From Bodega's fish fingers on charred toast to Flour & Stone's panna cotta lamington, here, in no particular order, are Sydney's essential dishes. Plenty of established excellent hasn't made the cut - Golden Century's pipis in XO sauce, Quay's snow egg, and Neil Perry's date tart, for starters. But these are tomorrow's hall-of-famers. Take note - and make bookings.
Fish fingers with charred toast, Bodega
On the menu since day one of service 10 years ago, Bodega's signature dish sounds pretty straightforward on paper: fish, garlic, burnt toast. But it is truly more than the sum of its parts. Slices of kingfish on fingers of blackened toast with a confetti of cuttlefish ceviche, coriander, onion and grated mojama come together in a brilliantly balanced mouthful of flavour. Bodega, 216 Commonwealth St, Surry Hills, NSW, (02) 9212 7766
Pretzel and whipped bottarga, 10 William St
Chef Dan Pepperell may have jumped ship to Hubert, but his pretzel with bottarga remains a stalwart on the 10 William St menu. The seeded pretzels arrive at the table hot, with a plate of feather-light dip made zesty with bright salty roe. Umami for days, it's a bar snack to be reckoned with. 10 William St, 10 William St, Paddington, NSW, (02) 9360 3310
Macaroni, pig's head and egg yolk, Acme
Many of Acme's brightest moments come when skilfully made fresh pasta meets flavours it seldom encounters in Italy. And few are as bright (or as satisfying) as one of the kitchen's earliest hits. Mitch Orr takes the key elements of sisig, the Filipino classic of pig's head double-cooked, marinated in vinegar and served topped with a raw- or runny-yolked egg, and grafts them onto impeccable macaroni. Garlicky genius. Acme, 60 Bayswater Rd, Rushcutters Bay, NSW
Blood sausage sanga, Ester
Mat Lindsay's inspired take on the classic backyard sausage sandwich sees minced pork belly mixed with rice, pine nuts and a healthy dash of pig's blood. It's steamed and then roasted in the wood-fired oven before being placed on his canny replacement for spongy sliced-white: a steamed bread reminiscent of Chinese mantou buns. Sticking to tradition, it's best folded in half and eaten with your hands. Ester, 46-52 Meagher St, Chippendale, NSW, (02) 8068 8279
Marron, young coconut, koji butter, Momofuku Seiobo
Smoke and sweetness, the freshness of the sea, the complexity of a gentle ferment, the richness of butter, and the cascading textures of marron barbecued to order and slippery young coconut make this a standout among standouts on the menu at our Restaurant of the Year. Momofuku Seiobo, The Star, 80 Pyrmont St, Pyrmont, NSW
Chicken fricassée, Restaurant Hubert
Go with a gang, order the chicken, and don't leave without gnawing the feet. Chef Dan Pepperell brines the Holmbrae bird, steams it, then deep-fries it, chops it up and puts it back together - head, feet and all. The whole fricasséed chook is served on confit button and hen-of-the-woods mushrooms, and all the plate's players come glistening with a glossy white wine and tarragon sauce. Unleash the Burgundy. Restaurant Hubert, basement, 15 Bligh St, Sydney, NSW, (02) 9232 0881
Panna cotta lamington, Flour & Stone
Nadine Ingram takes everything you love about this Australian classic and turns it up. First, she soaks the vanilla sponge squares with panna cotta. They're then layered with berry compote, coated with dark chocolate, and finished with desiccated coconut and coconut flakes. Crunch, squish and cream - witness the evolution of an Australian icon. Flour & Stone, 53 Riley St, Woolloomooloo, NSW, (02) 8068 8818
Nahm prik nuum sandwich, Boon Café
Half Thai, half Sydney café, and pure Boon, this spicy sanga takes a fiery relish traditionally served with crudités and remixes it with salted butter and Brickfields sourdough into an inspired and utterly devastating take on the salad sandwich. Thailand meets the tuckshop in the most interesting of ways. Boon Café, 425 Pitt St, Sydney, NSW, (02) 9281 2114
Fried chicken, Eleven Bridge
Think of it as the world's fanciest chicken nugget: a round of boned-out chicken wing, deep-fried, skewered with a bone for ease of snacking, and thenbathed in kombu butter and topped, for good measure, with a healthy dollop of caviar. A finger-lickin' good union of the sublime and the ridiculous. Eleven Bridge, 11 Bridge St, Sydney, NSW, (02) 9252 1888
Burrata and shellfish oil, Automata
In a roundabout way we have Clayton Wells's partner, Tania
Ferguson, to thank for this unlikely flavour bomb. It was for
Ferguson's amusement at home that Wells had been recreating the
shellfish oil he'd learnt to make at Tetsuya's, and when he was
looking for an interesting spin on the increasingly ubiquitous
cheese, there it was. The only thing better than cutting into the
creamy-centred cheese to release the vibrant orange oil is tasting
it. Automata, 5 Kensington St, Chippendale, NSW,
(02) 8277 8555
Potatoes with oysters and raw mushroom, Sixpenny
Steak frites, bangers and mash, fish and chips - potatoes are
perennial co-stars. But the spuds at Sixpenny get their moment in
the limelight in an ever-evolving course on the dégustation:
roasted baby potatoes in house-made mustard, say, or poached Dutch
creams in a toasted rye butter topped with slices of raw button
mushrooms and an oyster emulsion. The not-so-humble spud. Sixpenny, 83
Percival Rd, Stanmore, NSW, (02) 9572 6666
Baked vacherin and polish sausage, Continental Deli
If excess paves the road to wisdom, then Continental's baked cheese is brilliance in a box. Chef Jesse Warkentin pops a deeply creamy cow's milk washed-rind into the oven with white wine and herbs. If the threat of winey molten cheese wasn't enough, he teams it notwith bread or crudités for the dipping, but - wait for it - green olives and rounds of smoked Polish sausage. Continental Deli, 210 Australia St, Newtown, NSW, (02) 8624 3131
Red-claw yabbies, lemon jam, cultured cream and buckwheat pikelets, Bennelong
Uniting that most Australian of crustaceans, the yabby, with that most Australian of after-school snacks, the pikelet, could, in the wrong hands, be a clunky piece of stunt-casting. In the hands of Peter Gilmore and Rob Cockerill at Bennelong, though, it's Australia on a plate, the yabbies poached and chilled, ready to be forked onto the pancakes, warm and toasty in a fold of linen. Bennelong, Sydney Opera House, Bennelong Point, NSW, (02) 9240 8000
Raw wagyu shoulder with grilled enoki, duck-egg cream and seaweed, The Bridge Room
Inspired by a memorable meal at a Kyoto restaurant that specialises in Kobe beef, Ross Lusted created this tartare, blending Japanese and Australian flavours. Translucent slices of well-marbled wagyu shoulder melt onto a bed of enoki mushrooms. They're finished with a salted duck-egg cream and Olsson's red gum-smoked salt. Lusted's decision to slice rather than chop the meat means the dish is less of a tartare and more of an ode to raw beef. The Bridge Room, 44 Bridge St, Sydney, NSW, (02) 9247 7000
Saltbush cakes, Billy Kwong
Is it a dumpling? Is it a doughnut? Kylie Kwong's savoury
Canto-stralian saltbush cakes recall a number of things, but their
taste is pure outback. Crisp deep-fried pastry is filled with
leaves of the glossy native green, and house-made chilli and tamari
sauces are on hand to complement the leaves' bitterness. Billy Kwong,
shop 1, 28 Macleay St, Potts Point, NSW, (02) 9332 3300
Tiramisú, Icebergs Dining Room & Bar
This Icebergs dessert is a little bit of a treasure hunt, and a lot of tiramisù. When it first hits your table, the sizeable slab of mascarpone mousse looks relatively unassuming but underneath you'll find cubes of coffee jelly, Marsala caramel sauce, coffee sorbet, meringue sticks and gold dust - and that's just the first bite. Icebergs Dining Room & Bar, 1 Notts Ave, Bondi, NSW, (02) 9365 9000
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