Flying beneath hype’s radar
Ten places without hype that are still bloody good
1. Mizuya Restaurant and Bar
Basement, 614 George Street, Sydney, 9266 0866
Head to this massive izakaya-style hideaway for a taste of Tokyo on Sydney’s George St. Follow the maître’d through the warren of pale wood and make yourself comfortable in either a booth or a private room. Select your order from a touch-screen menu which flips through over 200 options. Karaoke is as popular as the food and is confined to 24 private rooms. Round out the experience with Sapporo or sake cocktails.
2. Holy Cow
456 Cleveland Street, Surry Hills, 9698 9220
For Brits who are homesick for a ‘pint and a ruby’ you will find your culinary mecca here. From a menu featuring toned-down indian classics, this warm and welcoming restaurant serves curries, breads and rice that will keep both wilder and more conservative diners happy. As the name suggests, you won’t find any beef on the menu. The butter chicken is so good, you’ll want to order it twice.
3. Iron Chef Seafood Restaurant
84 Broomfield Street, Cabramatta, 9723 6228
You don’t have to go to Cabramatta for excellent yum cha, but if you do – head for Iron Chef. Influenced by Cantonese, Vietnamese and Thai styles, this busy restaurant has developed a cult following amongst people who love Asian cuisine. The usual steamed and fried dishes are served fresh and tasty, but the best part of coming here is the atmosphere. After brunch step outside and explore the grocery delights of Sydney’s own ‘Little Vietnam’.
423 Pitt Street, Sydney, 9211 4257
Tucked away on the Central end of Pitt Street, in a strip dominated by great Thai restaurants, Encasa has been doing a roaring trade in tapas, paella and crowd-pleasing pizzas and pastas for years. Bookings are essential, it’s not the place for a romantic meal, but get a group in there, with a few jugs of sangria and it’s a real fiesta in downtown Haymarket.
5. Sushi Suma
425 Cleveland Street, Surry Hills, 9698 8873
If you’re hungry and on a budget, Sushi Suma does great Japanese at amazingly good value. Service here is fast and furious – you’ll order while sitting in the bar area upstairs, be whisked to a table, served Mt Fuji-sized servings of sushi and sashimi, brush shoulders with diners at the table next to you, jostle bento boxes and plates, be well fed and then back out on Cleveland St faster than a Tokyo drift.
6. Bistro Meme
Shop 2-3, 7 Cowell Street, Gladesville, 9879 0486
Walk in off the suburban streets and into Provence in this authentic French restaurant. Expect traditional favourites like duck confit, bouillabaisse or sweet treats like freshly-baked madeleines or brioche with house-made jam. Owned by David Pourier, as is Rozelle’s La Grande Bouffe, this is one of Sydney’s truly French dining experiences.
7. Radio Cairo – African
83 Spofforth St, Cremorne, 9908 2649
If you’re after a taste of the Middle East, or just a bite before catching a film at the Cremorne Orpheum across the road – go to Radio Cairo. A local favourite, the menu features dishes inspired by Indian, Asian, African and Caribbean spices. Piri Piri Prawns and Afro Fries are perennially popular as is the range of vegetarian dishes.
8. Waqu - Modern Japanese
308 Pacific Highway, Crows Nest, 9906 7736
Step into this calm, stylish restaurant for an intricate, Japanese-focused three, five or seven course degustation menu. Heaven on a plate for anyone interested in quality over quantity and technique over volume. With a menu that changes with the seasons every three months, this is one of the best value degustation dining experiences in Sydney.
9. Mado Café – Turkish
63 Auburn Rd, Auburn, 9643 5299
Head to Auburn for authentic Turkish food served amongst tapestries and antique weaponry. You’ll find traditional favourites like stuffed vine leaves and tabouli, shish kebab, felafel and kofte. Don’t miss the ‘dondurma’ stretchy ice cream you can cut with a knife, available in a range of flavours like vanilla, pistachio or sour cherry.
227 Glenmore Rd, Paddington 9331 1032
It says a lot that a restaurant has survived for 30 years, as Vamps has, serving French bistro classics to locals. Stretching out over three levels of this converted terrace, there are areas to suit either intimate diners or larger groups. Duck l’orange, coq au vin and crème brulee are all reliably good.