Sage Dining Rooms in 2015*

26 Jan

* I enjoyed this experience as a guest of Sage Dining Rooms.

We’re just back from what I termed EuroChristmas – in two weeks Boyfriend and I packed in Copenhagen, Hamburg, Monchengladbach, Trier, Luxembourg, Brussels and Amsterdam. On its own it was a magical trip simply due to the locations and time of year, but these places are also home to some of the best and most experimental food in the world – as soon as we’d booked plane tickets I was booking us into restaurants. Two of these were Copenhagen  restaurants headed by former Noma staff: Bror and Relae. Relae in particular is consistently just outside the World’s 50 best restaurants list (53rd last year) last year.

These restaurants were great; delicious food, lovely atmosphere. But what struck me is I’d come half way around the world for experiences which were more than comparable to fantastic food I can access at home in Canberra: The Boathouse, the Artisan and Sage in particular. (And the service at all three is better than any of the service we had in Copenhagen!). I’ve always thought we do some truly innovative things in Canberra, and to have it confirmed through these experiences was heartening. To me, there’s nothing stopping numerous Canberra restaurants from making these sorts of lists.

And Sage might well be on its way to being of them. In November it was joined by Damien Brabender who comes with the professional experience of working at Lizard Island (before it got battered by Cyclone Ita) and the six-star Emirates Wolgan Valley Resort, as well as London restaurants. When offered to experience what zing he’s bringing to Sage (which as you know I already rate very highly!), I happily obliged.

It’s the Wednesday evening when the rain is sloshing the streets and everything feels damp, but in Sage the temperature’s just right. We’re seated along the bright bench seats against the wall and begin with citrus-infused wild peach liqueur in sparkling wine – a sophisticated, delicate aperitif.

Our amuse bouche is salt and vinegar chips: the potato rubble from Crookwell seed potato is matched with salty acidity on a base of Hollandaise foam and Pepe Saya ghee (they’re good friends). S&V chips are my go-to snack and this dish is lick your lips good; the taste heightens my senses for the next dish without spoiling them.

The next dish is snacks – crackers with avruga caviar, scallop emulsion and celeriac herb; mini tacos with lightly cured Kingfish belly, spiced avocado and hose-cured jalapenos; and Sage farm radishes with an emulsion of olive oil, XO sauce, bread crumb. Snacks will feature as part of all tasting menus, and will be mixed up – you won’t know what you’re going to get. These are each delicious and moreish – I’d happily eat plates of these for the rest of the meal!

I think I’d be forgiven for thinking that the next dish is a heap of delicious served on top of a mousse. The in-season crisp, refreshing lettuce has been cut as it’s served and hosts a freshly shucked oyster on a mousse of oyster liquid, egg white, mustard, dill and chives. I haven’t ever had anything like this before, and as a big fan of oysters I’m surprised if it works – but it does. This is paddock (and sea!) to the plate in its truest form and the dish is the better for it.

Our fourth dish is a cracker of cuttlefish ink and sago bearing thick licks of ABC aioli, fresh chives, sesame and smacks of Tabasco sauce and beef tartare. This isn’t tartare how I know it – when I question him later, Damian explains that it’s to let beef of this quality speak for itself – and I love it. It’s got the tenderness and creamyness of the beef tartare I’m used to without having to assail the beef to get this outcome.

The slow-cooked lamb shank is so well cooked it’s hard to keep on my fork, and its flavour is enhanced with flicks of burnt cumin and sea salt and balanced with goats curd and Sage garden radishes shaved free to order. It looks small but this is deceiving; there are so many mouthfuls that it’s hard to finish.

I realise the above is the most unhelpful image I could ever post. WHAT’S UNDER THE BOK CHOY?

It’s coconut lychee duck curry and instantly takes me to memories of Morks’ red duck curry. Its point of difference lies in that the duck has been shredded under that sesame-bok choy and has flavours of cashew and coriander thredded through. It’s incredibly creamy and, as full as I’m getting, I’ve no trouble finishing this dish.

Our first dessert is the Milo and milk: slippery jersey milk skins, molten Milo tuille, and a jersey milk sorbet which tastes more icy than creamy. It’s smattered with genuine Milo powder – one of the very few ingredients in any of the dishes which isn’t made in the kitchen. Despite the Milo, it’s a light dish with a range of interesting textures: a real talking point.

The final dish is a pina colada: tart rum and lime sorbet, juicy-sweet compressed pineapples and pillows of coconut marshmallow with a bed of shredded toasted coconut. The torn mint sponge looks like coral but its texture is anything but – soft and airy and soaking up the sorbet.

This is the most confident and original Sage has felt – Damian is changing things slowly and doesn’t want to to go over the top, but there are dishes which are very experimental, and some which no doubt are going to challenge customers. I think that’s genuinely very exciting. Mint Garden Bar, too, is growing up – and lunch offerings will start soon. Damian wants customers to come back regularly and so the menu will be changing often, taking advantage of what’s flourishing at the farm.

It’s an exciting new start for Sage and it’s an understatement to say that I’m interested in what’s next!

Date: Wednesday, 21 January 2014

Where: Gorman House, Batman Street, Braddon

Cost: Boyfriend and I dined as guests of Sage Dining Rooms

Want more? Gary has provided an excellent review of his recent experience at Sage with some very different dishes.

Sage Restaurant on Urbanspoon

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One Response to “Sage Dining Rooms in 2015*”

  1. Restaurant perth February 11, 2015 at 9:37 pm #

    Simply amazing! Every dish looks so well presented and cooked to perfection. That Milo and milk dessert is really very tempting.

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