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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