Of all Japan’s cultural touchstones, one that Australia has imported heavily in recent years is the jazza kissu or “listening bar”, an intimate venue where customers come for the vinyl records as much as they do the drinks. Ante is one of Australia’s finest examples of the genre, and co-owners Matt Young and Jemma Whiteman have created a stylish bar and diner that transports customers far from the bustle of King Street.

For his other business, Black Market Sake, Young has travelled extensively in Japan to source sake from the country’s small traditional producers and large celebrated breweries. At Ante, this means you can enjoy an evening of great tunes alongside one of the finest curations of sake in Australia.

There are more than 60 options available, including premium aged varieties you won’t find elsewhere. From prefecture to polish rate, the expert staff will spill the details on each sake, and you can sample the range in a glass, carafe or tasting flight of three. Japanese spirits, beers and elegant house cocktails round out the offering.

While Ante is very much a place to drink, it’s also a serious contender for Newtown’s best restaurant. Whiteman’s menu has clear Japanese influences, but her dishes also draw inspiration from around the world, and reflect her time at groundbreaking Sydney restaurants Pinbone, Lankan Filling Station, Billy Kwong, and Cafe Paci across the road.

If nothing else, Ante’s constantly shifting menu is designed to pair incredibly well with sake. You can always expect a couple of pastas, such as tagliatelle with fermented shiitake mushrooms; playful takes on Japanese izakaya and konbini fare; and elegant desserts to finish.

Commanding the charcoal space is a long bar made from blackbutt timber, and behind it Young’s personal collection of around 2500 vinyl records. The team has taken advantage of the large room, generously spacing out the seating to cater for groups of every size. But be warned – there are no reservations here, which is all part of the allure.

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Updated: May 8th, 2024

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