We have been asked a lot about restaurant recommendations for casual fine dining lately – to impress a date or the parentals, or for a well deserved indulgence – so here are a few of our current favourites in Sydney at the moment:

Cafe Paci

A temporary pop-up at the old Cafe Pacifico site in Darlinghurst, Cafe Paci is chef Pasi Penanen’s first venture on his own following 8 years as head chef at Marque. I dined here some months ago and we expected the pop-up to move this January 2015 but it has been since announced that the pop-up will remain on-site until December 2015 (for now).

Here’s a glimpse of what to expect:

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Snacks (blood waffle with lardo & lingonberry; rye bread tacos with sticky rice, egg butter, sour onions & chives; pear sandwich; cured trout with lardo; radicchio crisp with raspberry dust)

Fermented rye bread with molasses

An extra treat from the kitchen, Pasi’s special ‘Easter Egg’ with salted white chocolate emulsion, topped with porcini powder)

Pomelo, blue swimmer crab, dill, vadouvan

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Goat tartar, tartar sauce, kale

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Cauliflower, squid rice, anchovy butter

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Pho-tato

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Carrot, yoghurt, liquorice

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Rye icecream, apple, white beer, cocoa, malt

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Corn and butter (fairyfloss with popcorn dust) and pork and fennel (pork crackling coated in chocolate & fennel seeds)

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What you’ll love: The menu draw on Pasi’s Finnish heritage but it’s far from being a Finnish restaurant. The dishes are so unique and there’s a whimsical elegance that comes from his Marque experience. Let’s just say this meal was right up there as an all-time favourite. Go. Now.

What to order: The seasonal set menu is just $85 per person, but the real steal is Friday lunch where you can sample many of the dishes for just $45 per person

Cafe Paci
Level 1, 95 Riley St, Darlinghurst, Sydney NSW
Phone: (02) 9368 7000
Web: cafepaci.com.au
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Nomad

For those who love the ‘farm to table’ concept, Nomad’s wholesome menu offers some of the best small plates, perfect for grazing over a bottle of wine (they double as a cellar door with a great collection of Australian wines by small producers).

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Goats cheese churros with truffle honey

Housemade Nomad churcuterie selection

Raw kingfish, harissa, blood orange, fennel

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Jersey milk haloumi, BBQ zucchini, pinenuts & raisins

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BBQ carrots, almond dukkah, labne

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BBQ lamb rump, Morrocon eggplant salad, sheeps yoghurt

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Daintree Estate Chocolate Cake with Iranian apricot, Nomad crème fraîche

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What you’ll love: I don’t want to sound overly cliche but the taste of ‘real food’. The carrots were insanely sweet and carrot-y and the goats cheese churros – oh my – why don’t we see more savoury churros!

What to order: The ‘Feed Me’ option means you can sit back and let the chef take care of your ordering. You’ll get 8 courses to share and it’s just $65 per person, minimum 3 people. Plus I have on good authority that the foie gras & chicken parfait is a must-try.

Nomad
16 Foster St, Surry Hills, Sydney NSW
Phone: (02) 9280 3395
Web: nomadwine.com.au

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LuMi Dining

With so many restaurants around, it’s rare to feel like you’ve come across something new – like something really innovative which you haven’t had before. Lumi’s menu is full of delightful surprises, here’s a peek:

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Italian chawanmushi

Cheddar sablee

Potato focaccia

Sand crab, dulse, Jerusalem artichoke, oyster powder

Spelt ravioli, burnt butter, pumpkin, sea urchin (unfortunately was replaced with caviar during our visit), chives

Stinging nettle chitarra, mussel cream, crispy pork, fennel pollen

Eggplant, roasted potato & bonito consomme

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Pig jowl, buckwheat, celeriac

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Evergreen: sorrel, lemon basil, mint, shiso, parsley

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Mint ice cream, sour cherry, citrus sabayon, milk crumble, cocoa powder

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What you’ll love: The waterside location that isn’t a cliche Sydney Harbour view and the Italian / Japanese inspired fusion menu is pure genius.

What to order: The degustation is the only way to go – I certainly feel it is under-priced at $89 per person!

Lumi Dining
56 Pirrama Road, Pyrmont NSW
Phone: (02) 9571 1999
Web: lumidining.com

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The Century

My siblings and I took the fam bam to The Century at The Star recently for my Dad’s birthday. We had booked a table for 9 and were delighted that we were seated in a private room with our personal waiter who proactively attended to everything! It’s rare to be raving about the service at a Chinese restaurant but we were as impressed with the service as the food. You simply can’t go wrong with ordering a whole live fish at Golden Century or The Century. One of their most popular dishes, the pipis with XO sauce and fried vermicelli really hit the spot as well.

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What you’ll love: The elegance of good quality Cantonese dishes, plus the service in the private dining rooms.

What to order: Just about everything is good but don’t miss the live seafood – get a whole fish, pipis and crab!

The Century
The Star, 80 Pyrmont Street, Pyrmont NSW
Phone: (02) 9566 2328
Web: thecentury.com.au

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Jennifer is the founding blogger of I Ate My Way Through (originally, Jenius.com.au). Growing up in the multicultural melting pot of Sydney’s Inner West as a second generation Australian (of Vietnamese refugee parents of Teochew Chinese ancestry), Jen has always had a deep curiosity about global cuisines, culinary heritage and the cultural assimilation of immigrants. For Jen and her family, food is always at the centre of all celebrations, life events and milestones. A lover of the finer things in life, as well as cheap eats, her blogging ethos is all about empowering and inspiring people to expand their culinary repertoire. When not running her two companies (she is also the Managing Director of The Bamboo Garden online marketing agency), Jen can be found exploring old-world charms at vintage markets and delving into local eats around the world. She has a weakness for fried chicken.