A couple of days ago A few weeks ago, mum and I got to dine at the long anticipated Sepia. Apparently mum had recommended Sepia to me years ago but in my usual state of selective hearing, I never actually took on her suggestion until now. I would also be lying if I didn’t say Jay and Alfred’s gorgeous food photography wasn’t a huge factor to my wanting to come here. Booking for Sepia on a weeknight is easy peasy, I do it the day before and we’re here on a Wednesday night for the 7.30 pm dinner service.
From Tuesday to Thursday, Sepia offers the seven-course degustation and also the four-course. Not quite feeling up to a huge feed we decide to go with the latter. It’s also worth noting that the deg they do on the weekends is different to that offered on weekdays, it’s a progressive piece of work with the menu changing every weekend. Mum and I also end up ordering completely different items for each course which meant we actually got to try a total of eight different menu options that night.
Mum is in love with the interior, which I sadly do not have many photos of. It’s rich and cosy with browns, blacks, creams and grey but also very minimalistic. Mum insists that I blend into the couch, hence the photo.
We start with some oysters that are in season (not part of the four-course) because we are both huge oyster fans. They were NSW rock oysters, quite creamy with a good seafoody-salty kick. The vinaigrette wasn’t anything too special but that was probably intentional to let the taste of the sea shine through.
Next is possibly the softest bread roll I have had in my entire life. It was deliciously hot which meant the butter melted on contact, not that it actually needed any because it was already so fluffy and moist.
I tried to get an innards shot to show how layers were actually formed on the inside but it didn’t work. I’ve never seen anything quite like it except in mantou, the Chinese bread that they serve with chilli crabs.
The amuse bouche was a tempura shiso leaf with salmon roe and dollops of (not too sure) wasabi cream. Really simple but mum and I absolutely loved it and could’ve had a big bowl of these to eat like chips in front of the footy.
Sashimi of Yellow Fin tuna, Jamon Iberico cream, radish, turnip, apple and wasabi, pork crackling
Starters come out and mom gets the tuna. Presentation is A+ though reminds me every so slightly of sour raspberry liquorice strings they sell at markets. Nothing as tacky as that here though, the cream in the middle is decadent with the crumbs breaking up a dish that would usually be all slippery.
Hokkaido scallop, roasted potato dashi, duck egg sabayon, gobo, sobacha, pea flower
I got the Hokkaido scallops, a tower of fresh scallops covered in a duck egg sabayon (a kind of mousse). My favourite part was spooning the sauce which had taken on the flavor of a seafood broth.
Kabayaki freshwater eel, apple dumplings, sheep yoghurt and apple, miso sherbet, sorrel
Mum’s kabayaki eel was a little on the salty side I found but consumption with the apple dumplings that surround it make it a much more palatable mouthful. Think your typical unagi at a local Japanese restaurant, except the flesh breaks into pieces in your mouth before melting. Also non of that sickly sweet teriyaki sauce. I think that’s roasted rice on top, or a roasted grain of some kind.
Butter poached spanner crab, house made silken tofu, chrysanthemum and kabu cream, fried garlic, red elk leaf
My spanner crab tofu, oh me oh my. This is definitely my kind of dish incorporating so many of my favourite things like crunchy sea vegetables, crustacean meat sans having to peel off any shells and of course creamy, creamy tofu. It reminds me a little bit of the crab congee at The Quay.
Butter poached King George whiting, smoked pancetta, white carrot and yuzu, lardo, kombu, wasabi
Our mains are here and I’m kind of 80% full already. This whiting was originally my dish which I ordered despite the pancetta addition (I don’t eat pig meat). However as it arrived I noticed that the fish was actually wrapped around the pancetta component which actually made it difficult to separate (I initially thought it would be placed on top or on the side or something). This was of course through no fault of Sepia, I hadn’t told them of my dietary requirement. In any case mum happily swapped food with me so I ended up consuming most of her main.
W.A. marron smoked over charcoal, sudachi and shellfish butter, candied lemon aspen, sea vegetables, shell powder
Marron with rice crispies and seaweed. The sauce was extremely rich which combined with what else I had already eaten, definitely made me feel a little sick. But the marron is a gorgeous, gorgeous creature of the sea.
Pre-dessert looks like an illegal mess but underneath the white powder is an apple custard, tangy enough to cut through all of the richness from before.
“Spring chocolate forest” Soft chocolate, hazelnut and almond praline, lavender and honey cream, blackberry sorbet caramel and shiso vinegar jellies, green tea, licorice, chocolate twigs, crystallised fennel fronds
Lastly is the dessert of my dreams. Ever since I had seen Jay’s photo and read her praises this was what I knew I had to get at Sepia. It goes by the name Winter Chocolate Forest on the menu but is also known as the forest floor. I imagine as a restaurant signature, the components of this dish changes with the season. Ours was a blackberry quenelle sitting atop its majestic throne of chocolate twigs, green tea moss, edible flowers, hazelnut praline and lavender honey cream, dotted with crystallised fennel fronds. Remembering every ingredient is almost a math formula but whatever effort it takes, Sepia chefs need to know how it is so worth it. Every mouthful isn’t a party, it’s a full blown festival on your tongue. Textures are going crazy and you get a good mix of sweet, a hint of sour. My only reservation about it was the liquorice but that’s a personal preference and it only leaves a slight aftertaste.
Frozen strawberry, Champagne chiboust, alpine strawberry jelly, strawberry sherbet, pistachio
Mum’s champagne strawberries. We initially thought it was stuffed strawberries, hopefully stuffed with gold to justify the price of serving us three strawbies as a dessert. But upon contact with a spoon the strawberries shatter into shards of ice. It’s a great dessert but I don’t have much of it as all as I’m still lost in the forest, tasting the ground.
Fine dining is what it is, it’s dressing up even in onesie weather, it’s 45-minute wait between courses and most of all it’s $150pp (or more). Often it’s hard to justify the price tag of what would usually be a week’s worth of groceries for a family, for just one night. But it’s just as much about the food as it is about the experience. Knowing that meticulous care has been put towards your food, that they source only the finest and the freshest, that you’re eating something you simply cannot get anywhere else. It’s sometime food, it’s a sometime experience. They’re not all good, but Sepia most certainly is.