Umii bills itself as a modern izakaya, located in Drummoyne. The food tasted fantastic but there were a few issues with the food matching what was promised on the menu. We started with the Scampi with foie gras and truffle oil. The food looked amazing when it arrived at our table but the question that popped into both our heads was: Where is the foie gras? After asking the waitress, we found out they were the little shavings on top of the scampi. Funnily enough, the table next to us ordered the same dish and asked exactly the same question. That aside, the scampi, served raw, was delicious with the sauce. If only there were a bit more foie gras, it would have made for an even more decadent dish (and perhaps justify a bit the price of the dish).
Continuing with the crustacean theme, we got the Grilled lobster tail. It was one of the blackboard specials and stated it came accompanied with grilled fresh figs. With no sighting of the figs, we again raised the question with the wait staff only to be told they didn't know. When we enquired further, we found out the chef had changed the dish but they hadn't updated the menu! Whilst that was pretty disappointing, we actually couldn't wait to dig into the dish as it was incredibly tasty. The grilled lobster were plump and perfectly cooked and the mix of the sweet and spicy furikaki seasoned crumb together with the black sesame sauce was very addictive.
The Lamb cutlet served in a traditional Japanese charcoal pot thankfully came as it was described. The cutlets were very tender and seasoned superbly. The smokiness from the charcoal pot came through without being overly dominating.
To apologise for their menu discretions, we were offered a complimentary dessert so we chose the Matcha roll with waffle cone. The matcha roll had that perfect sponge cake texture, and together with the gelato, had a really intense green tea flavour which I love. Topped off with strawberries and a black sesame waffle cone, it was a great way to end the night.
I left Umii with mixed feelings - the food and presentation were beautiful and a great showcase of modern Japanese cuisine. On the other hand, the menu deviations were irritating and some of the service inconsistent. Given it's a relatively new restaurant, hopefully they were just initial issues which have now been fixed as I would love to try some of their other dishes.
Norsk Dor, Sydney CBD
I have fond memories of my travels through Scandinavia, although I remember the price of a meal was near astronimical, especially on a uni student budget. I was very excited to discover a Nordic restaurant has opened in Sydney, called Norsk Dor.
To get to the restaurant, you must first find the nondescript entrance on Pitt Street, walk down a very long flight of stairs followed by an equally long, stark hallway. Inside the restaurant is a dimly lit, intimate, warm space, complete with kangaroo skin throws draped across the back of the timber dining chairs.
We started with the Gravlax topped with roe, dill and mustard. It was fresh and light, complimenting our other starter, the roasted Bone Marrow.
The roasted Bone marrow was delicious, I only wished there was a little bit more of it. The dish is served with a glass of akvavit (a Scandinavian liquer similar to Cognac) to cut through the fattiness, but it was a little too strong for me. The homemade rye bread, on the other hand, was great to sample the bone marrow with.
The Venison sampler is one of Norsk Dor's signature dishes and it had so much going on. It was a great dish for sharing. The venison was done three ways: there was the pulled venison topped with potato crisps; the seared tenderloin paired with a carrot puree and my favourite, the smoked backstrap. The smokiness really permeated through the meat without being overpowering, and the meat was perfectly cooked. I liked the fresh fig and blue cheese but not sure whether it really belonged to this dish.
We got the Hasselback potato as a side. This is another Scandinavian specialty, where cuts are made into the potato before it's roasted and served topped with rye crumb. It had a lovely crunch but I found that it lacked a bit of seasoning.
The Swedish chocolate cake, on the other hand, was moist and light, with an intense chocolate cake. Served with ice cream and berries, we scraped the plate clean!
The other dessert we tried was the Mulled wine poached pear with beetroot sorbet and anglaise. Great combination of flavours and definitely a perfect dessert for winter.
Norsk Dor is a welcome addition to the Sydney food scene and we had a lovely dining experience. The staff were incredibly friendly, some of the best customer service I have had in a while.
Note: Since my dining experience here, Norsk Dor has changed their menu structure and now offers a set menu that changes daily.
Sepia, Sydney CBD
One of the most memorable dining experiences ever was at Sepia several years ago. I had a chance to go back recently and was understandly super excited, but a tad nervous that sky high expectations might not be matched. I clearly needn't have worried.
The trio of amuse bouche of Saikou salmon, smoked scarlet prawn and Hiramasa kingfish looked absolutely divine. Encased in the perfectly spherical Saikou salmon were smoked salmon roe, bursting with flavour. The Kingfish wrapped in the wafer thin tatami iwashi (a blanket of dried little fish) was perfectly balanced with the jamon cream. The smoked prawn with carrot powder dumpling was incredibly delicate, but did not have the wow factor of the other two morsels.
The first course was the Spanner crab, sake vinegar jelly, brown butter emulsion, pea and horseradish. There was theatre at the table with the use of liquid nitrogen forming horseradish snow sprinkled over the dish. The crab meat was so sweet and tender (having been cooked in butter at 70 degrees). The fine sheet of sake vinegar jelly draped over the crab meat added some tangy notes, pairing wonderfully with the creamy brown butter emulsion which reminded me of the buttery base of a cheesecake. All the flavours worked really harmoniously together and did not overpower the spanner crab.
The next course of Sea scallop, macadamia nut cream, quail egg looked incredible as it arrived at our table. The scallops were sweet and plump, delicately matched with a smooth macadamia nut cream. The 'wreath' of scallop crackling with flowers added a nice textural touch to the dish.
The Charcoal grilled black lip abalone was very tender to eat, with almost a 'meaty' texture. The dashi cream and wakame oil gave it a great depth of flavour.
Continuing the seafood theme, the Bonito with roasted chicken cream, smoked soy and caviar was on point for flavour. The star of the dish for me was the luscious roasted chicken cream - made from the roasting of several chickens with butter, white wine and herbs.
The next dish of Seared uni with smoked bone marrow, cauliflower, yuzu kosho and toasted milk bread was small in size but ginormous in flavour. All the components worked well together and really enhanced the flavour of the uni.
Onto the mains: we started with the Roasted Aylesbury duck breast. It would be hard to find a more perfectly cooked piece of duck - perfectly pink and tender. The mulberry vinegar really gave the dish a slight acidic kick, balanced perfectly with the sheep yoghurt.
The David Blackmore wagyu with Jerusalem artichoke, miso and pine mushrooms was one of my favourite dishes of the night. Apart from looking spectacular, the wagyu was incredibly tender and buttery, combining so well with the sweet, creamy miso. The pine mushrooms on top were just absolutely bursting with flavour.
Even though I was starting to feel a bit full, I couldn't go past the optional cheese cost of Comte and pear jelly. The dish looked amazing - the pear was lying on a bed of shaved comte, interspersed with walnuts and celery. The pear was actually made of sorbet and inside was a mix of liquid cheese with pear jelly. It's probably the most inventive cheese course I've ever had. But be warned - it's best to share the cheese course as it is quite a lot of cheese!
Getting us in the mood for dessert was the Raspberry, salted white chocolate chantilly with wild strawberry syrup. I thought the texture would be similar to granita, but it was a bit more creamy and melted away as soon as it entered my mouth.
The first dessert of Milks involved eight different textures of milk - incredible! The smorgasboard of flavours and textures, ranging from coconut yoghurt to sheep milk sorbet and milk cake was amazing.
Now for Sepia's signature dessert - the Winter Chocolate Forest. The Chocolate Forest is an absolute joy to eat. Every spoonful, you discover a different flavour and texture combination. There's the aniseed flavours of the fennel fronds and the licorice juxtaposed against the smooth blackberry sorbet, the sweetness of the rose jellies and of course, the rich chocolate soil.
One more thing - Sepia has an incredible tea menu and if you want something other than wine, I would highly recommend it. The teas were served hot then poured over a jug full of ice. I can't recall exactly the varieties we tried but they were delicious and refreshing, well worth trying.
It's hard not to be wowed by Martin Benn's Sepia. The meal was nicely paced, service was impeccable and every dish was beautifully presented. The food is exceptional and each plate of food is a wonderful showcase of balancing flavours and textures. Sepia will continue to be one of my favourite restaurants in Sydney.
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