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Universal, Sydney

Republic 2
Courtyard
Palmer Street
Darlinghurst
Sydney
Australia
Tel: 61 2 9331 0709
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Concierge.com's insider take:

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.

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