Sage is one of my favourite relaxed fine-dining restaurants in Canberra. For taking part in their ‘Taste and Test’, my friends and I were rewarded with another 5-course dinner for $60 to try out their new Spring 2013 tasting menu. This menu is a result of all the feedback they gathered from the Taste and Test nights. I was certainly up for it!
The amuse bouche of semolina wafers were crispy and a nice starter. It made me hungry for more!
As I had informed Sage of the dietary requirements for my gluten intolerant friends beforehand, an amuse bouche of blood orange wafers came out.
Some fresh bread was also served with a dollop of delicious creamy artisan butter. No gluten-free bread though.
First course – tuna tartare with potato crisp, avocado, white soy and wasabi. This was a really fresh dish. The small pieces of raw tuna were fabulous – I loved this with the small dollops of wasabi gel. I couldn’t quite pick out the taste of the small white shavings. I later asked our waiter who informed us that it was sesame snow – due to the strong flavour of sesame oil on its own, they made it into a snow to soften the taste. It obviously worked. Great idea and visually pleasing! The potato crisp tasted like a thin crunchy potato chip. I enjoyed this dish and though you can’t see it, there was lots of tuna.
Second course – smoked ham hock terrine with quail egg, pickled vegetables and sauce gribiche. I wouldn’t usually order a terrine, however this was surprisingly nice and tasted really fresh. Though it looks small, there was a lot of it and I was beginning to get full after eating this. The pickled vegetables are a great touch to balance out the slight smokey flavour of the terrine. The vegetables were all crunchy and I was quite impressed with how each individual green bean was sliced in half length-ways. I would hate having to do that! Obviously, a lot of prep works goes into each dish. The quail eggs were slightly runny and I smeared this as well as the gribiche sauce on top of the terrine. Yum! One of my friends didn’t like it as much and said it was like eating spam. But I didn’t mind it.
Third course – pan roasted quail with celeriac, apple, hazelnut and star anise. The quail was pretty tiny, and just slightly larger than a normal chicken wing. It was cooked nicely but there wasn’t anything special about it. The celeriac and apple salad was an element I loved from the Taste and Test night, however this time round, it wasn’t as fragrant and flavoursome as I remembered. I think it’s because they didn’t add in the shredded/grated apple component in with the celeriac. Instead, they’ve replaced that part with apple compote on the side and kept the celeriac on its own. Not as nice. Ah well, feedback from others might have changed it to what it is now. Bring it back I say!
Fourth course – beef short rib with broad beans, bacon, oyster mushrooms and shiraz sauce. The beef was soft and cooked well and the sweet shiraz sauce on top was excellent. The broad beans lifted the dish with some colour. The mushrooms were a bit soggy and didn’t taste mushroomy. Weird. The diced bacon bits provided a little bit of saltiness to the dish. Not sure if it was needed but it still tasted good.
Fifth course – lemon textures with lemon and poppyseed cake, lemon curd, pistachio, meringue and lemon sorbet. So I’m not the biggest fan of lemony citrusy desserts, which is why I wasn’t that ecstatic when this dish was placed in front of me. I tried a bit of the lemon curd and it was so sour I made that face people make when you eat something sour. Everything was sour including the lemon sorbet which I expected to be sugary sweet. Then I tasted the sweetness of the meringue, and figured it was meant to be mixed in (it was a soft meringue) with the curd and everything else to balance out the sourness. It worked and I was satisfied. Not my kind of dessert only because I don’t like sour desserts, so I wouldn’t order it again. It does look bright and cheerful – perfect for Spring.
And the gluten-free dessert of the night – honey parfait with honeycomb, marshmallow and rice crispies. I got to taste a bit of the honeycomb (amazing!) and the parfait which had a faint honey taste to it.
As always the service here is exemplary – glasses are filled with water regularly, and the staff really know their food. It also didn’t take long for the food to come out, noting that this is a tasting menu (so there is a reasonable amount of rest time between each course). If you provide some notice, they are also very accommodating with any dietary requirements. The atmosphere is laidback and you can just as easily go there with a group of friends or with a partner for a romantic dinner.
Sage‘s 5-course tasting menu will set you back $95 without wine. There is also a herbivore tasting menu for the same price. Otherwise the 2-courses for $60 or 3-courses for $75 allows you to pick what you want from the a la carte menu (lots more dessert options!)