3:25 AM Sian Mei Yeoh 0 Comments

restaurant week chicago earlier this year was the culprit behind my learning of the existence of sepia. it's embarrassing to admit but i was drawn to the restaurant because of its website and picture of the restaurant's interior -- but it was the 4 star rating from yelp and trip advisor and 4.5 star rating from open table that sealed the deal and it was quickly added to my restaurant wish list. 

i didn't get to it until the end of spring/early summer season. the weather was really warm under the sun but just perfect in the shade. a lovely evening for photography while absorbing the beauty of windy city. 

it was a really long walk since i was out of work pretty early and my dinner appointment with {xy} was two hours later. with all that extra time, i went on a detour to the french market and got myself a little quick sweet treat :: three french macarons, which was not too sweet, crispy and airy.   

i have to admit i got lost a few times but thank goodness for gps on my phone, i found my way to the entrance of sepia. 

there were two buildings adjacent to each other bearing sepia's name -- i reached the entrance of the first building, which was actually the private dining room. i was a tad confused and hovered around the first building to check the place out before i decidedly walked towards the correct entrance.

walking into the lounge, i loved the decor - accented by lovely decorative vintage pieces all around the room which was clad by open brick walls. i also love the art nouveau floor tiles which completes to the rustic and contemporary feel to the restaurant, the theme reflected on their website. i read that this was built from an 1890 print shop, which explains a lot of its ambience.

i didn't quite feel the same as i walked into the dining room. i had mixed emotions about its decor - you could say it was a love-hate relationship. the vintage and contemporary decor extends from the lounge but somehow the dining room lost some of that warmth and coziness -- almost detached. i loved the wine display case against the one of the walls and the group dining room with embossed velvet wall paper.

they have a variety of selections on their menu but surprisingly {xy} and i wanted to try the same thing but refrained from doing it lol. one item on the menu had me stop on my tracks and quickly realized i had to try to convince {xy} to share something with me on the menu as an appetizer... lol

they started us with some bread with an interesting shape (almost like a tree branch) and an even more interesting texture -- i could taste some of the grains and spices where each lends a distinct flavor with each bite, embedded into soft, fluffy bread with a crispy exterior. well, butter does make everything better so it was a much needed accompaniment for additional richness and creaminess.

to start :: bacon wrapped sweetbreads  | morels, carrots, saffron, basil ($15)

yes, this was it -- the appetizer i had to convince {xy} to share with me. i wanted to try sweetbreads in its truest form and well...everything is awesome-r with bacon. the first time i had sweetbread was in the form of ravioli filling so it didn't do it justice.. i had to do some convincing since {xy} has never had them before.

the sweetbread had a very interesting texture that i'm still not sure what to think of it -- almost has a soft, slightly marshmallow-like consistency coupled with a gamey flavor. it was missing the crispy aspect to contrast the overall softness, which was i am guessing is the initial role of the bacon. however, the bacon was not crispy and was rather surprisingly light in flavor, allowing the sweetbread to shine. i love the light reduction which had a subtle saffron, sweet carrot and gosh i love the morels which were also great on its own. however, it paired well with the sweetbreads, to bring a lightness to the whole dish. pretty good but i still can't decide if i like sweetbread. {xy}'s thoughts? he liked it.

entrees :: duck breast | spice glaze, turnips, black pepper gnocchi, duck jus ($30)

i can't seem to resist duck dishes or anything related to seafood whenever i see it on their menu. did sepia do the duck breast justice? not as much as i hoped they would. despite the visible crust on the top which was glazed with a concentrated savory flavor, it wasn't very crispy on the top which was a tad disappointing. i was hoping the layer of fat was rendered further for a crisper textural difference with a duck which was otherwise moist. it might also the reason behind the duck to be slightly chewy. i'd also appreciate more glaze to counterbalance the under-seasoned meat.

i enjoyed the petite serving of the sides (turnips, gnocchi). the gnocchi had a good sear although it didn't pull off the pillowy cloud texture but it wasn't gummy. the sweet turnps were great accompaniment but i was left wanting more because of such a minuscule serving. duck jus is always a lovely to amplify the duck, gamey flavor as exemplified by this dish. overall, an alright dish but slightly let down possibly because of my initial impression of what this place could offer.

entree :: strip steak | yukon gold potato, asparagus, chimichurri, smoke ($32)

{xy} was also considering ordering the duck but i called dibs! and he's just really nice to give in to me. lol. so i suppose the next best thing would be a strip steak. medium was how he ordered it but it turned out to be more medium rare - bordering rare which i suppose is a good thing since strip steak is leaner than a tenderloin. it had beautiful grilled marks and a good sear and i think {xy}'s reaction was less than impressed.. when asked, his response was, "it was alright - not mind blowing". i had a small piece and had the similar sentiments.

he wasn't a fan of the small sides of sautéd asparagus,  potatoes and pearl onions, resulting to a bummed out experience with his dish and looked at envy at my dish.

my experience at sepia was a tad disappointing, possibly due to my expectations from reading rave reviews coupled with delicious photos of their offerings. my summary would be it was mediocre, not mind blowing.. just as how {xy} has described his dish - which is too bad :( because i really wanted to like it so very much.

sepia chicago | location
123, n. jefferson st.
chicago, il, 60661

{yummy-ness | 2.5 forks out of 5 }
{worth trying | not too sure. duck is okay.}

disclaimer this is written based on personal experience and opinion. experiences and taste buds may vary for others.

Sepia on Urbanspoon