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It’s really no secret that Sepia Restaurant is one of Sydney’s prime dining destinations. Its mastery of Asiatic flavours while paying homage to traditional French gastronomic techniques, coupled with its well-known dessert prowess makes it easy for me to echo the appraisal of the masses.
Indeed, I rarely go to the same fine dining restaurant more than once for variety and value rationales, but this post marks my third visit to Sepia. That fact alone says something – depositing more than $500 into a restaurant’s coffers? Well, he must love the place.
Well, love is such a strong word – but let’s just say that my feelings are strong enough that I decided to go there a third time, for my one year anniversary no less! Does it live up to the challenge of serving such an occasion? You know what to do. Read on!
Date Last Visited: 25/1/14
Address: 201 Sussex St Sydney, NSW 2000
The truth comes out: my first visit to Sepia was paid for by my generous friend James. Lucky me – but I paid to go back, and I paid to go again this time. I didn’t blog the restaurant the first time around for obvious reasons, giving the occasion. I did so the second time round. Read that for a bit of a primer. Or not, that’s cool.
We sat at a better location this time – our server specifically mentioned he chose “the spot with the best lighting”. Now that is due consideration. Points awarded!
For those new to Sepia, the above picture portrays a large area of it – muted colour shades, particularly usage of black, comprise the colour schema. Discreet dining, even though you could end up sitting fairly close to your neighbours if the restaurant fills up. Who am I kidding – that’s not a matter of “if”, it’s a matter of “when”.
On Mondays to Thursdays, guests can go a la carte, a $175 degustation (+$100 w/matched wines), or a $105 4-course dinner. On Friday & weekends, only the degustation is available. We went on a Saturday.
Naturally, changes to the menu are accommodated based on dietary requirements. But I’ll say this – if you’re not into seafood, you’re in the wrong restaurant.
I have to note that this time around, Sepia’s bread service was a little disappointing. Apart from the initial bread offering, we were only asked once throughout the entire meal whether we wanted a top up. Yes, I can view that in the light of calorie control, but I’d rather leave that decision to myself (and fail spectacularly) rather than letting the waiters decide. More bread!
An optional starter, the South Coast Tathra Oysters w/lime & rice wine vinegar is not a dish that surprised me, in that I actually made the decision to order it. I usually don’t go for optional oyster starters, but Sepia’s history with handling seafood boosted my confidence to meteoric levels. Ok that was an exaggeration.
Needless to say, these oysters are tangy, fresh and quite possibly once again the most enjoyable I’ve had in a long time. The flavour is most acute, the zippy tang is most certainly the dominant taste. It’s fantastic – and the oysters have no sea smell either! A true starter in that it opened up our stomachs.
Our amuse bouche of sorts comes in the form of John Dory w/pickled daikon. The textures of this dish were most appealing – somewhat rubbery for John Dory, but coupled with the mustard flavour base, made for a moreish morsel. To add insult to this delicious injury, the size is so small! It is something I’m used to seeing, but I’ll never get used to eating something so delicious in such small portions. Want more.
To poach from Doctor Who, the omelette underneath this sashimi of yellow fin tuna is best described as “wibbly wobbly”. It’s not a good thing in this case though. While the tuna is textbook perfect (you know, if you’re into the whole raw seafood thing), the omelette is very…airy. Too airy. The tuna itself is already quite soft and pillowy, so to have that texture resting on a more extreme version of that texture wasn’t too compelling.
Mixed thoughts on this dish – great flavours and not so great texture balance.
Coco puffs: savoury version, and on steroids enhancing deliciousness. Well, there were better ways to introduce the next dish of carid prawns. While you may not see the ingredients that are listed in the dish, the flavours are all there. The prawns themselves are below the puffed rice goodness. The red comes from the tomato and tea soil.
This is almost like a deconstructed popcorn shrimp dish – crunchy, savoury and with great poached prawn. Yet another dish that makes you wish you could double or triple the portion. That portion control…goodness.
There are those who enjoy the potent, rich flavours of bone marrow, and those who are overwhelmed by it. If you’re one of the former, then Sepia’s poached bone marrow will do you justice. The spiciness of the marrow itself helps to cut through the textural density of the marrow itself, while the roe adds back a fishy buzz back into the dish. I always learn new ways existing stuff can be made into – didn’t expect a bone marrow cooked like this.
At this point though, you may begin to fill up. Bone marrow can do that to you.
“A bit tangy, lemony, crunchy thick rice porridge, full of flavour”. Those are the notes I took at the time on the spanner crab egg yoghurt & rice. I think my quick jottings summarise it quite nicely – if you’ve ever had really good fried rice, you’d have that feeling that you want to eat more even if you’ve just had a big portion. I feel a similar feeling for this dish. Sigh, why do you do this to me Sepia. Why……….
Generally, I haven’t been impressed with Sepia’s red meat dishes. Their focus clearly shows through with regards to their seafood, but beef? Not so much.
Well, the wagyu rump proved me wrong somewhat. The flavours were mustard-like, the cut was rare and done well at that, with a fantastic texture. Yes, a moreish meat dish from Sepia. Bravo!
The quality of the beef was not to be repeated with the seared Mandagery Creek venison however. Sepia tries to do something fairly odd (and very 4Fourteen-like) with this one – using a savoury-sweet yoghurt to pair it with the venison didn’t work out particularly well. The inclusion of boudin noir was a smart move, as it cut through the gunky yoghurt. The Lady didn’t finish it, but I vacuumed it up anyway under my “clean plate” principle. Yeah I’ve got one of those….
Now, here’s where Sepia begins to flex its sugary muscles. Pre-dessert coems in the form of white peach cream w/rose jelly which is so very complex for a mere pre dessert. The result pays off though – the peach cream is at Goldilocks level of creaminess, and the same is said of its sweetness. There is a crunch to this pre dessert as well, which adds extra tactile dimensions that up the ante sui generis relative to other desserts.
This second pre-dessert consists of three quenelles of cherry, apple pie & goat milk dulce de leche. They weren’t anything special, but each had its own expected consistency – particularly the thick, rich date quenelle. You probably don’t have something like this very often, I can say that much.
I’m finally able to blog this – I had it the first time I was at Sepia, and this was the dish that made me regret not bringing my camera. Then again, the signature dessert of a restaurant tends to do that to you.
Walking through a forest made of chocolate, you take a sniff and take in the scents of cherries and roses. Green tea, licorice and honey tempt you to wander further in, and when you finally take a bite, it hits you all at once. This is a star dessert, and would probably make many top 10 desserts lists in Sydney. Easily.
Wouldn’t it be nice if the world was Cadbury? Sure, but it would be nicer if it was like this.
Anniversary challenge? For the most part, complete!
As usual, feel free to leave a comment or three 😀
- Sepia continues to evolve with the seasons with superb offerings
Not so Awesome:
- Bread service was a bit of a letdown
- Some dishes were a little off-palate