IF NEW YORK and Los Angeles are anything to go by, then Sydney is about to see restaurants with no chairs and bars with no stools; the end of the elegant, be-suited maitre d'; and unmentionable mystery intestinal bits for breakfast instead of that current cafe staple, the egg and bacon roll.
In spite of The New York Times recently posing the question ''Are trends passe?'', new ideas and movements are fundamentally changes in the way urban societies are food-sourcing, cooking and eating.
Standing room only
They're taking away our chairs. At Mario Batali's Otto and at his huge food emporium 'Eataly' in New York, there are serried ranks of high tables, with no stools or chairs to be seen. Diners are expected to stand, have an aperitif, order some salumi, then go; and they do just that by the thousands every week. The owner of Sydney's Cafe Sopra Bridge Street in the City, Barry McDonald, recently trialled tall tables for stand-up dining in the dedicated mozzarella bar. "But most people still use the stools," he says.
The virtual maitre d'
At the forward-thinking chef Jose Andres' The Bazaar restaurant in the Philippe Starck-designed SLS Hotel in Los Angeles, diners are greeted at the door by a life-sized video screen showing a handsome, silver-haired maitre d'. He approaches, bows, greets you, and turns to show you to your table, before the footage is repeated.
It's meant to be a tongue-in-cheek comment on the full-service restaurants of the past - but in the experience of this diner at least, it was the most caring and personable service experienced for the entire evening. According to Piers Ursell, winner of the 'Silver Service' Award in the 2013 SMH Good Food Guide, a virtual presence is not enough.
"You have to be believable" he says, "and the only thing that brings that, is passion."
With land, rent and labour costs escalating, young chefs and entrepreneurial food producers are looking at new ways to run smaller, simpler, more sustainable food businesses. Enter the food market, best seen at the DeKalb food market in downtown Brooklyn. The big daddy is Smorgasburg, dubbed the Woodstock of Eating - it's like a summer rock festival for food.
A nutty-smelling dough made from dried corn soaked in a lime and water solution, rinsed then ground, masa is having more than just a ''moment'' in New York, as gifted pastry chef Alex Stupak raises it to high levels of deliciousness in tamales, spaetzle and even 'masa balls' at his new Mexican restaurant Empellon Cocina.He credits Spain's most forward-thinking chef as his inspiration. "Ferran Adria said that creative people try to do the things that they don't know how to do."
Tripe for breakfast
At Maialino, restaurateur Danny Meyer's homage to the trattorias of Rome in the swanky Gramercy Park Hotel, you can start your day with trippa alla Trasteverina; the honeycomb tripe softened by slow braising and topped with a fried egg. Sydney chef Robert Marchetti has recently installed an on-trend breakfast menu in the new Gowings Bar & Grill at the QT hotel. "Breakfast is a grumpy time for most people" he says. "I suppose it depends if you're a morning person".