What is degustation?
The word ‘degustation’ is a French term ascribed to a ‘tasting menu’ and is used to describe a long session of sampling several courses of a chef’s best and most inventive dishes. From entrees to desserts to wine to cocktail pairings, the chef and his staff take hold of the reins and dictate your entire dining experience. So rather than plonking down in a restaurant and ordering any random item from their menu, think of it as a carefully curated playlist or a spa treatment for your tummy!
Is it affordable?
Degustation menus usually consist of a chef’s best, so don’t expect the experience to run cheap! In more low-key restaurants, a three-course lunch can cost $AUD60. Meanwhile, in more high-end ones, a degustation dinner can cost as much as $AUD275 per person.
Where can you find a degustation menu?
Back in the day, degustation menus were limited to ultra-fine dining restaurants and special guest stints by chefs in hotels like The Langham and Shangri-La. These days, though, degustation restaurants are pretty spread out in the city, cropping up in different places like Chippendale, Stanmore, Haymarket, and Woolloomooloo.
7 Best Degustation Restaurants in Sydney
Location: Surry Hills
Price: $AUD118 per head
What’s on the menu: Their latest menu consists of the “land and sea of NSW” with items like pork doughnuts, BBQ prawns, and “spuds in mud”.
Why it made the list: nel Is a unique degustation-only restaurant that serves dishes that are, as GQ put it, “inventive and often nostalgic”. Their eight-course menu changes every 10 weeks according to a new theme, so you never know what you will get with nel!
Great food aside, you’ll want to stay for the atmosphere too. Set in a bunker, nel isn’t your typical, stuffy fine dining restaurant. Instead, it’s a relaxed and intimate environment where all you have to focus on is your food.
6. LuMi Dining
Location: Pirrama Road, Pyrmont
Price: $AUD150 per person
Cuisine: Modern Italian/Japanese
What’s on the menu: Italian gunkan with black truffle, agnolotti, murray cod, red emperor, and white chocolate & sudani are among the items on the chef’s menu.
Why it made the list: “Lumi” is Italian for “small lights” and is an apt name for a restaurant with a gorgeous view of Darling Harbour. And as you feast your eyes on the waterfront, you’ll be treated to a strange but comforting marriage of “modern Italian food with a Japanese twist”.
Location: Kent St, Sydney
Price: $AUD240 per head
What’s on the menu: Roasted scampi tail with vanilla, tuna daikon, confit of ocean trout with apple and witlof salad.
Why it made the list: Whereas LuMi offers Italian with a Japanese twist, Tetsuya’s gives you a French-inspired Japanese tasting menu whipped up by head chef Tetsuya Wakuda. In typical Japanese fashion, Tetsuya’s is located in a super tranquil garden that’ll make you forget you’re in the middle of the city!
Location: Kensington St, Chippendale
Price: $AUD105 for five courses and $AUD130 for seven courses
What’s on the menu: Fermented mushroom pasta with toasted buckwheat and shiitake, black Angus hanger with grilled eggplant, fermented chilli and arame.
Why it made the list: According to Timeout, Automata’s Chef Clayton Wells “understands umami better than most", producing a menu of standout savoury dishes you’ll want to keep coming back to. The casual, relaxed vibe of the industrial space makes this place a cool, upscale hangout spot for celebrating special occasions with your friends.
Price: $AUD70 for the eight-course tasting menu
What’s on the menu: Kimchi dumplings, charcoal steamed buns, salt-baked celeriac, portobello mushroom in parsnip puree.
Why it made the list: The fact that this is Sydney’s first completely vegan fine-dining restaurant is just the tip of the iceberg. Alibi’s plant-based eight-course degustation menu is delicious enough to make you forget there’s no meat here.
Location: Macquarie St., Sydney
Price: The tasting menu is priced at $AUD210 per person.
What’s on the menu: Their tasting menu consists of smoked eel, murray cod, and veal.
Why it made the list: Aria describes itself as a “synergy of many elements” in an unrivalled harbourside location. And unrivalled is right – you can peep the Sydney Opera House just outside Aria’s massive windows!
And of course, the food is fantastic too. This October, they’re bringing back their best dishes from the past to celebrate 20 years in the business, including crowd-pleasers like their Peking duck consommé from 2000 and their champagne lobster from 2016!
Location: Overseas Passenger Terminal, The Rocks
Price: A 10-course dinner at Quay costs $AUD275, while a six-course meal costs $AUD210 per person.
What’s on the menu: Their 10-course menu includes hand-harvested seafood in virgin soy, seaweed, and aged vinegar, steamed mud crab custard, bone marrow pasta, smoked pig jowl, and roasted Maremma duck.
Why it made the list: It’s easy to see why Quay frequently makes it into numerous top 10 degustations in Sydney lists. Timeout, which placed it at the number two spot of the 50 best restaurants in Sydney, described Quay as the “king of Sydney fine dining” for their “heartbreakingly beautiful” marron and flowers.
Oh, and the view’s not too bad either.