You can eat your way around the world without even leaving Sydney.
If you’ve got a hankering for a particular cuisine you can guarantee you’ll find it in Sydney. Immigrants from all over the world have arrived in the city over the centuries, bringing with them their own cuisines and standout dishes. Fast-forward to today and you’ll find the best and most authentic multicultural eats scattered around every corner in restaurants, food trucks and bars. Below you’ll find ten of the best.
1. El Loco @ Excelsior, Mexican
This Surry Hills cantina will make you feel as though you’re ordering straight from the streets of Mexico. Keep in mind that the prices at El Loco don’t reflect the traditional Mexican street food but the quality is ‘lick your fingers’ fantastic. The menu has all the authentic favourites, from carne asada (beef), Baja fish and pollo Frito (fried chicken). If tacos aren’t your jam, the menu boasts a whole range of Mexican food, including nachos, guac and corn chips, quesadillas and even their award-winning El Loco Hot Dog (with pico de gallo, jalapenos, mustard, mayo and queso). And of course, you’ll have to finish your night off with cinnamon churros and their delectable dulce de leche sauce. Take the advice of the posters plastered on the walls and get involved with some frozen margaritas.
Address: 64 Foveaux Street, Surry Hills
2. Song Fang Khong, Laotian
Salads and sticky rice are the things that really distinguish Lao food though there’s plenty more on offer from this extraordinary cuisine. In their own country, these lovely, laid back people will eat almost anything nature offers, including all kinds of insects and, in mountainous areas, rodents. Fear not, the protein most likely to be found in Lao restaurants here is more orthodox and invariably includes a variety of offal. Even offal-phobes would enjoy the grilled tongue but there’s always the tangy som tam – green papaya salad – and sticky sweet Laotian pork sausages.
Address: 7 Anzac Ave, Fairfield
3. Manpuku, Japanese
For some of the most authentic ramen in Sydney, you can’t go past a visit to either of the Manpuku restaurants. Known for plating up ramen that rivals those in Tokyo, this establishment will satisfy all of your Japanese cravings. Order the Okonomi stick: a vegetable and seafood pancake with mayo, powdered seaweed and bbq sauce; or the chicken karaage for Japanese fried chicken that’ll make you forget about KFC. Their ramen menu is extensive and full of all the classics, from Tonkotsu Shoyu (soy-based pork broth), Shio Gara (salt-based chicken broth) and of course the traditional Miso, you’ll have a hard time making a decision. But one thing is for sure, add a slab of butter to your soup and you’ll be drowning in ecstasy.
Address: 482 Anzac Parade, Kingsford & 226 Victoria Avenue, Chatswood
4. Puntino Trattoria, Italian
Owner Antonio Sabia aka ‘ Big Tony’ has been dishing up his family recipes in his Sydney ristorante Puntino for over a decade. Creamy mozzarella platters are packed with mortadella, prosciutto and bresaola while siding with olives and freshly baked schiacciata (a classic salty Tuscan flat-bread). If you’ve made it through that round with some more room to eat, the burnt butter and sage ravioli and pizza gamberi (prawns) will test your limits. But don’t forget to leave room for Nutella pizza and tiramisu. If you pass Puntino in the morning you might catch sight of Mamma ‘ Big Tony’ making fresh gnocchi for the day.
Address: 41 Crown Street, Woolloomooloo
5. Hong Fu, North-Eastern Chinese
Tangy vinegar is the first aroma to hit on walking into this modern little place in Parramatta’s CBD. Servings are generous, so the mostly Chinese diners at compact tables manoeuvre platters with the precision of chess champs. Bouncy steamed dumplings filled with coarse pork mince and pickled Chinese cabbage are a substantial start and a good contrast to fine strips of burnished pork, wok tossed with glossy green beans, heady with garlic, ginger and sesame oil. Toothpick lamb is the hero though; tender slices of meat encrusted with cumin and chilli while long coriander stems woven throughout add flavour and crunch. Swift service and teapots that pour cleanly are bonuses.
Address: Shop 6/103 George St, Parramatta (entry through Charles St)
6. Knafeh Bakery, Middle Eastern
If the name ‘The Bearded Bakers’, rings a bell, you’ve definitely spotted the famous Knafeh Bakery around Sydney. These Middle Eastern men love to entertain while serving up slices of Knafeh. The boys get out their durbakke’s (Lebanese drums) and start dancing to the intense sounds while you sit there eating this traditional dessert, layered in cheese and a sugar-based syrup. But be warned – they always get customers to join in, so make sure you’re at the front of the line if you want a little boogie.
Address: Check out their Instagram to see where they’re popping up next.
7. Pondok Buyung, Indonesian
This fluoro-lit, utilitarian space serves customers including cabbies and students with a minimum of fuss and expense. Typically for a Padang Indonesian restaurant in Australia it’s a bain-marie operation with none of the dishes labelled. Customers pick two or three dishes with rice for a set price by pointing to whatever takes their fancy. Liver and lung are among the many dark, mysterious offal options but there’s also salty, chewy skinned fried chicken and bright, spicy belachan kangkong tossed with onion. Table service runs till clearing.
Address: 140 Anzac Pde, Kensington
8. Bau Truong, Vietnamese
At one of Cabramatta’s poshest looking eateries, with chocolate leather upholstered chairs and muted metallic (albeit laminated) tabletops, the crisp Vietnamese pancake known as banh xeo is a hit with its thick wedge of iceberg lettuce as well as perilla, mint and laksa leaves. But it’s hard to resist rubbernecking to check out all the other good-looking dishes whizzing down the halogen-lit runway at Bau Truong, such as the ubiquitous pho and sizzling meat plates. Chopped-up fried spring rolls on a bed of vermicelli noodles with pickled vegetables and chilli sauce make a standalone meal full of textural contrasts and zingy flavours.
Address: 42 John St, Cabramatta
9. Brasserie L’Entrecote, French
If you’ve ever journeyed to France, chances are you’ve heard of Le Relais de l’Entrecôte. This world-famous French bistro (with franchise restaurants in Lebanon, Switzerland, London and New York) has made waves with the simple (yet utterly delicious) dish of steak and frites with a walnut green salad. We know that doesn’t sound the most appetising, but the sauce that the steak comes swimming in is world-renowned. Luckily for Sydneysiders, this place has opened up. Although it isn’t a direct franchise, Brasserie L’Entrecôte has the dish pretty much nailed. The dessert menu paints a treat too, the Profiteroles Au Chocolat are served with vanilla ice-cream, chocolate sauce and a sprinkle of almond flakes.
Address: 1047 Pacific Highway, Pymble
10. Gourmet Noodle House, Chinese-Vietnamese
Although a little out of the city way, Gourmet Noodle House is one to travel for. The service is quick with no-frills. Every dish comes out steaming hot and full of intense flavours. Their menu is full of endless options and about 90% of it checks in under $10. Start off with a few plates of Vietnamese spring rolls to share and then head straight into the phos, stirfries and crispy egg noodles. Their crispy chicken with tomato sauce fried rice sounds a bit out there, but those first few bites will have you hooked and ready to keep coming back.
Address: Shop 1, 9 Elizabeth Street, Berala