The 20 dishes you need to eat this winter

Winter is here and it's time to warm up with giant bowls of ramen, unctuous hunks of meat, soupy dumplings and more
Photograph: Anna Kucera
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Winter is here and there's no escaping it. So instead of mourning the loss of sunny days, we've created a dining bucketlist of the most comforting, warming dishes this city has to offer. Whether you want to hunker down with mates over a boiling hot pot, get around a seriously spicy laksa or order up a giant schnitzel, these are meals that'll make you forget that it's a bit chillier than usual in a heart beat. 

Want more? Check out the best ramen in Sydney or the best things to do in winter in Sydney

RECOMMENDED: The 50 best restaurants in Sydney

The 20 dishes you need to eat this winter

1
Dumplings at Momo Bar Manly
Photograph: Anna Kucera
Restaurants, Nepalese

Momo Bar Manly

icon-location-pin Manly

Order the: Nepalese dumplings done Manly style

The dumplings here come filled with pork, chicken, lamb, lentils or veggies. 'Manly style' means they come with a slosh of yoghurt, paprika and warming, soupy chicken broth. The dumpling skin is thin but sturdy enough to hold a generous nub of juicy lamb, which is complemented by the garlicky yogurt. The single thing we’re missing is a big spoon to capture the momo’s broth when it’s pierced, but it's added to the bowl of broth that remains, spiked with the rich paprika butter.

2
Food at Gogyo Sydney
Photograph: Anna Kucera
Restaurants, Japanese

Gogyo

icon-location-pin Surry Hills

Order the: Kogashi ramen

Here they specialise in a kogashi (which means ‘charred’ in Japanese) ramen, which sees a pan heated to a smoking-hot temperature before a dollop of miso paste is added and then it's deglazed with chicken broth. The resulting ramen is underpinned by a distinct smokiness that’s intense in flavour and appearance. It’s imbued with ash flecks, and the chewy noodles and chashu look a little ominous and odd swimming in the slick black broth, but it tastes damn good. It’s not as heavy as a tonkotsu courtesy of the lighter chicken broth base, but still has a rich umami flavour and salty intensity thanks to the charred miso paste. 

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3
Mi groeng sandwich at Dutch Smuggler
Restaurants, Caf├ęs

Dutch Smuggler

icon-location-pin Sydney

Order the: Mi goreng toastie

Here they transform well-grilled slices of Infinity Bakery’s traditional tin loaf into killer toasties that demonstrate the stretching powers of good cheese. The best is the “Mi Goreng”, a genius collision of two great late-night snacks: instant noodles and the contents of a fridge-raiding session, wedged into a toaster. Dutch Smuggler’s version squeezes in noodles, a fried egg, shallots, a double meltdown of cheese (oozy mozzarella and sweet, nutty Gruyere) and a mysterious “magic sauce” between its crunchy triangles of bread. Originally a special, it’s no wonder it now has permanent residency on the menu – it deserves it. 

4
Food at Do Dee Paidang
Photograph: Graham Denholm
Restaurants, Thai

Dodee Paidang

icon-location-pin Haymarket

Order the: Tom yum noodle

The main event is the signature tom yum noodle, coming in a clean, sweetly porky, hot-and-sour broth hit with generous spoonfuls of fried garlic and topped with crispy wonton strips. Each comes with a variety of toppings from seafood to soft pork bone and can be customised with a choice between seven types of noodles, such as glass, rice, instant and supersized, for those with an appetite. Competitive friends can be seen challenging one another on levels of heat, stomaching chilli levels up to seven – which causes the usually clear broth to turn opaque – with precautionary names like ‘devil’, ‘lava’, ‘super volcano’, and all the way up to ‘super nova’. 

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5
Food at Solo Newtown
Photograph: Anna Kucera
Restaurants, Indonesian

Solo

icon-location-pin Newtown

Order the: Beef rib

This Indo-fusion restaurant on King Street will slow smoke you a generous serve of unctuous beef short rib. The bone slides out like an easy Jenga move, leaving behind a hunk of soft, sticky beef. It comes with a side of vinegary pickled watermelon that’s a weird, wonderful and very workable accompaniment to the rich beef. A starter serve of lamb ribs also delivers with similar success and they’re charred enough that you can nibble off the blackened ends.

6
Plates of food at El Jannah
Restaurants

El Jannah

icon-location-pin Granville

Order the: Half chicken

Call it aioli, toum or skordalia, the popularity of garlic sauce extends to multiple countries and cuisines. Perhaps more than the chicken, the garlic sauce at El Jannah is the stuff that will keep you coming back for more. But for now, let's start with the chicken. The eat-in charcoal chicken meal is of Lebanese bread, pickles and garlic sauce along with a quarter, half or whole chicken. Middle Eastern hospitality means it's a meal and a half. 

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7
Food at Mr Meng Chongqing
Photograph: Anna Kucera
Restaurants, Chinese

Mr Meng Chongqing Gourmet

icon-location-pin Haymarket

Order the: Chongqing noodle

The spicy, the rich hit of piquant pepper served in Mr Meng’s signature dish truly lingers. Firm, slippery noodles come wading in a rich deep red broth, with a few pieces of slow cooked beef. It leaves a slick of oil in your mouth and a lasting hum of sichuan spice. It’s an unctuous mouthful, and hot tip for this hot soup – don’t wear white: the red chilli and pepper oil isn’t forgiving. Once you get past the heat of the broth, it sings with a depth of flavour and meatiness.

8
A close up shot of gravy being poured over roast lamb and vegeta
Photograph: Anna Kucera
Bars, Craft beer

The Taphouse

icon-location-pin Darlinghurst

Order the: Sunday roast

They like to change things up for their Sunday roasts – pork, lamb, turkey beef and chicken are all on rotation – and to make sure you know what you're in for, you can usually check their Instagram to see what's cooking. The roast will set you back $19.90, making it one of the better value roasts in Sydney (but they don't skimp on the potion size either), and you also get a giant Yorkshire pudding. 

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9
G2 Korean BBQ
Photograph: Graham Denholm
Restaurants

678 Korean BBQ

icon-location-pin Haymarket

Order the: Pork belly and the marinated boneless short rib

Get ready for a banchan and barbecue party at this sweet little Korean spot in they CBD. You have to cook the pork belly for a while; leave it on and let it char up a little. Same goes for the short ribs, which need some time on the grill (this is when poking and sampling the banchan comes in handy). When you let them grill for a bit, the pork develops a nice caramelised outer layer, while inside it stays soft and juicy. The sugars in the beef marinade also respond well to charring. 

10
Crab at Queen's Hotel
Bars, Pubs

Queens Hotel

icon-location-pin Enmore

Order the: Mud crab

Forget lobster – either you can afford to shell out on the fleshy crustaceans (that usually go for $140-odd dollars a kilo) or you can’t. And when a restaurant is boasting hefty little pinchers that weigh in north of three kegs your cash will disappear faster than a dirty dog on bath day. Happily, all the bright orange, heavy-clawed beauties at Queens Chow, the restaurant inside Merivale’s latest glamour pub, only just tip the one kilo mark, which makes ordering one exxy, but not unspeakably pricey if you’re in the mood to treat yourself. 

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11
Chicken schnitzel at The Unicorn
Bars, Cocktail bars

The Unicorn Hotel

icon-location-pin Paddington

Order the: Schnitzel or the steak

You won’t find a better schnitty in town, and we’re not talking cheap, shit chicken here. They’re frying up proper free range, hormone-free chooks from Holmbrae in Taralga, NSW. And the daily steak is always worth your time. They cook it right – a very hot pan to get that crisp, caramelised shell, and a liberal hand with the seasoning. You can choose your sides to make it your preferred version of meat and two veg, and these guys excel at sauce. Damn straight they have Diane on the menu, but we can never go past their bone-dense gravy.

12
Meat Barbie at Spice World
Photograph: Jordan Kretchmer
Restaurants, Chinese

Spice World

icon-location-pin Haymarket

Order the: Hot pot and wagyu Barbie

What does Lady Gaga have to do with a Chinese hot pot restaurant? Not much you’d think, but they do things differently at Spice World, Haymarket’s new own truly quirky and ultimately delicious eating experience. That shocking protein couture look appears to have inspired how Spice World serves up slices of marbled beef. A small Barbie doll comes to your table draped in meaty glad rags, which you pick off and dunk into a boiling soupy hot pot. 

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13
Happy Chef Laksa
Restaurants, Chinese

Happy Chef Haymarket

icon-location-pin Haymarket

Order the: Laska

This stripped back Chinese restaurant located within the much loved Sussex Centre food court has been serving up creamy, spicy laksas to hungry Sydneysiders for the past two decades. The chicken number is a huge bowl that's got just enough creamy coconut milk to cut through the chilli and fragrant galangal. Spongy tofu cubes and chewy noodles add texture, and it comes with fresh chilli paste and oil if you really want to bring the heat.

14
Pork and corn at Cornersmith Marrickville
Restaurants

Cornersmith - Marrickville

icon-location-pin Marrickville

Order the: Crack Willow Farm pork

For seven years, Cornersmith has scored high marks for its forward-thinking approach to minimising food waste, using local produce and fermenting, smoking and hand-preserving in-house. They also do an excellent plates of Crack Willow Farm pork, coated in a traditional Memphis rub and smoked for a day, before being sliced and served with a knockout barbecue sauce made from smoked peaches.

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15
Food at Pho Pasteur
Photograph: Daniel Boud
Restaurants, Vietnamese

Pho Pasteur

icon-location-pin Haymarket

Order the: Beef pho

The beef soup here bangs with deep, savoury, bone-rich flavour; there's heaps of fresh flat noodles; and the traditional plate of bean sprouts, lemon and big ol'stalks of Thai basil served on the side is piled high and ready to be picked and plonked on top. Order the beef noodle soup for the raw beef, which cooks in your broth as you eat.

16
Din Tai Fung Central Park Mall
Photograph: Anna Kucera
Restaurants

Din Tai Fung

icon-location-pin Sydney

Order the: Xiao long bao

Go on. Count them. Din Tai Fung promises that every xiao long bao soup dumpling is enclosed with a least 18 folds. The military precision extends to digital scales in the open kitchen with a mandate that each dumpling pastry must weigh between 4.8 grams and 5.2 grams. After adding the filling, each dumpling must weigh between 20.8 grams and 21.2 grams. This dependable consistency has attracted a legion of dumpling fans. Little wonder this Taiwanese chain has expanded all over Sydney. Expect perfectly thin dumpling skins and gently sweetened pork and seafood fillings.

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17
Food at Mark and Vinnys Spaghetti
Photograph: Anna Kucera
Restaurants, Italian

Mark and Vinny's Spaghetti and Spritz Bar

icon-location-pin Surry Hills

Order the: Beetroot spaghettini or the amatriciana

Magenta strands of beetroot infused angel hair pasta come smothered in an earthy, oily, mushroom reduction and topped with cashew cream. The truffle oil is a little heavy handed, but overall it showcases how a vegan dish can be just as good as its meaty mates. If you are hankering for some meat, the traditional amatriciana is the way to go. Long frilly tentacles of mafalda pasta hold the just-sweet, umami tomato sugo perfectly, while hunks of prosciutto give it a smoked meaty edge.

18
Food at Tipica Pizza Bondi
Restaurants, Italian

Tipica

icon-location-pin Bondi Beach

Order the: Bologna or the Pumpkin

The less traditional styles at this Bondi pizzaria are interesting and the most successful. The Bologna involves folds of buttery, soft mortadella, contrasted with a crunch of a scattered pistachios. The Pumpkin uses roasted creamy gourds as a base and tops it with sweet, just-caramelised chunks of onion, smoky scamorza cheese and paper-thin slices of pancetta. It’s hard to reinvent the pizza wheel, but these two combos make strong arguments for steering away from the typical pie. 

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19
at Spring Yunnan Haymarket
Photograph: Anna Kucera
Restaurants

Spring Yunnan

icon-location-pin Haymarket

Order the: Crossing the bridge noodle

What is it about picking from an assortment of bits and bobs that makes eating just a little more exciting? Whether it’s an elegant teishoku set or a trashy inflight dinner, we just can’t help being drawn to meals that offer a choose-your-own adventure. Those child-like instincts will almost certainly coerce you into ordering Spring Yunnan’s signature dish. Resembling a one-person mini hotpot, the dish arrives deconstructed. There’s a stone bowl of still-boiling pork and chicken broth, accompanied by an array of dainty plates bearing carefully chopped portions of pork, fish, chicken, prosciutto, coriander, shallots, garlic chives, bean sprouts, beancurd skin — even a tiny quail egg. It’s all rather delightful. 

20
Chinese Noodle House, dumplings
Photograph: Helen Yee
Restaurants, Chinese

Chinese Noodle House

icon-location-pin Haymarket

Order the: Steamed lamb dumplings

Load up on dumplings for the price of a song at this bustling noodle and dumpling joint. BYO is a bonus. Get ‘em steamed or fried in serves of a dozen. If you really want to maximise your value, ordering them steamed with score you 16 dumplings for the same price. They do half serves too if you’re only after a snack. These Northern Chinese dumplings have a slightly thicker skin, ideal for encasing meaty fillings of pork, chicken or lamb. Vegetarians have the choice of egg and chives or a braised eggplant filling. Join the crowd inside the tiny dining room, or dine al fresco under the shade of outdoor umbrellas.        

Want to know where Sydney's top chefs eat?

Secret Sydney__Hugh__ Happy Chef
Photograph: Supplied
Restaurants, Modern Australian

Sydney chefs share their dining secrets

You know the big players, the swanky restaurants and the hot-to-trot dining spots – but where do the chefs from these not-so-secret eateries go for a meal when it’s their choice? 

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