Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Sepia - Chef Week

I dined at Sepia last night during Chef Week and my experience was, in a word, disappointing. The bar is set very high for a place with rave reviews, awards and prices to match. We were disappointed with not one, but all five of the different dishes served. I have a lot of questions regarding special menus for events (more on that later), but even if what's being offered is not normally on the menu and served in high volume, the quality and taste of a 5 star establishment should shine through. That was not my experience at Sepia last night.

We ordered the pea soup (small and quite bland), bacon wrapped trout (fishy and bland), vegetarian lasagna (the best of the bunch but nothing we couldn't reproduce), and both desserts (lemon meringue, chocolate mouse).  My cocktail (the swingset), made with Templeton Rye, was great and the beer/wine list is impressive and expensive. While $30 for 3 courses at Sepia (where regular entrees start at $25) appears to be good value, a dinner for two with drinks after tax/tip easily hits triple digits. No matter the occasion this is not a cheap meal and I wished the quality would have matched the price. (Thought experiment, why was everything on the Chef Week menu NOT on the regular menu? Does this explain the difference in quality and preparation? Could you price these entrees alongside the regular ones?)

Since the vast majority of people I've talked to rave about Sepia, I can only surmise that my Chef Week experience was an aberration. While I can speculate on the causes, the fact remains a restaurant of this quality is held to a higher standard and its reputation is on the line with each dish. The failure of not one, but all dishes suggests the menu wasn't appropriate, the preparers not accustomed to high volume or a lack of attention. Whatever the reason, I worry the impressions made on many first time Sepia diners did not create a new client base. There are plenty of places that execute prix fixe and special menus well. I hope to return one day to experience the greatness that I hear and read so much about.

Sepia on Urbanspoon

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