Industry forecasters predicting austere venues and a return to comfort food might need to revise. Because if the past few weeks of restaurant opening action are an indicator, luxury is the buzzword for Sydney start-ups.
The new 11-seat $180-a-head Kuon Omakase is already booked out months ahead, Darlinghurst's new arrival, The Mayflower, is a cafe wed to truffles and caviar, and a Barangaroo debutante takes its name from a premium piece of produce.
"We called it Marble because of the marbling from wagyu," says restaurateur David Bae.
Buoyed by the success of his Surry Hills start-up Tokki, Bae was originally going to open a Korean barbecue restaurant at the Barangaroo site, next to Peter's of Kensington. "But there are a lot of city workers here, and we didn't want their suits smelling of smoke."
So, the Marble team went more upmarket. You can still get barbecue dishes, which are prepared in the kitchen rather than at the table, but its Korean and Japanese influences are bold.
"We're doing a sashimi wrapped in a premium dried seaweed from Korea that's hard to get in Australia," says Bae. "It's hand-dried and looks like a bird's nest. We dunk it first in the deep-fryer."
Bae is steeped in food lineage. His father one of the pioneers of Korean barbecue in Australia, operating a restaurant in Hurlstone Park in the mid-1990s. Like his father, Bae broke ground, bringing the frozen yoghurt craze here "before there was one on every corner".
He's hopeful the 100-seat Marble will have longevity, forging a path for "Korean-Japanese izakaya-style fusion".
Open Tue-Sat 5.30-late.
Tower 1, shop 5, 100 Barangaroo Avenue, Barangaroo, marblebbq.com.au