Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Sage Restaurant : Taste and Test

Whenever I get asked about my top restaurant picks in Canberra I always name Sage Restaurant in my top three. I wrote about my first meal at Sage here. Few weeks ago when Sage tweeted about a "Five course Taste and Test menu for $60" I didn't have to think twice before I said yes please.

The idea behind the Taste and Test menu is pretty simple. Sage is testing new dishes for their summer menu and us patrons get to be Masterchef judges for a night and score and rate each dish we try. The Taste and Test experience is offered Tuesday-Thursday for the month of September and the dishes vary every night so you won't know what you are trying till you arrive at the restaurant. This last part made me slightly nervous because I don't like surprises when it comes to my food. I'm one of those people who study the menu a week in advance and decide what I'm having; yes I'm neurotic like that. Add to that the boyfriend is somewhat of a picky eater, I had my fingers crossed there wouldn't be too many unwelcome surprises on the night. I need not have worried because the menu had great variety, innovative ideas and great flavours. 

We arrived for our mid week dinner, got seated and got our rating cards stamped on to the table cloth. Any meal that involves doodling on the table has to be a fun one, right? 

Course #1 was pan-fried broccoli with blue cheese and puffed rice. I have to admit that when this dish was placed in front of us I had to try very hard not to roll my eyes and the boyfriend was trying very hard not to poke his tounge out at me (yes, we are really mature like that). My aversion to anything green, specially to broccoli, is a source of constant battle when it comes to meal time (I really am like a 5 year old with issues about greens!). But surprisingly, this dish was rather enjoyable. The broccoli was a good balance between soft and crunchy. The delicious full bodied blue cheese of course made everything better and the addition of puffed rice was interesting both texture and flavour wise. And surprise surprise, I ate all my greens! This may not have been the most technically advanced of dishes, but we enjoyed it nonetheless.

Course #2 was spiced tuna sashimi with wasabi, avacado salsa and a "perfect" potato crisp. I absolutely love my sashimi and just a week ago I was in sashimi nirvana at Sepia Restaurant so this particular sashimi dish had it's work cut out to impress me. Unfortunately this was my least favourite dish of the night. The big chunks of tuna didn't allow for the best flavours of tuna to come through and the spicy crust of seaweed (?) was rather overpowering. And then the salsa also had an overpowering citrus taste to it. The potato crisp however, was lovely.

Course #3 was ham hock and pork belly ravioli with red wine jus and crackling. Ooh hello there perfect little ravioli! It was a beautifully fresh pocket of pasta with the most flavoursome ham hock and pork belly bursting out of it. The boyfriend declared that he would be happy to eat just a plate of this and call it a night. While I agreed with how good the raviolli was, the other components of the dish were somewhat of an overkill for me. The red wine jus was way too acidic and didn't do the ravioli any favours. The extra creamy goats cheese (?) was way too rich and was also unnecessary as it distracted from the perfectness of the ravioli. The crackling, although it didn't add much to the dish flavourwise, was a nice addition with it's satisfying crispiness.

Course #4 was duck rillet and sour cabbage on a crispy potato rosti (?) with cauliflower puree. Ding ding ding we have a winner!!! THIS was the perfect dish and deserves a permanent spot on new menu just as it is! The duck was moist and succulent and the tangy sour cabbage on the crispy potato rosti was just the perfect blend of complimenting flavours. Each mouthful had me going wow and wishing there was more of the dish.

Course #5 was caramel ganache with fresh cream, raspberries, blueberries and macaron. Talk about exquisite presentation! The ganache was delectable on its own but the macaron enhanced the flavours. I actually have no idea what flavour the macaron was; it was really subtle flavourwise but beautiful! The berries and the cream balanced the sweetness of the ganache and this was the perfect dessert; visually stunning, not too rich or sweet yet extremely indulgent.

So these are his and hers score cards. I may have gotten slightly carried away and written a mini essay in my critique for each dish. And no, that's not an extra zero by accident, the boyfriend scored the duck a 100/10. I think he liked the dish. 

Couple of other things worth mentioning:

The service at Sage, as always, was spot on. The waitstaff are incredibly polished, professional and refined not only in their appearance (I do love the crisp white shirt, black bow tie, black pants and black braces look) but the service always came with a smile and even with a full house we never for a second felt unattended to or as just a number.

One thing that I would've appreciated is an actual written menu of what we had on the night. The average patron may not care for the nitty gritty of a dish, but as someone obsessed with food, I like knowing every itty bitty detail about every dish that I consume. Also, as each course was placed infront of us and the dish was explained, I was in a mad hurry to type into my phone what was said word to word before my goldfish memory lost it forever, which stopped me from appreciating the dishes as they arrived. Also I found that the wait staff were inconsistent in their description of dishes and left large amounts of detail out of some explanations (hence the question marks in brackets through this post) which had me grilling them for details. A simple typed up piece of paper with the day's menu would've been much appreciated.

So the verdict: I have said it before and I will say it again; Sage is definitely in the top three fine dining venues in Canberra. It is beyond me how they failed to score a hat in the SMH Good Food Guide Awards this year while some interesting choices made it to the hatted list but I'll leave that rant for another time. The idea of the Taste and Test menu is a fantastic one as it's an interactive way of enjoying fine dining for a fraction of the price you would pay otherwise. At $60 for five courses you won't find a better deal in Canberra so don't wait till it's too late; make a reservation before Taste and Test comes to an end at the end of the month and I can guarantee that you won't regret it.

If you need anymore convincing you must read the review by lovely Tara over at In The Taratory, who had almost the same meal at Sage the night after me. We love comparing meal notes and needless to say, this meal scored very highly in both our books (or blogs rather). 

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  1. I find this blog very informative especially. I think I will be frequenting here to read more about your great posts. The content is amazing, keep posting friend it will be very helpful for everyone.


  2. This is such a fun way to have dinner! I don't think I'll make it this month, I will have to keep an eye out for next seasons menu, maybe we can make it a catch up dinner xx