Sepia Review

Alright prepare yourself because this will be another content heavy post which may or may not be the length of the essay that I should be writing up instead (don’t remind me about it please) --> well this is a bit outdated given it took me a week thereabouts to write this all up. Named Good Food Guide Restaurant of the Year 2015, Sepia has been at the top of my restaurant-to-eat list (yes it does exist in real life) ever since I first laid eyes on their Japanese Stones dessert (featured below)

I love everything about degustations, everything but for the wait; I suppose you cannot expect a kitchen to churn out 8 courses one after another nor can your stomach withstand the onslaught of food that quickly (let’s be honest here). For my latest degustation adventure, I decided to make a trip to the 3-hatted Sepia. Est. is known for their safe flavour combinations and Modern Australian cuisine with a touch of Asian (Cantonese) inspiration, Sepia on the other hand is famous for their Japanese-French menu and desserts (and rightly so, just see below). I have been looking for an excuse to dine here for ages, sadly I am forever alone and so my degustation companions are limited to Mother and Father. 

Open 6 days a week Tuesday-Sunday, by popular demand, they are also open for Saturday lunch where it is degustation only. I actually like the idea of degustation for lunch mainly because I have real affinity for the Mediterranean lifestyle when it comes to meals. In Western and Asian cultures (as far as I know), dinner is the biggest meal of the day; to me that seems ridiculous because you’re eating a big meal only to sleep some of it off, and in the end, you are just storing up unused energy otherwise affectionately known as fat (you’re welcome). In the Mediterranean, lunch is their biggest meal so that way you can have energy to work for the rest of the afternoon. Dinner is proportionately smaller because you at night you really don’t need all of that energy in you. All in all, I can proudly vouch for bigger lunches and smaller dinners!

On a side note, I will be partaking in the ballot for Heston’s Fat Duck Melbourne but $525 for a meal not including tips and return flights is ridiculously expensive. I kind of wish they would reject me so I won’t have the option of deciding whether to make the trip to Melbourne especially when some of my uni friends are trying to organise a AUS Open 2015 trip- I won't have any money left in me.

Okay, let’s start!

Degustation is priced at $190 per person

Amuse bouche:
Parsnip, smoked salmon roe, horseradish crème fraiche

The amuse bouche came out promptly and really, promptly is the perfect word to sum up Sepia timing. Prior to making my booking, I did consult a friend of mine who had already dined here and he did warn me to expect a wait for each meal to arrive but to be honest I didn’t have that feeling at all. Maybe it was because I had the degustation at lunch rather than dinner but I was told that they were fully booked that day so there shouldn’t be any difference between how busy lunch is compared to dinner. Anyhow let me know if you have also experienced a bit of a wait.

Lovely crisp parsnip tuille with a light but flavorsome horseradish cream and finally topped with salmon roe that just simply burst alive in your mouth- an enjoyable way to start the 10-course dining experience. It also heralded the trend of cream based savories for the rest of the meal. I don’t know about you but after taking my shots (as I normally do- usually without shame…) I had a hard time willing myself to eat it because with something so small,  one bite is enough to devour it let alone appreciate the flavours. Prior to the day, you actually have no idea what the lunch menu will be, sure the seasonal ‘Chocolate Forest’ is guaranteed to be there but other than that you are really are going in blind because the lunch degustation changes and so isn’t available online.

1st course:
House made chevre, rhubarb, beetroot, rye, Linaria flowers

Unfortunately, if I were to fault Sepia this would be it. I hate to say it but I’ve always been an upfront person so make your own mind about what I’m about to say next. Sepia is no Heston but presentation at Sepia is always top notch so I was really curious upon seeing the 1st course. I have to add that I’m a big fan of edible flowers because flowers are so pretty when placed adjacent to food and if it’s edible then it is not an accessory placed there for show. Rhubarb and beetroot are definitely quite polarizing vegetables. Most people have tried rhubarb in sweets but few can lay claim to the experiences that I have had under the hands of my health conscious but very experimental mother. You may be shocked to hear this but rhubarb in its untouched form is very bitter so the next time you have in it dessert just consider the sugar it in (food for thought, sorry). I actually quite enjoyed the rhubarb and beetroot in this, they were slightly bitter but it definitely helped to balance the intensity from the chèvre (goat's cheese). I'm not the biggest fan of cheese and so the less intense the better but that again is a personal preference. To be frank, there was one element to this dish that I really dislike and that was the rye, to the best of my knowledge I know of it as a wheat that is used in a lot of the breads that I ate but for me it was the wrong texture to this dish. I would liken it to eating sand that includes the crunch, unfortunately I couldn't get past this thought in my head and as a result this was sadly one meal that I couldn't finish.

2nd  course:
Sashimi Yellow Fin tuna, Jamon Iberico cream, Hatsuka radish, pork crackling

I mentioned above that Sepia mainly draws inspiration from Japan and France for their menu and from this dish it is quite obvious. Hmmm seafood...hmmm tuna! The Jamon Iberico cream was delicious and ridiculously light, if I were doing this blind I wouldn't even hesitate to call it a foam either. If there was one thing on the plate that I cleared first a part from the tuna it would this cream. The hatsuka radish was very subtle; it is basically the wasabi to your sushi. I ended up having the pork crackling on their own; they were not too hard and sinfully good but it got a bit too oily for me so I only had 2 out of the 3 pieces. 

3rd course:
Butter poached spanner crab, house made silken tofu, kabu and chrysanthemum cream elk

I actually had a bit of difficulty taking a photo of this. It's a bit unfortunate that you guys cannot truly appreciate this dish through it's visuals with the crab and silken tofu being hidden and tucked away behind the herbs and the kabu (the crisp pieces). This meal also continued the creamy trend with the chrysanthemum cream elk and butter poached spanner crab. It's not as intense as the goats cheese earlier but it's a taste that you can't ignore.  Nonetheless, I happily ate this one because tofu is awesome! 

4th course:
Miso black cod, yuzu curd, water chestnut, wasabi leaves and flowers

A step away from the creamy trend, the black miso cod was cooked perfectly. Just melt in your mouth! I have a sneaky suspicion the 'flower' on the menu is that found on the Chinese vegetable 'gai lan'. I like to think of myself as an expert at telling Chinese vegetables apart just because of the sheer number of times that I have cooked them. Also the stalk of same said vegetable was also used on the side accompanying the flower. The chestnut tuile also added a lovely touch though I doubt I could ever pick it if I were randomly given it to eat. 

Optional Japanese milk custard bun with butter on the side

How cute is that sphere of butter, warning don't eat it all yourself. As for the Japanese milk custard bun, think costco bread rolls but better!

5th  course:
Charcoal grilled David Blackmore wagyu sirloin, caramelised onion, brown rice miso tonburi, salty ice plant, horseradish

Never judge a book by its cover. 

Though certainly not my favourite in terms of presentation this would have to be by far my favourite savoury out of the entire degustation and with so much good seafood it may be hard to fathom that the humble beef won my taste buds over the more glamorous crab and cod. Maybe I had had enough cream that my stomach could handle but certainly David Blackmore's renowned beef was certainly the main culprit at hand. I loved the tenderness and juiciness of the beef and it was wonderfully paired with the accompanying sauce.

I also had a child moment when I found out the existence of salty ice plant so much so that that made up the majority of the photos on my camera. I hope these photo showcase how unusual and strange this plant was. I mean look at the salt crystals on the on the layer of the plant. Taste wise it was incredibly juicy and yes slightly salty. You know how each vegetable has its own unique taste... Yeah the same can be said about this (I know I'm doing a really bad job on recounting this). The brown rice miso, though slightly hidden in the photo (I think this post is turning into Where's Wally?) very much resembled quinoa in both size and the crunch. It was well seasoned and was one of the many reasons why I loved this main the most.

6th course:
Seared Mandagery Creek venison, sansho pepper, roasted artichoke, pumpkin, raspberry

Last savoury and also one of the prettiest- guys it's all in the leaves. I never knew that Jerusalem artichoke leaves even existed but after this I want to start decorating my meals with leaves though I'm probably too lazy for that and will likely opt to eat them as a snack like kale chips. I'm excited! This is also my 3rd time eating venison the first at Est. which was cocoa crusted and so quite bitter. The second at Courtney's Brassiere which was quite disappointing due to the pungent smell/taste of wild meat (it's deer c'mon). I actually prefer Sepia's venison over the other two. Thankfully there was no wild taste and cocoa wasn't needed to mask it. It was also wonderfully tender; no need to up the knife level to the steak knife.

7th Pre-dessert/palette cleanser:
Mandarin, blood orange, yuzu, dai dai, sudachi, sweet violet

Palate cleanser! I don't know if I enjoy the actual desserts more or this because it signals the arrival of desserts. I love citrus so how can I not love this as well. I suppose we can say that there is also a strange plantation trend going on as well with the variety of plants, leaves and flowers. With this dessert think whizz fizz sherbet paired with a heavy dose of citrus enclosed in an egg like shell and I was loving it. Sour is good especially after all those savouries and the heaviness in particular of the butter poached crab and venison. A perfect way to commence my favourite part of the meal and also where Sepia shines the most!

8th course/Dessert no.1
Pumpkin cannoli, buckwheat cream, pumpkin praline, caramelised miso and pumpkin ice-cream, popcorn sugar

Let the official desserts begin~
This was actually my dad's favourite dessert- let's forgive him for having strange taste and overlooking the next dessert to come. The flavours was incredibly complex and delicate, I mean where have you ever heard of a dessert with the buckwheat cream alongside pumpkin ice-cream. They were served as the two fillings inside the cannoli (though only one was pictured above). Definitely would recommend this for someone who isn't the biggest dessert fan or can't take heavy and full on desserts like the one below.

9th course/Dessert no.2
“Spring chocolate forest”
Soft chocolate, hazelnut and almond, lavender and honey cream, blackberry sorbet, caramel and shiso vinegar jellies, green tea, licorice, chocolate twigs, bronze fennel, snapdragons

Sometimes less is not more so forgive if uploaded too many photos of what seemingly looks like exactly the same thing because I really couldn't decide on what photos to upload (they all looked so good). If you have the opportunity to dine at Sepia (lucky you) then you must cross one thing off your bucket list and that is to have their signature dessert, the seasonal Chocolate Forest. I say seasonal because the sorbet usually varies depending on what's in season. This is just simply a work of art and it took me a good few minutes before I could contain my excitement and start appreciating it in all of its glory.

First of all how amazing is Martin Benn to be able to create such a gobsmackingly beautiful and ingenious dessert. I mean just looking at the ingredients is enough to render you speechless with the chocolate twigs, the green tea moss (so clever, so so clever), the caramel and shiso vinegar jellies which are unfortunately hidden in the picture. I loved the addition of the snapdragons (the little white flowers), they were so cute provided extra life to this self-contained forest. The bronze fennel was something that I've never had before- the crystallised leaf in the centre- it tasted minty and may as well be a palate cleanser when eating the hazelnut and almond, and lavender and honey cream (there are two different ones which are buried under the 'dirt' and 'moss'). I'm going to conclude with a three letter word that sums up this meal, nothing less or short of Y U M. Just YUM.

And because I have been wanting to eat here for sometime, I am one of those sad people that has watched Sepia videos on how to make this dessert and the one below. I decided to share the love so if you have 30 min to spare watch the two videos below, I guarantee that you won't regret it.

Dessert no.3 (note this is not a part of the degustation menu and was an add on) 
Japanese Stones- filled with chocolate ganache, liquid passionfruit creme and wild strawberry puree $34

Last meal and this was something that I specially requested upon seeing so many photos of this dessert on blogs as well as watching the youtube video above several times. At $34 it may seem a bit pricey for a dessert but do bear in mind that this is designed for 2 people to share and yes that does make it somewhat affordable. If you ask me it was worth each and every cent and I am in absolute awe of the technically skills and time that goes into making this dessert so yes you should definitely get this if you get the chance. 3 flavours: chocolate, passionfruit and strawberry, whilst the chocolate and strawberry puree were enjoyable (though wasn't the biggest fan of strawberry), passionfruit was by far the winner. I say that because it is a sour based creme and so it was much lighter in comparison to the other two and that meant that my stomach wasn't complaining about having to take in more food. Though if you are sharing this then you should be fine, just a bit of context, my dining partner- dad- isn't a big fan of sweets so I had this dessert all to myself (yeah I'm a huge glutton I know). With that said, I cannot wait to have this again, loved the black sesame pebble (practically love anything black sesame) but that jelly thing in the centre (great description I know) was second to the passionfruit creme- BEST CITRUS PALATE CLEANSER EVER. Martin Benn you are seriously so smart, how on earth did you know that your diners would need a palate cleanser with this? Also in case you were wondering and too lazy to watch the video (go watch it) the stones are made from a charcoal chocolate coating and the fillings were made using liquid nitrogen.

Okay I am officially exhausted. But the show still continues and I have a massive backlog of posts to clear amidst my looming final exams. Wish me luck and hopefully my eating and sleeping pattern will make it somewhat in tact before the year's end. I hope you enjoyed reading this or at least drooling over my photos (: though I do wish that you enjoyed my commentary.

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  1. im going there next month and i have my eyes on the japanese stones!

    1. Enjoy Enjoy! and do remember to share the stones



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