Sunday, June 3, 2012

Sage Restaurant

Location: Gorman House Arts Centre, Braddon ACT 2612
Phone: (02) 6249 6050 
Cuisine: French, Modern Australian, Degustation

As a special farewell for a friend who was leaving the city, we headed to Sage for a last hurrah and some fine dining.

I'd heard lots of good things about Sage, so was definitely expecting great things. It possibly didn't help them that I'd just been to Vue de Monde a few days before.

Service on arrival was pleasant as the waiter offered to take out coats and made friendly small talk. Menus were laid out on the table with a selection from the already rather limited menu. My first disappointment for the night was that the two dishes I had set my eyes on from the online menu were not available. I'm not sure if it was due to the size of our group (~12 people), or whether it was standard, so we'll let that one slip.

We opted for the three course meal for $80, which included bread and amuse bouche.

house baked bread with artisan churned butter and sea salt

First up was a starter of house baked bread served with artisan churned butter and sea salt. The freshly baked bread was warm, crusty on the outside and soft and fluffy inside. The butter was smooth, rice and creamy, and salt was, well, salt. A nice start to the meal.

amuse bouche: mushroom miso consomme

Ahh, I love this kind of food. The amuse bouche came in the guise of a mushroom soup infused with miso, a tuile and some pieces of mushroom served on a piece of slate. The soup was rich and filled with mushroomy goodness, although a tad too salty. The tuile was crisp and acted a little like a crouton. Delicious!

After quite a long wait, our entrees were brought out.

pork ‘all sorts':slow cooked belly, braised cheek, choucroute, baby vegetables
I ordered the pork 'all sorts', which was essentially different cuts of pork cooked in different ways. The pork cheek was beautifully soft and tender, flaking when pulled at with the fork. It had a nice rich flavour which was balanced out with the sweetness of the choucroute (pickled cabbage). The baby vegies were cute and added some nice colours and 'crunch' to the dish. But the pork belly. What a total disappointment!

For me, pork belly is either braised or stewed to the point where the rind becomes soft and gelatinous, or it is roasted so that the crackling is crunchy and 'cracks' when cut with a knife. Yes, yes, MasterChef has taught me a lot...

This one? The meat was soft and tender, the fat was rendered, but the crackling was not the least big crunchy. It was soggy and a little chewy. To be honest, I would've gotten better roast pork from an Asian BBQ store (and there aren't that many of them around in Canberra).

The other entrees included a heirloom carrot dish, and a 'beetroot variations' dish that my friends raved about. 

honey peppered heirloom carrots:malt, yolk, ricotta, olive powder, brioche

beetroot variations: eucalyptus smoked trout, freeze dried mandarin, coriander
Again, another long wait before our mains were brought out, and this was where the service started going downhill. Whilst the gentleman waiter we'd had to start with remained polite and friendly all night, we had one waitress who looked like she clearly did not want to be there. I got a sense of a 'can't be bothered' attitude from her as she collected dishes after we finished each course.

What was worse was when she brought out the veal for a friend, and somehow managed to spill sauce on my coat (perhaps it would have been a better idea to hand my coat in when we got there).  I didn't realise what had happened until a friend pointed it out to me. The waitress made one of the biggest mistakes in restaurant service - she failed to acknowledge it and pretended nothing happened, but clearly knew because she suddenly became very flustered, and her attitude only got worse after that.

Anyway, onto the mains...

lemon sole: potato crumble, cauliflower, parsley, capers, red wine jus
I don't often order fish when I'm out, partially because I've had too many experiences with overcooked fish fillets or fish with their bones left in, and also because I'm more a shellfish or meat fan. I was rather pleased with this dish - a generous serve of three fillets of perfectly cooked fresh sole with crumbles of potato and cauliflower scattered around it. The highlight of the dish was the yellow 'roll-up' - which tasted just like a mango roll-up only fruitier - that added a nice sweetness to the dish.

I couldn't quite work out where the red wine jus or lemon elements of the dish were. The sauce dolloped around the plate certainly did not taste like red wine (and were creamy and tangy, going well with the fish). What I missed most with the dish was the lemon. I felt like there could have been a much more intense lemon flavour, whether it be in some deconstructed form, or even as a wedge of lemon on the side. Without the lemon, the dish really relied heavily on the 'roll-up' for any variation in flavour.

muscovy duck: orange, carrot, pickled red cabbage, licorice

artichokes: textures of globe & jerusalem artichokes, hazelnut, kale, sherry

veal tenderloin: sweetbreads, forest mushrooms, sweet potato, soy & maple glaze

French peas - bacon, eschallot, cos lettuce
The peas were but one of the sides that we ordered for the table, along with the delightfully buttery Paris mash. These peas were fresh and had a fragrant aroma from the eschallot and smokiness from the bacon.

The waiting times were getting longer and longer. If I recall correctly, dessert took almost 45 minutes to be served - and this was after the waiters insisted we order our desserts when we ordered the entrees and mains. One would have thought that pre-ordering dessert would mean that it would come out faster, or at least in a reasonable amount of time.

electric citrus: pound cake, kalamansi curd, marshmallow, lemon sorbet
When it finally arrived, I was immediately impressed by the presentation and creativity inherent in the dish. Sage had finally redeemed it's 'fine dining' reputation through this one dish. The chef had certainly demonstrated 'electric citrus' - light and airy pound cake, sweet and juicy pieces of mandarin, strawberry and soft pilllowy marshmallows, quinelles of zingy lemon sorbet and a beautiful lemony foam that floated over the top of all the other ingredients.

The dessert was everything a dessert needed - textures, flavours, and aethetically pleasing.

chocovado: chocolate cremeux, hazelnut cocoa crumble, lemon gel, avocado cream

rhubarb & raspberry: quinoa crunch, creme brulee foam, rose petals
I have never been to a fine dining restaurant and been so disappointed with the service. The food was generally very good with some amazing dishes, and others that fell short of the mark. For $80, it was decent value for money.

Just don't go for the service.

Overall Impression: 7.5/10
Sage Restaurant on Urbanspoon


Hannah said...

I just blogged about Sage myself, so am fascinated looking at how your dishes were plated and hearing your thoughts. I can't get over how different my artichoke dish looks! We had an absolutely wonderful waiter, so I'm sorry to hear you had an icky experience with the service. Hopefully they'll do better for you next time (if there is a next time, of course!)

Also, both my parents and I, and a friend of mine who went the week before, found the amuse bouche too salty. So glad I'm not the only one!

jenster said...

I just read yours and noticed they had the chicken and scallop dish! So jealous!

And your Autumn scenery dessert looked amazing!