With my fellow foodie friends Mr STTA and Dr L, we booked into Sage’s Taste and Test night, now in its fourth year.

I’ve attended a few times in the past (see links to March 2014, October 2013, August 2013) and I always think this is such a worthwhile event. For $75, you get 5 surprise courses which you get to rate via a scorecard stamped to the sheet of paper covering the table, providing feedback directly to the chef. Taste and Test is held on Tuesdays and Thursdays over 5 weeks with menus changing each week to determine the new season’s menu.

I had booked the table and informed staff beforehand that both Mr STTA and Dr L had gluten intolerances. Fresh bread was provided to the table but staff seemed to have forgotten the gluten free intolerances. However, after a reminder the last of the gluten free bread was brought out for my friends, and staff even went to the effort of making a new loaf for them. We were provided with an amuse bouche of the chef’s take on salt and vinegar chips. Made with potato rubble, sea salt and hollandaise sauce, it really did taste like salt and vinegar chips. There was quite a bit of sauce underneath that rubble and I’d probably prefer less hollandaise sauce as it can get a bit heavy. Though that didn’t stop me from devouring the whole thing…

Sage Canberra Taste and Test salt vinegar chipsCourse 1 – lime cured ocean trout with soy spiced peanuts, sesame seeds, bitter melon, wasabi and a nori crisp. I loved this modern Japanese dish. The finely chopped ocean trout was fresh and delicate. The hint of wasabi mousse isn’t as potent as regular wasabi, so it didn’t overwhelm the overall dish and my taste buds. The sesame seeds added a nice nuttiness, as well as the crunchy flavoursome peanuts. Sashimi and peanuts – who would’ve thought it. The bitter melon wasn’t that bitter and provided additional freshness to liven up the dish. A well thought out and executed dish with several different textural elements. I really enjoyed it. My only complaint was that there wasn’t enough of it but I’m just being greedy! Sage Taste and Test ocean troutCourse 2 – Deep fried Balmain bug made from polenta and arrowroot with slaw. This was completely gluten free so maybe that’s why I didn’t like it as much. There was plenty of ‘batter’ with the softest bug meat inside so no complaints there. I appreciate that the actual ‘batter’ itself was cleverly thought out and a good substitute for flour. There were a range of spices coating the batter providing some heat and (I think) spice from ginger. A very earthy dish so I was glad for the cold fresh slaw. There was just something about the fried batter that didn’t hit the spot for me though.

Sage Canberra Taste and Test Fried balmain bugCourse 3 – Ling fish fillet with sweet corn puree. This fish was amazingly smooth and delicious with a crispy top. It was a very delicate dish that went hand in hand with the sweet corn puree and corn kernels accompanying the fish. A prawn tortellini is also provided for extra seafood goodness. Sage Canberra Taste and Test lingThe boys had the gluten free version which was the same dish minus the tortellini. Instead, they had the prawn puree (in the tortellini) sitting on top. It looked like a better deal!

Sage Taste Test gluten free fishCourse 4 – 12 hour braised beef cheek slow cooked in sarsaparilla sitting on eschalot crumb. The beef was absolutely succulent and my knife cut through it like butter. However, I thought the dish was dry as there was no gravy or sauce to accompany the dish. I would have preferred some more greens and less of the onion too. But again, beautiful beef!

Sage  Canberra Taste and Test beefCourse 5 – The ‘Forest’ dessert with chocolate mousse, chocolate crumb, cherry sorbet and rocket mousse. Yeap there’s bright green rocket mousse hiding underneath the chocolate crumb. It definitely gave the dessert some natural spiciness. I’m not a huge fan of rocket. I can eat it in salad as long as it’s not the predominant leaf and on pizza. But as a dessert…? The chocolate crumb was surprisingly salty. I made sure I tried all the elements together, and I could understand the balancing of flavours. Sweet chocolate mousse, refreshing fruity sorbet, salty chocolate crumb and spicy savoury rocket. It was a very strange combination and not for everyone. I’m still not quite whether I liked it or not. I wouldn’t order it if it was offered on the final menu, so I guess that answers that. But then again, I’m partial to the more sweeter desserts. Props to Sage for trying something unique and out of the box.

Sage Canberra Taste and Test dessertI think Taste and Test is great value for money. You get to try some really unique dishes being trialled by the restaurant; dishes use a range of culinary techniques; and the quality of food is reflected in Sage’s paddock to plate philosophy – growing herbs and vegetables at the Sage Farm in Majura Valley (as well as black angus cattle and sheep).

Taste and Test is on every Tuesday and Thursday for lunch and dinner until 7 May 2015.

Foodgasm 7/10
Value for money 10/10
Service 8/10

FPJ score 25/30

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