Restaurants that seat fewer than a dozen customers are the dream of chefs and the nightmare of financial advisors.
But it's a counter-trend gaining serious traction in an otherwise cautious restaurant market, with two pint-sized high-end restaurants opening in Sydney next month.
Kenny Lee, the Sydney food-preneur behind cafes, restaurants and a rooftop venue, confirmed he's co-owner of Omakase – an 11-seater with a $180-a-head set menu – opening in late April next to the Kengo Kuma building on Little Hay Street at Darling Square.
It will be joined by another diminutive opening slated for next month, a 10-seater, Teramoto by Kuro, on Kent Street.
The trend isn't confined to Sydney either. One of the hottest tickets in Brisbane is the 10-seat Joy restaurant.
Lee says neither auspicious numbers nor feng shui played a part in the odd number of seats at Omakase.
"Eleven is the maximum number we could fit in," he explains. Despite high rent and wages in Australia, Lee maintains the restaurant can be run with a lean team of about five.
Still, that's nearly one staff member for every two diners.
"In Japan you find a lot of really small restaurants like this, and given the set menu is based on the best [chef and co-owner] Hideaki Fukada sources each day, there'll be little wastage."
Up the road at the soon-to-open 10-seater at Kuro, owner Alan Wong believes there's room for high-end venues in city where "the chef is in front of you telling you what you're eating and where it's from".
Wong's business model is slightly different – he is already hedging his bets by opening it as a venue within a venue, with the space already operating as a brew bar by day with a more accessible eatery.
What's clear is early indications show 2020 is shaping up as the year when small was big again.