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Sydney is a gourmet paradise, with an abundance of fresh seafood, a vast range of vegetables and fruit always in season, prime meats at inexpensive prices, and top-quality chefs making international names for themselves. You'll find that Asian and Mediterranean cooking have had a major influence on Australian cuisine, with spices and herbs finding their way into most dishes. Immigration has brought with it almost every type of cuisine you could imagine, from African to Tibetan, from Russian to Vietnamese, with whole areas of the city dedicated to one type of food, while other areas are a true melting pot of styles.

Sydney is a great place to try "Modern Australian," or "Mod Oz," cuisine, which has been applauded by chefs and food critics around the world as one of the most important food trends going. Modern Australian cuisine emphasizes very fresh ingredients and a creative blend of simple European styles with touches of Asian influence. (Some foodies complain, however, that restaurants are using the label "Modern Australian" as an excuse to serve skimpy portions--like one lamb chop atop a miniscule mound of mashed potatoes.)

The Sydney dining world was turned on its head in 1999 when the new Cockle Bay Wharf complex, on the city-side of Darling Harbour, really began making its mark after its opening in late 1998. Leading the fabulous array of new restaurants are Ampersand, and the Southern Mediterranean influenced Coast (tel. 02/ 9267 6700). Other marvelous restaurants here include Chinta Ria, The Temple of Love; the bustling Blackbird (tel. 02/9283 7385), a cafe with gourmet pizzas; the fiery south Indian Tandoori Connection (tel. 02/9283 6707); and the Tiara Japanese Brasserie (tel. 02/9264 5822).

Sydney's cheap eats are congregated in inner-city areas such as along King Street in Newtown, Crown Street in Darlinghurst, and Glebe Point Road in Glebe. There are also inexpensive joints scattered among the more upscale restaurants in Kings Cross and along trendy Oxford Street. There are some good food courts around Chinatown, including the Sussex Street Food Courts, on Sussex Street, which offers Chinese, Malay, Thai, Japanese, and Vietnamese meals for between A$4 and A$7 (U.S.$2.80 and U.S.$4.90).

Avoid the takeout booths settled among the ferry wharves at Circular Quay; recent revelations showed that some of them harbor nasty bugs. Quay Seafoods, the fish-and-chip shop opposite the bottle shop is an exception; it serves up some of the best French fries in Sydney.

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