For non-foodies, their look of bewilderment is genuine. "$175 for a meal?" they bleat. "And it costs $75 on top of that for matching wines?" Their pupils dilate in disbelief.
But they don't understand. This is not just "a meal". This is art. This is ten courses of culinary genius. This is the inner temple of gastronomy. This is Tetsuya's.
From the moment we made our booking way back in December last year (bookings for Saturday nights allegedly fill up to 3 months in advance), I would walk past the gates of Tetsuya's on Kent Street with increasing anticipatory drool. During the day, the steel gate draws back only when a pin number is entered by delivery drivers, further adding to the mystique and air of exclusivity.
What gastronomic treasures lay beyond in this hidden fortress?, I would wonder as I dawdled past. I felt like Charlie Bucket peering through the gates of Willy Wonka's chocolate factory, as I daydreamed about the delicious treats housed within.
So it was with childish glee when we finally got to walk up the Tetsuya's driveway last Saturday night. Suited staff seemed to congest the entrance (attendant parking costs $25) as we casually strolled up the stairs with nonchalance (oh yes, we dine here every weekend).
Inside, the restaurant was much larger than I expected (no, I never even got here when this used to be Suntory) with a number of small-ish rooms branching off in different directions. Sculptures and paintings add an air of cultural ambience (ok, yes I mean posh) with the building forming a somewhat L-shape around the famed Japanese-style rock garden with mini-waterfall (pic at end of post).
But I know, I know--you just want the food photos. *sigh*
Bread roll with Tetsuya's black truffle salsa butter
Yeah I know. My commitment to the foodblogging community saw me taking pictures of the house bread. But the bread was good. Freshly baked, warm, fluffy, crusty and slathered in black truffle salsa butter. I have a jar of this at home which I have yet to christen.
After perusing the phonebook-sized wine list (seriously it must have been about 20 pages in a heavy leather binder) we eventually decided on the 2002 Delatite Dead Man's Hill Gewurztramminer ($42) which was predictably light and fruity. We exercised restraint and resisted the 1973 Dom Perignon ($1200) and the 1990 Krug Clos du Mesnil ($1320).
Our waiter quickly outlined the degustation concept (Tetsuya's used to offer an a la carte menu, but so many diners opted for the degustation that he abandoned it) and explained the first six dishes which would be savoury. He then rattled off a number of key ingredients and reassured us that should we have any problem or allergy with any of the above then it would be absolutely no problem to remove or replace the ingredient.
We had no issues. Except we were hungry.
Hors deuvre: Snow egg and caviar sandwich
Fancy having one of these packed in your lunchbox for school? The bread was soft, white and fluffy, the egg was creamy and the caviar was bon, bebe, bon!
Savoury course #1:
Tartare of tuna on sushi rice with avocado
This dish felt like an old friend after seeing Tetsuya create this dish at a DJs Food Hall demonstration and then racing home and attempting to make it myself.
But this will still so deliciously good, and the pepperiness of the avocado was divine.
Savoury course #2:
(clockwise from top left)
Tuna marinated in soy and mirin
Cold corn soup with basil ice cream
Trevally with preserved lemon.
The tuna was firm and tasty, the trevally sang with lemon but the highlight for me was the basil ice cream cold corn soup. Cold, salty and exploding with basil flavour, it was the perfect compliment to the corn. I remember Tetsuya telling us at the demonstration how to re-create these dishes--I'm kicking myself I didn't take notes.
Savoury course #3:
Confit of petuna Tasmanian ocean trout with konbu, daikon and fennel; served with a seasonal green salad.
(Tetsuya's signature dish)
As you bit into each shiny firm globule, the trout roe burst their briney goodness all over your dancing tongue. According to the waiter these were unpasteurised, meaning they were milked fresh from Australian trout (all imported caviar must be pasteurised). Another highlight.
Savoury course #4:
Ravioli of lobster and crab with shellfish essence
Light and delicate, the lobster and crab-filled ravioli was enhanced by the small disc of shellfish terrine underneath. There was crab, there was lobster, there was roe. And then there was none. Only a vague blurred tongue-print.
Savoury course #5:
Twice cooked de-boned spatchcock with braised daikon and bread sauce.
Pity the poor chef who must de-bone spatchcocks all day. The spatchcock was surprisingly moist, the soy beans tasted freshly shelled and the yellow vegetable was actually a meticulously carved potato (unless our tastebuds committed a huge faux pas).
Underneath the spatchcock bundle was a disc of simmered daikon radiating earthy miso flavours.
The gourmand's meat and three veg.
Savoury course #6:
Grilled Wagyu beef with asian mushrooms and lime jus
The Wagyu was actually a paper-thin scroll of beef carefully rolled up and very lightly seared. Mushrooms were shimeji, shiitake and chestnut.
Dessert course #1:
Orange and honey sorbet with black pepper
Two shot glasses were presented on a platter with the waiter recommending we have the orange sorbet first. Pepper and citrus pair surprisingly well and cleansed the palate.
Dessert course #2:
Tetsuya's take on strawberry shortcake
The strawberry shortcake was a base of sweet syrupy crust layered with a strawberry coulis and garnished with a dollop of cream. We were instructed to mix the layers before consuming. I tried taste-testing the crust layer on its own (for purity of research, of course) but before too long all the layers had swirled together in a pink hurricane of sweetness.
This was a smash hit with two dining companions in particular who couldn't stop raving on about it. I liked it, but I wasn't swooning. Although I did like the genuine macerated strawberry in the middle.
Dessert course #3:
Blue cheese ice cream with pear and sauterne jelly
Ahhh, now this kind of ground-breaking flavour revelation was more to my liking. Tasting rather like creamy soft blue cheese, enquiries to the waiter indicated this is made with King Island Endeavour.
I liked it. It was different, interesting and provocative.
Dessert course #4:
Floating island with praline and vanilla bean anglaise.
We expected a quenelle of soft meringue so this one took me by surprise. However within the soft marshmallowy pillow ran a river of liquid praline. This was delicate, light and very more-ish!
By the time we were served our petit fours it was past 11pm. Ten courses over four hours... who said this wasn't value for money?
The petit fours were what looked like Marie biscuit shards encased in a dried date mixture and then rolled in coconut. My flat white coffee was amazingly good (read: strong and flavoursome) and the tea was also wonderfully hearty and served in a traditional-looking Japanese iron teapot.
Overall? This is undoubtedly a treat-kinda restaurant where the impeccable service and elegant surrounds add an air of occasion. I was impressed with the way waitstaff seamlessly took over from one another and how, when one of our party was in the bathroom when we were delivered our next course and accompanying ingredient spiel, the waiter loitered inconspiciously in the background and retold the information again when they returned.
The food was faultless and yes, we even saw Tetsuya who wandered into the dining area to speak to a couple in the corner for a good five minutes (personal friends or particular VIPs no doubt as he left again at the conclusion of the conversation).
A member of our dining party even managed to wangle their way briefly into the kitchen (ok they work in hospitality) for a squizz. Apparently the kitchen was surprisingly calm and quiet, with chefs beavering away diligently although no sign of Tetsuya on the pass.
There were a couple of extra courses we declined on, including Pacific oysters with Tetsuya's oyster dressing and a cheese platter. But honestly, we were well and truly satiated by the meal's conclusion.
Tartare of tuna on sushi rice with avocado;
Cold corn soup with basil ice cream;
The ocean trout and the unpasteurised trout roe; and
The blue cheese ice cream.
Was it worth it?
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529 Kent Street, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9267 2900
10-course degustation menu $175
With matching wines $250
(Prices correct at April 2005 -
for up-to-date pricing, please contact the restaurant directly)
Lunch: Saturday from 12noon
Dinner: Tuesday to Saturday from 6.00pm
Closed Sunday, Monday and public holidays
Related GrabYourFork posts:
Tetsuya Masterclass and degustation (Mar 2010)
Tetsuya demonstration at DJs (Feb 2005)
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4/06/2005 11:59:00 pm