Sampling the entire menu at est.

After the somewhat disappointing service at Sepia, I was a little apprehensive about visiting est. with my family the following night for dinner. Have my years in Europebigland raised my fine-dining expectations to ridiculous standards? Are my pseudo-serious lamentations about lack of Australian culture and appreciation for fine things grounded in depressing reality? Or have I just become an unjustified snob, despite my working-class-to-bourgeois upbringing?

But from the moment we were greeted by the maître d’hôtel and led to our table, all those questions and anxieties dissipated. Sepia‘s service must’ve been an exception, because yup, est. definitely knows what they’re doing.

Loving the atmosphere!

Loving the atmosphere!

Since there were four of us and the four courses all had four options, it was the perfect opportunity to sample everything on the menu. Each of us decided on our top choices for each course, and bam! Nomfest! Most of the dishes were solid, with a few standouts, and I’ll be commenting on them in the photo captions, while I’ve nabbed the course descriptions from est.‘s website. Unfortunately, I’m a newb when it comes to low-light photography (and photography in general, come to think of it), so these mightn’t all be aesthetically pleasing–but in this case, please don’t judge est. by my amateur point-and-shooting!


Cocktails

gorgeous george: jameson & chivas whisky, grand marnier, dom benedictine, lemon, bitters, shaken together ($22)

Perfect for a whisky-lover!

Perfect for a whisky-lover!

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Crazy lazy lunch at Sepia Sydney

As soon as I had my Sydney dates finalised, the lovely Anika and I started planning an epic meal–one that would require several months’ notice to gather the necessary funds. We decided on the 9-course degustation at Sepia, one of the Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide’s three-hatted restaurants, and Vittoria Coffee’s Restaurant of the Year in 2015.

Needless to say, Anika and I were both super excited about our Sepia Friday, and were pretty much ready for a three-hour meal that ended with us rolling down Sussex Street, happily watered and fed. And despite a few disappointments here and there, our overall experience was pretty amazing.

Before I start on the individual food and wine pairings (which were mostly hits, had some misses, and some super duper hits), I want to say that for me, fine-dining is about the entire experience, which includes attentive and knowledge waitstaff, the correct assortment of tableware, and an atmosphere conducive to the holistic enjoyment of dishes and drinks that have been thoughtfully created and presented, and should be consumed with the same level of respect and consideration. Additionally, when I’m forking out a decent amount for such an experience, I expect the restaurant’s quality to be much more than just the food–and unfortunately, I found the service rather lacking. The sommelier was the only person who gave us the impression of being amenable to answering our questions, whereas practically everyone else was quite brusque, impersonal, and  indifferent. I found this very disappointing, and though I tried not to be affected by the service, I’m sure I would’ve enjoyed my meal significantly more had the staff been more pleasant.

Right–onto the food! Sepia was pretty darn good in this aspect, and almost every dish had Anika and me making all sorts of inappropriate noises in public. The restaurant’s Japanese inspirations are quite evident in its emphasis on seafood, which suited us just fine because mmm, seafood… (Also, I feel I should apologise for some of the sub-optimal photos–my seat wasn’t exactly photography-friendly, and I kept trying to avoiding my camera’s shadow.)

For the amuse bouche, we had light and crispy crackers with a delicately seasoned tuna tartare, complemented by seaweed. This was our first gastronomical impression of Sepia, and we were both quite pleased.

Amuse bouche: rice crackers with tuna tartare.

Amuse bouche: rice crackers with tuna tartare.

1: Sashimi of Yellow Fin tuna, Jamon Iberico cream, avocado, baby radish, ponzu, pork crackling.
2004 Crawford River “Reserve”, Riesling. Henty, Australia.

I felt this was the weakest dish of the set. I wasn’t impressed by the quality of the tuna, and the overall flavours just didn’t do anything for me. I’d actually go as far as call it quite bland—the dish was certainly overshadowed by the Riesling, which was delicious.

1: Sashimi of Yellow Fin tuna

1: Sashimi of Yellow Fin tuna

2: Bonito, fried potato, poached quail egg, caviar, roasted chicken powder.
2013 Perticaia, Trebbiano Spoletino. IGT Umbria, Italy.

Whatever reservations I had from the first course were immediately blown out of the water with this beautiful concoction. Anika commented on the quail egg really doing it for her, but for me, I loved the combination of flavours and textures—taking the first bite was a joyous occasion that had me grinning in that dopey foodie fashion.

2: Bonito and co.

2: Bonito and co.

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