Friday, January 18, 2013

Sepia - Sydney CBD

Sepia has been one of those restaurants that I've been dying to go to for years~ pretty my since they started around 2009. For years, things have gotten in the way, things have come up, they've gained a few hats and experienced fame and price-hikes - I'm going to blame it on everything for us to have not come here sooner. So when my hubby took me here for my b'day, I had mixed emotions. I desperately wanted it to be an awesome meal (through like 3 years of anticipation!) but I didn't want to get my hopes up just in case it's actually a dud. Luckily - our meal was astonishingly amazing!

We went for their degustation. As I don't really eat eel or lamb, the waiter nicely informed us that they could swap them out for me easily :)

We were first served with fresh warm bread and a super spherical ball of butter. It was delicious. Unfortunately, unlike some other restaurants in it's league, you don't get a new ball of butter with each bread roll that you request.
Funnily enough, we were first served with our first course - which normally sounds about right except that every other table got an amuse bouche. Nonetheless, the first course - "sushi nigiri" - was a good start to our meal. The 'sushi' was "inside-out" in the sense that the bulk (where the rice normally is) comprised of the seafood (tuna, smoked ocean trout, and poached banana prawn) and it was topped with some seaweedy jelly and rice puffs. I loved it (as I'm not a huge fan of rice), but hubby said he would have wanted real rice rather than rice-bubble puffs. The fish was quite tasty and fresh, as was the prawn.
We finally plucked up the courage to alert the waiter to the fact that they had neglected to serve us our amuse bouche when our second course was bought to the table. The waiters were in complete disbelief but after they recovered from their shock, they promised to make it up to us (and they did very well at that...). Anyway, second course was the butter poached Port Lincoln squid. The knifework on this was astonishing! Super thinly sliced - perfect each slice. Sliced to the point just before it fell apart. This meant that the squid came apart by just the gentle tug of a fork or spoon, also creating a fabulous smooth texture in my mouth. Mmm... the flavours were subtle (so subtle that hubby almost couldn't taste it much at the beginning) - but as you start to savour your bites, the aromatic butter flavour seeps through. There was also the barley miso, cured egg yolk and thing lemon rind strips to top it all off.
Next up was the NZ scampi. It was apparently cooked to perfection over Japanese charcoal. The scampi was really sweet and honestly delicious! But what made this dish amazing for me was not the scampi, not the lime, not even the seaweed (which I usually oh so love) but the orangey shellfish mousse. ZOMG that mousse is to die for!!! Super smooth, super flavoursome, super creamy and just super WOW! I can't really describe it, you'd just have to taste it (not for non-seafood lovers though).
Following the scampi, we got our first taste of what Sepia staff were attempting in order to 'make up for' missing our amuse bouche. We were presented each with a plate of Marron. The marron was cooked over  Japanese charcoal. Sprinkled on top of the marron was little crunchy balls made of the skin of the marron. The taste was heavenly. Not sure exactly what was in it, but definately a very strong, delicious shellfish emulsion was a part of it. Both of us were just over the moon with this. Amuse Bouche? Who on earth would want that?
Butter roasted John Dory was my eel substitute (I don't really eat eel). This was pan fried and swimming in citrus dashi. The fish was a little less impressive than the previous dishes. I think I would have liked the fish to have a few less seconds on the fry pan. The dashi soup was also a little too overpowering.The button mushrooms and accompanying veges were decent though~
Hubby's standard course was the charcoal smoked freshwater eel. He said that it was good but not overly impressive (I guess that the marron was hard to beat). I loved the way the puffy rice bits were presented. The eel was accompanied with yuzu curd, toasted almonds, tapioca, a hint of licorice, watercress and nasturium.
My next degustation substitute was glazed corn fed chicken breast. This was served with Saikyo miso mousse, sunflower seed butter foam, and yummy crisp fried nori potato. The chicken was tender and really tasty. Really - buttery moussey foam thing... can't go wrong with that!
The South Australian lamb that hubby got looked really delicate. Super tender pink ish medalions of lamb which came with goats cheese and sake kuzu dumplings. To tie the flavours together, there was a black olive miso vinaigrette with fennel molasses and fennel cream. He said that it tasted pretty damn good.
The next dish that came was the rolled Wagyu. The wagyu was thinly sliced and then seared. The tenderness of the beef meant that there was no problem in cutting it nor letting it melt in your mouth. It was served with a delicious chestnut mushroom puree, fired potatoes, crunchy kombu crumbs and both red onion juice and citrus soy. It was quite delectable all up.
Again, because of their screw-up earlier in the evening, we got an extra pre-dessert. We were presented with a reconstructed strawberry made of super yummy sugary toffee (complete with the little dimples you see on a real strawberry) filled with super deliciously refreshing strawberry granita/sorbet thing. ZOMG it was sooooo good. There was also a chocolatey biscuity crumb which really completed the dish - adding a cocoa element but it wasn't too sweet or overpowering - kind of balanced the sweet red toffee. This was amazingly delicious!!! They also gave us a complimentary wine to pair up with this interesting creation.
Our actual pre-dessert was a little less to my liking. it was a goats cheese icecream with marinated peaches and some sort of cakey/biscuity crumb. It probably wasn't bad - and even though I dislike goats cheese, I was still able to stomach the goats cheese icecream, and the crumbs... just peaches. I don't like peaches... but I'm sure they were tasty and sweet :) So if was unbiased - it probably would have been a pretty alright dessert.
The dessert was their famous chocolate forest. As the name suggests - it looks like a bit of a mess, but a chocolate mess ... so that's a good thing :) There was soft chocolate, hazelnut and almond praline, blueberry jellies, green tea, chocolate twigs, licorice bits (which I tried hard to avoid), and crystallised fennel fronds (for the green bits). This was topped with a sour cherry sorbet. Inside the forest was a 'surprise' - a chocolate disk holding some creamy melted marshmellowy type substance. Hubby said that it would have been more impressive if inside the forest you find a treasure chest with gold nuggets hehe. It wasn't a bad desert but I do hang my head in shame for not finishing the chocolate mix. It got a little bit too much and a bit too repeatitive after a while. That, and maybe I was a bit distracted by the arrival of the stones...
I'd read up about these Japanese stones you can get at Sepia. As we heard the next table ask about them too, the waiter explained that the stones are never on the menu but always available. It's not included in the degustation, but you can add them for the price of a dessert. As they mucked up our amuse bouche - a lovely plate of these stones arrived on our table free of charge. There were 6 stones to share, 3 different flavours - chocolate, blackberry and passionfruit. The stones really did look like stone. You have no clue what flavour you get until you crack open the super thin chocolate coating. It was the novelty factor of these stones which made me super duper happy :)
I loved the whole meal. Almost every dish was delicious and memorable. Definitely recommend this restaurant for when you want a splurge on good food!

Food - 9/10
Service - 8/10
Ambiance- 8/10
Value for money - 7/10
Overall - 32/40

201 Sussex Street
Sydney 2000
Tel: (02) 9283 1990

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