Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Sydney is the capital of New South Wales. With more than 5 million people, it is the most populous city in Australia. Located in the southeast of the country, Sydney is surrounded by more than 650 suburbs to the south, west and north, and the South Pacific Ocean to the east.

The food scene in Sydney is a reflection of the city’s location, demographics, and economy. Fresh seafood can be found in abundance, including local crustaceans like Moreton Bay bug (also known as bay lobster) and barramundi (a white fish, not commonly found outside of the South Pacific region). Nearly one-third of Sydney’s population was born outside of Australia, so the food scene is very international. Pockets of Chinese, Lebanese, and Southeast Asians can be found throughout the city and its suburbs.

Sydney is Australia’s most expensive city (and number 32 in the world according to the Sydney Morning Herald), so visitors should not expect too many bargains, especially in the CBD, where most of the trendier, and more upscale restaurants tend to be located. Here is a list of restaurants to try during your visit down under.

Pho Ann Vietnamese Restaurant

Bach Dang Vietnamese Restaurant

Holy Basil Thai and Laos Restaurant

The Burman Kitchen

The Ginger Tiger

khatoon cuisine restaurant

The Grounds Keeper cafe Parramatta

Kanzo Fresh Sushi

Lucio Pizzeria Darlinghurst

Cafe Opera

Bare Grill on Bourke

Marigold Restaurant

Bach Dang Vietnamese Restaurant (Canley Vale)

Bach Dang offers an extensive Vietnamese and Chinese menu in an upscale dining atmosphere. You can get pho, but with such an extensive menu, Bach Dang presents more of an opportunity to splurge. For example, you can get mud crab, lobster, beef of 7 kinds (which cooks at your table and comes with rice paper to make your own spring rolls), and even the controversial shark fin soup.

If you’re feeling adventurous, try the durian smoothie. For those who aren’t familiar with durian, it’s an assault on your taste buds, as well as your nostrils. In fact, it’s banned in most hotel rooms, even in the Southeast Asian countries where it’s grown. You’ll either love it or decide immediately that you never want to be within an arm’s length of the king of fruits again.

Nearest Metro Station: Canley Vale

Bare Grille on Bourke

This upscale version of an American burger joint feels like a throwback to 1950s and 60s America with an Aussie touch. The walls are lined with artsy images of 50s film icons like Marilyn Monroe and James Dean as well as famous Pacific Northwest guitar hero, Jimi Hendrix.

The menu features more than a dozen different burgers as well as some meat dishes and hearty sides. For the more health-conscious, there are some salads, the most peculiar of which is the lamb and watermelon salad. It also includes rocket (arugula in America) and large chunks of feta cheese. The lamb cut is lamb backstrap, which is a lean and somewhat rough cut, most common down under.

You have to try something with raclette. Even if you don’t eat meat, they have a grilled vegetable dish topped with raclette cheese, which your server will come to your table and scrape the burnt end of the cheese wheel onto your plate. An ideal moment for an Instagram or Facebook story!

Nearest Metro Station: Central

The Burman Kitchen

LayLay and TinTin have been serving recipes from their native Burma (Myanmar nowadays) since September of 2016. The country shares it’s longest borders with China to the north, India to the west, and Thailand to the east. While Burmese food is not yet internationally known, most megacities (like Sydney) have at least one restaurant.

Mohingha is considered by many to be Myanmar’s national dish. It’s a rice noodle and fish soup, which Burmese typically eat for breakfast. In Myanmar, it can be found at roadside stands and street carts throughout the country. The Burmese eat a lot of salads. Remember Anthony Bourdain’s visit to Myanmar? He ate the tea leaf salad. Laska is another popular noodle dish. Their desserts are not to be missed either. Falooda is becoming internationally known. You’ll need both a straw and a spoon to finish this sweet mix of ice cream, milk, rose syrup, and vermicelli.

Nearest Metro Station: Granville

Cafe Opera

Consistently ranked as one of the top seafood buffets in Sydney, Cafe Opera is located inside the InterContinental Sydney. The building dates back to 1851. The buffet gets more extravagant for dinner and reaches its culinary climax on weekends. Some of the selections change from time to time, but you can usually count on uniquely Aussie fish like barramundi and the lobster-like Moreton Bay bug. Anything with “bug” may seem off-putting to some, but it’s also known as flathead lobster or bay lobster. Whatever you want to call it, it’s one of those shellfish that you’re not likely to find outside of the land down under.

Nearest Metro Station: Circular Quay

The Ginger Tiger

Serving recipes from the owner’s childhood in a small Lao village, Ginger Tiger offers an array of stir-fry dishes as well as curries, salads, and soups. It’s part of the Collector Hotel, which has a full bar near the restaurant entrance. The interior design is among the most memorable in Sydney. The walls are lined with murals, as well as movie posters and tourism flyers from both Laos and Thailand.

Nearest Metro Station: Parramatta

The Grounds Keeper Cafe Parramatta

Located at the southeast entrance to the lovely 70-acre Parramatta Park, The Grounds Keeper Cafe offers breakfast and lunch with outdoor seating just steps from the Parramatta River and Old Government House. They serve a variety of teas and award-winning, locally roasted Di Gabriel coffee. Their lunch menu consists of mostly middle eastern dishes. You can see their cakes in the display case. The Moroccan orange and Persian pavlova cakes are delectable.

Nearest Metro Station: Parramatta

Holy Basil

Lao food is not difficult to find in Sydney, but every Lao-owned restaurant seems to have Thai attached to it in both name and menu. The cuisines are very similar and you can get the best of both worlds at Holy Basil. All the usual Thai curries, as well as noodle and rice dishes, are available. If you’re looking for something more Lao, try some of the grilled dishes like Lao sausage or ox tongue. You can also try their beef jerky which is a common Lao snack. Going to a Lao restaurant without trying a salad is like skipping the pasta course at an Italian restaurant. The Lao papaya salad includes anchovies, but you can get more adventurous with chicken feet or beef tripe salad. If you’ve never had toasted rice, check out naem khao (toasted rice salad).

Holy Basil has four locations in Greater Sydney.

Nearest Metro Station: Canley Vale, Museum, Parramatta, Wynard

Kanzo Fresh Sushi

At Kanzo, everything is made to order. You won’t find that box of sushi that’s been sitting on display for who knows how long, with hard, stale rice, waiting for that unsuspecting customer. The indoor dining area is pretty compact, so take advantage of the outdoor seating and do some people watching.

Nearest Metro Station: Parramatta

Khatoon Cuisine

Situated along Church Street, which is known to the locals as “Eat Street,” Khatoon stands out with its opulent interior. Once inside, one can be forgiven for thinking that he or she is somewhere between the Caspian Sea and the Persian Gulf. On their menu, dishes are spelled out in both English and Persian.

Most of the entrees have meat, but there are enough vegetarian appetizers and salads to call this restaurant vegetarian-friendly. If you’ve never had Persian desserts, you shouldn’t leave without trying the shole zard and traditional Persian ice cream. For an edible art project that’s less filling, try the 3D flower jelly.

Nearest Metro Station: Parramatta

Lucio Pizzeria Darlinghurst

Lucio offers 20 different pies, both red and white. Their Neapolitan-style oven reaches up to 400 degrees Celsius (that’s around 750 Fahrenheit). According to their staff, pies take less than 30 seconds to cook.

They have Italian appetizers and salads as well as a wine and mixed drinks. Many of their beers and sodas come directly from the motherland. Seating is mostly outdoors, but there is a small seating area inside the restaurant, where you watch the pizza artists at work.

Try to save room for dessert. Especially the Nutella desserts like Nutella pizza and Bomboloni di Nutella, which are pizza donuts topped with Nutella.

Nearest Metro Station: Kings Cross or Museum

Marigold Restaurant

Marigold has been a Sydney institution since the 1980s. Nowadays, they are open 365 days a year for dim sum and dinner. If you can only choose one, dim sum is the most memorable of the two. A Cantonese tradition since the third century, dim sum combines tea with small appetizers and desserts. Servers wheel dim sum carts gracefully around tables, stopping to offer the few dishes unique to their cart. You only take what you want, and your server will mark off you card, which serves as your running tab. It’s like a Chinese buffet with full service.

Marigold has the usual stuffed noodles, fried shrimp, steamed vegetables, and desserts. They also have bowls of innards, which remind you that the Chinese tend to eat everything.

Nearest Metro Station: Central

Pho Ann (Cabramatta)

At Pho Ann, less is more, with no paper menus and an alacrity of service that would be the envy of any fast food joint. The menus are displayed on the wall (one on each end of the restaurant), consisting of mostly pho with different cuts of beef and some chicken options as well. You’ll likely order pho, which will take longer to cool off than it will for it to show up at your table.

Pho Ann is conveniently located five minutes from the Cabramatta metro stop. If you’re coming from the metro station, you’ll see dozens of bubble tea shops and other Vietnamese restaurants along the way. It’s tucked away in a tiny alleyway between John Street and Cabramatta Road, next to Battambang, which is a Khmer restaurant named after the Cambodian city/province. Most cafes and restaurants in Cabramatta close early, so it’s best to visit when you’re planning an early dinner.

Nearest Metro Station: Cabramatta

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This post was sponsored by Fairfield City Council, Ompty Media, and Taste Cultural Food Tours.