It’s interesting how much expectations play into the enjoyment of a particular restaurant. It’s nice to be surprised when you have nothing to expect, yet painfully disappointing when a restaurant falls short of expectations.
Sepia was at the top of my ‘to dine’ list and when that opportunity finally came around last week, I already had it pegged alongside the best.
Yet, four courses in, I got worried.
The first few courses failed to strike a chord with me, whether it was the combination of ingredients, the textures or the lack of seasoning. Starting with the amuse bouche of cuttlefish, I found it too fruity and lacking in acid.
The oysters with rice wine vinaigrette followed and again it was too sweet and syrupy for my liking.
The tuna also suffered from underseasoning, the flavours were too subtle for me and the result felt muddled. My dislike of goats cheese probably didn’t help either. While the flavours weren’t quite what I expected, I was amazed by the construction of this dish – simple in concept yet unspeakably elegant
I was also let down by the scallops, which were a little rubbery and lacked any distinct taste. The chickpeas felt misplaced among the pumpkin purée and puffed rice.
The turning point of our meal came when the spanner crab risotto arrived, a dish considered by many to be among Martin Benn’s best work. It was heedy and herbaceous, with just the right balance of ingredients and flavours. The buckwheat risotto was a nice touch, adding bite and texture to the dish. I loved the little flakes of crabmeat and the foam, which turned into a rich sauce when mixed in with the risotto.
The mulloway was next and the sheer presentation of the dish was enough to blow me away. As the waiter walked us through the long list of components, we were later pleased to find that they didn’t overpower the fish, rather, they formed a nice complement to the lead. It’s magical when a complex combination of ingredients such as these pay off.
Our favourite dish of the night was the duck breast. Cooked to a medium rare, it was tender, juicy and incredibly flavourful. The sweet and sour confit eggplant was a nice addition, as was the sour cream.
Next up was the venison, a protein I’ve never had before. Again, cooked to a perfect rare, the venison was tender, with a richer, more intense flavour than beef. This could’ve had something to do with the boudin noir which was quite heavy and bitter.
While it may have taken me a while to warm up to Sepia, our dinner did end on a high note. Before a quick palate cleanser of rock melon, coconut tapioca and lemon sorbet, we readied ourselves for the ‘Forest Floor’.
This spectacular Heston Blumenthal-esque creation was too special for words. On a bed of chocolate soil (it alone enough to make me squeal), lay finger lime pearls, matcha powder, blackcurrant cubes, elderflowers and candied fennel leaves which had a beautiful sweet woodsy fragrance. As you loosened the ‘topsoil’, there was a velvety chocolate ganache and lavender cream. It is the single most impressive dessert I have ever had!
The finale was a new dessert creation known as “Japanese Stones”. Inside each of the stones were scoops of ice cream, including cherry, coconut and chocolate. The dish was finished off with a dusting of black sesame and green tea moss.
Sepia has taught me a valuable lesson and that’s to not let expectations get in the way of a great meal. Next time you’re out, leave expectations at the door and simply let the chef dazzle you with their best work.
The degustation dinner at Sepia is priced at $140 per person. A special tasting menu is also available on Saturday nights.
201 Sussex Street
# 02 9283 1900