Top 10 Hot Spots: Sydney, Australia

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Prosciutto-wrapped figs at Watts on Crown (Photo by Brad A. Johnson)

 It’s been a wild year for restaurants in Sydney. Some of the city’s best and trendiest—Ad Lib, Berowra Waters Inn, Bird Cow Fish, Aperitif, Cotton Duck, Etch, Manly Pavilion, Smiths on Bayswater, Montpellier Public House, the list goes on—have abruptly shuttered. The critically acclaimed rising star Becasse filed for bankruptcy in June, but for now it’s still standing. The much-hyped, molecular-infused Gastro Park just emerged from a short hiatus. But despite all the upheaval, the dining mood in Sydney is far from glum. In fact it’s quite cheery, mostly because the slew of new restaurants moving in to fill the gaps are more casual—and much more sensibly priced—than those that have shuttered. Here are 10 of the hottest restaurants in Sydney this winter (our summer).

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Watts on Crown and their grilled quail, and the perfect molten chocolate (Photo by Brad A. Johnson)

 1. Watts on Crown
Opened a few months back, this cheerily wallpapered storefront isn’t much larger than a sardine tin—and everyone wants to squeeze in. For good reason. The rising-star, husband-wife chef duo running the exposed kitchen both put in time with celebrity chef Neil Perry. Come breakfast, it’s an incredible coffee bar with beautiful housemade pastries. But as the day progresses, the menu becomes much more serious. Grilled quail with chorizo are fantastic, as are the figs wrapped in prosciutto and fried to a crisp. 368 Crown St., Surry Hills,  +61 2 8068 0461

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Swordfish crudo and roast beef with Yorkshire pudding at Concrete Blonde (Photo by Brad A. Johnson)

2. Concrete Blonde
Open about a year, this ultra-sexy Aussie bistro only recently found its groove, thanks to a hot new chef, Ian Oakes, who spent quality time at London’s St. Johns and The Ledbury. Lamb shoulder turns slowly over an open fire. Chicken liver parfait is brilliantly complimented with chamomile and honey jelly. And a bloody rare beef roast with Yorkshire pudding is utterly perfect. 33 Bayswater Rd., Potts Point, +61 2 9380 8307

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Betel leaf with smoked trout at Muum Maam (Photo by Brad A. Johnson)

3. Muum Maam
In a city that boasts some of the best (and most) Thai restaurants of any city outside Thailand, this relative newcomer is a standout. The kitchen pulled talent from the esteemed Sailors Thai and Spice I Am and now holds its own against both, serving outstanding dishes like stuffed betel leaves with smoked trout, trout roe, coconut and ginger, and whole fried barramundi with fried lime leaves, chillies and tamarind. Squat on small wooden stools (my preference) or sit at the large communal table that runs the entire length of the room. 50 Holt St., Surry Hills, +61 2 9318 0881

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Chiswick; crab cake slider; wood-roasted lamb (Photo by Brad A. Johnson)

4. Chiswick
Celebrity chef Matt Moran (of Aria) opened this neighborhood tavern in March in an airy conservatory in the middle of a well-manicured park—and it’s been almost impossible to get a table since day one. Keep dialing. It’ll be worth the effort. Start with snow crab sliders. Get the wood-fired lamb roast to share. And end with the rhubarb eclair. (FYI, don’t pronounce the w, or else you’ll sound like a punter. It’s pronounced Chissick.) 65 Ocean St., Woollahra, +61 2 8388 8688.

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Barbecue pork noodles at Bar H (Photos by Brad A. Johnson)

5. Bar H
Hamish Ingham is an up-and-coming chef who served stints at Gramercy Tavern and Chez Panisse. He applies a similar Alice Waters-style, market-to-table philosophy to his own Asian-inspired menu at this tiny, 25-seat cafe and bar. Standouts include kingfish sashimi with pickled mushrooms and egg noodle salad with Chinese-style barbecue pork. 80 Campbell St., Surry Hills, +61 2 9280 1980. See also: Before and After.

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Fratelli Paradiso (Photos by Brad A. Johnson)

6. Fratelli Paradiso
This cramped, 40-seat Italian is one of the best and busiest restaurants in Sydney, with a steady stream of regulars patiently queuing for a table, most of them gossiping in Italian. If porcini mushrooms are in season, this is the place to be. Spaghetti with prawns is revelatory, as is a very simple pan-fried trout. The tiramisu is ultra-dark-chocolaty. 16 Challis, Potts Point, +61 2 9357 1744.

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Banh Mi slider at Ms G’s (Photos by Brad A. Johnson)

7. Ms G’s
MSG. Get it? The tongue-in-cheek name sets the proper stage for this wildly fun Asian-inspired cafe and bar. Although the interior space is actually rather petite, the dining room somehow unfolds endlessly across multiple levels, making it seem much larger than it is. Excellent pork belly banh mi sliders, shrimp toast and Chivas and Jujube fruit martinis. 155 Victoria St., Potts Point, +61 2 8313 1000

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Waiting to get into The Apollo (Photos by Brad A. Johnson)

8. The Apollo
The prettiest people in Sydney crowd the door and jostle for tables at this new modern Greek with a wood-burning grill in the kitchen and tapered candles on the tables. Menu standouts include pig tail salad with pomegranates and farro, wood-grilled sardines, fried okra, and ouzo-marinated watermelon. 44 Macleay St., Potts Point, +61 2 8354 0888.

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The brunch counter at Orso (Photo by Brad A. Johnson)

9. Orto Trading Co
At first glance this place looks like an urban nursery selling potted plants and wheelbarrows. But all that greenery is actually the kitchen’s sidewalk herb garden. Inside, it’s a festive, white-on-white farmhouse kitchen, serving okra fritters with bloody mary aioli, roasted marrow bones, rabbit terrines and a spatchcock baked in a salt and hay crust. Brunch is a zoo. 38 Waterloo St., Surry Hills, +61 4 3121 2453.

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Bootleg (Photos by Brad A. Johnson)

10. Bootleg
The main draw at this diminutive Italian-accented wine bar is the super-smart wine list, no more than 50 selections made up primarily of stellar boutique wines from Australia (plus a few Italians thrown in for good measure). The kitchen turns out terrific anchovy crostini, hearty spaghetti and meatballs, and pristinely fresh steak tartare with homemade fries. 175 Victoria St., Potts Point, +61 2 9361 3884.

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