Let’s play Count the Concepts. For a start, Barangaroo’s new 12-Micron is named for a superfine grade of merino wool fibre, which, “much like an ingredient in the kitchen”, I’m told, “is refined into a beautiful garment”. Uh-huh.
Second, the smart SJB Architecture interior design breaks up the vast space into corrals variously devoted to drinking, dining and dessert, with an unspoken invitation to move from one to the next.
Third, the “proudly Australian” menu is divided into Ocean, Land, From the Grill, Air, and The Milk Artists (cheese), accompanied by opaque and increasingly meaningless lines. Ocean is “one who swims free and consumes the weak”. Land is “to graze on the land the gods gave them”. Uh-huh.
Fourth, there’s a dedicated 64-seat dessert bar. Yes, I know all restaurants serve desserts anyway, but this is A Concept, OK? Masterminded by Melbourne patissier Darren Purchese of Burch & Purchese Sweet Studio, the 12-strong dessert list can be amplified into three, five and seven-course dessert tasting menus. (Skip to the end if you’re the type who likes dessert first.)
Chef Justin Wise, from Melbourne’s The Press Club and The Point at Albert Park, is all about multiple techniques and clever composition. Paperbark-baked vegetables ($18) is an autumnal gathering of pickled and baked-to-order heirloom carrots, radish, jicama and golden beetroot served on a scorched strip of bark, although under-cooking leaves the pickle as the dominant flavour.
Rice paper rolls filled with Moreton Bay bug, purple carrot strips and Vietnamese mint ($23) need more than an off-kilter lemon aspen nam jim dipping sauce to differentiate themselves from take-away.
The most satisfying food comes from the open kitchen’s magnificent rotisserie. Half a crisp-skinned chicken ($27) is jointed and sent out with roasted chicken fat potatoes, char-grilled baby corn, and a classic jus gras from the captured cooking juices. The chef probably doesn’t think he’s done enough to it, but there you go.
A festival of lamby bits from sous vide’d loin to slow-cooked shoulder and seared sweetbread is called an Homage to Flinders Island ($29), all dressed up with ironbark honey, warrigal greens, curled ribbons of zucchini and a finger of mealy-tasting baked damper. Good, just difficult to slice with the superfine Cutipol cutlery.
Cocktails are well-made, and the 400-strong wine list includes a joyful, plummy 2015 Farr Rising gamay from Bannockburn ($87).
But it’s time to move to the dessert counter, where patisserie chef Nichole Horvath deconstructs Purchese’s cakes into plated desserts of cream, jelly, sponge, mousse, curds, parfait, mousse, marshmallow, crumb and powder from a battalion of plastic containers.
Gin and Tonic is a cute idea ($22), with its 14 different elements flavoured with gin, lime, and white chocolate; and a rich, glossy combo of olive oil chocolate ganache, toast ice cream and smoked salt ($18) is a glamorous version of Spain’s bitterly dark chocolate on toast. I find it all a bit cool and clinical; more tweezer-plated art than food; but people who love desserts will go predictably ga-ga.
A multitude of concepts is no bad thing for an ambitious 230-seater aimed at the city crowd, seven days a week. There are so many people out there who don’t really know what they want, and here, they’ll almost certainly be able to get it.
Address Level 2, 100 Barangaroo Avenue, Sydney
Phone 02 8322 2075 12micron.com.au
Cost About $140
Open Daily noon-late
Worst bit Super-slim cutlery that’s like eating with chopsticks
Best bit The rotisserie
Go-to dish Roast chicken with chicken fat potatoes and corn, $27
Terry Durack is chief restaurant critic for The Sydney Morning Herald and senior reviewer for the Good Food Guide. This rating is based on the Good Food Guide scoring system.