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A cream filled Champagne jelly from Hubert
Photograph: Daniel Boud

The 18 best things we ate in 2018

From entrée to dessert, these were the most amazing things on a plate in Sydney this year

Written by
Time Out editors
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We do a lot of eating here at Time Out, which makes whittling this list down to a svelt 18 no small task. Sydney is a town that pushes the creative boundaries for dining at all price points, and that's what makes eating out here so damn exciting. There were a lot of winners, but these were the absolute best of the best – the 18 dishes we can't stop thinking about. Get them while you can. 

Love a little retrospect? Here are the best things that happened on Sydney stages in 2018. And here are the best New Year's celebrations to help you roll into 2019. 

Got holiday time to kill? Tick something off your Sydney bucket list.

The best dishes in 2018

  • Restaurants
  • Australian
  • The Rocks
  • price 4 of 4

Part of the six-course deg here is a poolish crumpet. It’s got a fudgy texture, like a pancake, and your bronzed griddle cakes arrive in their very own custom-made timber stand, like a royal litter. There are echoes of Bennelong’s famous yabbie pikelets here, with that same tangy cultured cream, but this edition is going for the oligarch vote with smoked yarra trout roe –  it feels like an extremely lighthearted blini. 

  • Restaurants
  • Sri Lankan
  • Darlinghurst
  • price 2 of 4

Sri Lankan food's time in the spotlight was definitiely 2018. At this Darlinghurst newcomer, they dish out 400 fermented coconut and rice flour pancake bowls, ideally with an egg fried into the base, during a busy service. They are destined to be used as both cutlery and carb for a fish curry that's creamy, deeply savoury and gently spiced with fennel seeds. 

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  • Restaurants
  • French
  • Sydney
  • price 3 of 4

Even if you’re already a little achy from all the butter and salt you've consumed at this French bistro, you’ll find new reserves for a sexy, wobbling, moulded Champagne jelly that’s a little boozy, tarted-up with freeze-dried raspberry and bathed in vanilla creme Anglaise. Fruit jelly and cream sounds like nursery food; this is the XXX, adults-only version.

  • Restaurants
  • Cafés
  • Chippendale
  • price 2 of 4

In a battle for the crown of Sydney's richest breakfast, A1 Canteen recruits the power of curry powder to help balance the heart-stopping buttery payload concealed within this soft creamy cape of eggs. Juicy LP's sausages on the side are the clincher. 

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Soufflé pancakes at Edition Coffee Roasters Haymarket
  • Restaurants
  • Haymarket

Commit to the 20-minute wait for the soufflé pancakes. They are whipped to within an inch of its life, risen in the oven like a phoenix and served with a vanilla and white chocolate ganache and strawberries, this outrageously wobbling dessert wearing three Michelin Man rolls is not quite what it seems. Instead of a high glycemic sugar rush, it has fallen closer to the soufflé tree, with a gently sweet egginess that registers as rich, but not heavy.

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  • Restaurants
  • Korean
  • Surry Hills
  • price 2 of 4

A cabbage pancake sounds like a weighty, Northern Hemisphere winter buster, but in the hands of the chef Seung Kee Son at a modern Korean diner in Surry Hills it’s so light it borders on whimsical. A single, perfect leaf of wombok is dipped in batter and fried, sprinkled with red and green chilli, and presented without further comment to be dipped in a sauce of soy, sesame and vinegar. 

  • Restaurants
  • Potts Point

We shouldn’t have to prod very hard for you to order the one-kilo bistecca Fiorentina, a pageant-worthy cut of black angus beef cooked rare. It’s worth every one of those 30 minutes they devote to cooking it, because the result is a podium finish for Sydney’s best steaks. The char on the outside is bronze perfection, and each slice culminates in a deep blush of pink at the heart. 

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  • Restaurants
  • Seafood
  • Paddington
  • price 2 of 4

It's an exercise in spimplicity and restraint, and exactly why you should frequent this seafood restaurant – Spencer Gulf rock crab, claws ready for cracking and the body picked free and served in the shell with a coral sauce. They make the sauce with crab cast-offs and it gives the meat a plump, rich glossiness and concentrated shellfish flavour.

Tonkotsu ramen at RaRa Redfern
  • Restaurants
  • Japanese
  • Redfern
  • price 1 of 4

Sydney is a town of many noodle soups, so what makes this one worth waiting for? To start with, the char siu roast pork gets an extra flavour kick by being seared quickly on a hot plate before serving. The little bits of caramelised fat and meat intensifies the flavour, and all that hot fat means the mouthfeel is extra luxurious.

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  • Restaurants
  • Vegan
  • Waterloo
  • price 2 of 4

At this new plant-based diner to the scene, luxurious, slippery ribbons of smoked portobello mushroom are threaded onto a twig and bedazzled with finger lime pearls and rested on a macadamia cream smoked with paperbark. It’s a king hit of flavour and texture. 

  • Restaurants
  • Italian
  • Chippendale
  • price 1 of 4

It’s a hard yes to the potato puffs at this restaurant within a pub in Chippendale. They're like savoury doughnut holes resting on an intensely rich and savoury smoked eel emulsion with crème fraîche, chives and trout roe. It has the spirit of a potato latke, but with the luxe factor turned up to 11.

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  • Restaurants
  • Japanese
  • Redfern
  • price 1 of 4

You want the grilled eel on rice punctuated with pieces of okra and seaweed, dressed in a golden omelette cloak and bathing in a dashi broth for lunch. A little shaved halloumi on top adds richness, and sansho pepper provides bite. It’s the most expensive of the bowls at this modern Japanese diner, and the most elaborate, with 13 elements whose powers combine into a perfect single dish. 

  • Restaurants
  • Newtown

Clams. On a pizza. It’s sounds too crazy to work. But at this new-age pizza restaurant the little tender clams are steamed and pried from their shells, while the broth is cooked down with white wine and cream until it achieves an intense concentrated chowder flavour. They spread it over the top and then apply a liberal sprinkling of parsley and a squeeze of lemon juice before it slides into the shiny red wood-fired oven that is radiating heat out from the centre of the restaurant. 

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  • Restaurants
  • Surry Hills
  • price 1 of 4

Omelette in a sour Thai soup does not sound like it should work, but, goddamn, if it isn’t a delicious revelation at number 79 on Spice I Am’s famously lengthy menu. Young, tender cha-om leaves (climbing wattle) are densely packed inside a tangle of golden egg, chopped into bite-sized pieces and submerged in a sour soup with a company of fat prawns. It’s richer than a tom yum, feistier than a tom kha gai and perfectly balanced.

  • Restaurants
  • Korean
  • Elizabeth Bay

Smart casual may be a confusing dress code, but we know it when we eat it. Like a bowl of pippis that have opened their little pearlescent shells in order to be anointed with a juicy, umami-bomb of XO sauce and a litter of green onion with a burn-your-fingerprints-off hot puck of fried bread to soak up the broth that remains. Dishes like this is why we keep coming back to this mod-Korean restaurant.

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  • Restaurants
  • Italian
  • Paddington
  • price 2 of 4

A few things have carried over to the new pop-up Italian restaurant in a former nightclub on Oxford Street, including Wilmer’s fried bread, which is as light and fluffy as a doughnut, but this version is distinctly savoury, with each little golden lilo topped with a swipe of fresh tomato and a single anchovy.

  • Restaurants
  • Vietnamese
  • Rosebery
  • price 1 of 4

The titular, lacey-edged, coconutty pancakes in a luminous turmeric gold envelope contains a core of barbecued lemongrass chicken. Break it up, add pickled onion, carrot, fresh shiso and mint leaves, and ferry the lot to your mouth in rafts of cos lettuce. It’s a culinary chimera, scoring high marks on the light-and-fresh score as as well as the fried-and-delicious one. 

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