Sepia – 20 May 2015

Sepia, the best restaurant in Australia in 2015. And it’s consistently awarded 3 hats. My brother has been before, but I wasn’t there to tag along, so I was trying to find any excuse to visit – and an incredibly convenient and worthy reason presented itself, so along I went with a friend.

I had spotted on their website that they had a bar area for walk ins, and I assumed that this would just be for their bar menu, but once we got there, we were seated facing the bar and had the option of choosing their full menu, so 9 course degustation it was!

First off was my nebbiolo blend, which was quite nice and aromatic. I love the little lamps to help light up the food!

There was an optional oyster which I of course, said yes to. Sydney rock oysters with a vinaigrette that I don’t remember, but it tasted good!

Amuse bouche –  tuna tartare with buckwheat and tofu

I never imagined raw tuna and tofu to go together – and it would have been a squishy dish, but the puffed buckwheat added a fitting crunch to the tiny little dish.

Sashimi of yellow fun tuna, jamon iberico cream, avocado, baby radish, pork crackling, wasabi snow

This was a dainty and pretty dish, with finely sliced tuna wrapped around some jamon cream, and then arranged into a circle, decorated with radish, herbs, avocado cream, and then dusted over with wasabi snow. It was quite a theatrical experience, and because the snow was placed at the table, it was a little bit uneven, making for some interesting eating.

Pine mushroom, fried potato, poached quail egg, caviar, roasted chicken powder

When this dish came out, it smelled like chicken pie – a hearty kind of dish. It was a very interesting combination as this appears to be the caviar/egg/potato combo, but with added chicken and mushroom. It was quite nice, though something made the caviar and mushroom combination unevenly salted. From far away it kind of looks like a dish adorned with gold!

The bread served here is a Japanese milk bread, that felt a little more dense than what you find at Asian supermarkets/Asian bread shops. It was accompanied by a perfect sphere of butter which was really cool! I think I prefer sourdough slices from other places I’ve been to.

King crab, dashimaki tamago, egg rice, kabosu, blood plum, hijiki, wild wood sorrel

This felt like a take on omurice to me, with the egg roll on the outside and sushi rice on the inside. A lovely piece of crab was draped over it, and I liked the tartness that the blood plum sauce.

Charcoal grilled black lip abalone, citrus dashi, Barletta onions, heart of palm, green tea, nasturtium

This pond dish was my favourite dish of the night. I guess I have a soft spot for soup based dishes – there was the mud crab congee from Quay and the crab, chickpea and amaranth from Momofuku Seiobo. I don’t eat abalone much, so I couldn’t tell if the abalone was cooked properly – it was a little on the chewy side, but still definitely edible. The soup itself was very tasty, I liked the heart of palm, and the burst of vinegar from what I assume were the Barletta onions was amazing and what brought the dish together for me.

Seared sea urchin, smoked bone marrow, cauliflower, toasted milk bread, citrus soy, sobacha

What a funny little ship in the middle of a massive plate! Seems like it’s uni season; the sea urchin is everywhere! I didn’t actually like sea urchin until I went to Japan, when I discovered just how creamy and sweet it is! And now I love it. This tasty morsel was so good, I really wish there was more!

It around about this time that we realised something. Martin Benn was in the house! Not only that, but he was actually taking the time out of the kitchen to greet some of the guests. Then there was this guy! My friend so wanted to be this person, who was so important that he and Martin frequently spoke to each other! I have currently concluded that he may be a sommelier, as he drank a variety of alcohols ranging from wine, to martini, to beer, and only had a single plate of food. We were so lucky to be seated where we were, for we had front row seats to Martin! So here is the creepy shot to show just how awesome our view from the table was 🙂

David Blackmore wagyu karubi, hot miso mustard, Japanese pickles, ice plant

This dish kind of confused me, and was my least favourite of the night. The smell of miso was rather overpowering and I couldn’t taste much else when eating the beef. The beef was also not quite melt in the mouth, but I’m not sure what cut this was and if this was meant to be that exact texture. Yes, it was medium rare.The seaweed I loved, since I love seaweed. I usually also love ice plant, but this one didn’t seem to come with the usual saltiness of a fresh beachside harvest.

Seared Mandagery Creek venison, sansho pepper, roasted Japanese pumpkin,miso, artichoke

I love the golden leaves on this one! Another dish that reminded me of autumn/winter. This was venison, which I assume was cooked rare because it was really really red – which was fine for me since I’ve cooked venison before. The puree was pumpkinny, and for me the standout were the leaves that were a blend of jerusalem artichoke and Japanese pumpkin. They were so thin and beautiful that I asked how they were made, and the waiter was quite obliging and explained that it was pureed and then dehydrated. So nice!

And this lemon and creme fraiche palate cleanser marked the end of the savoury courses. Usually I would opt for the cheese course, but I was still recovering from my overcaffeination session and so I think my body was still in an emergency detox mode, so I decided eating “light” would be a better decision.

Autumn chocolate forest – soft chocolate, hazelnut and almond, lavender and honey cream, blackberry sorbet, blueberry and rosewater jellies, green tea, licorice, chocolate twigs, bronze fennel

And the famous chocolate forest. It was so pretty, but when I googled other variations on this, there appeared to be a lot more greenery and colour on some versions. It was still very nice though, and I loved the rose jelly! Having recently experimented with agar agar, I instantly recognised that it had been used (and because Masterchef also featured this). The soil was really interesting and what I enjoyed the most out of this dish, as I tasted salt and licorice as part of the crumbs. I also loved the little candied curl!

And to finish the night, houjicha. Ah what a good choice! It was all sorts of warm, toasty and satisfying. I didn’t actually know that houjicha is actually classed as a green tea. I loved the golden hue that the brew ended up being and now I feel like I need some of this for myself! Also while I was drinking it, I noticed that there was a very nice feel to the way the cup was being held. In fact, the contoured shape reminded me of something… so I looked through the cup and I was correct – it was a Hario cup! That was so cool.

And lastly, because Martin was in the kitchen today, I had sneakily asked one of the waitstaff if it was possible to get a photo taken with him – primarily because I decided it would be a nice surprise for my friend, but also for my own selfish goal of getting pictures with famous chefs (and I still have not seen the elusive Neil Perry even though he visits Burger Project often!). My surprise was blown when our waiter then asked to confirmed if we had made a photo request, then said that Martin was super busy.

Lucikly though, our politeness paid off, for Martin approached our table and had a quick chat. Usually I chicken out of these opportunities because all of a sudden I feel awkward and self conscious, but this time, I didn’t have any of those reservations and straight out asked for the picture, and good thing we did! I finally got my photo with Mr. Martin Benn! Woohoo! What an amazing night.

Sure, this place was voted best restaurant and holds three hats, but my favourite is still Vue de Monde. I have no idea why that place was as impressive as it was, but I still believe it was due to the fact I had no expectations of it at all. Nevertheless, this was definitely a worthwhile experience – the service was flawless! Especially so because I felt that I had made more requests than I’ve made in past high end dining experiences. Not only did I ask to switch from “still” to tap water after I had an internal panic attack upon seeing a bottle of Aqua Panna being poured for us, but I also asked a waiter from a different section to seek out Martin, and I switched dessert options from textures of milk to chocolate forest towards the end of the meal. It was also an amazingly accessible restaurant, and I jokingly said that it was so accessible that you could just walk in, eat fried chicken and walk out! (For elaboration, this is relating to the yakitori on the bar menu).