Review: Sepia

25 August 2015

After last night’s rather unimpressive tasting menu at Rockpool I was wondering if I bit off way more than I can chew in Sydney for 4 straight tasting menus. Quay the first night was excellent, but last night just fell down, hard. Tonight was another, at another “much praised” place called Sepia.

I had a slower day as trodding through the flooding last night took a bit out of me, and I had a slower morning. Originally planning on some find Uyghur food, but the resto in question was shut for filming…so I guess they are famous… Oh well, had a good if not boring dimsum lunch before wandering around looking at some of the storm damage in the CBD…

Chilled back at the hotel before I headed to dinner early, as I was starting to feel the jetlag… I got to Sepia, which was quite dark and I got a nice corner seat. It had a lounge-y feel about the place, but it had solid, attentive service. I looked at the menu and went with the big one, with wine pairing. After last night’s disappointment I am hoping for much more tonight.

As I had a cocktail they had all sorts of additions to the tasting menu…I never like these kind of things, plus some of it was straight up-selling. Not fond of this. But I went with the oysters to start…and they arrived soon.


Not bad, but nothing special. To be honest these are the first oysters I’ve had since I was poisoned in Napoli…so the fact I am not sick should be good enough right? Plus the shucking was very poor… Sigh… Anyway, then the amuse.


Nice bit of tartar. Then the wine pairings began and it was also very nice, and the pours were very generous. Then after a bit the first dish came out.


This was focused on the yellowfin tuna. To be honest it was rather bland, and you’d think the “Iberico” cream would help? Actually it didn’t work, and the cream was actually not very pleasant… I was getting this tingling in the back of my head now, one that didn’t show up until a few courses into last night’s meal…

Then a rather long wait…then an “off-the-menu” item showed up complements of the kitchen.


This was an interesting squid dish, rather tasty. Not done as smoothly as somewhere like Hedone in London, but very good. I had wondered why the dish took so long, but now I understand. But then it was also a bit of a wait for the next dish…


A nice piece of bonito, very tasty, with a nice touch of quail egg. The potato base was not very necessary and the texture was all wrong for this dish. It’s like having a poached egg on a bed of over-charred sage branches, just seems way too aggressive in the dichotomy. But the fish was very nice.

Another long delay…this time over 20 minutes for the next dish. Then it finally arrived and my heart sunk…


The next dish was based on abalone, one of my favourite things. Well, once again the accompanying items ruined the main ingredient. There was no need to have things on the side fight the abalone (like the yellowfin dish). Again, I blame the influence of TV — the “we can’t *not* do anything to something for it to be called cooking” right? Ugh… Sometimes the most confident chefs are the ones that do NOT adulterate the ingredients. Not good.

As with the pacing, I asked them what’s going on as it’s not a busy night, and at this pace (it’s been almost 2 hours at this point, less than half way into the tasting) I will be here for 4+ hours…but then they cranked it up. Not sure if that was a good call, but…

I stared when the next item arrived…


Seriously… I am not even gonna comment on this. Smoked uni. Too bad I couldn’t show you the underbelly of this thing… Probably one of the worst morsels of food I’ve had in 2015…

At this point I was pretty much done with this place, and not much is gonna save this meal. Then the next piece came out and it was really like, really?


A truffle sushi. I’m not a truffle fan, so this is lost on me. I was just waiting for the gold leaf on this dish. Oh goodness, this is turning into a farce. Hey, if you are the type to get dazzled with bling, this place may be for you… And if anything, the rice was bloody awful.

I bit my tongue, drank more wine, and counted down when this trial is going to end. Then the next item arrived…


Oh dear…this duck was stringy and just tasted awful. With all the excellent duck I’ve had in North America and Europe this past year, this was probably the worst of the lot. How can you have a medium-rare duck that tastes like it’s beyond well done? I barely finished this course and am just tired of this place and this evening…


The final dish, as you may be able to see, is again wagyu. Nowhere near the level it was at Quay or even Rockpool, and it was prepped rather shabbily. Flavour was lacking, frankly you taste the side items far stronger than the main ingredient — the theme of the night. Very poor balance once again.

They asked if I wanted the optional course now, and I politely declined…I just want to quit this place. I look at my notes now and it said for this last dish, “good beef, bad prep, cooking. sad” — that says it all.


The dessert came and I don’t remember much to be honest. It was milk-based and I am not sure if I even ate half of it. I just wanted to leave, as this was such a poor experience. Sadly, the worst tasting menu of 2015 for me. What a waste of time and money, and it’s all but soured the tasting menu experience for me. I have 1 more to go tomorrow, and I was contemplating cancelling.

I headed out in confusion, sadness and disappointment at such a lame evening. It was so bad I stopped to get some take-away at a hole-in-the-wall Malaysian place near the train station, and it was far better than most of tonight’s cooking. And to rub salt into my wounds, I just noticed Sepia got 84th on the 50 Best list? Huh? This is exactly why I should never look at these damn things.

One of my dining low points of the year. Oh Sydney, you are failing me…big time…

201 Sussex Street
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia


3 thoughts on “Review: Sepia

  1. Pingback: Review: Tetsuya’s | melhuang1972

  2. Pingback: Ethnic Foods in Sydney — 3 quick lunches | melhuang1972

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