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  • Sepia - West Loop

    Post #1 - June 29th, 2007, 7:46 pm
    Post #1 - June 29th, 2007, 7:46 pm Post #1 - June 29th, 2007, 7:46 pm
    I had the good fortune to have eaten at Sepia, 123 N Jefferson, last night. It was excellant. It was their very first day of service but wow.

    I started with the Lamb flat bread, they have three options to choose from, mushroom and the third escapes me. It was $5 and well worth it. It was 12 inches long and garnished with cherry tomatos and fresh whole leaf parsley and large pieces of mint.

    The next course consisted of a Watermelon and Feta Salad, Steak Tare Tare and a three piese cheese selection.
    First the cheese a Manchego from Benton Harbor Michigan, the best thing to come from there since Sin-Bad. A lovely piece of Blue, cann't remember the name, and a very excellant piece of Sunset, a goat cheese from Oregon with a vien of smoked Parika in it. It was the best cheese.

    The watermelon salad is perfect for the summer. Fennel, mint, chives and a light yogurt vinaigrette went very well with the melon and feta.

    Steak Tare Tare is gone to perfection. It was fresh and tasty!!!

    Entree were comprised of Grilled Summer Squash and Eggplant with a Bulghar Salad and Bershire Pork Chop with Spring Onions and Cassis Vinaigrette.
    The grill vegetables were good but the dish was not as complex as the rest of the menu. Hopefully the kitchen either amps it up or replaces it with something more in accord with their skill level.

    The Pork was cooked to perfection. The Onions were lightly charred and had a nice tartness, provided by the vinaigrette. When meat is cooked this perfectly no sauce is needed.

    Desserts continued not to let us down. Cheery Sorbet with Pistachio Angel Food cake was great. Moist cake and very cherry sorbet. The "Fallen" Chocolate souffle provides a nice chocolate fix, I do not dig chocolate that much.

    Sepia
    123 N Jefferson
    Chicago, Il 60661
    312-441-9447
  • Post #2 - July 2nd, 2007, 11:07 am
    Post #2 - July 2nd, 2007, 11:07 am Post #2 - July 2nd, 2007, 11:07 am
    Hi. I was about to post a question about Sepia. I have called them to schedule reservations for the weekend of July 14. I did not realize they were open already?

    Can you give a little bit more indication of the menu? Their tag line is "contemporary restaurant celebrating tradition". Is the menu vegetarian-friendly? How is the space? I heard it used to be an old printing press or something.

    Any additional information would be appreciated!
  • Post #3 - July 3rd, 2007, 7:05 am
    Post #3 - July 3rd, 2007, 7:05 am Post #3 - July 3rd, 2007, 7:05 am
    who is the chef at sepia?
  • Post #4 - July 3rd, 2007, 7:29 am
    Post #4 - July 3rd, 2007, 7:29 am Post #4 - July 3rd, 2007, 7:29 am
    Executive Chef listed as Kendal Duque

    They have a web site, but there is no information on it yet.

    http://www.sepiachicago.com/
  • Post #5 - July 3rd, 2007, 7:32 am
    Post #5 - July 3rd, 2007, 7:32 am Post #5 - July 3rd, 2007, 7:32 am
    elakin wrote:who is the chef at sepia?

    Google says.......Kendal Duque
    Hold my beer . . .

    Low & Slow
  • Post #6 - July 3rd, 2007, 7:50 am
    Post #6 - July 3rd, 2007, 7:50 am Post #6 - July 3rd, 2007, 7:50 am
    G Wiv wrote:Kendal Duque


    I wonder if they serve duque.
    Steve Z.

    “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”
    ― Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Post #7 - July 3rd, 2007, 4:19 pm
    Post #7 - July 3rd, 2007, 4:19 pm Post #7 - July 3rd, 2007, 4:19 pm
    oh, wow. cool. i worked with kendal at tru.

    he's a nice guy and a good chef. last i heard, he was a sous at nomi. good to hear he's doing well.
  • Post #8 - July 14th, 2007, 10:36 pm
    Post #8 - July 14th, 2007, 10:36 pm Post #8 - July 14th, 2007, 10:36 pm
    Hi. Just got back from our dinner at Sepia. It was fantastic. One of my good friends was having a birthday dinner and I wanted to make it a memorable one, so we decided to go to Sepia since it's new and today is their first official weekend. The restaurant did not disappoint. The flatbreads were terrific, with the lamb sausage one my particular favorite. I had the charred baby octopus with tomato sauce, and it was perfection. The tomatoes in particular were very fresh and sweet. We had a 7 person party and it seemed like everyone had the lettuce and baby vegetables salad. They were all raving about it. I had the berkshire pork and it is probably the best thing I have eaten in months. It was juicy, perfectly cooked, very hearty. It reminded me a lot of the berkshire porkchop i had at Cookshop in New York last year, which still makes me smack my lips when I think about it. Many people had the salmon, one friend had the free range chicken with peashoots, one friend had the lamb sirloin, and my vegan friend got the whole wheat pasta ribbons with the foraged mushrooms and squash blossoms. Everyone was ecstatic about their entrees. Desserts were fantastic too, we had the fallen souffle, the cherry sorbet with the angel food cake, and the graham cracker dessert which I can't even describe. They also sent out a complimentary miniature birthday cake for my friend. Service was excellent, and even the owner, Emmanuel Nony, came over and said hello. He went to every table and chatted up the guests. It was packed for an opening weekend, which I am glad about. One last thing- the place is stunning. it used to be an old printing factory. they have wall length wine display, dramatic chandeliers, and a hopping communal table. I have not been so excited about a restaurant for a long time (maybe since the summer alinea and custom house first opened).
  • Post #9 - July 25th, 2007, 10:21 am
    Post #9 - July 25th, 2007, 10:21 am Post #9 - July 25th, 2007, 10:21 am
    I had dinner with 3 friends Tuesday evening.....just great!

    We had the Lamb flatbread, as well as the Bacon with Roasted onions. Both executed perfectly. For apps we had Rabbit w/ gnoochi in a Reisling reduction and the Charred octopus. The gnocchi was by far the best I've had. Dinner consisted of the Lamb w/ lamb tounge, Berkshire porkchop, and the clear winner of the night....Veal breast on Mint noodles. The Veal breast is perhaps the best dish I've had in years, complete synergy with this one.

    I expect reservations will be difficult to aquire very soon.
  • Post #10 - July 25th, 2007, 8:59 pm
    Post #10 - July 25th, 2007, 8:59 pm Post #10 - July 25th, 2007, 8:59 pm
    Marooned on an obscure wall at a lonely table in Sepia's lounge I settled in for dinner tonight. I arrived shortly after 8 to find a bustling restaurant. Although a bit brown and dim for my tastes, Sepia has an uplifting buzz to it. And though the clientele skewed toward the douchey, all types were represented, from a group of older ladies to a couple families. A good proportion of diners were eating the bar/lounge, preventing it from becoming too much of a scene.

    The cooking at Sepia is quite accomplished, if the two dishes I sampled tonight are any indication of the restaurant's broader talents. The menu reads well, if a bit boring, with an ample selection of foodie favorites--octopus, veal breast, and artisanal cheeses--and standbys--grilled chicken and salmon.

    Since my tastes generally trend toward the more unique, I tried the octopus and veal breast. The octopus, served with grilled bread and a bright tomato sauce, was well-cooked, if quite underseasoned. This was a good dish but nothing memorable. My veal breast was at another level entirely. While this is far from light cooking, it was deeply satisfying. Hunks of slow-cooked veal breast sat atop mint noodles, peas, and carrots. The veal was like a grassier, more subtle pork belly and benefited from a wide range of textures: silky fat, crispy exterior, pleasantly chewy muscle. This was quite the ample portion too, bordering on being overwhelming given the rich meat and buttery sauce.

    I should also note that bread service here is rather amusing. Although I was not offered bread, upon asking (and waiting, but more on that later) for bread I was served a super dense whole wheat roll on a wooden platter with a metal cone of butter resting on what seemed like fresh watercress to garnish. I was quite amused with this bit of elegantly rustic showmanship for something as simple as a single roll.

    So while the food has potential, the service was disorganized to say the least. Again this was in the lounge, but while the restaurant was busy it was not packed to capacity. As overeager and efficient as the staff at Otom was on the night prior, the staff at Sepia was, well, not those things. I was waited by no fewer than four individuals over my two courses, none of whom made a particularly strong impression. The captains/floor managers/wine stewards/dudes in suits seemed polished but were far too scarce. For both courses, silverware was placed after my dish had arrived. My water glass ran empty for stretches. And after my main was cleared I was cast off to a lala land of neither receiving dessert menu nor check nor check-in. For a restaurant with so many staff bustling about this felt almost awkward. So much was going on yet it seemed like not that much actually getting done.

    All in all, I think this place has two star potential. On a good night in the main dining room, maybe at an off-hour I can see myself having a really solid meal here.
  • Post #11 - July 26th, 2007, 9:37 am
    Post #11 - July 26th, 2007, 9:37 am Post #11 - July 26th, 2007, 9:37 am
    I had an enjoyable, although not mind-blowing, meal last night at Sepia. I ate in the dining room, although, as noted above, Sepia has a dedicated lounge area where many diners were eating. I was greeted by young, friendly hostesses who informed me that my table would be ready in a few minutes and I was welcome to step over to the bar. Glancing in the not-full dining room and seeing a handful of empty tables, I got the sense that the moment my drink was put down in front of me, I would be seated.

    That's exactly what happened. Oh well. It gave me the chance to look over the bar menu -- by the glass wine list offers a variety of options, creative cocktail menu, a few nibbles, mostly flatbreads offered (but I understand that the full menu is offered to eat in the lounge). At about 9:00 p.m., the lounge retained a casual, unsceney, vibe, where some were just drinking and socializing quietly, others were eating. Just comfortable. I had a Pimm's Cup which was refreshingly cucumber-y.

    The dining room was appropriately toned in sepia colors. If you like anything vintage, this restaurant will appeal to you as it refreshingly eschews the too common modern minimalism intended to communicate "trendy" and "scene" to its customer base. What appeared to be original touches of the building were retained, such as ornate vintage tile flooring and heavy wood windowed doors and trim.

    As soon as we were given the menus, the server immediately began to push the flatbreads as a "nibble." (The menu is divided into various sections, not in the most logical order -- Flatbreads, Starters, Sides, Entrees, Cheese.) Apparently, you're expected to start with the flatbreads before your starter because the waiter came back twice to see if we wanted a flatbread and seemed surprised when, on the second time, I declined the flatbread and told him I'd rather just order a starter. (Seems logical to me.)

    As BryanZ noted, the menu is not particularly exciting and reads as kind of as a who's-who of contemporary American cuisine. Steak, scallops, sea bass, veal, salmon, chicken. I was glad to see that there was a decent variety of approachable, unpretentious entrees. In doing so, I think the restaurant is more attractive to repeat diners. Some trendy restaurants where the kitchen is all about stretching its legs end up making the mistake of becoming solely a one-shot destination dine, and then later strive to lure repeat customers. I think Sepia is thankfully striving to be the former rather than the latter. Another plus about the menu is that every single cheese listed on the cheese menu from an American producer -- there is an admitted attempt to seek out local and organic ingredients according to the menu's verbage. Because the menu offers cheese, sides and flatbreads in addition to entrees, as well as small or large portions of several starters, I get the sense that the restaurant would be absolutely okay if you grazed rather than sticking with the two or three course format.

    I started with the appetizer portion of the whole wheat pasta with "foraged" mushrooms and squash blossoms. (Wonder where the mushrooms were "foraged" from?) This was a big portion for a starter. It was delicious. The fresh pasta was substantial and wheaty, while the foraged mushrooms lent the light sauce a meaty taste reminiscent of beef stroganoff. The tummy satisfying flavors made this one of the best pasta dishes I've had in a long time. I didn't detect the squash blossoms, but I loved the huge green peas in the dish, the al dente texture of which made them seem freshly shelled, although I understand that is rare.

    My dining companion had the pork rillette with fig preserve to start which was okay, but a tad underseasoned. It was beautifully presented, with the rillette coming in its own preserves jar. For entrees, I had the flat iron steak with wild arugula (now known as "rocket" in Chicago) and fingerling potatoes. I thought the steak was tender, well seasoned and perfectly grilled to temperature, but the kitchen did the "mommy thing" by cutting the meat and fanning it on the dish. Thankfully, they allowed it to rest for the appropriate amount of time prior to cutting it so that the juices didn't leave the meat. The sea bass ordered by my DC was reported to be really lovely, with crisped skin.

    We skipped dessert or cheese, but the desserts looked wonderful.

    I wouldn't classify Sepia as destination dining -- which is fine with me as I rarely destination dine in Chicago. Rather, the reasonable pricing, flexible menu and casual atmosphere make Sepia an easy choice for a regular, undemanding casual mid-week meal.
  • Post #12 - July 26th, 2007, 11:01 am
    Post #12 - July 26th, 2007, 11:01 am Post #12 - July 26th, 2007, 11:01 am
    Nice report. I fully agree. I actually found desserts to read even more uninteresting than the rest of the of the menu, but did not try any so can't really comment.

    Interestingly, the later it got, the less sceney the bar became. At 8, it was hopping, with a couple groups standing. After the post-work crowd died down, so did the buzz at the bar.

    Perhaps we crossed paths, though it's possible I was gone by that time.
  • Post #13 - July 26th, 2007, 11:22 am
    Post #13 - July 26th, 2007, 11:22 am Post #13 - July 26th, 2007, 11:22 am
    aschie30 wrote:Glancing in the not-full dining room and seeing a handful of empty tables, I got the sense that the moment my drink was put down in front of me, I would be seated....That's exactly what happened. Oh well.


    aschie30 wrote:As soon as we were given the menus, the server immediately began to push the flatbreads as a "nibble." (The menu is divided into various sections, not in the most logical order -- Flatbreads, Starters, Sides, Entrees, Cheese.) Apparently, you're expected to start with the flatbreads before your starter because the waiter came back twice to see if we wanted a flatbread and seemed surprised when, on the second time, I declined the flatbread and told him I'd rather just order a starter. (Seems logical to me.)


    Thanks for an excellent review. I am interested to try this place soon, but...

    I realize that restaurants exist to make money for the owners. There is a business side to every restaurant. I understand. At the same time, a restaurant that aims to be a fine dining establishment -- or one that wants me to appreciate and respect their craft -- shouldn't make me feel the same as when I bring my car to the mechanic ("We recommend changing your cryogenic fluid every 73,456 miles..."). Or remind me of BennigansTGIFridaysFamousDaves' plan to start me off with their great jalapeno shooters.

    When diners can so easily pick up on the restaurant's attempts to up-sell, something has gone wrong. I'm not saying the restaurant shouldn't make as much money as they can. But there is a classy way to do it that makes diners feel good, rather than feel like they are playing defense.
  • Post #14 - July 26th, 2007, 11:39 am
    Post #14 - July 26th, 2007, 11:39 am Post #14 - July 26th, 2007, 11:39 am
    Darren72 wrote:
    aschie30 wrote:Glancing in the not-full dining room and seeing a handful of empty tables, I got the sense that the moment my drink was put down in front of me, I would be seated....That's exactly what happened. Oh well.


    aschie30 wrote:As soon as we were given the menus, the server immediately began to push the flatbreads as a "nibble." (The menu is divided into various sections, not in the most logical order -- Flatbreads, Starters, Sides, Entrees, Cheese.) Apparently, you're expected to start with the flatbreads before your starter because the waiter came back twice to see if we wanted a flatbread and seemed surprised when, on the second time, I declined the flatbread and told him I'd rather just order a starter. (Seems logical to me.)


    Thanks for an excellent review. I am interested to try this place soon, but...

    I realize that restaurants exist to make money for the owners. There is a business side to every restaurant. I understand. At the same time, a restaurant that aims to be a fine dining establishment -- or one that wants me to appreciate and respect their craft -- shouldn't make me feel the same as when I bring my car to the mechanic ("We recommend changing your cryogenic fluid every 73,456 miles..."). Or remind me of BennigansTGIFridaysFamousDaves' plan to start me off with their great jalapeno shooters.

    When diners can so easily pick up on the restaurant's attempts to up-sell, something has gone wrong. I'm not saying the restaurant shouldn't make as much money as they can. But there is a classy way to do it that makes diners feel good, rather than feel like they are playing defense.


    While I did feel like I was mildly being upsold, to be fair, I don't know if that was the restaurant's, or the server's, policy. (The server was kind of goofy, but all in all, he discharged his duties well.) If it's the restaurant's, then that's a policy that could backfire easily. If I'm ordering a starter, I generally don't want flatbread to precede the starter. As a "nibble," it's likely to fill some weak-tummied diners quickly, and result in their ordering only something small after the flatbread, instead of a higher-priced entree.
  • Post #15 - August 2nd, 2007, 12:08 am
    Post #15 - August 2nd, 2007, 12:08 am Post #15 - August 2nd, 2007, 12:08 am
    I enjoyed a lovely dinner tonight at Sepia. Even though it might be a bit of a scene right now (Mayor Daley sat at a table a few feet away with a large party that included Perry Ferrell – perhaps he was giving Perry his thoughts on the Lollapalooza line-up?) we all thought that Sepia might become one of those solid, creative-without-being-too- precious, go-to places for a very nice, but not outrageously expensive meal. We all noted that it might become like MK, a group favorite.

    It’s a lovely space, all rich, warm browns – wood, leather, velvet. I imagine it will be especially cozy in the winter. We enjoyed cocktails in the lounge (my first sazerac) and an assortment the flatbreads – applewood smoked bacon, peaches and Berkshire blue cheese; mushrooms and green garlic; lamb sausage and cherry tomatoes. (I did not notice any pressure from the waiter to try them, as observed in previous posts).They were all fantastic but the mushroom was the big favorite. Crisp and chewy crusts brushed with olive oil, simple toppings that worked beautifully together.

    Our starters and entrees continued in the same vein. Simple, interesting preparations that highlighted quality ingredients. I had a lettuces and baby vegetable salad that was very good (not much to say about lettuce and baby vegetables in a salad). The steak tartare, which I did not taste, got one rave and one “it’s pretty good.” We all shared a bit of the whole wheat pasta ribbons with foraged mushrooms and squash blossoms. This was a dish I really savored. Whole wheat pasta can be pretty bland and tough to cook just-so, but these had the right bite and the mushrooms and cream sauce were rich and earthy.

    My entrée was a striped sea bass with young leeks and heirloom tomatoes. I also tasted the skate wing with broccoflower and raisin-caper sauce, the roasted sea scallops with endive, oranges and pine nuts, and the free-range chicken with pea shoots and yellow wax beans. It’s hard to wax poetic about these dishes but they were just all-around terrific. Simple, interesting preparations of excellent ingredients. I must be sounding like a broken record by now…..

    Our host ordered a round of sides for us to share: onion rings; sweet corn and charred peppers; and potatoes in duck fat. All terrific but the corn was the sweetest most flavorful I’ve had in a long time. And the potatoes in duck fat? Perfect roasted disks of potato-duck fat joy.

    We shared three terrific desserts that were very lightly sweetened. The lemon-sage bread pudding with sweet corn-blackberry jam was very light and more custard than bread. Roasted peaches with raspberry-champagne sorbet and thyme shortbread had a lot of depth of flavor. (Even though the shortbread – while delicious – was more soft than crisp). I was surprised at how lightly sweetened the desserts were – my sorbets were the sweetest of all actually.

    Service was warm, efficient and knowledgeable. One of the owners was a constant presence, quietly checking in on guests and making sure everyone was having a good experience. I’m looking forward to my return visit on a blustery, gray winter day, if not sooner.
  • Post #16 - August 8th, 2007, 3:20 pm
    Post #16 - August 8th, 2007, 3:20 pm Post #16 - August 8th, 2007, 3:20 pm
    After so many good reviews of Sepia it is time for a dissenting view.

    But you won't get that from me because my meal was wonderful. The flatbreads were great (we had the mushroom one and a bacon and peach? one. Fantastic.)

    Next was the appetizer of watermelon with shaved fennel. Good, but the octopus was out of this world. I normally dislike octopus but I noted that the server mentioned the cook raised them himself. I was then told by my dining companions that the chef braised them (my hearing is not so good anymore -thankyouverymuch Jesus Lizard). Anyway, get the octopus.

    I got the pork chop. Best pork chop I ever had. (Sorry, Coach.)

    Anyway, a tad pricey but I didn't pay so I'm happy.

    Eat there, it's good.
    I'm not Angry, I'm hungry.
  • Post #17 - August 8th, 2007, 3:38 pm
    Post #17 - August 8th, 2007, 3:38 pm Post #17 - August 8th, 2007, 3:38 pm
    Can you elaborate more on a tad pricey? What does an average entree cost?
  • Post #18 - August 8th, 2007, 4:45 pm
    Post #18 - August 8th, 2007, 4:45 pm Post #18 - August 8th, 2007, 4:45 pm
    It's really not all that expensive, certainly not more than other comparable restaurants. Average main is about $22.

    http://chicago.menupages.com/restaurant ... uisineid=0
  • Post #19 - August 17th, 2007, 8:07 pm
    Post #19 - August 17th, 2007, 8:07 pm Post #19 - August 17th, 2007, 8:07 pm
    Wife and I had a lovely dinner at Sepia tonight! Yes, the waiter recommended the flatbreads, but I think his tone was one of "these are REALLY good and you don't want to miss them." We had one, the mushroom and green garlic, and it was pretty exquisite. The texture of the bread and the flavor of the toppings were amazing.

    Perusing the wine list, I noticed they had a cab/syrah from the Bekaa Valley of Lebanon. Since I had previously only known Bekaa from hostages, Hezollah and general sectarian mayhem, I had to try it. The vintner was Massaya, I believe, a 2005. It wasn't the best wine I've ever had, but it was dry, spicy and light enough for a summer dinner. Very good, and it was thrilling to try something so novel (and cheap, too!).

    We had appetizers of grilled octopus and pork rillette. Grilled octopus is the make or break item for any restaurant that serves it, and this was outstanding. Very tender, very smoky flavor from the wood oven/grill and a nice light tomato sauce. The pork rillette was yummy but the fig preserve with pistachios that it came with stole the show.

    For main course I had scallops with braised endive and oranges--quite nice, and the braised endive was highly reduced, flavorful but not mushy. Unlike some other places I've been in the past year (Tru!) these scallops were seared but tender, almost raw at the center. My wife had the duck, which is one of the best ducks I have ever tasted in a restaurant. It might have been a full half-duck, and while it was not huge, it was the most tender, meaty bird I have seen. And it was perfectly cooked and seasoned. It came with rainbow chard and a very nice corn dish--creamy, but not heavy.

    For desert I ordered the plums with shortcakes and cinnamon/basil ice cream. I'm not the biggest fan of "freaky combo ice cream," but if they sold the cinnamon/basil by the gallon, I would buy it. And the short cakes, which were as light and flaky as my Scottish grandmom ever baked, had a light cinnamon sugar crust on them. The dish burst with flavor without being too heavy or too ephemeral. The better half's flourless chocolate cake was accented with a mint plate-paint type sauce that also won big points for fresh flavor.

    The decor is lovely--the proprietor was explaining that the art nouveau tiles, which look original, were designed by the owners and cast in concrete, and then laid unevenly to look original to that period. The restaurant is lively without being deafening. Best of all, they were playing a wonderful selection of soul and R&B at just the right volume. More Staples Singers, please! They have a couple of small semi-private rooms and some long, bar-height communal tables for larger groups. This seems like a great idea, making it easier to accomodate larger parties, but providing valuable "overflow" seating when the tables aren't reserved.

    Overall, Sepia's approach to food is elegant without being baroque, with wonderful local, seasonal ingredients in great combinations. The design and service show attention to detail that makes the place more welcoming. The whole vibe of the place is stylish but inclusive and welcoming. It would be nice to see a more diverse clientele, but perhaps that will come with time. It's been a long time since I've been to a hip, trendy new place that greeted everybody with such a friendly, long-lasting smile AND served top-notch food. I hope this place has a long and successful run--I'd like to go back.
  • Post #20 - September 10th, 2007, 10:09 pm
    Post #20 - September 10th, 2007, 10:09 pm Post #20 - September 10th, 2007, 10:09 pm
    I would describe my meal tonight at Sepia as disappointing. We sampled a lot of food and with few exceptions most of it was either flawed or forgettable. I didn't think that prices were out of line but I never got a sense that I was eating premium ingredients, either.

    The brazen pushing of the flatbreads and anally retentive ordering regimen turned me off immediately. The flatbreads, we were permitted -- and encouraged -- to order, the moment we sat down. But when we tried to bypass the flatbreads and order appetizers, we were told that we would have to wait to do that. It was for our own protection. Customers are warned to order appetizers and entrees at the same time or risk a long delay between courses.

    When our waiter returned to take our appetizer orders, we threw him a curve ball and ordered a couple of the $6 flatbreads (a couple of us ended up wanting to try them). But before we could piggyback the rest of our order onto the moment, he ran off to put our flatbread orders in. After a few moments, he returned to take the rest of our orders. After several more moments, our flatbreads finally appeared. Before the four of us could finish the 8 total bites they consisted of, the first round of our appetizers arrived at the table. Oh well.

    FWIW, the flatbreads were disappointing. One, containing bacon, peaches and blue cheese, was decent but the lamb sausage atop the other one was way too lean for sausage and tasted like dry, chewy lamburger.

    There was 1 winner in the first round of 3 appetizers: the charred baby octopus. The octopus was braised and then grilled. This, however, was not mushy as I expected but crispy on the outside and nicely tender within. It was served with a ubiquitous "toasted" bread (that appeared throughout the meal), which was actually slightly overgrilled (aka burnt) bread and some perfectly delicious tomato sauce. The softshell crab was fairly run-of-the-mill and the steak tartare was remarkably devoid of flavor. A couple of folks at our table thought it had some sort of "off" flavor note (an ingredient that didn't belong) but I didn't sense it. It was just bland.

    Round 2 of appetizers included a lackluster and chewy grilled quail, pork rillettes that were as flavorless as the tartare -- and served on the aforementioned burnt bread -- and my favorite of the 3, "roasted rabbit with ricotta dumplings and riesling reduction." Here I loved the buttery sauce and the tender, savory rabbit. The dumplings were tasty too, if not a bit too mushy.

    An instant before our entrees were served, a loaf of bread and ramekin of butter was dropped on the table and the aggressive sales pitch that was applied earlier to the flatbreads suddenly came into focus. Why wouldn't the bread be brought out first like it is at every other restaurant? Well, every other restaurant isn't trying to ram $6 flatbreads down its customers throats. I really hate crap like this.

    Entrees were mostly a letdown. The scallops, seared rather sloppily on only one side, were ordinary. The lamb sirloin, through no fault of its cooking, was extremely tough (cooked perfectly to medium, as ordered, however) but the smokey great northern beans that accompanied it were delicious. The slow baked veal breast was tender, juicy and tasty, although I admit that the mint noodles that accompanied it sounded so unappetizing to me, I didn't even try them. The berkshire porkchop was just destroyed. It was completely dried out, even near the bone. Ordered medium, it was served well-done and a potentially wonderful, $25 piece of meat was ruined. Our server did eventually ask about it and did offer to bring another one but by then, it was pretty late in the meal.

    We also tried 3 sides and enjoyed 2 of them. The chilled roasted baby beets were great and the potatoes in duck fat were crispy and nicely-seasoned. The onion rings, touted by our server, were already soggy and limp when they hit the table.

    I was having a nice time even though everything was pretty meh. It was like an out-of-body experience. Not having been my choice, I could enjoy the misery of the moment because I wasn't even remotely responsible for it. The room, while remarkably uncomfortable, was attractive. But across the board, seating was ill-conceived. That was true in the lounge and the dining room. And the leather tablecloths really made things difficult for us and the staff. Nothing slides at all on leather and that's very annoying after spending a lifetime eating at tables on which things do slide. Try nudging your water glass over a bit or swirling your wine stem on leather. Try using a crumber on leather or setting down a plate without splashing. It just doesn't work and frankly, it borders on pretentious when function is so completely obliterated by form.

    I guess my companions weren't as bemused by the experience as I was. They refused the dessert menu before I even got a chance to read it. They couldn't wait to leave and when the bill showed up with the destroyed, uneaten berkshire pork chop still on it, I think they felt vindicated.

    I can't say I have any burning desire to return. And with Avec and Blackbird right around the corner, why would I?

    =R=
    Same planet, different world
  • Post #21 - September 22nd, 2007, 6:14 am
    Post #21 - September 22nd, 2007, 6:14 am Post #21 - September 22nd, 2007, 6:14 am
    Had my wife's birthday dinner at Sepia this past Thursday, we both enjoyed it immensely. The food was outstanding in general, but what set it apart from other Chicago restaurants at the same price point was a) some unusual flavors/choices and b) attention to details.

    They did ask us if we interested in their flatbreads immediately as we had read, but they did not push at all, maybe they've paid attention to their reviews. After all, I had a flatbread to start and my wife had a conventional app. In fact, the flatbread was very good and it was not as big as I was afraid it would be. Sized to be a nice teaser for two (or more), but not so much as to overwhelm one person.

    I had the Flatiron steak and my wife had Roasted Scallops, both were excellent. She had their variation of a Tarte Tatin and I had bittersweet chocolate crepes, again both were excellent.

    The service was excellent as well, waiter and busboy. We were served by "runners" which I have never liked in upscale restaurants, but obviously this has/is becoming the norm. Feels like I'm at Denny's when someone comes out with plates and has no idea who gets what, and does not ask if we need anything else.

    Unusual flavors: check out the menu and see for yourself.
    Unusual choices: check out the wine list. We had a wine from a favorite, tiny Napa vineyard (Elyse) that is hard to find even in Napa restaurants.
    Attention to detail: The bread was fantastic. Face it, many restaurants offer warm bread, but nothing out of the ordinary. The ice creams that accompany the desserts, very imaginative and very good. The pistachio ice cream that came with my chocolate crepes was the best pistachio ice cream I've ever had.

    I've rambled, but we really enjoyed our dinner there, and we will definitely go back.
  • Post #22 - December 3rd, 2007, 8:26 am
    Post #22 - December 3rd, 2007, 8:26 am Post #22 - December 3rd, 2007, 8:26 am
    A group of four of us had a real nice meal at Sepia last night.

    We had two nice red wines: the Caparone Zinfandel and a Buil & Gine from Priorat. Both were excellent.

    Two flat breads: one with bacon, pear, and blue cheese, which was excellent. The other had foraged mushrooms and garlic.

    Entrees included the elk chop with roasted root vegetables, the scallops with roasted endive, and roasted guinea hen. (The elk was cooked perfectly.) We finished the meal with the banana bread pudding with maple ice cream.

    Overall it was an excellent meal complimented with good service. Most of the entrees were in the mid-$20s, which seemed well-priced. The service issues described by others would ruin the experience for me. So I hope my good experience last night is a signal that Sepia has improved since its first few months in operation.
  • Post #23 - December 9th, 2007, 1:01 am
    Post #23 - December 9th, 2007, 1:01 am Post #23 - December 9th, 2007, 1:01 am
    At Sepia tonight with a group of three.

    Sat in the lounge, which was nice although not particularly well suited to eating. Very low chairs and small tables, but it was the lounge and we had no reservations, so it was fine. On request they did pull over another table which provided plenty of room. Otherwise the decor was quite nice. with dark wood tones and soft lighting, a solid bar area in the front to separate that main dining room from the lounge area. There were a couple of very party rooms in the back to seat groups of 10 or so.

    Our waitress was less impressive. She had nothing of value to say about anything on the menu or wine list. We ordered a wine, was told it was unavailable, ordered a second, told it was unavailable, then told that the original was available. Asked that the Sommnelier come to advise on a second bottle and were told that he was busy and couldn't come over. Asked again for him to come over and told he would, but he never showed up. I chalked the service failings to the fact that we were in the lounge and may not have had their best server, but poor service always puts a damper on a meal.

    There was no hard sell on the flat bread, so seems like that habit is over. They brought bread as soon as we made drink orders. A very nice whole grain baguette style. For appetizers had the grilled octopus which I liked. Charred and crispy on the outside, but very tender, almost creamy on the inside and service with a fresh rustic tomato sauce. The mushroom flatbread was quite good - crispy curst with flavorful mushrooms, but very small. A previous posted said that they were a foot in length. Ours was half that size at best. A decent size for an appetizer for one, but that's it.

    For entrees I tried the flat iron steak and short ribs. Short ribs were very average although served with some nice firm herb noodles with a scattering of vegetables. I found the meat itself a little tough and a bit bland and lacking in that distinct meaty short rib flavor. If they had been served to me blind, I would have sworn they were a different cut of meat. The flat iron was good but once again a little short in character.

    Overall I would say a good but not great meal. A shame since its close to where I live. The whole concept seems to have a lot of potential. The menu is inspired but did not live up to our expectations, although some of the dishes did work well. I'd be inerested in coming back in a year to see if they were able to fine tune the details. Then again, it always seems packed, so maybe I just hit them on a bad night.
    Last edited by wak on May 12th, 2008, 7:12 am, edited 1 time in total.
  • Post #24 - December 29th, 2007, 5:56 pm
    Post #24 - December 29th, 2007, 5:56 pm Post #24 - December 29th, 2007, 5:56 pm
    I ate at Sepia around a month ago and must say I was very disappointed. Had reservations but no table was available so we waited by the bar. Had really good and interesting cocktails (the high water mark for the night). Finally were seated at a table with a large flower arrangement that was clearly a gift for someone but neither of us. Seated at a different table. Had trouble getting menus and then a waiter. Finally gave our orders and then the wrong appetizers were brought out. They were OK as were the dinners, nothing special. The room was cool but that does not a restaurant make. More focus on service and most importantly food rather than style would help a lot. Too many good places in the area to make me want to return.
    Citylife
  • Post #25 - April 5th, 2008, 5:43 pm
    Post #25 - April 5th, 2008, 5:43 pm Post #25 - April 5th, 2008, 5:43 pm
    Sometimes the spur of the moment meals turn out to be disasters but in this case the obvious occurred. My wife and I tried Avec at around 6:30 and there was an hour wait...we walked around the corner to Sepia and they were able to seat us immediately at one of their communal tables.

    We started with the bacon/pear/blue cheese flatbread which was very tasty, a bit oily, but then again....it is bacon. We then tried the peeky toe crab and potato flatbread and that was good but not anywhere up to par with the previous.

    For entrees we chose the short ribs and the Berkshire pork chop. First, the short ribs...they were very flavorful, a bit on the salty side and served on a taro root mash which was very rich and buttery. I make a mean batch of short ribs myself, these were close but not as good as mine.

    Now for the Berkshire pork chop..which was described as an "heirloom" pork chop. I normally am not a huge chop fan but this one was fabulous, and perfectly cooked.

    We had a South African red blend, Onyx could have been the name which was very good also. I might be splitting hairs, but the wine was not even close to cellar temp, they pull it right from the rack on the wall in the dining room and it was probably 20 degrees too warm. Other minor irritant was they use the same smallish white wine glass for both whites and reds, nice glass but for the caliber of the wine list, not acceptable.
    I asked for other glasses and they brought over two larger glasses which were ok.

    Service was excellent and the place is well done inside...all told, I would put it right up there with Blackbird, etc.
  • Post #26 - May 14th, 2008, 7:25 am
    Post #26 - May 14th, 2008, 7:25 am Post #26 - May 14th, 2008, 7:25 am
    I came here to help me decide if I should go to Sepia this Sat. night. We have a reso there and Shaws Crab House too. I know they are entirely different restaurants. And I know it is restaurant show weekend so I should feel lucky to have the Sepia reservation . However, Shaw's has soft shells in now and I can always count on a perfect meal there. Sepia looks cool but the menu on line doesn't really excite me and the reviews here are mediocre. Has anyone been there recently?
  • Post #27 - May 15th, 2008, 9:44 am
    Post #27 - May 15th, 2008, 9:44 am Post #27 - May 15th, 2008, 9:44 am
    I don't really think they're comparable at all. Shaws is a chain, and I'm sorry to say but I have always had chain-style food there. I'm not sure how you can compare a chain to Sepia (or to Blackbird or to BOKA or to MK or to the numerous other finer-dining establishments in the city). I'm not really sure what kind of criteria you are looking for in order to make the decision (quality of food? ambience? service? length of meal?), but Sepia and Shaws will be apples vs. oranges in my mind. I think if you are in the mood for soft shell crabs and know that Shaw's does them well, then by all means go to Shaws.
  • Post #28 - May 15th, 2008, 11:14 am
    Post #28 - May 15th, 2008, 11:14 am Post #28 - May 15th, 2008, 11:14 am
    No, I wasn't comparing them. I know they're nothing alike. I think I said that in my post. My question was How is sepia these days? The reviews are really mixed and only a few are really positive. And I can't decide whether to give up my chance at pristine seafood for only so-so artisanal food. Sepia's menu doesn't seem to have changed in months. I hope it is just that they haven't updated their website. I wouldn't call Shaw's a chain restaurant. Yes, they've cloned it but the first one has been there forever, maybe 20 years (and at least 10 before they introduced a second) It isn't a Red Lobster or even a McCormick and Schmick. It is in a whole different league. I haven't found better prepared more seasonally conscious seafood anywhere. Their menu changes DAILY. The have local ingredients like asparagus from Indiana. and cherries from Mich. in the summer with the names of the farm on the menu. How many chain restaurants do that? I live for seafood and I think that Shaws is amazing. I don't hold anything against it because it happens to be owned by a restaurant company. I guess I answered my own question about where I'm going. lol.
  • Post #29 - May 15th, 2008, 11:55 am
    Post #29 - May 15th, 2008, 11:55 am Post #29 - May 15th, 2008, 11:55 am
    tonirogerspark wrote:No, I wasn't comparing them. I know they're nothing alike. I think I said that in my post. My question was How is sepia these days? The reviews are really mixed and only a few are really positive. And I can't decide whether to give up my chance at pristine seafood for only so-so artisanal food. Sepia's menu doesn't seem to have changed in months. I hope it is just that they haven't updated their website. I wouldn't call Shaw's a chain restaurant. Yes, they've cloned it but the first one has been there forever, maybe 20 years (and at least 10 before they introduced a second) It isn't a Red Lobster or even a McCormick and Schmick. It is in a whole different league. I haven't found better prepared more seasonally conscious seafood anywhere. Their menu changes DAILY. The have local ingredients like asparagus from Indiana. and cherries from Mich. in the summer with the names of the farm on the menu. How many chain restaurants do that? I live for seafood and I think that Shaws is amazing. I don't hold anything against it because it happens to be owned by a restaurant company. I guess I answered my own question about where I'm going. lol.


    I think you did answer your question. Why don't you call Sepia to see what kind of seafood they have on the menu tonight before you make a decision.
  • Post #30 - May 30th, 2008, 10:14 am
    Post #30 - May 30th, 2008, 10:14 am Post #30 - May 30th, 2008, 10:14 am
    Thought I'd note a very positive dining experience at Sepia last weekend. It exceeded my expectations - the food was all well balanced, flavors were all well matched - I had the Lamb Shoulder braise over white bean and lamb tongue, it was brilliant.

    The cocktails are as good as advertised, nearly a violet hour level.

    This was a genuinely great meal, in a buzzing room. I will return with guests without a doubt. I adore blackbird, and I don't think Sepia is as good when talking strictly about food, but Sepia makes for another fantastic option in the Randolph corridor.

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