Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Sepia Restaurant - 2011 birthday dinner (part I)

Birthdays are always the perfect reason to gather and share good food with loved ones. Last year I was lucky enough to meet Restaurant Arras, this year I was spoiled by my bf Mr M and his family who treated me to one of the restaurants that had been on my “To Visit” list for a very long time... the double-hatted Sepia!

Sepia is led by two chefs that have worked at some of Sydney's most acclaimed restaurants - Martin Benn (ex Executive Chef at Tetsuya’s and The Boathouse) and Daniel Puskas (ex Head Chef of Oscillate Widly. Puskas also worked at Marque, Tetsuya’s and The Boathouse). To boost his profile even further, Benn won the Good Food Guide Chef of The Year Award for 2011. Now you see why I’ve been lured into choosing Sepia as the ideal venue to hold part I of my birthday dinner for 2011 (part I with my beloved family and part II with my dear friends @ Chophouse).

Similar to Testuya, Benn fuses modern French techniques with subtle Japanese flavour. Seasoning is kept to a minimum as the emphasis is placed on using quality, sustainable produce and enhancing their natural flavours.

Besides the highly prestigious team running the kitchen, the service at Sepia is also sleek and smart. Sepia has an elegant dining room which has an art deco feel with its dim lighting. Tonight we start off with a warm sourdough - warm (and complementary) bread always signals a good start to a meal.

Warm sourdough,
served with whipped truffle butter
Freshly shucked Oysters from
 NSW South Coast  with lime and 
rice vinegar dressing

Amuse Bouche – kingfish

Queensland spanner crab and buckwheat risotto, mustard butter, shellfish essence.
The idea is to fold in the foamy shellfish essence with the creamy, yet chewy buckwheat risotto. This is an interesting dish with a lot of textures and packed with flavours (somehow it reminded me of Taiwanese sticky rice - which is delicious in its own ways)!

Roasted pasture fed Angus beef tenderloin, braised short rib, buffalo milk “tofu” sansho roasted quinoa, garlic flowers.
The tenderloin was cooked beautifully and served on top of the tender short rib.The combination of the light, soft tofu and the extremely tasty beef created a great balance of flavours.

Roasted Aylesbury duck breast, smoked confit eggplant, yoghurt, native finger lime, licorice. On the plate are six artfully arranged slices of rare-cooked duck breast. However in terms of flavour, this was one of the least impressive dishes of the night.

Those who know me know that the desserts menu is the first thing I look at when I go to a restaurant. Sepia is recognised to have some of the best pastry chefs creating some of the prettiest desserts in Sydney. So you can imagine the excitement I felt as we progressed onto my favourite part of a meal. Moments after we ordered our desserts, the lovely waiters brought us each a lovely mandarin sorbet cheesecake, which was out-of-this world and by far exceeded our expectations of a pre-dessert!

L Loves... Mandarin sorbet cheesecake, arrived in a tiny glass, is absolutely delicious and a refreshing wakeup to the tastebuds preparing them for the sweetness to come :)

Vanilla ice cream and raspberry ripple “Weiss”, raspberry jelly,
dehydrated white chocolate mousse.
This is Sepia’s take on the famous Weiss bar, which is a more sophisticated and refined version of the original ice cream. There is a fine balance between the sourness of the fresh raspberries and the sweetness from the powdery, dehydrated white chocolate.

“Chocolate forest” 
Soft chocolate, chestnut, elderflower cream, mandarin and bergamot sorbet, blackberry candy, green tea, licorice, chocolate twigs, crystallised lemon thyme
This dessert was listed as one of Terry Durack's best dishes of 2010 and was agreed so by Mr & Miss J, who regarded this as one of their favourite desserts along with Quay’s eight layer chocolate cake.

Strawberry bavarois, blueberry sorbet, fresh berries, basil seeds and strawberry jelly
The strawberry bavarois is so delectable. The abundance of the berries not only accentuated the flavour, but also made the dessert seemingly healthier :P

Check out the yummy strawberry bavarois in the white chocolate log :P

Petits Four

Overall we had a really enjoyable night - with seamless service our exquisite dinner ended on a high note. 

However would I see myself going back there in the near future? 
Probably not. I had extremely high expectations of Sepia based on what I have read about the restaurant, its Chefs, and the awards they have won. Honestly speaking my expectations were not quite met until they brought out the desserts – then all is forgiven :)

L's Verdict:
  • Taste: 7/10
  • Ambience: 4/5
  • Value: 3/5
  • Service: 5/5
  • Creativity and other WOW factors: 3/5 (we'd have to applaud Sepia's Pastry Chefs for the gorgeous desserts)
Overall rating: 22/30

Sepia Restaurant
Ground Floor, Darling Park
201 Sussex Street
Sydney NSW 2000
Ph: (02) 9283 1990
Open:Tuesday to Friday lunch from 12pm
Tuesday to Saturday dinner from 6pm

Visited May 2011

Friendly advice: As I discovered after my visit, it is probably wiser to go for seafood rather than meat dishes as they have seafood wholesaler George Costi of De Costi Seafoods as a backer. 

Sepia on Urbanspoon

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