My first meal that I had in Sydney was a dinner at Sepia Restaurant and I loved it so much that I went back again on the very last day of my short stay there. This review documents my experience there on the first visit.
Recently named Vittoria Coffee Restaurant of the Year in the Sydney Good Food Awards 2012 and is one-fifth of the list of 3-hatter restaurants (alongside Bilson’s – which unfortunately ran into troubles, est., Marque and Quay). Just so you know, I chose to visit Sepia on a friend’s strong recommendation and not because of the awards.
The dishes that I had that evening made up the Degustation menu (AUD$150). Last I heard they have since expanded their degustation menu from 9 courses to 14 courses! How’s that for choice?
Sashimi of Hiramasa Kingfish, Roasted Pineapple and sansho pepper viaigrette, sage flowers
Fresh would be quite the understatement and the combination of flavours of sweetness from the roasted pineapples and acidic hint from the sansho pepper vinaigrette complemented one another!
Tartare of yellow fin tuna, warm shitake mushroom custard, fromage blanc, sprouting lentils amaranth, toasted ponzu
Whenever the thought of tartare comes to mind, the image of seeing cubed pieces of fish stacked nicely in a circular mound comes to mind. The presentation and combination of ingredients on the Tuna tartare that I had in Sepia is completely different.
Served on a bed of shitake mushroom custard – Think mashed potatoes but with the flavours of a rich mushroom soup.
The tuna tartare was, of course, really fresh and I wished that there was more of it….. but this was a part of the degustation menu, of course.
The micro greens did more than just add colour to the dish – they added this natural sweetness and bitterness to the dish (Ironic, I know but tht’s what I thought of it.)
Roasted Balmain bug, silken cuttlefish, ink, yuzu, flowering garlic chive, puffed pork nori salt Jamon and olive oil emulsion
The one dish that didn’t make much of an impression though was the Roasted Balmain bug. It was tender and well marinated, but somehow, I thought that the flavours just didn’t meld well together.
Ibacus peronii, the Balmain bug or butterfly fan lobster, is a species of slipper lobster. It lives in shallow waters around Australia and is the subject of small-scale fishery. It is a flattened, reddish brown animal, up to 23 cm (9 in) long and 14 cm (6 in) wide, with flattened antennae and no claws.
Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ibacus_peronii – Last accessed 10th November 2011
Spanner crab and buckwheat risotto, mustard butter, shellfish essence
The risotto was really, really, really good. The flavours were strong – just as how I would like my risotto to be! There was definitely no scrimping on the quality of ingredients and the techniques used to intensify the flavours of the shellfish stock.
Butter poached Tasmania ocean trout, smoked trout roe, native finger lime, rice and vanilla milk eggplant, wild rice and licorice
The ocean trout was absolutely divine. It melts in your mouth the moment it touches your tongue! How good is that! Thoughts of a similar dish that I had in Liberty Private Works (in Hong Kong) came to mind.
What I really liked too was the rice and vanilla milk puree that accompanied the fish. It sounded weird on paper, but trust me, it’s really a great combination for the ocean trout.
The smoked trout roe lent a subtle saline taste to the mild tasty rice and vanilla eggplant mixture.
Pan roasted Aylesbury duck breast, almond mayonnaise, roasted red pappers, mandarin, and fennel
I love duck, heck it’s one of my favourite meats around; Just not how the French tend to handle their Duck.
Duck breast by nature has less fat content, thus the likelihood of it turning tough and chewy if it is overcooked is extremely high. Sepia, on the other hand, handled the quality duck produce excellently.
But……. as good as Sepia’s rendition may be, I am not going to shy away from my Cantonese style Roast Ducks, Teochew Braised Ducks or Beijing Peking Ducks.
The Chinese methods of handling duck are the best!
Roasted pasture fed Angus beef tenderloin marinated in Hatcho miso, smoked daikon, yuzu jellies, oxtail consomme
Let’s face it, the tenderloin is not up everyone’s alley. Some argue that it lacks flavour as compared to the sirloin or ribeye but personally, I love the beef tenderloin… for its tenderness.
More Japanese than French (or Australian) with the use of miso, daikon and yuzu, but the flavours complemented one another really well.
Hatcho Miso has a unique flavour which is made from high-quality soybeans, salt and water. Cooked and mashed soybeans are shaped into small balls and mixed with salty water. Then the Miso ferments for 3 winters. Hatcho Miso is made by the Hatcho Miso Company in Hatcho (Eighth street), to the west of Okazaki castle. The name Hatcho is taken from this location. In the Meiji era, Hatcho Miso became the daily choice of the Emperor of Japan.
Hatcho Miso is less in water and salt content. It is easy to digest due to the aminolysis of the soy protein and is high in vitamins and minerals. Hatcho Miso is a natural food since neither food additives nor pasteurisation is used. Miso has yeast fungi which need carbohydrates, the right temperature and enzymes. Summer in the Tokai area(the middle part of Japan) is hot and the hot weather accelerates yeast fungi fermentation very quickly in kome (rice)-miso or mugi (barley)-miso. Thus Hatcho Miso developed mame (beans)-miso which contains less carbohydrates and tolerates the hot weather much better. Hatcho Miso was Tokugawa Ieyasu’s favourite and his armies were supplied with the miso because it can be stored for quite a while and can be portable due to its reduced water content. It also has been taken on Japanese expeditions to the South Pole.
Source: http://www.yamasa.org/japan/english/destinations/aichi/hatcho_miso.html. Last accessed 10th November 2011
Before the meal proceeded to desserts, a small pre-dessert was served.
Japanese pumpkin, thyme shortbread, mandarin sorbet
J’adore the pre-dessert!
The flavour and texture profiles of each individual element to the dessert worked harmoniously with one another. Sweetness from the Japanese pumpkin, Tartness from the Mandarin Sorbet and the savouryness of the thyme shortbread.
Individually they were great; Together, they were a concert.
“Winter Chocolate forest”
Soft chocolate, chestnut, truffled honey cream, beetroot and hibiscus sorbet, blackberry candy, green tea, licorice, chocolate twigs, crystalized lemon thyme, yoghurt snow
Aesthetically pleasing but tasted rather neutral to me. But boy, was it pretty! And it changes with the seasons! :)
This came complimentary from the Chef. I preferred this dessert ALOT more than the Winter Chocolate forest. Crack open the wafer thin shells of each “stone” and you get a selection of different flavours.
Served at room temperature, the insides remained in their molten state which was really good!
And I loved the fact that they did not go overboard with regards to the sugar levels!
The impossibly thin cocoa butter shells are made with bamboo charcoal powder and frozen using liquid nitrogen. By serving the chocolates at room temperature, the formerly frozen fillings inside resume a runny consistency.
Source: http://grabyourfork.blogspot.com/2011/10/sepia-sydney.html. Last Accessed 10th November 2011
Toby’s Estate coffee, petits fours
(Sidenote: There is now a Toby’s Estate Coffee cafe in Singapore: http://www.hungryepicurean.com/2011/11/tobys-estate/)
201 Sussex Street, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9283 1990
Lunch Tuesday to Friday from 12 noon
Dinner Tuesday to Saturday from 6pm
About the Author
Glenn Lee first published his first blog entry as HungryEpicurean in December 2009. Glenn is currently an accounting and finance undergraduate in the University of Western Australia, Perth, Australia. Born and raised in the sunny island of Singapore, he is by and large, a foodie. Like his fellow Singaporeans, he loves to explore and savour the magnitude of flavours that the many different cuisines offer. He can be contacted at [email protected].