The rules are simple: the venue has to have opened this year (or in late ’18 at a stretch) with major revamps also getting a hall pass. And the dish (or drink) must be one we can’t get out of our heads. There were a few repeats – Nido, and in particular its gnocco fritto – came up again, and again, and again. Here’s what else we loved this year.

FOOD

Rootello Bonnato at Nido, Hyde Park
Some dishes are too clever for their own good and lose the essence of what diners really want – a simply delicious meal. Nido’s rootello bonnato delivers on the latter, and then some. The riff on vitello tonnato has smarts and substance and, thanks to a golden crown of cured and shaved egg yolk, it’s got looks, too. Chefs Max Sharrad and Laura Cassai reimagine the classic northern Italian dish – cold, sliced veal in a creamy tuna sauce – by subbing in raw kangaroo and bonito mayo, with crispy and pickled shallots and a sprinkling of capers. It’s a jumble of textures and cultures and perfectly balanced flavours. Order it with a side of gnocco fritto – salty, pillowy fried bread – for a deeply comforting, deeply delicious time.
– Daniela Frangos, editor Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth

Zucchini scapece at Madre, CBD
The pizza here rocked my world, obvi. It was always going to – the place has Pizzateca DNA coursing through its veins. But let’s talk zucchini for a second. The wafer-thin discs are deep-fried then marinated in white balsamic, garlic, mint, pepper and olive oil. Kinda crisp, kinda saucy, highly addictive. I frisbeed half the pile into my mouth before my date even realised.
– Tomas Telegramma, Things to Do editor

Gnocco fritto with whipped ricotta at Nido, Hyde Park
A primi plate at Nido not only found itself at the top of my favourite dish list for 2019 – it shot the restaurant from which it was born to the top of my favourite new restaurants list, too. The plate I’m talking about is the whipped ricotta, which comes spotted with black pepper and soaked in honey. Whipped cheeses popped up on countless starter menus this year (I've done the rounds), but for me, none compare to this one. Do yourself a favour and mop it up with the gnocco fritto – some sort of deep-fried bread-slash-thick-pancake concoction that, when covered in honey from the ricotta, reminds me of my Yia Yia’s loukoumades (Greek honey balls). I can’t tell you if the combo is sweet or savoury – but I can tell you it’s damn good. And really quite sticky.
– Emily Taliangis, Audience Growth editor

Gnocco fritto at Nido, Hyde Park
The last item on this menu’s primi section reads, “… with gnocco fritto”. That’s because all preceding items are incomplete without it. Crunchy and tangibly salty on the outside, pillowy yet somehow impeccably chewy on the inside – I’d go as far as to call it a textural revelation. That’s the power of fried dough, people.
– Tomas Telegramma, Things to Do editor

Takoyaki arancini and the SSC sando at Kosho, North Adelaide
Our table made its way through 18 different dishes when we hit up Kosho just before it opened in late October. Each plate was returned to the kitchen without a scrap left on it. Two made my 2019 best list:

It takes balls to mash-up classic dishes from very different cultures. But the octopus-rice-balls and Kewpie mayo from Kosho chefs Jae Hyun-Park and Fabien Streit exemplify the virtues of cross-cultural exploration.

Crunchy, spicy, fluffy, fresh. The soft-shell crab sandwich ticked all boxes. The hand-held appetiser of deep-fried crab between white bread (no crusts, as is customary in Japan) was served with a wasabi and Fuji apple slaw.
– Tim Watts, contributor

Pig’s head fritti at Leigh Street Wine Room, CBD
I really could have picked any one of Nathan Sasi’s dishes: his house-made buffalo curd with honeycomb (and wafer-thin crunchy crackers to swipe through it); his pillowy sheep’s-milk ricotta gnudi with cacio e pepe; his rigatoni with tripe and sweetbreads – an ideal entry point for diners who’d usually steer clear of offal. But Sasi’s pig’s head fritti really knocks it out of the park. The crumbed and fried cubed mouthfuls of pig’s-head meat are so much more appealing than their menu description would have you believe. Served with aioli and ribbons of “Zuni-style” pickles (named after those at San Francisco’s Zuni Cafe), they’re perfectly balanced, meaty little morsels and the perfect start to a long evening of memorable snacks. Let somm Liinaa Berry select the wine and you’re in for a good time.
– Daniela Frangos, editor Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth

Sicilian anchovy, stracciatella, chilli at Nido, Hyde Park
This beauty is the whole package; everything you need in a ‘snack’. The crispy bread, oozy stracciatella and perfectly salty anchovy combine in a completely delightful, finger-dripping experience at this new restaurant favourite. The smattering of chilli sauce on top completes the experience – but don’t forget to mop up all the inevitable creamy drops on your plate with your last bite. Accompany with a Negroni and that’s amore.
– Ellen Morgan, contributor

Bibim-guksu (spicy noodle salad) at Plus 82 Gogi, CBD
When Korean barbeque sides are as good as this one, it's all too easy to forget to look after what's cooking on your table's grill. The spicy noodle salad at Gogi is simple but packs a punch: it's a combination of noodles, kimchi, mushrooms, apples and various vegetables, covered in just the right amount of gochujang (red chilli paste). It's a little sweet, a little sour, and a lot spicy.
– Nicole Wedding, contributor

The Brunch Burger at Gang Gang, Parkside
Bacon and egg burgers are to suburban cafes what gin Martinis are to cocktail bars; every menu has one, and it better be a knockout. Morgen Wynn and Nina Hadinata know their way around a burg – better than most – and Gang Gang’s “The Big Poppa” is something else. It’s stacked with bacon, egg, a hash brown, smashed avocado, rocket and Hadinata’s own Big Mac-style sauce. If you don’t leave still licking yolk off your wrist, you’ve missed the point.
– Tim Watts, contributor

Strawberry sorbet at Bottega Gelateria, Henley Beach
Most strawberry-flavoured things are not for me. That sickly, artificial tang – ugh. So when Bottega’s owner handed me a spoon of strawberry sorbet during an interview-slash-tasting, I was ready to deliver one of those you’ve-slaved-over-this-so-I’ll-pretend-it’s-delicious smiles. But I was too presumptuous. Its flavour and texture (feat. seeds) better evoke the fruit than any other version I’ve had. It’s worth lining up for, if it comes to that … which it often does.
– Tomas Telegramma, Things to Do editor

Honey nut tart with olive oil ice cream at Stem, CBD
The honey nut tart with olive oil ice cream was hands down, my standout dessert this year. Chef Michael Proud makes an insane base, and the flavour combination comes from years of experience. Served warm, the silky olive oil ice cream is everything you could want and more. I dream about this dish.
– Josie Withers, contributor

Chilli Salt Lamb Ribs at Noi Vietnamese Eatery, Fullarton
Quang Nguyen traded an ice cream churner for a custom-made wood-fired grill when he (and family) opened Noi Vietnamese Eatery in Fullarton. His lamb ribs – slow-cooked and then charred – are drizzled with a topline of chilli and mint sauce. It’s classic Aussie barbie meets Vietnamese street food, and it’s unmissable.
– Tim Watts, contributor

Rum baba at Madre, CBD
Chef Ettore Bertonati knows a thing or two about pizzas and fermentation. If I could eat everything on the menu I'd give it a red-hot go. His pizzas are to die for, and so is their rum baba. My tip – over-order just a little so you can try as much as possible. Oh, and of course the fit-out by RAD Studio is a dream.
– Josie Withers, contributor

DRINKS

Bright Young Pink, The Other Right at Leigh Street Wine Room, CBD
Aptly named, this vivacious little pet-nat rosé from Adelaide Hills producer The Other Right is as delicious as it looks. Effortlessly playful and (alarmingly) drinkable, Bright Young Pink is a pinot noir/pinot gris/chardonnay blend of pure pink fizzy joy.
– Luke Teakle, contributor

The coffee at Intersection, CBD
Freshly squeezed OJ. Grilled cheese on toast. There’s great pleasure in uncomplicated things – and the coffee at Intersection is precisely that. Black or white, short or long, it’s always expertly made and served with a smile (or a chat, given the opportunity). Intersection is hands-down my number-one spot for nourishing the soul, as well as the body. It’s the only CBD coffee shop where the person pouring your latte may have also sourced, roasted and delivered the beans. They might even have laid bricks at the washing station where it was processed.
– Tim Watts, contributor

Pina Colada at 1000 Island, CBD
Sunny’s raucous new next-door neighbour 1000 Island took the perennially popular Pina Colada and, like the buzzing bar, turned the volume up a notch or two. They’ve augmented the knockout rum-pineapple-coconut combo with mango and walnut, which means the only problem is that it’s gone too quick. Don’t forget the flaming passionfruit on top, oh, and your Hawaiian shirt.
– Luke Teakle, contributor

Eternal Void oat milk coffee porter, Uraidla Brewery, Uraidla
Lamentably underrated, Uraidla Brewery is, in my opinion, churning out some of the best beers in the country, and their Eternal Void oat milk porter was far from an exception. As one of founder/head brewer Oscar Matthews’ hyper-small batch seasonal releases, this bad boy wasn’t around for long, but those who were lucky enough to indulge were in for a treat. The smooth, luscious mouthfeel is rounded out by a healthy dose of oats and a small kick of lactose – and with coffee sourced from local roasters Two Fish, this porter is a clear standout in a what’s quickly becoming a crowded category. If you missed this gem, don’t pass up on Uraidla’s hazy pales and IPAs, which are firmly planted in the elite echelon of Aussie east coast, IPA-style beers.
– Luke Teakle, contributor