Sepia is located at what used to be a print shop in the 1980s. Today, Sepia holds the recognition as a one Michelin star restaurant and it stays true to preserving the characteristics of its predecessor at this location by displaying random bits and pieces of memorabilia from the bygone era at the restaurant's dining area. Mixed with contemporary furniture, the resulting ambiance of Sepia is rustic with a modern twist.
We first dined at Sepia about two years ago and then periodically went back last year just for cocktails. Last week was Chicago Chef Week and that gave us another reason to return for dinner (not that we needed a reason to return to Sepia but with so many new amazing chef-driven restaurants popping up lately, it's difficult to resist trying new places). The service at Sepia was nothing short of friendly and professional from the time we were greeted by the hostess to our dining experience at the table. There have been times in the past when we were at restaurants that made it to the Michelin star list and then only to be disappointed that they weren't what we expected them to be, which is to be on par with the restaurants that have this recognition. Sepia is definitely well deserved to have the Michelin star recognition. The really nice thing about Sepia is that it doesn't have a stuffy atmosphere. Sure it could be a perfect place for a date night but the ambiance is far from being stuffy or pompous.
Their drinks selection is notable and extensive that comes in a leather bound book. Looking over the cocktails section and reading the description of each libation offered, one could tell that a lot of thought went into crafting those drinks. I went with the Boston Martha which was a concoction of magnolia and oolong tea, Bushmill Irish whiskey, honey, lemon, egg white, and orange bitters. It was one of those chic drinks and very pleasant. My original choice was Two in the Hand but T said that it was probably too "manly" of a drink for me, and that I probably wouldn't like how strong it would turn out to be. So he ordered that for himself and it turned out that he was right. I tried a sip of his and was glad that I went with the Boston Martha instead. But as an avid Scotch drinker, he was absolutely happy with Two in the Hand which was made with blended scotch and Dubonnet Rouge among other things.
We chose the tasting menu off their Chef Week menu and therefore had the chance to sample items that were not on their regularly menu. The duck boudin croquettes were something to remember by. Perfectly crisp on the outside, the inside was moist and soft. What a great contrast in texture. The croquettes came with a spread of fig jam and some arugula which were very good accompaniments.
T had the Spanish tortilla as a starter and it wasn't just any regular tortilla; it was the chef's own spin of a tortilla. The texture was very eggy but delicate and moist. It was about 1/4 inch thick and almost like an egg pancake, cooked on an iron skillet that gave it a little burnt and crisp texture on the surface.
I couldn't stop raving about my grilled rainbow trout entree. I always order meat as my entree but somehow that night I felt like trying the rainbow trout and wasn't disappointed. The generous piece of rainbow trout fillet sat atop a bed of sauteed spinach. On top of the fish were shaved fennel and black olives. The fish was absolutely tender and very moist, perfect for every bite. One thing that intrigued me was that the color of the fish reminded me of salmon. I've always thought that rainbow trout is white and after looking it up on Wikipedia, it turns out that rainbow trout belongs to the salmonid species. Interesting, indeed.
I think it's quite accurate to say that no matter how much I love food, deep down I'm very much a dessert person at heart. Glancing over the prix fixe menu, I jumped straight to the dessert section and decided what I would have for dessert before deciding on my entree. And I wasn't disappointed with my choice of cornmeal financier. The basil goat cheese ice-cream that came with it was definitely an interesting touch to it and the taste of goat cheese was definitely present. I also really liked that there were bits of caramel popcorn added to the dessert.
We finished off our dessert with some Yamazaki whiskey for the each of us. We ordered it neat and there was a $2 upcharge each for that but didn't realize it until later. It wasn't a big deal but our server explained that it was because an order of whiskey neat has a bigger pour than the usual. From past experience, we noticed that not every restaurant or bar follow the upcharge practice for whiskey neat orders but it could be that those places do not offer a bigger pour of whiskey when ordered neat.
All in all, Sepia didn't disappoint and I'm sure its presence is going to stay for a long time in Chicago.
123 North Jefferson Street
Chicago, IL 60661
2011 1-Michelin Star
2011 Rising Star Chef Award by StarChefs