Winner: Lankan Filling Station
It's about as narrow as a corridor, and boy is that kitchen tiny, but what Lankan Filling Station lacks in elbow room it makes up for with high-voltage energy and kaleidoscopic flavour. There's been a waiting list since the moment the doors swung, and in just over a year, O Tama Carey's Sri Lankan restaurant has woven itself into the fabric of Sydney's must-visit restaurants.
Take one bite of tender, hot buttered cuttlefish, and it will make sense. The charred edges of mollusc meat make sweet and spicy music with chillis and bullhorn peppers, and the level of heat is so carefully calibrated it almost feels supernatural. It's just one of so many dishes on the choose-your-own-adventure crib sheet we've been unable to get enough of from the snacks (addictive spiced cashews; pickles bright with pineapple and mustard seeds) all the way through to dessert (hello, dangerously good jaggery custard).
Is there a greater thrill than tearing off a corner of a lacy hopper, rife with fermenty tang, and swiping it through a creamy, aromatic fish curry so that the spongy bottom soaks up all the goodness? Maybe. It could be wrapping two hands around the jaffle on the brunch menu, brushed with curry leaf butter and generously stuffed with the curry of the moment. Or maybe it's spooning the colourful sambols over a bowl of heirloom rice with a dizzyingly pleasurable blast of ghee.
The bottom line is, every experience at Lankan Filling Station is a different adventure. What remains the same is the urge to keep exploring this visceral cooking and these vibrant flavours, knowing full well that more than just your stomach will be nourished.