Pizza Farnese with mozzarella, garlic, prawns and chilli from Pizzeria Bellucci at the Bankstown Sports Club. Photo: Simon Alekna
Everyone knows the feeling of "discovering" a brilliant band no one else seems to know about – that surprised enjoyment laced, perhaps, with a hint of smugness at being ahead of the pack.
The same high comes from stumbling across an eatery with great food at fair prices. There's the initial contentment at getting a good feed, then the urge to tell the world about it, countered by a territorial desire to keep it secret.
As editor of The Sydney Morning Herald's Good Food Under $30 guide, I've had to overcome the "territorial" feelings but I do love the odd occasion when a reviewer raves about a place I've sent them to, surprised at not having heard more about it already.
Baitong Prawns from Bai Tong Thai, Tempe. Photo: Fiona Morris
These "under the radar" eats might be off the beaten track, lost in a crowd, out of place, rendered unnoticeable by their modest looks, coveted by locals not keen to share – whatever the case, we're surprised we don't hear more about them.
Tempe might be home to some terrific artisan food producers but in terms of sit-down eats, IKEA meatballs are the most some hope for.
Taiwanese beef soup from Taipei Chef, Artamon. Photo: Steven Siewert
That is, unless they know about this smart eatery and its top Thai chef, formerly at Pomegranate Thai in Balmain. Try the Chiang Mai-style duck curry topped with crispy egg noodles. It's the real deal. 703 Princes Highway, Tempe 8668 4800
Less than a year old, this relaxed cafe across from West Ryde train station is a godsend.
Fresh, flavour-packed salads, a mean bacon-and-egg roll, and – if you're up for indulgence – an awesome affogato made with two scoops of Serendipity white chocolate ice-cream and a double shot of espresso.
65 Ryedale Road, West Ryde 8021 2838
HOOKED GOURMET SEAFOOD
Hooked is an understatement as much as a name, since there's so much to love about this modest, family-run fish and chipper. Your choice of fish cooked how you like it, herby fish cakes, oysters, prawn skewers, BYO – you'll be hooked, too, soon enough. 97 Greenwich Road, Greenwich 9437 4559
LAO FU QING
This long, glass-fronted eatery gets a little overlooked among a strip of dumpling-specialist restaurants with "Shanghai" in their name. You can get dumplings here, too, but the standout dish on a broad Chinese menu is Gulin noodles with fried peanuts, spring onion, coriander, pickled cabbage and thin slices of beef.
It's slippery, slurpy, crunchy and full of flavour. 243 Liverpool Road, Ashfield 9716 6838
The words "cheap and cheerful" are usually lost in translation in this part of Sydney but this Japanese restaurant, hiding for a good decade in quiet cobbled lane off Argyle Street, is exactly that. All the favourites are here (shigiyaki – deep-fried eggplant with miso – is irresistible) and lunchtime specials are a steal. 7 Cambridge Street, The Rocks 9241 1364
Bankstown, with its abundance of Vietnamese and Lebanese eateries, isn't the place you'd expect to find an over-the-top "Little Italy" but that's what they've created inside this epic sports club.
It's high on novelty value thanks to a terracotta-toned piazza setting but comes through with the goods – crisp, chewy-based pizza, with gelato to follow. Very family friendly and lots of fun. Bankstown Sports Club, 8 Greenfield Parade, Bankstown 9722 9810
All about rustic Italian flavours and wood-fired goodness, this smart-casual trattoria has won plenty of fans but not much fanfare. Go for classic pizza choices or gnocchi made from scratch by the owner's mum. Yum! 41 Crown Street, Woolloomooloo 9331 8566
A descendant of Marrickville's famous Bay Tinh Vietnamese restaurant, this suburban gem is great for groups with its share-friendly and hands-on dishes – try pork skewers with vermicelli noodles and salad, wrap them in lettuce, add hoisin sauce and scoff. 32A Flushcombe Road, Blacktown 9831 1974
The most sought after dish at this low-key Taiwanese restaurant is tea-smoked chicken, and with skin so crisp and flesh so fragrant and tender, it's no surprise. The attentive service and homely vibe add to the appeal, and lunch specials are worth seeking out, too. 1a Broughton Road, Artarmon 9419 7119
Unofficial title holder of Sydney's hardest to find restaurant, U.E. is accessed through swinging doors at the end of an alleyway off Hill (not John) Street.
Chinese egg noodle soup is the go-to dish, with wonton, duck, beef or pork hock. But first you have to find it. Shop 4a, 117 John Street, Cabramatta 9727 0014
Thanks to our readers who've shared some of their favourites on twitter and facebook (@smhgoodfoodu30, facebook.com/smhgoodfoodunder30).
The Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Under $30 is available in bookshops and at The Sydney Morning Herald online shop (smhshop.com.au) for $10.