the kitchen of Circa's modern, white-on-white dining room, he oversees the efforts of a trio of chefs, whose recipes continue to dazzle. The modern Australian menus change frequently but might include sautéed oyster with dashi custard and garlic chives, or roasted duck breast with duck sausage, red-lentil puree, and pickled watermelon. The wine list here is one of the best in the city, with bottles from boutique wineries not available elsewhere in the country. So if you spring for the five-course degustation menu (about $105), pay the extra $88 for the wine pairings.
No dinner on Sundays. Closed Mondays.
141 Flinders Lane
Australia VIC 3000
Tel: 61 3 9650 3155
The name might suggest an ending, but Adam D'Sylva—a young chef who has long been one of Melbourne's culinary it-boys—is really just getting started. At Coda, recently opened off the hipster highway of Flinders Lane in the city's heart, his menu explodes with Asian flavor and modern Australian wit. Vietnamese and Thai (and to a lesser extent Japanese and Cantonese) elements rule here: Consider the yellow curry of roast duck with lotus root, or the "crisp parcel" (let's call it a spring roll) stuffed with bone marrow, ginger, shiitakes, and rice-paddy herb. But D'Sylva's enthusiasm crosses cultural bounds, as shown by his the inclusion of San Daniele prosciutto and a steak tartare with quail egg, mustard cress, and caper Melba toasts. Quality drinks flow thick and fast: It's all good, clean, vibrant fun, carried off with the kind of aplomb that's hard to resist.—Pat Nourse, first published on Gourmet.com
Port Douglas Marina
Tel: 61 74 098 5279
Some of the Barrier Reef's best, albeit priciest, cuisine can be consumed afloat. On the luxury 56-foot yacht Enterprise, which can be day-chartered for up to ten people, you can lounge on deck-top leather couches and feast on freshly shucked oysters with Atlantic salmon caviar, coral trout ceviche, or Moreton Bay bugs (like small lobsters) with green mango salad—and those are just the appetizers. Entrées might include pan-fried barramundi, barbecued loin of lamb, whole marinated spatchcock with mint yogurt dressing, or a mixed seafood platter. The food is prepared by Port Douglas Catering, cooked by the Enterprise's onboard chef, and served by meticulously attentive hostesses as you cruise around and enjoy the tropical scenery. Every menu is tailored to guests' tastes and matched with top regional wines.
252 George Street
Tel: 61 2 9240 3010
The chichi elegance of the restaurant inside the Establishment Hotel, with its columns and pressed-iron ceiling, polished timber floors, and crisp linens, is aptly matched by the sophistication of chef Peter Doyle's food. The dishes sound deceptively simple—like the salad of sand crab, avocado, and pink grapefruit, or fillet of John Dory baked in a carrot juice–and-sherry sauce. But once you taste these creations, you'll understand exactly why est. was chosen 2006 Restaurant of the Year by the Sydney Morning Herald: Simple can also mean perfect.
Open Mondays through Fridays noon to 3 pm and 6 to 10:30 pm, Saturdays 6 to 10:30 pm.
Angsana Spa Resort
Tel: 61 74 055 3000
Angsana Spa Resort's signature restaurant dishes up wonderful Asian-inspired seafood; our favorite choice is the macadamia-crusted soft shell crab with banana blossom, pomelo, and water chestnuts. If you're all fished out, there are also meat dishes, like the consummately local smoked trio of crocodile, kangaroo, and emu with wattle-seed damper (an Australian bush bread) and mango-mint salsa. The wine list is extensive, and the setting romantic: Candlelit tables sit just feet from the shore, flanked by flaming torches and coconut palms.
488 George Street
Tel: 61 2 9265 6068
Chef Luke Mangan's mod-Oz menu has a French spin; among the standout dishes are fig tart with red onion jam, steak tartare, and the whole fish of the day (if you're lucky, it'll be barramundi) in a broth of mussels, tomato, and chervil. He set up shop in this glass-walled spot (it also has glass-enclosed wine cellars) in 2005, and it's been packed with fans ever since. The best tables overlook the ornate Queen Victoria Building across the street through 42-foot floor-to-ceiling windows.
Open Mondays through Fridays 6 to 10 am, noon to 3 pm, dinner from 6 pm; Saturdays and Sundays 7 to 11 am, dinner from 6 pm.
1 Notts Avenue
Tel: 61 2 9365 9000
Set on a bluff above Bondi Beach, this is a spectacular place to watch the waves (and the skimpily clad locals surfing them). Restaurateur Maurice Terzini certainly has the golden touch, as evidenced by his other ventures, the ever-popular Otto and the hip new spot North Bondi Italian Food, but this is the star in his restaurant firmament, if only for its peerless setting. The glamorous dining room, with turquoise columns that match the sea, draws a posh, beach-bleached crowd. Some come for the scene, but the food, while pricey (main courses can run $40 and up), is a genuine draw: Options include solid Australian/Mediterranean dishes such as spaghetti with crayfish and tomato sauce, ocean-trout carpaccio with tea-smoked tomatoes, and grilled rib-eye steak rubbed with garlic and herbs.
Open Tuesdays through Saturdays noon to midnight, Sundays noon to 10 pm.
211 Brunswick Street
Tel: 61 3 9415 7300
One of the most coveted tables in Melbourne, Interlude is the showcase of wunderkind British chef Robin Wickens. The pared-back, minimalist aesthetic puts the focus on Wickens's challenging and often whimsical menu. Foodies thrill to dishes such as the too-clever-by-half fish-and-chips: "chips" made of caramelized slices of blue-eye cod and "fish" crafted from potato dauphinoise. More adventurous offerings might include the pig's-head assiette, which uses every part of the head; crisped tongue, braised sausage, crumbed and fried ears, and truffled cheek are all served on mustardy potato salad with onion puree, quail egg, and a Madeira jus. Picky eaters be forewarned; comfort food takes a backseat to unusual ingredients and unexpected pairings.
Lunch Wednesdays through Fridays only. Closed Sundays and Mondays.
224 Gertrude Street
Tel: 61 3 9415 7575
Most of the marble-topped tables in this convivial eatery are communal—the better for ogling other diners' wood-fired pizzas before you order. Chef Rita Macali's pies are truly sensational: asymmetrical, crispy-crusted, and slightly charred, with first-rate toppings. Try the meat-and-tomato-heavy Badabing, or the pungent puttanesca with capers and olives. Ladro's loyal following among inner-city hipsters and trendy food lovers makes it hard to get a table, so book a week or more in advance. But if you're craving pizza on the go, opt for takeout. It's usually ready in ten minutes: just enough time to down a microbrewed beer at the bar or in the courtyard.
Dinner only. Closed Mondays and Tuesdays.
Tel: 61 74 940 1234
With its opulent Louis XVI furnishings, Waterford crystal chandelier, original artwork, and cascading limestone fountain, La Fontaine is the culinary showpiece of Hayman Island's resort, an easy day-trip destination from the coastal town of Airlie Beach. The restaurant is open just two or three nights a week, and serves both à la carte and degustation dinners (reserve a table several days in advance). Chef Andrew Morrow's decadent mod-Euro cuisine combines classic French culinary techniques with premium local ingredients. Start with parfait of duck liver, Crystal Bay prawns with celeriac and saffron horseradish foam, or Iberica ham with fresh figs. Move on to Black Angus fillet with truffle gnocchi, or pan-seared fillet of ocean trout, and finish up with a dessert of perfect tarte tatin. While diners tuck in, a pianist plays and attentive white-clad waiters keep everyone's glass full. Uncork a special bottle: Hayman has 750 fine vintages to choose from.
44 Little Bourke Street
Tel: 61 3 9671 3151
An offshoot of the hip Sydney restaurant of the same name, this über-trendy Thai/southern Chinese eatery occupies a converted horse stable in Chinatown. Though the open kitchen is helmed by Ben Cooper, executive chef Martin Boetz's finger is firmly in the pie, and many of his signature Sydney dishes are on the menu here: betel leaf with smoked trout; salmon roe and galangal; and the delectable dry red-curried duck. Another standout dish pairs fried whole soft-shell mud crabs with a green mango salad. Reservations are accepted at lunch but not dinner. Go early and chill in the cocktail bar with a Bloody Longrain—a spicy Thai take on a Bloody Mary—while you wait for a table. And be prepared to cozy up to your neighbors; most of the seating is communal.
No lunch Saturdays and Sundays.
85 Commonwealth Street
Tel: 61 2 9280 2888
Another of the converted warehouses in Surry Hills, this modern Thai spot (which has a sister location in Melbourne) isn't the easiest to get into—dinner reservations aren't taken for fewer than eight people. But that doesn't seem to stop diners from lining up for the casual benches and tables. The food can be exhilarating—and very spicy. Among the best bets are a starter of betel leaves with smoked trout, galangal, and trout roe, and a main course of caramelized pork hock with chili vinegar. The braised duck with red curry is also a winner.
Open Sundays 5:30 to 10 pm; Mondays through Fridays noon to 2:30 pm, 6 to 11 pm; Saturdays 6 to 11 pm.
355 Crown Street
Tel: 61 2 9332 2225
Not for the traditional, this small, eggplant-colored dining room—where tables are so close together that you can practically taste what your neighbors are eating—is the preferred destination for adventurous foodies. The reason is chef and owner Mark Best, a former electrician who apprenticed at Arpège in Paris and who now fuses classical French technique with surprising food pairings. When he succeeds, the results are exceptional (when he doesn't, you wonder what on earth he was thinking). Boudin noir with sea urchin is one unusual combination, but another particularly delicious standout is the "risotto" of local calamari and prawns—the seafood is chopped so finely that it resembles arborio rice. There's also roast wood pigeon, served with a parsnip and chocolate tart.
Open Mondays through Saturdays 6:30 to 9:30; last seating at 9 pm.
Tel: 61 74 940 1234
Surrounded by Asian art and artifacts (including a beatific Buddha statue and 18th-century screens), diners here enjoy high-end fusion cuisine and views over Japanese gardens. The eclectic menu includes dishes from China, Malaysia, Thailand, and Japan: wok-fried tiger prawns, mud crab or Australian rock lobster with chiles, ginger, and shallots; delicately roasted duck in plum sauce with Asian greens; and barramundi with aromatic spices. The discreet waitstaff blends into the Zen environs—except when you need something.
Dinner only; call ahead for reservations.
Thala Beach Lodge
Private Beach Road, Oak Beach
Tel: 61 74 098 5700
Osprey's is used to discerning diners: Celebrities and power brokers, including former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, are among Thala Beach Lodge's well-heeled guests. A suitably elevated circular dining space looks out over the rain forest canopy to the Coral Sea; diners can feast on the spectacular views along with dishes like green curry of crocodile and prawns, free-range chicken with a macadamia crust and red-pepper coulis, and wild barramundi in Asian spices. You might as well go all out and get the lime mousse with raspberry compote for dessert—and one of the Australian boutique winery vintages, too.
594 New South Head Road
Tel: 61 2 9327 6561
Pier has long been a haunt of seafood connoisseurs; Chef Greg Doyle is locally legendary for his deftly flavored fish dishes. In 2005, he added a long, narrow bar (called The Tasting Room) where diners can sample small plates accompanied by a big selection of wines by the glass. It's easy to spend an afternoon here, overlooking the sparkling water of Rose Bay and snacking on dishes such as kingfish with Vietnamese chile dressing; curried king prawns with lime, chiles, and coconut cream; and scallop tartare with Mascarpone and caviar. In the main dining room, larger portions and more elaborate preparations are served, among them confit of ocean trout in a horseradish velouté and steamed blue-eye with scallop lasagna.
Open Sundays noon to 3 pm and 6 to 9 pm, Mondays through Saturdays noon to 3 pm and 6 to 10 pm.
Australia NSW 2096
Tel: 61 2 9938 3331
In Sydney, all eyes are on the Pilu Kiosk and its suckling pig panini. Pilu at Freshwater is the restaurant that Giovanni Pilu runs in a big old timber beach house right on Freshwater, one of the prettiest of the city's northern beaches. The food of Sardinia, Pilu's birthplace, is its focus, and between the signature porchetto arrosto and Lara Caraturo's wonderful wine list, it has risen through the ranks to be recognized as not only one of the most interesting Italian restaurants in the country, but a singular Sydney dining experience. And now, in a manner of speaking, you can have it in a bikini. Pilu has opened a small shack on the edge of the property selling good coffee, Nutella pancakes, and—oh yes—a sandwich filled with slices of slow-roasted suckling pig, all crunchy of skin and buttery of flesh. They don't offer fiaschette of Cannonau to go with them yet, but here's hoping.—Pat Nourse, first published on Gourmet.com
Tel: 61 3 9682 5566
Few meals in Melbourne come with backdrops as picturesque as those of the Point, a glass-front restaurant that arcs around Albert Park Lake, with the city skyline rising behind it. But this smart waterfront establishment has an equally strong selling point: steak. The management's relationship with a major meat exporter ensures it first pick of some of the country's best beef. So there's no need to dress up tender 300 day–aged Wagyu: It's served with a simple soy glaze and Japanese coleslaw. Prime grain- or grass-fed beef comes cooked to order, with wilted spinach, roasted bone marrow, and béarnaise or red-wine sauce. European-trained chef Scott Pickett's eclectic menu also has some delicious French-inspired dishes: milk-fed saddle of veal, assiette of lamb, and classic bouillabaisse.
West Circular Quay
Overseas Passenger Terminal
Tel: 61 2 9251 5600
The address might scream "tourist trap," but don't be fooled. This is one of the best restaurants in Sydney, and has been ever since Peter Gilmore became chef in 2000. Among the must-try dishes is the "sea treasures" starter of sashimi tuna and poached octopus with green-tea rice, wasabi, and dashi jelly. The suckling pig entrée is braised then roasted and served with prunes cooked in Spanish sherry and cauliflower cream. The prices are high, but they're somewhat tempered by the million-dollar view. Book way in advance for dinner.
Open Tuesdays through Fridays noon to 2:30 pm and 6 to 10 pm; Saturdays through Mondays 6 to 10 pm.
107 George Street
Tel: 61 2 9252 1888
Ponytailed celebrity chef Neil Perry caused a seismic ripple on Sydney's gastro-scene when he announced his plan to shutter his most famous creation, Rockpool, and reinvent it as a casual fish restaurant. His reasoning: Fine dining is over, and it's time for a new challenge. It's said Perry was inspired by the success of his new Melbourne spin-off, Rockpool Bar & Grill, for which he introduced à la carte menus (instead of the wallet- and gut-straining degustation of his Sydney flagship) and a less big-occasion vibe. Whatever the case, Sydneysiders have embraced the new venture, renamed Rockpool (fish), which heralds a move to wholly sustainable seafood. The $660,000 makeover traded the old incarnation's heavy wooden blinds and formal feel for a more laid-back ambience. There's a new oyster bar, casual additions such as fish burgers, and a nod to old favorites like the stir-fried crab omelette.
Open Mondays through Fridays noon to 2:30 pm and 6 to 11 pm, Saturdays 6 to 11 pm.
132 Lygon Street
Tel: 61 3 9388 8255
The simple decor at Rumi—plain wood tables and chairs with slight ethnic flourishes such as brass coffeepots and Arabic-script murals—belies the complex cuisine being turned out by chef Joseph Abboud (not the menswear designer). The restaurant trades standard Middle Eastern fare for more unusual specialties, such as delicate pastries stuffed with Haloumi cheese; tasty meatballs in saffron-tomato sauce; tender quail kebabs; traditional spicy-hot yogurt soup; and thinly sliced, perfectly spiced bastourma (halal beef porterhouse). The restaurant also specializes in wine pairings, which come in Riedel "O" series glasses on brass trays.
Brunch on Saturdays only. Lunch and dinner Tuesdays through Fridays. Closed Sundays and Mondays.
201 Sussex Street
Australia NSW 2000
Tel: 61 2 9283 1990
With Tetsuya's former chef running the show, interest in Sepia ran high even before the ink on the contract was dry. Martin Benn is one of the brightest chefs Sydney has seen, and the news that he was striking out on his own for the first time after years with Tetsuya Wakuda (and Marco Pierre White at London's Criterion before that) had restaurant groupies going crazy. But this is no Tetsuya's lite. Dishes like spanner crab and buckwheat risotto with tarragon-mustard butter and a cloud of foamed shellfish essence suggest a chef flexing his muscles anew. Desserts show similar inspiration, and the quietly luxe setting and punchy wine list indicate that Sepia has legs.—Pat Nourse, first published on Gourmet.com
Hamilton Island Resort
Tel: 61 74 946 8019
This place is serious about its meat—so serious that the chefs have grade-A beef flown in twice-weekly from around Australia. Your choice of sirloin, T-bone, rib filet, or rump roast arrives sizzling, with one of four classic sauces and a baked potato stuffed with sour cream and bacon. Big eaters who hate to choose between cuts should opt for the Steakhouse's signature dish: a macho-sized mixed grill. There's also schnitzel, salmon steak, sausages, lamb, and ribs. Needless to say, vegetarians should head elsewhere.
30 Jacka Boulevard
Tel: 61 3 9525 5555
With a prime location on St. Kilda's beachfront promenade, the Stokehouse has a sunny patio overlooking the crowds of in-line skaters and sunbathers. And in winter, you can cozy up inside by the fire. Downstairs, the menu is casual and fairly inexpensive: pastas, seafood pizza (topped with prawns, calamari, salmon, and fresh herbs) and great fish-and-chips all cost less than $18. Upstairs, chef Anthony Musarra turns out more formal Oz-Med dishes. Try a starter of seared scallops with roasted chorizo and crème fraïche, then follow with a grilled snapper fillet or the Angus beef tenderloin with porcini ravioli, Swiss chard, and truffle cream. But don't let the sophisticated menu fool you: The Stokehouse has a relaxed, beachy feel.
529 Kent Street
Tel: 61 2 9267 2900
After cooking for years in a humble storefront, chef Tetsuya Wakuda moved to this glamorous place in 2000—and now both the food and the setting are well worth the long reservation period and the over-the-top prices. Certain dishes on Wakuda's multicourse degustation menu are perennial, like gazpacho with spiced tomato sorbet and confit of Tasmanian ocean trout with unpasteurized roe, kombu, and daikon—but there's always something new, too. If you want to get a real appreciation for Wakuda's alchemy, try some of his recipes at home (he published a cookbook in 2001).
Open Tuesdays through Fridays from 6 pm, Saturdays from noon to 4 pm and dinner from 6 pm.
312 Drummond Street
Tel: 61 3 9347 3312
Three, One, Two is the latest endeavor of Circa exec chef Andrew McConnell (he oversees Circa's menu, but works the stove here). McConnell's inventive modern-European-meets-Australian menu changes frequently: On a given day, there might be an appetizer of seared scallops with ginger vinegar, shaved abalone, and wasabi, and entrées such as seared venison with pumpkin and coffee. The modern dining room is warmly elegant, with chocolate banquettes and cowhide rugs on terrazzo tiles. You can also eat upstairs, beside open fires in winter, or, by arrangement, in a red-leather back-room booth next to the open kitchen.
Dinner Tuesdays through Saturdays; breakfast and lunch Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays only. Closed Mondays.
Tel: 61 2 9331 0709
Foodies welcomed beloved Sydney chef Christine Manfield home with open arms after her two-year stint in London. Her new venture, Universal, is oddly situated in the courtyard of hip apartment complex Republic 2. The tucked-away location detracts from the buzz of the otherwise chic decor of the indoor-outdoor dining room, whose splashes of orange, yellow, and pink play on Manfield's love of spices. However, all sins of ambience are forgotten once the menu is in hand. The concept is "tasting plates," listed from lightest to most robust. The black-clad staff (who expertly balance the friendly/formal divide) recommend three plates per person, which are brought to the table in descending order of heaviness. It sounds needlessly complicated, but it isn't really. The dishes are a wonderful reflection of Manfield's global wanderings (she has a soft spot for mod Chinese), and each one is displayed so artfully it seems a shame to spoil it with something as gauche as a fork. Highlights of a recent visit were a fragrant lemongrass and turmeric broth with shiitake-stuffed dumplings; a meltingly sweet piece of marron fish in spiced gazpacho; and for dessert, a heavenly riff on Gaytime, a popular Australian ice cream—served here in a pyramid crusted with cookie crumbs.
Open Mondays through Thursdays and Saturdays 6 to 10:30 pm, Fridays noon to 2:30 and 6 to 10:30 pm.
1 Flinders Lane
Tel: 61 3 9639 9500
This high-concept bunker of glass, aluminum, and concrete overlooking Parliament House is a gathering place for power brokers and foodies alike. Chef Dallas Cuddy is fresh from a stint at London's Nobu, and his French-inspired dishes have a distinctly Japanese edge. Cuddy likes to let his ingredients—super-fresh seafood, truffles, seasonal fruits—speak for themselves on the plate. And speak they do, most eloquently, in the signature dish of Wagyu beef tartare with sake jelly, truffled eggs, and quail gyoza (dumpling), or the barramundi fillet with spinach-wakame puree and smoked octopus.
430 Little Collins Street
Tel: 61 3 9691 3888
The focal point of executive chef Shannon Bennett's modern French dining room is a gleaming open kitchen, and her team's culinary wizardry is reflected in the polished-metal panels above. Grilled Strasbourg foie gras sets the stage for a magnificent duck-leg confit and roasted breast with peaches, pistachios, and thyme; a divine assiette of crème brûlée with mint, carrot, and chestnut makes for a big finish. At dinner, there's no à la carte option: You choose between five- and 14-course degustation menus. Each dish arrives meticulously arranged on a customized plate, interspersed with exquisite palate cleansers such as a smoking shot glass of chilled gazpacho or a kiwi-peppermint "lollipop." If you have the time (and the scratch—$88 for lunch, $132 for dinner), go for the gourmand's menu, paired with vintages from Vue's extensive wine cellar. This is one of the hottest shows in town, so be sure to reserve a table at least two weeks in advance, especially for weekends.
Closed Sundays and Mondays; no lunch on Saturdays.