Korean and fermentation are set to be the hottest trends on the Australian dining scene in 2014.
Burgers and sliders (baby burgers) were popular in 2013, with those served at Huxtaburger in Melbourne and the Marly Bar in Sydney among the best.
Gelato was the dessert fix of choice for many, with Gelato Messina in Sydney and Melbourne sending sweet tooths into a frenzy.
Industrial chic was cool, with hipsters flocking to bars to sip cocktails while sitting on milk crates (yes, in hindsight, very uncomfortable).
The new year will herald a slew of funky Asian eateries, with Korean – in all its pickled glory – the hottest cuisine of all.
In Melbourne, French bistro PM24, known for its roast chook, will close in January and reopen as Asian offering, Lucy Liu’s Kitchen and Bar.
Ben Cooper, executive chef at popular South East Asian eatery Chin Chin in Melbourne, will take on the same role at Korean barbecue Kong, due to open in March.
He says when he first moved to the city a decade ago there was limited good Asian food available but now Thai, Japanese and Chinese have really advanced.
“The Asian offering in Melbourne is becoming quite strong,” Cooper says.
“What I am feeling for next year is there will be a growth into the Asian sector with things like Korean, more Japanese, a real variation of the Asian cultures.”
Cooper says there are some fantastic quirky ingredients coming out of Korea like chilli pastes and powders, oils and pickled goods.
Judge on television program My Kitchen Rules, Pete Evans, who is also behind Bar Nacional in Melbourne, says fermentation is becoming more popular and lends itself to Korean and kimchi.
“It will be the hottest thing in 2014 for sure, culturing and fermenting vegetables and drinks,” he says.
Judge on rival TV cooking contest MasterChef Australia, Matt Preston says there is going to be a growing discussion about eating insects.
“That will be at the very, very top end, it will be in those restaurants that are championing indigenous ingredients,” he says.
He says Australians will be looking to save money by wasting less or using cheaper, secondary cuts of meat.
“We are starting to see that now, people embracing the grandmotherly way of cooking,” Preston says.
He says healthy eating is another continuing trend, with kale taking off in 2013. Preston expects coconut oil and turmeric to be among the buzz ingredients this year, as well as sprouted seeds.
Gourmet Traveller deputy editor and chief restaurant critic Pat Nourse says top chefs are shifting the way they make their food taste delicious.
Instead of relying only on salt and fat, chefs are using seaweeds, fermented products and dried seafood to flavour their dishes.
For example, Nourse says Martin Benn at Sepia in Sydney uses seaweeds to add savoury richness to food but also to tenderise and add texture.
“Traditionally salt and fat were the big things that you leaned on hard in restaurant land to get smiles from your customers but I think chefs are looking beyond that,” Nourse says.
Bruce Keebaugh, co-owner of one of Australia’s largest privately owned catering companies, says the trend will continue for temporary pop up restaurants and bars that are only open for a few months.
“People want short-run excitement; it’s almost like the events industry has gone into the restaurant industry,” he says.
Keebaugh tips fixed price set menus, which are popular internationally, will grow in frequency here.
On the dessert scene, Cooper predicts growth in artisan cakes.
He nominates Melbourne patisserie Lux Bite, run by Bernard Chu and Yen Yee, as a place to watch.
The sweet masters shot to national attention after their Lolly Bag Cake appeared on MasterChef.
To drink, Cooper says Japanese whisky and Asian beers are receiving more attention and sake is starting to be paid the respect it deserves.
“You are seeing a lot of restaurants now that have a wine list and sake list and not just Japanese (restaurants),” he says.
Nourse agrees sake is becoming more popular and adds discerning drinkers are also going nuts for locally made craft beers.
“You could be at the Settlers Tavern in Margaret River or you could be drinking in downtown Mildura and you could be drinking a beer that’s made blocks away,” he says.
Natural wine made with minimal intervention from the wine maker has also been huge for the last five years.
“White wines made with extended contact on the skins so it’s actually a deep orange colour and has more texture than regular white wine, that is a really big thing,” Nourse says.
“A number of wine lists now in Sydney and Melbourne actually have red, white and orange sections (like 121BC and Fratelli Paradiso).”