We've asked the Good Food team of experts to put down their knives, forks and chopsticks and to step away from their martini glasses and café lattes for a moment in order to nominate their besties for the year of 2012 – and the results show what a spectacular year of openings, innovations and fresh new thinking it has been. Yes there have been closures as well, but the sadness has been swept away by the pleasures of the new. These are the places that are cutting it right now and defining the year of eating and drinking to come.
Check out the winning nominations and the runners-up here, and post your nominations and suggestions as well, so that this becomes the very best of the bests for 2012.
Best new restaurant
Winner: Mr Wong
Who's the classiest, brassiest Chinese restaurant in town, with the best yum cha? Mr Wong! Mr Wong! Team Merivale has transformed the old Tank nightclub into a self-contained Chinatown, complete with dim sum kitchen, roast meats counter and moody colonial dive bar. Chefs Dan Hong, Jowett Yu and Eric Koh, take a bow for steaming up Sydney's Chinese dining.
3 Bridge Lane, Sydney, 9240 3000
Runner-up: MoVida Sydney
Frank Camorra, founder of Melbourne's mighty MoVida Spanish empire, has landed in the heartland of contemporary Sydney dining (Surry Hills) with his Josper grill, a crateload of Spanish wine and a uncliched menu of smoky, bloky Catalan and Galician dishes. The hype is justified.
50 Holt Street, Surry Hills, 8964 7642
These are the places that are cutting it right now and defining the year of eating and drinking to come.
Best new on-trend restaurant
This modern-day mum-and-dad restaurant for hipsters in Newtown presses all the trending buttons, with its communal table, share plates, house filtered and carbonated water, organic and biodynamic-led wine list, bare tables, loud music, bad-ass American food (oyster po'boys, cold-smoked fried chicken) and peanut butter and banana sundaes.
33 Enmore Rd, Newtown, 8068 1473
Runner-up: The Animal
The newly restored Newtown Hotel whacks the trend meter pretty hard with its reinvented corner pub vibe and cutesy beer garden. Upstairs at The Animal, they're going for whole beast cooking, spit roast suckling pig, lamb souvlaki, share plates, graffiti walls, wine taps and Bigger Than Jesus cocktails.
Newtown Hotel, 174 King St, Newtown, 9557 6399
Best new under $30
Winner: Kitchen by Mike
Michael McEnearney's cool canteen at one end of the Koskela design emporium warehouse in Rosebery re-writes what it is to be a café, by concentrating on simple, seasonal food, brilliant house-baked bread, and sustainable fish such as blue mackerel. Order and pay at the counter, grab a table, and check out the food store for dinner.
1/85 Dunning Avenue, Roseberry, 9045 0910
Runner-up: Green Peppercorn
The restaurant, with its cocktail bar and dedicated dessert bar, is dead smart with a tuk tuk parked inside proving irresistible to restless kids. The food's just as sophisticated: DIY miang kham is a betel leaf bundle of explosive flavours while coarse Lao sausages are sweetly sticky, brightened with kaffir lime leaf tresses.
1–3 Hamilton Road, Fairfield, 9724 7842
Best new café
Winner: Reuben Hills
It opened in Surry Hills on New Year's Day, 2012, and slayed us with its mix of earthy, full-bodied coffee roasted on site, coffee origin-inspired menu ( crab tacos, chorizo grits, tortillas with black beans and white cheese) and free public "cupping" sessions on Fridays.
61 Albion Street, Surry Hills, 9211 5556
Runner-up: Dose Espresso
A bright and breezy newcomer to the rolling hills of Willoughby, Dose is stocked with new-brew apparatus and its very own roaster, and fuelled by well-made Caffe Di Gabriel espresso and high-fibre (and delicious) Hippie Lane treats.
6/187-191 High Street, Willoughby, 9967 2552
Best new food truck
Winner: Eat Art Truck
Former Tetsuya sous chef Stuart McGill says he wants to make great food accessible to all of Sydneysiders at all times of the day and night. We say his “progressive street food” (a mix of Down South barbecue with Tokyo pop) is food you would chase down the street.
Runner-up: Al Carbon
Inspired by the flame-grill barbecues of Sonora and Baja in north west Mexico, Attila Yilmaz has created a crazy-long, fold-out, pop-up Mexican street food stall on wheels that sends out top-notch soft-shell tacos, tostadas and quesadillas. www.alcarbon.com.au Twitter: @alcarbontacos
Best new global gem
Winner: Via Napoli
The contest for Sydney's best pizza heated to scorching point this year but this quirky neighbourhood joint seems to have the edge. That's the slightly raised, fluffy, chewy, toasty edge that pizzaiolo Luigi Esposito puts around a classic Naples margherita or a topping of sausage with cime di rapa.
3/141 Longueville Road, Lane Cove, 9428 3297
Just as Din Tai Fung sparked a world-wide passion for dumplings, the Japan-based global roaming Ippudo chain is on a mission to do the same for ramen noodles. They've brought their obsessive attention to detail with them, too – at the first Australian outlet in Westfield Sydney, you can even order your noodles hardest, harder, hard, normal or soft.
L5, Westfield Sydney, corner of Market and Pitt streets
Best new pub
Winner: Le Pub
Only open for a few weeks now, the Parisian bistro-style Le Pub in King Street has made an immediate splash with its delicious French-inspired food and an innovative fit-out that has turned a dungeon into a must-visit destination. Don't leave without trying the mouth-watering lamb neck (collet d'agneau) with quinoa and herb crumb.
66 King St, Sydney, 9262 3277
Runner-up: The Imperial, Paddington
What the relaunched Imperial has over its rivals in the pretty packed pub area of Oxford Street is a strong commitment to excellent service and engagement with the local community. It helps that the food is pretty good, too.
252 Oxford Street, Paddington, 9331 2023
Best new wine
Winner: Courabyra 805 Tumbarumba Pinot Noir Chardonnay Pinot Meunier 2001
Out of nowhere came an almost shockingly good new sparkling wine: the Courabyra 805 Tumbarumba Pinot Noir Chardonnay Pinot Meunier 2001 ($55). Not only a great wine, but beautifully aged . . . and sparkling – which has a higher degree of difficulty than most winestyles. The "fizzicist" who put the bubbles in it was Hardy's/Arras sparkling winemaker Ed Carr, which helps explain it. But vineyard owner Cathy Gairn is obviously growing superb grapes, too.
Runner-up: Ruggabellus Archaeus 2010
Ruggabellus ($40) is Abel Gibson's new Barossa Valley wine company. The first release included three superb 2010s and a 2011 – all reds, vinified with varying degrees of whole-bunch fermentation – headed up by this outstanding shiraz mataro grenache blend.
Best new bar
Winner: Arcadia Liquors
From the outside, it looks like your best mate's grandmother's place. On the inside, it's a cheap and cheerful space filled top to bottom with pot plants, old bric-a-brac, friendly bartenders, good drinks and snacks with a German bent. The perfect neighbourhood bar.
7 Cope Street, Redfern
Who knew sherry would have its day again? Spaniard Frank Dilernia has opened a fine CBD laneway bar with a mind-boggling sherry list alongside rich, Mediterranean tapas and serious cocktails. The chic, red-lit bolthole is the place to take a business partner, a hot date, a hard-to-impress tourist or nobody but yourself.
6-8 Bulletin Place, Sydney
Contributors: Terry Durack, Jill Dupleix, Joanna Savill, Huon Hooke, Keith Austin, Rachel Olding, Angie Schiavone.
Now it's over to you. Did your favourite new bar, restaurant, bottleshop or wine of 2012 make the list? Share your recommendation in the comments below.