Have you ever caught yourself starring unabashedly at someone you just met who was so strikingly beautiful, you were almost searching to find a single, reassuringly human sign of imperfection? Well that is kind of how I would describe my recent meal at Sepia.
Being temporarily at home in Sydney, I have escaped the cold of Paris, minus 8 degree baguette queues and icy streets, happily swapping it for a bit of R&R with family and friends, and of course, a big list of new Australian restaurants to check out.
Whilst living in one of the gastronomic capitals of the world for the last 2 years, I have always maintained that Australia boasts some of the best food and finest restaurants in the world. Coming home with a more refined palette, a taste for boundary-pushing creativity and a love of French cuisine, I had high expectations from the talent in my hometown, and I was so happy to not be disappointed – in fact, I am proud to say that out of all the incredible meals I have eaten in Michelin star restaurants and home kitchens across France, my meal at Sepia Sydney was totally up there on the “unforgettable meals” list. Sepia is a 3-hatted restaurant. I’m not sure why the Michelin star system never reached Australian shores but to be honest I don’t think it matters, since in Paris for example, a lot of the best emerging chefs are not on the Michelin system by choice, and are producing by far some of the best food.
My dining companion and I were subject to what I could only describe as a beautifully executed performance of senses during the 4 course degustation menu. We ordered opposite dishes and shared everything. Normally there is at least one dish that lets the team down. We didn’t find one. And the service was so good the staff were practically psychic. The wine list was an absolute field day, and matched so well to each dish that flavours and senses were elevated on a whole other level. “Would you like a sneaky top up, an extra course snuck in there for good measure, and perhaps a seat that’s more suited to your petite stature?” Hell yes. God I love the service in this country. Sorry Paris, but no matter how damn good, sexy and elegant your food and restaurants are, the service only rarely meets up to the standards of us friendly Aussies. Ok maybe I’m bias, maybe it’s a cultural or language thing …
Here’s an awesome video on how the stones are made:
So, I’ve always maintained that I am not a food/ restaurant critic/reviewer. I write about the experience of food, the love of food, food as story, culture and passion. I always want to bring the experience to my readers. That’s why I unashamedly asked Martin Benn if he would be kind enough to share a recipe. Luckily, he willingly obliged. Not only is Martin Benn extremely talented, he’s also a super nice guy.
An English native, Martin picked up French techniques under Micheal Lorrain then worked with Marco Pierre White after which he became the head chef of Tetsuya’s – at the age of just 25. Sepia is the result of all those good things fused together- French technique, Japanese style, Nordic influence, matched with a supply of the best seafood in Sydney thanks to a partnership with Decosti’s seafood. On the subject of seafood, we’ve chosen the bonito sashimi with green apple and sheep yoghurt, sake and chive oil, as the feature recipe, as not only is it delicious but it’s also one of the few things easily executable at home, and something you can substitute the fish for depending on seasonality.
I am convinced Bonito is the next big thing. It’s tuna’s hot little sister. It’s mackerel’s sexier cousin. It’s amazing how much food supply and demand, not to mention market prices is based on food trends and what’s fashionable right now. I have seen Bonito springing up on menus across Paris – this fish is rapidly gaining popularity given the demise of tuna, boredom of salmon and perception of mackerel. Even Martin Benn admitted that shortly after featuring it on the menu at Sepia, the retail price had doubled overnight from $9 to $18 per kilo. Make the most of it now, before it meets the same fate as redfin tuna…
This recipe takes a bit of time and preparation but is well worth the effort. You can use any sashimi-grade fish for this great summer recipe supplied courtesy of Martin Benn.
Recipe: Pickled summer bonito, green apple and sheep yoghurt, sake and chive oil, radish, daikon and wasabi. By Martin Benn, Sepia Sydney
1 x Spring Bonito, filleted (700g to 900g whole weight fish)
500ml rice wine vinegar seasoned
140g caster sugar
10g sea salt
1000ml mineral water
1 tsp wasabi paste
½ daikon radish
100ml sake and chive oil (see below)
400g green apple and sheep yoghurt cream (see below)
For the pickled Bonito:
Cut the bonito fillet down each side of the centre bone.
This will produce two long strips, repeat this with the other fillet, discard the bones.
Place the 4 strip fillets into a deep tray and set aside.
Mix the vinegar, sugar and sea salt together until all the sugar has dissolved.
Add in the water to the vinegar and mix well.
Pour the pickling liquor over the fillets make sure that they are well covered.
Leave to marinate for 6 minutes and then turn the fillets over and continue to marinate for a further 6 minutes.
Remove from the picking liquor and pat dry with paper towel.
Remove the skin from each quarter fillet then cut the fillets in half length ways.
Leave on a tray with paper towel until required.
For the wasabi:
Add to a little light olive oil to loosen the wasabi paste then brush over the marinate bonito.
For the daikon radish:
Peel the radish and then using a mandolin thinly slice.
Place the strips on top of each other and using a knife cut into a julienne (thin strips) keeping them as long as possible.
Place into iced water for 2 hours before using:
Dress the plate:
Place a 6cm circle cutter on the centre of a plate.
Spoon into the cutter the apple and yoghurt cream then remove the cutter so you have a perfect circle
Brush the bonito with the wasabi oil.
Lay the pickled bonito onto the apple and yoghurt cream gently.
Drain the strips of daikon well on paper towel and then place on top of the bonito.
Garnish the top of the bonito with baby leaves and cress.
Finally spoon the sake and garlic oil around one side of the apple and yoghurt cream.
Green apple and sheep yoghurt cream
800g granny smith apples (skinned and diced in lemon juice water)
250g butter diced
10g malic acid
150g sheep milk yoghurt (drained over night in a sieve)
Drain the apples from the lemon juice water and pat dry with paper towel.
Dice the butter and place into a heavy based pan.
Place the butter over a low to medium heat until the butter is melted and begins to bubble.
Add the apples, sugar and salt and stir so that the apples are well coated in the butter.
Place a lid on the apples and cook gently over a low heat, stirring from time to time.
Once the apples are tender, remove from the heat and drain off the butter setting it aside for later.
Allow the apples to cool slightly.
Pour the apples into a food blender and begin to blend.
Whisk the drained butter from earlier to emulsify and then add back 50g to the apples.
Blend the apples on full until a smooth puree is obtained.
Pass the puree into a clean bowl and whisk through the sheep yoghurt.
Store in a refrigerator until required.
Chive and sake oil
150g thick green chives, cleaned (blanched weight 300g)
150g grapeseed oil
Blanch the chives in boiling salted water and cook for about 3 minutes until the chives are tender.
Drain the chives and refresh in iced water and then squeeze out as much water as possible.
Place the chives into a blender and add in the grapeseed oil.
Turn on and blend on full.
The oil will heat up from the friction to around 60c.
Blend for 3-4 minutes
Pass the oil through a fine filter into a container over ice.
Leave to drain in the refrigerator overnight.
To finish the oil:
80ml Chive Oil (from above)
20ml Sake (good quality)
Place the chive oil into a bowl over iced water until it thickens.
Whisk in the sake until the oil begins to emulsify.
201 Sussex Street, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9283 1990
Lunch Tuesday to Friday from 12 noon
Dinner Tuesday to Saturday from 6pm