One of the very first introductions to Japanese fusion cuisine was demonstrated by Tetsuya Wakuda, the surprising combination of the subtle flavours that Japanese cuisine has to offer is very well complemented with French preparation and techniques. Chef Wakuda’s restaurant Tetsuya’s is no doubt still considered as one of Sydney’s, if not Australias most respected institution.
Tetsuya’s cuisine is the classic fundamentals of Japanese Fusion but what can be done to make it more modern and interesting is the use of jellies, gels and foams. English born chef, Martin Benn first started his career back home in London at The Oak Room under chef Michel Lorrain, before heading off to work under legendary chef, Marco Pierre White. Arriving in Australia in 1996, Benn clocked hours at Dietmar Sawyere’s Forty one including Tetsuya Wakuda’s Tetsuyas. The accolades that Benn has achieved over the years is amazing, with him also being crowned as this year’s chef of the year. However, the talent doesn’t end here with Benn, along with head chef Daniel Puskas, the dishes that are brought out are carefully inspected with techniques and finesse that are visible on the plate.
Being wanting to dine at Sepia restaurant for a very long time does send excitement to my mind, with many choices on the A la carte menu – I reckon the best gamble to go for is the degustation option.
Amuse Bouche of kingfish sashimi in dashi butter was a heavenly pair. The subtle flavour of the dashi fragrances the butter giving it a unique flavour combination, not heavy but very light – a great way to start my lunch.
I can’t think of any other clever ways to introduce dashi to a dish apart from a jelly or gel. The freshness of the tuna hinted with soy and mirin is very much balanced with the creaminess of the fromage blanc, a kick from the miso mustard comes in and cleaning every bite is achieved by the dashi flavoured jelly.
A unique dish living up to its name of “scallop sushi”. The slight ‘burnt’ flavour from the nori rolled scallop is very interesting. The use of ginger gel and avocado cream adds a dimension of texture to the dish and who needs wasabi when the nasturtium leaf promotes a peppery flavour.
The risotto was perfectly cooked as well as the spanner crab. The strong flavours of the shellfish essence and mustard butter sums up the dish and brings it altogether.
The hiramasa kingfish gently cooks as your waiter pours the popcorn dashi onto your plate. Not only the barley looked pretty on the kingfish, it actually makes the overall dish very textural – One element that I realised is present in every dish I’ve tasted so far, is the textural element. It feels like drinking a brothy soup but a poshy version of course.
With the menu indicating that the there is finger lime on the dish – you will want to find it. In this case, surprisingly it is in a form of caviar – every burst of the finger lime caviar gives a really strong acidity yet a sweet aroma of the lime. The classical marriage of eggplant and duck is no doubt a perfect one, with beautifully cooked duck and smoky eggplant, there is no complains to make. licorice and yoghurt? works for me!
One of the best beef I’ve tasted for a very long time – very tender and was rare which I love my wagyu beef to be. The buffalo milk tofu tasted beautiful and not only its silky texture complements beautifully with the beef, it also cuts through the richness of the braised short rib.
The venison was cooked top bottom perfection but however, the boudin noir (black pudding) crumbs was too strong for my palate. The flavours are fantastic especially the rhubarb and the golden beetroot just highlights the plate with a fresh colour.
The pre-dessert of ‘Apple pie’ is to die for. It can beat any apple pie any day – I am surprised that it only takes three elements to replicate the same flavour of the real deal.
This dessert can easily take out any desserts, every spoonful of this dish packs an intense amount of crunch and textures. The bergamot sorbet was refreshing cutting through every spoonful of chocolatey goodness, which is good but I am finding it hard and really confused as the chocolate flavour – it does cover up the subtle flavours of the green tea and lemon thyme.
I thoroughly enjoyed my experience at Sepia – Martin Benn and the kitchen brigade deserves an applaud and long rein it may be.
Sepia Restaurant and Wine Bar
201 Sussex Street, Sydney
New South Wales 2000
(02) 9283 1990
Sepia twitter page: http://twitter.com/#!/sepiarestaurant
SMH TWO HATS – 2011
MARTIN BENN – SMH CHEF OF THE YEAR – 2011
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