It's not an expensive fine dining restaurant that's picked up the coveted top spot at this year's Cuisine Good Food Awards. Nor does 2018's best dish sound much like a fanciful feat of gastronomy.

But it is a quintessentially Kiwi bite: As a paua pie from Amisfield Bistro in Otago is deemed New Zealand's best dish, a Japanese restaurant with a $40 lunch deal has taken out the coveted title of Restaurant of the Year at last night's annual awards ceremony.

Among just four restaurants this year to receive full marks under Cuisine's "hat" rating system, Cocoro in Auckland's Ponsonby has beaten out fellow triple hatters Clooney, Kazuya and Roots, in Canterbury, for the top spot.

Vittoria Coffee Restaurant of the Year, Cocoro. Pictured, chef Makoto Tokuyama. Photos / Supplied
Vittoria Coffee Restaurant of the Year, Cocoro. Pictured, chef Makoto Tokuyama. Photos / Supplied

And as Roots' Guilio Sturla won Chef of the Year, Monique Fiso, praised for her Michelin-style Maori cuisine, was awarded the Cuisine New Zealand Future Food Legend award.

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Meanwhile, Al Brown's Depot added to its long list of accolades, taking home 2018's award for Best Casual Dining Restaurant.

Al Brown remains king of New Zealand's casual dining scene. Photo / Supplied
Al Brown remains king of New Zealand's casual dining scene. Photo / Supplied

in St Kevin's Arcade won Best Specialist Restaurant for its Lebanese cuisine.

These days, what would a New Zealand food awards line-up be without Sid Sahrawat? Not surprisingly, 2018's Best Metropolitan Restaurant is Cassia. For those in the capital, special mention was made in this category for Wellington restaurant Ortega.

Wellington staple Logan Brown, established in 1996, received the Long-Term Player award this year while the city's Charley Noble and Noble Rot, won the Best Drinks List and Best Wine Experience respectively.

Beyond the bigger centres, Hamilton's Palate impressed the judges with its regional prowess, winning the Best Regional Restaurant award.

Best Regional Restaurant, Palate in Hamilton. Pictured, Mat McLean. Photos / Supplied
Best Regional Restaurant, Palate in Hamilton. Pictured, Mat McLean. Photos / Supplied

Lead assessor of the awards, Kerry Tyack, acknowledged the country is experiencing a restaurant industry boom.

"This year we had a particularly challenging task in determining the winners and hatted restaurants – there have been an unprecedented number of new entrants into the industry, myriad changes of chefs, new menu directions and a host of other developments – including the rise of casual dining – all of which made the assessment task more complex than ever," says Tyack.

The awards follow the Cuisine Top 100 list, announced in September.

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Here is the full list of winners and the restaurants awarded one, two and three hats.

Vittoria Coffee Restaurant of the Year
COCORO - Auckland

Santa Vittoria Chef of the Year
Giulio Sturla - Roots - Canterbury - Book Now

Best Metropolitan Restaurant
Cassia - Auckland with special mention for Ortega Wellington - Book Now

SILERE Best Regional Restaurant
Palate - Hamilton - Book Now

Estrella Damm Best Specialist Restaurant
Gemmayze St - Auckland - Book Now

Epicure Trading Best Casual Dining Restaurant
Depot - Auckland - Book Now

De'Longhi Restaurant Personality
Tony Stewart - Clooney - Auckland

Ora King Salmon Innovation Award
Vaughan Mabee - Amisfield Bistro – Central Otago with special mention for Alex Davies

Yellow Brick Road Best Winery Restaurant
Elephant Hill - Hawkes Bay - Book Now

Negociants New Zealand Best Wine Experience
Noble Rot - Wellington - Book Now

Best Drinks List
Charley Noble - Wellington - Book Now

Cuisine New Zealand Future Food Legend
Monique Fiso

Pead PR New Zealand Long-Term Player
Logan Brown - Wellington - Book Now

Whitestone Cheese Best NZ Dish
Paua Pie - Vaughan Mabee - Amisfield Bistro

Three Hats

Clooney
Cocoro
Kazuya - Book Now
Roots - Book Now

Two Hats

Amisfield Bistro - Book Now
Apero - Book Now
Bistronomy - Book Now
Black Estate - Book Now
Cassia - Book Now
Craggy Range Restaurant
Elephant Hill - Book Now
Hopgood's & Co - Book Now
Logan Brown - Book Now
Noble Rot - Book Now
Ortega Fish Shack - Book Now
Pacifica - Book Now
Palate - Book Now
Sidart - Book Now
The Grill by Sean Connolly - Book Now
The Sugar Club - Book Now
Urban Oyster Bar & Eatery - Book Now
Whitebait - Book Now

One Hat

Amayjen
Arbour - Book Now
Azabu - Book Now
Baduzzi - Book Now
Botswana Butchery – Queenstown - Book Now
Bracu - Book Now
Capitol - Book Now
Cazador - Book Now
Chameleon
Charley Noble - Book Now
Chillingworth Road
Chim Choo Ree - Book Now
Culprit - Book Now
Depot - Book Now
Field & Green - Book Now
Gatherings - Book Now
Gemmayze St - Book Now
Gusto at the Grand - Book Now
Loretta - Book Now
Masu by Nic Watt - Book Now
Monte Cervino - Book Now
O'Connell St Bistro - Book Now
Pasta & Cuore - Book Now
Rata - Book Now
Rita
Salty Pidgin - Book Now
Shepherd - Book Now
Te Awa Winery Restaurant - Book Now
The Bistro - Book Now
The Engine Room - Book Now
WBC - Book Now