Aria Restaurant has a central location on Circular Quay and a view to match its award-winning menu. French-trained chef-owner Matt Morant contributes to Sydney’s fine dining scene with an elegant culinary experience based on seasonal produce. The dining room is sophisticated and the atmosphere is grown up. The restaurant’s exclusive chef’s table provides an in-kitchen experience and the opportunity for guests to interact with the toque. While lunch offers a choice between one-, two- and three-course meals, dinner is served à la carte, with a variety of excellent wines options (both well-known and boutique) to pair. Advanced reservations are necessary.
The Lebanese Nour restaurant in Surry Hills has street-side seating and dishes like spiced cauliflower, hummus and wood-fired duck.
One of Sydney’s most lauded and awarded restaurants, Quay features a dramatic dress-circle position on the harbor and near-faultless food. (This is definitely a big-night-out style restaurant, with prices to match, so don’t be surprised to get a case of sticker shock when you open the menu.) Chef Peter Gilmore crafts exquisite little stories on the plate out of ultra-exclusive ingredients like wagyu beef, abalone and truffles: it’s classic virtuoso French cooking with a Modern Australian touch. Don’t miss the restaurant’s famous dessert, the intricate, multi-layered “snow egg.”
This is the kind of spot that locals desperately try to keep secret (I know, I used to live around the corner), but this modern Vietnamese restaurant -- founded by brother-and-sister team Luke and Pauline Nguyen in a converted fire-engine red terrace house in 2002 -- has reached cult status. Favorites include Cha Goi (crisp parcels filled with pork, chicken, glass noodles and carrots) and Ca Chien Don (whole shallow fried snapper), and it can be hell getting a reservation for one of the cozy tables. Persevere, though; it’s worth the wait for dishes like roll-your-own rice flour crepes filled with prawns, pork, mung beans and bean sprouts. (Or consider take-out; it’s an option.) The Lantern's little sister, Red Lantern on Riley, is located in nearby Darlinghurst. Expect an even greater emphasis on family-style shared dishes in an elegant Indochine-inspired setting.
Sake Restaurant & Bar
Widely considered the finest restaurant in Australia, Tetsuya’s takes Japanese-French fusion to new culinary heights. The eponymous Tetsuya Wakuda—who emigrated from Japan in 1982 with little more than a dream of opening his own restaurant—is probably the most humble celeb chef you’ll ever meet, and chances are you will meet him since most nights he makes an effort to visit each table.
His restaurant, in a landmarked building in the center of the city, is one of the hardest reservations in town to land—there’s a months-long waiting list for dinner on the weekend. The ten-course tasting menu is matched with wines; so you get just the right Australian white paired with the snow egg and caviar sandwich and an exquisite red with the grilled Wagyu beef with Asian mushrooms. Be sure to sample Tetsuya’s signature dish, the transcendent confit of ocean trout. Tip: Reservation requests can be made online.