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.

Crumbed Rottnest Island herring at Madalena’s, South Fremantle

In the space of a year, this neighbourhood bar has fast become one of my happy places. And as much as I love the tantalising prospect of swimming at South Beach before lunch and the certainty there’s going to be something cold and interesting to drink, it’s largely the inspired seafood cooking of Adam Rees that lures me to South Fremantle. Time under influential Melbourne chef Andrew McConnell, plus a close working relationship with Fins Seafood equals smart, polished seafood cooking seldom seen in Perth. Case in point: the butterflied and crumbed Rottnest Island herring, a masterclass in elevating an under-loved fish.

Max Veenhuyzen, Perth editor-at-large

Tomato Soup at Toastface Grillah Wolf Lane

This toastie spot may not be a new player on the Perth sanga scene, but their Wolf Lane flagship – which opened earlier this year – has plenty of fresh things going on. Toastface does soups now, and it’s a genuine game-changer. Here in Australia, we’re not used to dipping our toasties in soup; over in the States though, it’s the definitive way to do it. The house-made tomato soup here comes in three sizes, and it’s got that Goldilocks balance – thick enough to dip, thin enough to sip. Toastface has managed to add another dimension of flavour to toasties that were already peerless. Impressive, tasty stuff.

– Callum McDermott, Directory editor

Grilled Futari wagyu beef sandwich at Hearth, CBD
Part Japanese Wagyu sando (beef sandwich), part elevated pub steak sandwich: this powerhouse bar snack is the new-school barbeque brilliance of the Ritz-Carlton’s ground floor restaurant in microcosm. The beef is premium Wagyu reared at Two People’s Bay in Albany, the bread is pillowy brioche, and dinky-di condiments à la bush tomato ketchup, pickled youlk and juicy pigface – also known as “bain” in the local Nyoongar language – give this mighty sanga a distinct West Aussie twang.

Max Veenhuyzen, Perth editor-at-large

Beef roll, chimichurri, charred short rib, bone marrow at The Royal, Perth

When you pop into a pub for a quick lunch and order the beef sandwich, you don't usually expect it to arrive with a hunk of bone on the side. Well, that's what you get at The Royal. This seemingly simple sandwich is a revelation. From the unreasonably crisp-but-not-burnt dinner rolls, to the soft, slow-cooked beef, punchy chimichurri and unctuous bone marrow ready for scooping, this one’s an instant Perth classic. The roasted corn bread with maple buttercream is absolute perfection – and irresistible at just $8.

– Martin Eade, contributor

Beef tartare frybake at Panama Social, Northbridge

The geographical indicator “neotropical” (the region extending south, east and west around Mexico’s central plateau) was a new one to me until Panama Social, a late-night bar from the Tiny’s and Mary Street Bakery crew, opened at the start of the year. The paint job was bright, the drinks were potent and Chris Howard was clearly enjoying his first hit-out as a head chef. Although Howard has brought ‘nuff delicious things to the party, none was more gratifying than this puffy Caribbean fried bread crammed with raw beef, crisp fried anchovies and raw onion.

Max Veenhuyzen, Perth editor-at-large

Butterflied Rottnest Island herring with pickled cucumber, house-made aioli and lemon at Madalena's, South Fremantle

It's not hard to see why Adam Rees was recently awarded The West Australian Good Food Guide Young Chef of the Year for his inventive yet simple local seafood cooking at South Fremantle's Madalena's. Rees's herring – which comes butterflied, deboned, coarsely crumbed and fried, with the head left on – is just one example of the way he elevates staple West Aussie ingredients to new heights. The herring – as with all the seafood at Madalena's – is supplied by local fishmongers Fins Seafood, whose sustainable and transparent approach to reshaping the wholesale seafood industry has gained traction in 2019. This dish wouldn't be out of place enjoyed straight from paper on the sand at Rottnest Island itself, but it's a real winner when paired with a bowl of the beachside boteco's hand-cut chips and a glass of low-intervention wine from a list lovingly selected by older brother and owner Joel Rees.

– Emma Pegrum, contributor

Brioche crab toasts at Le Rebelle, Highgate

I didn’t think a (sort-of) French restaurant was going to be my favourite newcomer of the year. Then again, Le Rebelle is no colour-by-numbers bistro. Husband-and-wife owners Sarah and Liam Atkinson – restaurant manager and chef respectively – love Old World dining as much as they do the art of hospitality, and their sincerity shines through in every aspect of their operation. Fingers of brioche topped with crab meat and sharpened with pickles and a lemony mayo make for an instant signature Yet the carte is filled with highlights; duck frites make for a cool remix on steak and chips, while the crudites and vegan dipping sauce make eating your veg a breeze.

Max Veenhuyzen, Perth editor-at-large

“Use Your Illusion” cocktail at Panama Social, Northbridge

Long live the Midori Illusion shaker. There is a time and a place for serious cocktails, but this is Perth and our summers are long and hot and the only thing that will quench a thirst is something punchy, fun, and served in a plastic cocktail shaker. Panama Social's version is kicked up a notch with pineapple tepache and falernum because, as my hangovers like to remind me, we're not 18 anymore.

– Briony Whitton, contributor