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3 MAMA CHEF'S

Cuisine: Thai

Thai street food is the new kid on the block in Thainatown, a precinct roughly bounded by Pitt, Goulburn and Campbell Streets. Now well established, 3 Mama Chef’s (yes, we all wonder about the apostrophe) is a bright cafe-style room with one great people-watching spot along the open front window that overlooks Pitt’s bustling Backpacker Alley. With lunch specials mostly under $10, the place is full of young Asians all day. At night, you might fancy the delicate catfish salad — actually flaked fish fried to a tempura-like finish with cashews for added crunch $13.90. Or a hearty soup such as stewed duck noodle $10.90 or spicy stewed pork soft bones soup, tangy with vivid green and purple basil $13.90. And we hear there really are three mama chefs: see the trio of colourful dolls on a sideboard.

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ATHENIAN

Cuisine: Thai,Greek

Right in the middle of the city, Athenian is a favourite among office workers and wishful travellers. The statue of Athena — goddess of wisdom — out the front and the building’s Doric columns make you forget you’re in Sydney. Mezzes such as spanakopita $9 get the tastebuds talking with lemony, fetta-y flavours. Cabbage rolls with egg and lemon sauce $20.50, like a zesty Greek burrito, might follow. The moussaka $20 may be what many choose, but so what when it comes with such a creamy, decadent bechamel sauce? There’s a decent selection of seafood, fresh from the markets, too — try the prawn saganaki $29.50, Clarence River prawns in a fetta-infused tomato stew. The food is hearty and flavoursome.

 

 

 

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BAR REGGIO

Cuisine: Thai,Greek,Italian

Italian food was not meant to be fussy. Plain, simple and fresh, it’s synonymous with a loud, bustling atmosphere and generous servings and that’s what you’ll find right here, in the heart of Sydney’s original Little Italy. Papa Giovanni may not be flipping the pizza dough any more but rest assured you’ll see his protégé making Papa proud and serving up crowd-pleasing toppings such as garlic, chilli and prawn $16 and parma ham, rocket and mozzarella $15. Try marinated and butterflied barbecued spatchcock $20 if it’s on, or crabmeat farfalle (butterfly-shaped pasta) tossed simply with garlic, parsley and olive oil $24. Check out the specials, too, and if there’s enough of you the set menu’s great value.

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BAVARIAN BIER CAFE

Cuisine: Thai,Greek,Italian,German

You’ve got to love beer to love this place, but that’s not hard with so many delicious Deutsche ales on tap. Or maybe you just have to love schnitzel, or meat, potatoes and sautéed sauerkraut. The final criterion is you must like things big. For a big sample of everything, go for the Munich Brewers platter $37 but remember that those brewers aren’t known for their small bellies. It’s nice to just snack on some salt-and-pepper squid $17.50 — as a warm-up to the gigantic Lowenschnitzel $28.50. For daintier eaters there’s a “light” oven-baked version of a chicken schnitter $25.50. This is an atmospheric pub for those who want a bit of Euro novelty (read: waitstaff who can clutch several steins at once) with their meal.

Also locations at Bondi Beach, Chatswood, Crows Nest, Entertainment Quarter, Manly Wharf, O'Connell St (Sydney) and Parramatta.

 

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BERTA RESTAURANT & BAR

Cuisine: Thai,Greek,Italian,German,Italian

Getting there is half the adventure in experiencing this laneway establishment in the borderland between Darlinghurst and Surry Hills. A long-suffering neighbour gives directions to the unmarked door via intercom and we’re in with the in crowd who’ve learned of the Italian-accented, share-plate menu. Chickpeas, cauliflower and carraway $12 turn out to be more-ish fritter morsels, while velvety chicken liver pâté with crispy housemade flatbread $20 is more bistro than trattoria, but who cares? It’s great food to be partnered with a blackboard list of wines that traverses Italy’s finest. A soft polenta with cherry tomato sauce $16 begs to be mopped up and already we know we’ll be back because the suckling pig has run out. They now take bookings, bless them.

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BODHI IN THE PARK

Cuisine: Thai,Greek,Italian,German,Italian,Vegan/Vegetarian,Asian

Hearing the name Bodhi (meaning “enlightenment”) you’d be right to assume this is an Indian place, but it’s actually yum cha for lunch and modern Asian for dinner. Still, you will feel rather enlightened after eating the healthful soulfood here. Bodhi is a quaint and quiet little restaurant and a great escape from the hectic city. Steamed gow dumplings with mushroom, spinach and pumpkin $6.50 are a light and tasty choice for lunch. Rich and flavoursome vegan dishes such as vegetarian Peking duck $19.50 or tempura king oyster mushrooms $23.50 are substantial. Best to share a few to taste the surprising spectrum of what vegetables and vegan ingredients can really do. Service is standard but it’s a great little hideaway.
 

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CHEFS GALLERY

Cuisine: Thai,Greek,Italian,German,Italian,Vegan/Vegetarian,Asian,Chinese

There are plenty of restaurants with great views in Sydney, but Chefs Gallery offers diners a panoramic eyeful of a different kind. Half the dining room is taken up by a windowed kitchen, so every table overlooks a production line of cooks involved in the elaborate process of hand-moulding phenomenally stretchy dough into noodles. Appetisers such as tataki wagyu with Szechuan dressing $12.90 highlight an innovative approach to Chinese cooking. Guo tie (pan-fried prawn dumplings) $8.90 are delicate and filled with flavoursome whole prawns, and the zha jiang noodles with pork, beancurd and soya sauce $12.90 are rich, sweet and salty. End the meal with almost too-cute-to-eat “piggy face” buns $5.90, a sugary twist on the classic pork bun.
 

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CHINATOWN NOODLE KING

Cuisine: Thai,Greek,Italian,German,Italian,Vegan/Vegetarian,Asian,Chinese,Chinese

This curious place with the uninspiring name is the only home in Sydney to the cuisine of the central Chinese Shaanxi province capital, Xi’an. Walk past a narrow open kitchen to its two levels, the lower rustic Chinese, the upper blue cloth banquettes and a wall of magazines. The food is fiery, oily and musky from chilli, preserved vegetables and garlic. Our favourites include the spicy cucumber salad $6.80 and the weird but wonderful griddle-cooked tea tree mushrooms $18.80, stringy mushrooms, green and red chillies and pork. Try steamed pancakes wrapped around pickled cabbage and pork mince $6.80. The menu is long and will reward the adventurous over many visits. Service is bumbling but friendly. 

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CHINTA RIA MOOD FOR LOVE

Cuisine: Thai,Greek,Italian,German,Italian,Vegan/Vegetarian,Asian,Chinese,Chinese,Malaysian

There’s no shortage of conversation starters in this den-like restaurant by Simon Goh. All the minute details, from the cheeky dish and cocktail names (anyone for a “Lick Me” at the Nipple bar?) right down to the menus, formatted like a screenplay, are inspired by the 2001 Hong Kong film In the Mood for Love. But the food will get you talking most. Seduction rolls — five-spiced chicken mince wrapped in fried bean curd, $12 — deserve their sexy title, and each spoonful of otak otak — chilli-hot Spanish mackerel mousse wrapped in banana leaf, $13 — should be savoured. We’d return for the alamak (OMG) fish — pan-fried white fillets with green beans and aubergine in a coconut curry sauce, $29 — while chef John Poh's crab curry $MP is among the best in Sydney. Loved-up or not, the mood is right. 

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CHINTA RIA, TEMPLE OF LOVE

Cuisine: Thai,Greek,Italian,German,Italian,Vegan/Vegetarian,Asian,Chinese,Chinese,Malaysian,Malaysian

A huge stone Buddha greets you at the door, the chubby kind with a gentle smile. The menu — traditional Malaysian with a modern Asian slant — makes for an interesting read with vivid descriptions. Start with lohbak $9.40, tofu skin parcels of five-spiced chicken mince. Curries and stirfries are fiery, so check the chilli levels when ordering. Beef rendang $24 is sweet and moreish, and vegetarian dishes hold their own. The gado gado $16, steamed bean shoots, shredded cabbage, tofu and cucumber with a spicy peanut sauce, has great texture and flavour. The favourites have been named after the chefs, such as Satchmo’s squid $28.50, coated in a crispy batter and sauteed in a sweet tamarind-based sauce. Bookings aren’t taken for dinner, so arrive early.

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