What is Australian cuisine, and in particular, modern Australian cuisine? At 12-Micron, this means creating a space that showcases the very best this country has to offer, from the cuisine to the interior, from the produce to the plates they ultimately sit on. This is what Barangaroo’s latest stands for right down to its namesake, after the desirable fine 12-micron wool fibre which, much like an ingredient in the kitchen, can be refined into something beautiful and delicious.
“A venue impressive in looks and what it does, but accessible with pricing that is not intimidating” – Justin Wise, Executive Chef 12-Micron
If 12-Micron is an amalgamation of all things down under, we should definitely be doing it more often. Designed by SJB Architecture & Design, the venue is a spacious vessel that holds an impressive 230 seats in both restaurant, dessert kitchen and bar. Every element from the table seating to the floor-to-ceiling windows to the shelving where pristine water and wine glasses stack like works of art, has been carefully considered. Executive Chef Justin Wise is a proud parent who played a key role in establishing the vision of 12-Micron, the overall look and feel of the restaurant, right down to picking the cutlery. He says the mood of the room, the green and blue stone cobbles, was chosen to evoke the changing of colour of a gum leaf .
On this night we began with cocktails and oysters. Having such mobile food and drink that are very mobile enabled us to wander through the area and discover every nook, cranny and private dining area.
Pick your poison from two pulled straight from their cocktail menu . The Dark & Mysterious ($19) has Johnnie Walker Black label, Plum Pisco, Plymouth Sloe Gin, Vedrenne Crème de Cacao Blanc and a dash of Aztec Chocolate Bitters. Wine on Deck ($19) was made with Ketel One, Vedrenne Poire Williams, white wine grapes, lime, elderflower and egg white. Having only sampled the latter, I can attest to its nicely balanced sweet and sour flavour profile with a nice aroma from the elderflower.
It’s not long before we are ushered out of our plush, casual lounge seats and into the dining area where we would be served a set menu featuring items from Earth, Ocean, Land and Air. The first to arrive at our table are warm loaves of sourdough that taste fresh out of the oven. The bread ticks all the boxes, that baked goods scent which takes you back to your childhood bakery, pillowy innards and a respectable crust that encases it all. It was a bit of a shame that there was no butter to accompany.
Entrees to share are brought out next and first we have Cobia ($19) with baby leek ash, beach caviar, sea urchin emulsion . Cobia, or black kingfish, is often touted as wagyu of the sea for its fat content. It’s revered as a quality fish and one that Justin mentioned is a testament to his pledge to only serve high quality food. In this dish the cobia is all about the texture, the minute bounce back you get from biting into a nice thick piece of fish. The sea urchin emulsion and caviar are doing all of the heavy lifting for this dish flavour-wise. Lending a taste that is very much from the ocean.
The pickled mushrooms ($19) with celeriac, Mount Buffalo hazelnuts, and sorrel by contrast, has all the flavours of the Earth, tasting quite woody, like the embodiment of a forest. While the mushrooms didn’t taste that pickled, which might have made the dish a bit lighter, they were still the perfect accompaniment to the hazelnuts and the puree.
The arrival of the Skull Island king prawn steamed bun ($11 each) with wasabi, green mango, and tobiko was certainly an impressive sight. I loved that the prawn was grilled, giving it an extra element of smokiness. Prawns might otherwise not have a strong enough taste to pass it on to the bao. Unfortunately the bun itself was rather stale and dense in some areas for me. Bao fans would be extremely disappointed with this element, particularly when there are far more casual hole-in-the-wall types in Sydney that can one-up this element of the dish. I ended up leaving most of it behind but inhaling all of the prawn, tobiko and salad bits.
We’ve forayed into main course territory at this point. The alternate main that was offered to me was the Homage to Flinders Island ($29). The lamb is sourced from Flinders Island (hence the apt name) and is perfectly cooked with a uniquely “umami”-esque flavour profile. It’s hard to tell if this is from expert cooking and seasoning or the produce as the lamsb are fed a slightly salty diet due to their proximity to the sea. While the lamb is standout, what I didn’t expect to be such a highlight was the damper. It came as a dense piece of . It was not like any damper that I’ve had before and the closest thing I could imagine it tasting like is a cheese scone. I also really enjoyed the soft and moreish pieces of offal, it’s probably not for everyone but I liked having mouthfuls of the lamb with a tiny bit of offal to accompany it.
The second alternative main that night was the suckling pork ($38) with caramelised garlic, onions and preserved riberries . My dining partner who was the lucky recipient found that while it was tasty, the texture of the pork is a bit dry. It was also commented on that the skin could have been a bit thinner the way suckling pig often is at Chinese restaurants. The reason for this is that when it is too thick you don’t get that essential crisp to it.
A variety of wines were served that night but because I still have the unrefined alcohol palette of a high school leaver, I found my go-to was definitely the 2015 Chambers of Rutherglen Moscato for its sweeter notes. My dining partner favours instead the 2015 Sentio Rouge Sangiovese Shiraz , a wine that to her was remarkably light and fruity.
Last and certainly not least are the desserts that have been created by the hands of Darren Purchese. Purchese needs no introduction, his Burch & Purchese Sweet Studio and numerous television appearances are his resume. It was refreshing to hear from him that night about his long and fulfilling career starting with crazy flavour concoctions
“Crazy combinations in dessert should never be for the sake of it. The dishes should always stand out on their own and of course be delicious” – Darren Purchese
With so much hype surrounding what Purchese would serve us to finish the meal, I was happy and relieved that each mouthful lived up to his reputation. The Gin & Tonic ($22) is very likely one of the best new desserts I have had this year, whereas alcoholic desserts are not usually my first choice. Four Pillars Gin forms the base of this G&T, surrounded by globs of lemon and lime curd. There’s also a frozen cucumber and lime parfait, juniper and white chocolate mousse, fizzy chocolate shavings, pastilles and marshmallows. It sounds like the shopping list of a young child in a candy store but the tastes are so tangy, so mature and so evolved. Each component managed to stand out while still leaving room to be better as a whole.
With such a tough act to follow, I didn’t envy Mandarine ($22) at all, but it’s an entirely different beast of a dessert being more of an indulgent chocolate persuasion. The centerpiece is a dark chocolate mousse with a mandarin liquid middle. Surrounding it are burnt mandarin cream, mandarin jelly, salted caramel, Tonka bean ice cream and chocolate crumble with cocoa nibs. Chocolate desserts ordinarily send one into a food coma but I found that this was perfectly balanced and portioned which allowed us to sidestep falling into a slumber. Again, I’m also not usually an orange dessert kind of person but it was well received this time as the adequate balancing mechanism against the richness of dark chocolate.
While the question of what Australian cuisine is still remains open-ended, 12-Micron’s interpretation is certainly one not to be missed. Finishing the meal on such a high note and overlooking one of the most picturesque water views in Sydney makes one feel an overwhelming amount of gratitude to be living in a country where not just world-class produce is grown but the right talent and attitude is cultivated to really do our harvests justice.
Address: Level 2, 100 Barangaroo Avenue (enter via Watermans Quay), The Streets of Barangaroo
Contact: 02 8322 2075
Restaurant: Mon-Sun Lunch to Dinner
Bar: Mon-Sun 12pm-1am
Dessert Bar: Mon-Sun, Last bookings 11pm