What better way to celebrate my 25th birthday than dining at the 2014 Restaurant of the Year. Sepia, who has just won a bunch of awards at the moment including Chef of the Year is boiling hot right now. Its located in the Darling Park precinct on Sussex street in the city. The chef, Martin Ben (ex Tetsuya) offers diners either a four course menu ($150pp) or a degustation option ($180pp) for dinner during the week excluding Friday night. For Friday and Saturday nights, a completely different degustation menu ($180pp) which changes weekly is on offer. This is what we had. All up it was 13 courses (we got two extra optional courses and a bonus course of Japanese stones), we were not told what we were getting and only given a menu when we were finished. Its a lot of food so starve yourself during the day. You’ll want to get every bite.
NSW premium rock oysters, with lime and rice vinegar
You might think that oysters for a 10 course deguestation is a bit overkill but I have no regrets. These beauties of the sea were plump and sweet and went excellently with the lime and rice vinegar.
We have this ritual whenever we go to a restaurant of fighting over who gets to ‘break’ the perfect butter first. I won this one. Spreading it on the warm homemade bread was another winning moment.
Fried potato, quail egg, Saikou salmon, nori
What a clever and tasty little amuse buche. I thoroughly enjoyed it and lets face it, anything with a poached quails egg is plus for me.
Sashimi Tellow Fin tuna, Jamon Iberico cream, avocado, Hatsuka radish, pork crackling
This was a beautiful dish. So beautiful I didn’t even want to eat it. I just wanted to stare at its beauty. That feeling lasted about 2 seconds before I demolished it. What an explosion of flavour and texture. The freshness of the tuna mixed with the rich jamon iberico cream is such a random combo, but it works people! It works!
House made chevre, rhubarb, beetroot, rye, Linaria flowers
I’m not going to beat around the bush with this one. I wasn’t a fan. Now I can definitely appreciate the creativity and uniqueness of the dish but I think this was a risky move. Not a lot of people, me included, like beetroot. Covering the whole dish in dehydrated beetroot dust just didn’t work for me. That’s not to say there wasn’t anything good about this dish. In the centre of the mound was a delicious sweet rhubarb gel.
Butter poached spanner crab, house made silken tofu, kabu and chrysanthemum cream elk
What part of ‘butter poached’ doesn’t make your mouth water? This was by far my favourite dish of the night. The crab went perfectly with the house made tofu melding together into a creamy savoury mix. I really enjoyed the crispy little garlic chips scattered on top adding not only flavour but texture.
Miso black cod, yuzu curd, onion stems, water chestnut, wasabi flowers
A really solid dish. The cod was cooked to perfection flaking into moist flavoursome segments. Slathered in a good helping of the citrusy yuzu curd my only complaint is that I wanted more. But alas the rules of degustation persist.
Charcoal grilled David Blackmore wagyu sirloin, caramelised onion, brown rice miso tonburi, salty ice plant, horseradish
I felt like there was a lot of ‘HUH?” ingredients on this plate. What the hell is a salty ice plant or tonburi for that matter? In saying that this dish was actually quite superb. Eaten with chop sticks the wagyu melt in your mouth and worked perfectly well with the surrounding flavours and textures.
Seared Mandagery Creek venison, sansho pepper, roasted artichoke, pumpkin, raspberry
This dish may look a little simple but the flavours were quite complex. The rare gamey venison was lovely with the sweet raspberry infusion and the pepper added a nice kick.
Optional: Swiss gruyere, pear jelly, roasted endive, fried walnuts, plum, celery
“I believe I order the cheese dish sir, what is this trickery?” Probably the most interesting dish of the night was this optional cheese course. Not only delicious but kind of fun. The ‘pear’ is actually a sorbet of gruyere that’s been cast in a water balloon and set in liquid nitrogen. Cracking it open and spooning mouthfuls of the cold savoury sorbet and the shaved cheese and pear mound was pretty sensational. I strongly suggest you give this one a go people.
“Citrus” – Mandarin, blood orange, yuzu, dai dai, sudachi, sweet violet
And from savoury to sweet our deserts had begun with this very effective palate cleanser aptly names “citrus”. With a plethora of citrus ingredients this dish arrived as golden egg on a bed of sour house made sherbet.
The whole fun of this tangy little number was being able to crack it open and let the gorgeous liquid blood orange ooze out ad mix into the sherbet. What a dish!
Pumpkin cannoli, buckwheat cream, pumpkin praline, caramelised miso and pumpkin ice cream, popcorn sugar
I’m usually a big fan of pumpkin in desserts but there was something about this one that I didn’t quite enjoy. Maybe it was because I was already full to the point of bursting or maybe its just my personal taste. I did like the pumpkin ice cream filling which was like liquid gold oozing out of the crispy shell.
“Spring chocolate forest” – soft chocolate, hazelnut and almond, lavender and honey cream, blackberry sorbet, caramel and shiso vinegar jellies, green tea, liquorice, chocolate twigs, bronze fennel, snap dragons
The signature Sepia dessert. Literally a masterpiece on a plate with every aspect of the dish perfectly placed to create this ‘forest’ of chocolate. I was really impressed with the detail of the dessert and can appreciate and respect the amount of work that goes into a dish like this. It really was delicious from the fresh and fruity blueberry sorbet, the individually crystallised fennel sprigs to the decadent chocolate twigs and soil.
Now after 12 courses you would think a stomach pump was in order and believe me I felt like a fat (very satisfied) mess. But alas we were not done. As a sort of bonus to the night our waiter brought out this beautiful dish. Sepia’s Japanese Stones. Suddenly my appetite gave a little bit more and I was able to sample these delicious morsels. Biting through the white chocolate shell I was pleasantly surprised to find each was filled with either a chocolate ganache, liquid passionfruit creme or wild strawberry puree. Simply heaven.
Overall, a sensational dining experience. In addition, drink from their award winning wine list showcasing a extensive selection of wines from around the globe.
Sepia is special occasion worthy, to be shared and savoured with that special someone. Worth every cent.
201 Sussex Street,
CBD, Sydney, NSW