Birthdays are the perfect excuse to treat yourself and go for something fancy. After dreaming of going to Quay for years and accomplished that last year, I decided to pick Sepia for a fine dining birthday lunch, since Sepia plans to close before the end of next year. A mix of Modern Australian with Japanese, tucked away in a not so busy part of the CBD. All my savings literally go to food, but it was worth it. Lunch bookings are easy to get, dinner bookings need to be made at least a month in advance. or more if Friday/Saturday booking.
Saw this on MasterChef 2 years ago, and knew I had to try it before they closed. Let's take a momonet to appreciate the beauty in this.
Lunch on Saturdays only offer the 9 course degustation at $210pp, which you may think it's cheaper than Quay, but the portions are even smaller, and they didn't offer petit fours and coffee/tea or a birthday gift/treat so price wise it's about the same. There's also no views here (only construction outside), so personally I think Quay is more 'value for money.'
It was a blind tasting, meaning they don't give you a menu of what you're eating until after the whole meal has finished. The waiter would only introduce the dish once it arrives. Even though there's the fun element of surprise since some dishes and flavours vary each day, I still prefer having a menu so I know what I'm eating rather than remembering what the waiter said...
They have a very extensive drinks menu. From different wine pairings, to wine and other alcohol by the glasses, a separate tea pairing and tea menu, then a cocktail and mocktail menu. Each plate comes with matched cutlery to use for the specific food. Service was attentive throughout the meal. When you got up, they would fold the napkin neatly, or open the door once you go to the bathroom (which was a bit further along a hallway behind the restaurant).
Ninth Day: jasmine tea, ginger, honey, lemon-$24
Amuse bouche: Kingfish, dashi cream, water chestnut, nori, dashi jelly (front)
Tempura oba, smoked scarlet prawn, shell powder
They were sooo cute in their little dishes. Although the seaweed one was small and not much kingfish, the flavours were clean and refreshing. The tempura oba had a really good crunch even after taking heaps of photos. Slight smokiness of some crustacens with good dollops of the sauce helped elevate the flavours of the oba.
1-Tuna, egg yolk, fromage blanc, unpasteurised soy sauce, wasabi
a bit of theatre with some sprinkle of pea and horseradish in liquid nitrogen
2-Spanner crab, sake vinegar jelly, brown butter emulsion, pea and horseradish
Who doesn't like a bit of theatre? Pleasantly surprised when I saw of liquid nitrogen, and from that they sprinkled some pea and horse radish. There was a super slight acitcity from the really clear jelly where you can see the crab inside. Decent chunks of fresh crab, which balanced really well with the creamy brown butter emulsion which was light and and not overly salty, and the dusting of peas and horseradish, and just overall a really refreshing dish.
Butter and Japanese milk bread
Complimentary Japanese milk bread was available (ended up requesting a second roll since it was that good). It was warm and fresh from the oven, and sprung back to shape when you pressed it. It had a lovely milkiness in it and super soft. The butter was surprisingly smooth as well, was worried it would roll out whilst I cut through it. The bits on salt on top was needed since the butter itself was unsalted. Didn't end up using much butter since the bread itself was amazing. Haven't found anything like that in Asian bakeries (normally you press them and they just completely squish).
3-Charcoal grilled black lip abalone, daikon, lard, mushroom soy butter, cabbage wakeme oil
loving that marble plate detail
4-Seared uni, smoked bone marrow, cauliflower, yuzu cosh, toasted milk bread, citrus soy sobacha
Yes it's tiny, but it's packed with loads of stuff inside. Again, another one bite dish accompanied by surprisingly light weight chopsticks use. Loved the sea urchin which gave a good amount of creaminess in your mouth, with more creamy cauli inside, all stacked on a nicely toasted ilk bread for some crunch. Couldn't really taste the tea in this since the sea urchin itself was bursting with flavour.
5-Jerusalem artichoke, miso, Tasmanian truffle
The prettiest truffle ever! Looks like a truffle flower (: The main difference I noticed was that Tas truffle is a lighter and more subtle flavour and holds together a bit more compared to WA truffles. I like my truffle flavour, so eating this truffle by itself I thought it wasn't fragrant enough. Once you eat the truffle with the deep fried artichoke filled with miso, the truffle really boosted the whole flavour of the dish. I think if you had the other truffle it would be way too dominating, so this type and amount of truffle was perfect. Loved the crunchiness of the artichoke containing the miso.
knife=red meat next!
6-Roasted Aylesbury duck breast, lemon aspen, sheep yoghurt, mulberry vinegar, sorrel (Plate 3)
Duck is one of my favourite proteins, so I was super excited when this was on the menu. Everything was perfect up until this point. When the waiter came to our table he started to put the dishes down and started going through what it was, then in the middle he stopped, picked it up and returned back to the kitchen. Then he came again, and we realised the kitchen had forgotten the dollops of sheep yoghurt. and from going back and forth, some of the vinegar merged with the yoghurt and didn't look as pretty. I started cutting through my duck, and found it quite hard to cut through even though it still looked nice and pink. Had a bite of it then blood started to seep out, which is a big NO for a place of this standard. I called the waitress over and she said they normally cook it medium-rare to medium and didn't apologise. At home we just re-fry or re-bake it and couldn't care less, just not in this situation. Plate 2 was perfectly fine. I wasn't planning to return the dish but ended up giving it back. They ended up giving me a new dish, with the duck a bit pinker than plate 2, but luckily not over cooked. I told them it wasn't rested enough. I know my theory behind cooking, I just can't cook. They also asked if I wanted my beef well done-well ofc not, that would ruin the dish. I love my red meat pink, but not when some blood juices start coming out...
Ok, moving on to eating the duck. There was a slight crispy in the skin, and fat was rendered down well (even though you can see a slight layer of fat). Duck was really lean and moist. I especially loved the mulberry vinegar which gave it some acidic sweetness, the yogurt dollops created a creamy yet refreshing element on this dish.
7-Charcoal grilled David Blackmore wagyu, roasted onion and mustard shiitake mushroom shiso
Really high quality wagyu, although my piece had a sinewy/tendony bit, so I was initiialy struggling to cut through my beef. it was a tiny piece of beef, and I've had more 'melt in your mouth' beef before, so this dish didn't quite make it to my best beef/savoury dishes of all time. It was cooked to a medium-rare, and did retain the softness that comes with beef of this high quality.b The mushrooms were so juicy, and loved the flavour of the sauce. The branch elevated the presentation. It was made from scooping out the top of the sauce once they reduced it, then piped into the shape was kind of like eating a hard yet chewy bit of concentrated sauce. I think most people didn't eat it, but I did since it was an interesting concept.
8-Blueberry, coconut, beetroot, black olive, violet
A well thought out palate cleanser/pre-dessert. If I was to pick a favourite yoghurt, this would be it. Generously topped with sweet, fresh blueberries dressed in a bit of beetroot juice, and good amount of crunch from the crumb of coconut gave it a nice crunchy element. Couldn't really taste the black olive, since I think they mixed it with the crumb, but that's ok since I'm not a massive fan of olives. Love the vibrant purple in the violet, adding a small bitter element. Purple is my favourite colour, and there was so much purple in this dish!
There was a choice of desserts on the menu, so we opted for one of each. I've been waiting 2 years to try this chocolate forest. Although the original which featured on MC was black forest flabvoured, I would have top say this is quite close to those flavours, as the other seasonal flavours which this dish can be made into are even more different. This one also looks similar to the original colourwise, and I prefer black berry over cherry sorbet, so it all works out. You really do appreciate the dish even more after watching it being made on TV.
9-Winter chocolate forest: soft chocolate, hazelnut and almond, osmanthus and yellow box honey cream, blackberry sorbet, lemonade fruit jellies, green tea, licorice, chocolate twigs, bronze fennel, native violets
9-Chocolate, caramelised apple cream, artichoke, blackcurrant, cocoa nib, pecan brittle
Option 2 was a chocolate dessert generously dusted with gold powdered pecan brittle. The dome was a super thin piece of tempered chocolate, holding some apple cream inside. There was also a nice blackberry gel inside. Loved the crunchy cocao nib for some bitterness. The artichoke was more hidden amongst the brittle. This was nice, but not amazing.
Japanese stones (on the secret menu): smooth cocoa butter shell with soft centres (passionfruit, chocolate, berry, salted caramel w/ white choc), rimed in green tea moss, yuzu jelly and crystallised sesame seed sand-$40
Part of the secret menu, where Chef Martin Benn normally reserved for VIPs/family and friends. I heard someone else order it, and thought why not, since I probably won't come back here again. $40 for 9 bite sized stones is pricey (hence why I didn't end up getting a birthday cake this year, even though I've been consistent from like the age of 1), but once you see the process of making it, you know where you're money is going. The flavoured fruit gel-like centres are freezes in liquid nitrogen, before dipping into the cocoa butter, luckily they weren't really sweet, was worried it'll be like eating a ton of overly sweet white choc. Each shell had a nice crack to it.
Each bite was a nice surprise. The green tea as moss could have had more flavour. Loved the slight acidity from the yuzu jelly acting as a pond, and that sesame sand gave things a nice crunch. It really did look like Japanese stones-presentation once again on point.
pond of jelly inside
salted caramel w/ white choc
Didn't manage to try this one unfortunately, since it's a guessing game of what surprise flavour you have, and seeing 9 stones, thought at least we would get 2 of each flavour. Apparently this wasn't too sweet but could have been more salted.
You get the initial acidity then sweet after taste. Also had 3 stones of this flavour.
These were the smaller sized stones. Really smooth dark choc inside.
We were seated next to the wine room/fridge storage, and a quick glance inside, and wow, so many different wines from the floor to the ceiling.
At the end of our meal, our coats were waiting for us at the doorway.
until next time :)
A really enjoyable meal, and highly recommend to try before they shut their doors.
Thanks for reading my
essay food review!
(P.S still an amateur photographer, so any food photo taking tips are appreciated haha. Most of the time I get too excited about the food, and then realised the photo wasn't that great)