I have been in awe of Sage Dining Rooms since I moved to Canberra. But for a reason unknown to me I haven’t dined there before. I’ve eaten at Courgette and Aubergine in Canberra, Aria in Sydney, The Modern and Marea in New York and other incredible restaurants in Australia, Asia and South America. But Sage remained on my ‘to eat’ list, until recently.
I’m always so excited and intrigued when I go to fine dining restaurants. I love the beautifully plated dishes that look like masterpieces on a plate with a combination of flavours and concepts you’ve never imagined. I love the sense of amazement I feel as the wait staff explain the dish and all of it’s components as they place the faultless plane in front of me.
So I was pretty chuffed when I received a special invitation to experience the latest culinary creations from Sage.
Sage Dining Rooms is among Canberra’s best restaurants and was awarded a string of hospitatlity awards in 2015, including Reader’s Choice Award from Australian Good Food and Travel Guide and ACT Restaurant of the Year from Restaurant and Catering Awards. The team at Sage also prepared truffle ice cream for Camilla, Duchess of Cornwell.
With this knowledge my expectations were quite high and I’m pleased to say that Head Chef, Damian Brabender and his team delivered the goods and didn’t disappoint.
Mr Eat Canberra and I walked through the beautifully lit and inviting space know as Mint Garden before arriving at Sage for a 7pm start. The restaurant was full with a big table of staff from the Commonwealth Bank head office at the front of the restaurant with smaller tables filling the back of the restaurant. We were greeted with a friendly smile and promptly seated at our table for two. Our waitress asked us is we have any food allergies or if there was anything we couldn’t eat. We smiled at each other and replied “We eat everything!”
“Excellent, Chef Damian has prepared a very special dinner for you tonight and we hope you enjoy your evening,” she replied.
She soon returned with two glasses of champagne to start the evening. I dedicated at the start of February that I was going to have an alcohol-free month however I declared this occasion an expectation as Mr Eat Canberra and I raised our glasses and toasted to the evening ahead.
Located in Gorman House, a heritage building, the interior of Sage isn’t modern but it’s still classy with nice décor and beautifully dresses tables.
The first dish of the night soon arrived and it was a light, fun start to the night. A delicate, smooth and light mousse topped with salt and vinegar chips. The first mouthful made me smile and I’d quickly finished the first taste sensation. As we were finished the mousse the waitress returned with a combination of crispy chicken skin and crisp rye bread topped with a creamy, flavoursome toppings. I loved both of theses treats especially the crispy skin chicken.
The next dish to arrive was another playful dish of snapper crab wrapped in a special leaf and sandwiched between thinly sliced watermelon. I really enjoyed the freshness of this dish and loved the presentation.
Next up was my favourite dish of the night. Yellow fin tuna lightly seared with sesame seeds and served with crushed wasabi peas, and avocado mousse. I love fresh tuna and wasabi and the combination of the textures and flavours in this dish really satisfied me. It was another beautifully plated and visually appealing dish.
To follow was one of Mr Eat Canberra’s favourite dishes of the night (he was pretty blown away by everything and told me I’d have to up my game – hehehe ). The wallaby tartare was wrapped in vine leaves and served with burnt onion aioli and macadamia floss. Having never eaten wallaby before I was unsure what to expect. I’ve eaten Kangaroo and it can be quite strong. But this dish was outstanding and the wallaby was quite sublte and extremely fresh. The edition of the aioli and macadamia floss really completed the dish and it was again beautifully plated.
The photo of this incredible tasting dish doesn’t do it justice. Smoked mussels with pork belly and nori on a smokey sauce was up there with our favourite dishes of the night too. Who am I kidding, we loved it all! The sauce that went with the fresh mussels was thick and full of a smoky charred taste that I’d never had before but I absolutely adored.
I was starting to get REALLY full by this stage but for some reason I ALWAYS have room for dessert. The last savoury dish of the night arrived and it was a succulent tender piece of lamb with another style of lamb. The lamb was served under a slather of silky smooth and flavoursome carrot puree and topped with heirloom carrots and milk skin. A great dish to finish the savoury component of the night. I have to admit I couldn’t finish this one because I felt like I was going to bust. So Mr Eat Canberra happily cleaned off my plate.
Before finishing the night of with an exquisite dessert we were presented with a palate cleanser. A dessert before dessert? Yes please! This was a really interesting combination of flavours and it was quite strong but not in a bad way. A grapefruit sorbet topped with a matcha and basil crumb. The matre de told us that the chef freeze-dried a matcha and basil sponge before grating it on top of the sorbet. It’s the finishing touches like that and all of the components on the plate that are one of the things make Sage so special.
We finished the night with the peach frozen yoghurt served on poached peach and topped with yoghurt sponge and yoghurt and nut crumble. It was a beautiful way to finish a night full of delicious food. It was a light and refreshing dessert that wasn’t overly sweet but was full of flavor and textures.
Overall it was up there with some of the best degustation experiences we’ve had! I would highly recommend Sage Dining Rooms for a special occasion, a celebration or an intimate dinner.
Stay tuned because there are big things are ahead for Sage in 2016 with a return of the ‘Taste and Test’ and a list of soon-to-be-revealed dining events. Damian will also continue to get out and be involved with the Canberra community making special appearances and running cooking classes.
“We’re taking 2015 and doubling it,” says Brabender.
“Sage Restaurant is only just getting started.”
We were invited to dine at Sage free of charge but were not paid any money for this post. Eat Canberra has not been paid for any posts and if we write sponsored posts in the future we will add a disclaimer so you, the reader, are aware of this. Opinions are the author’s own. Sage has been on the ‘to eat list’ for a while! I write about and posts photos on Instagram and Facebook about places and food that appeal to me and that I think would appeal to you.