A Masterclass with Tetsuya doesn't happen everyday.
What was most interesting about the evening was that ten food bloggers were chosen from around Australia to join Tetsuya Wakuda in his newly-completed Masterkitchen on the first floor of his Kent Street restaurant.
"You're the first to see it. Ahead of other media," we're told as we head up the stairs.
Tetsuya demonstrates scrambled eggs
- I have a similar smile whenever I'm cooking with butter!
The kitchen, a collaboration with Electrolux, is a gleaming vision of ebony and marble. Latest overseas trends, we're told, have seen a shift toward the colour black in the kitchen.
We marvel at the flat shiny surface of the induction cooktop and slide our finger up and down the scale for heat control. The sink is as deep and cavernous as a diving pool, and, later on, we have fun pushing the knee pads installed below the sinks that activate the flow of water. There are no taps, no burners and no dials on the benchtop, giving a sleek look, more benchspace, and most importantly, says Tetsuya, makes cleaning a breeze.
For all his worldwide success and acclaim, Tetsuya is quietly spoken and humble as he greets us, his eyes slightly averted as he nods politely. He's often confessed in interviews that he's not comfortable in the spotlight, and at the start of the class he seems to take solace in nervously cleaning the stovetop in front of him with a teatowel as he speaks.
Once the stove is on and he has knives, pans and fresh ingredients at his side, however, Tetsuya is a different man.
Stirring the scrambled eggs
First up, a classic of scrambled eggs. He's not shy in sharing his secrets, telling us that the best way to beat eggs is to lift strands up high in the air with a fork, rather than create bubbles by beating them furiously within the bowl. He also reckons a small dollop of creamed corn creates a lighter texture. We're unaminous in awe at the thought of creamed corn in eggs.
Scrambled eggs with ricotta and sweet corn
The resultant eggs are light and fluffy with delightful pockets of soft ricotta. The creamed corn does add sweetness although personally, the skin from the corn kernels are a touch distracting.
Preparing the scampi
We all watch wordless as he prepares the scampi, dressing them with olive oil, grapeseed oil and freshly chopped herbs before covering it tightly with cling film. There's a small commotion as he proceeds to put it in the oven--cling film in an oven? Won't it melt?--until we realise he's cooking it at 90C, a very low temperature.
Salting the scampi after cooking
Scampi cooked confit-style
The scampi is sublime, the flesh lustrous and sweet, lifted by the gentle bathing in oil and fragrant herbs.
Tetsuya with a ceramic plate by Mitsuo Shoji
Tetsuya plating the micro greens on top of a bed of scallops
The scallop dish is an impressive but essentially simple affair. Thinly sliced scallops are arranged on a plate then topped with a ring of micro greens, wakame seaweed and the wispiest tendrils of finely chopped chilli.
"Does anyone know what is extra virgin sesame oil?" he asks, to which one person replies "The first press of sesame oil?"
He laughs and confesses he's actually referring to white sesame oil, made from untoasted sesame seeds. The brown sesame oil you usually see is made from toasted sesame seeds. The white sesame oil has a much subtler fragrance and taste - I quite happily enjoy a teaspoon of it.
A mixture of the two sesame oils is heated before Tetsuya pours it over the dish, creating a spectacular hiss and sizzle as it hits the moisture of the scallops. The technique reminds me of the Cantonese style of finishing steamed fish by garnishing it with ginger and shallots and then pouring hot oil over it to add shine and flavour. In this dish, it's the kind of easy-to-create spectacle that would make it perfect for a dinner party.
The flash of hot oil only just cooks the scallops, a soft and succulent disc that has its sweetness amplified by the wilted micro herbs and a hint of chilli.
Preparing the snapper fillets
Snapper is also cooked in oil in a clingfilm-covered tray in a low-temperature oven. The fish should be cooked skin side-up, he explains, so as to protect the fillet from drying out. Only when the fish is about to be served, should it be flipped so the fillet can be forked into portions.
Flaking the snapper fillets
Snapper with wakame
"How long do you cook the snapper in the oven?" he's asked, and Tetsuya offers a wry smile.
Cooking, he says, is all about feel. Everything varies, he says, from the temperature of different ovens, to the size of your fish, to the length of time the fish has spent out of the fridge and on your counter. Whilst recipes can offer times, cooking is always dependent on feel. You look, you smell, you touch, you feel. You have to trust your instinct, he says.
We move onto steaming. Tetsuya points out that you can create a makeshift steamer by placing an upside-down metal cake tin over three cups or mugs that are the same height. Tetsuya lines his steamer with bamboo leaves, although admits this is more for aesthetics than for flavour. The lengths of Alaskan crab legs don't take long at all to cook to a sunset shade of orange and red.
Checking on the Alaskan crab
Cooked Alaskan crab
The Alaskan crab is a star on its own. Simple, unadorned and meltingly sweet.
Frying off garlic, onions, carrot and celery
Our final demonstration of the evening is chicken tagine -- cooked without a tagine, says Tetsuya with a grin. He's relaxed considerably the end of the evening. "It's so nice to cook for people who enjoy their food," he confesses.
The smell of garlic and onions is enough to keep us distracted, tinging the air with that delicious aroma of caramelised sweetness. He apologises as he waits for the carrot and celery to cook through, and asks "So what is it you all do again?"
We explain that we have food blogs. We visit restaurants, we cook, we write recipes, we talk about food, all on the internet. He smiles and confesses he is not good with computers.
We, as it turns out, are not good with spices. Testuya is surprised that none of us have heard of long pepper, sometimes called Javanese, Indian or Indonesian long pepper. It's a deeply aromatic spice, with notes of star anise and cassia bark. He adds a liberal amount of ground long pepper along with spoonfuls of Herbie's Spices tagine mix along with marinated chicken thigh fillets.
Stirring the chicken tagine
Tetsuya adds a tomato puree to the chicken, and recommends pulverised tinned tomatoes over bottled passata, saying the tins promise better flavour.
Fluffing the couscous
Whilst the chicken has been cooking, his couscous has been quietly absorbing the hot water poured on earlier. He uses raisins, shallots and plain hot water. No chicken stock? we ask. He says hot water is enough. There will be plenty of chicken flavour in the chicken, he counters.
Garnishing the chicken tagine
Before the chicken tagine is plated, Tetsuya adjusts the flavour with more generous spoonfuls of both the long pepper and the tagine mix. It is always better to under-season your stew and then correct it at the end, he says.
Chicken tagine with couscous
Chicken tagine with couscous
The chicken tagine is an explosion of flavour, heady with spices from the tagine mix and refreshingly piquant from the green olives and strips of preserved lemon. The use of thigh fillets ensures the chicken is juicy and I love the fluffiness of the couscous against the sweetness of raisin and the crunch of the shallots and toasted almonds.
NV Pol Roger Pure Brut, Epernay, France
Tetsuya happily accommodates us for a series of photos (everyone gets a shot!) before we're ushered to the room next door for a ten-course degustation. Oh yes, the night (and this post!) continues.
Warm bread rolls with truffle butter
"You really should just eat the bread. It's only bread and butter," says a passing waiter with a smile, as he notices our paparazzi of cameras.
It's not just butter, of course. It's Tetsuya's butter, a pot of unsalted butter mixed with truffles, parmigiano-reggiano and ricotta cheese. It's the kind of butter you could quite happily eat with a spoon but we politely maintan some sense of decorum and slather it with gleeful reckessness on our bread.
Chilled Japanese pumpkin soup with white miso cream
The chilled Japanese pumpkin soup is a sunny shade of yellow, silkily smooth and refreshingly cool and sweet. The dollop of white miso cream has only a faint miso flavour, but it adds an Eastern elegance to an Australian favourite.
Sashimi of kingfish with blackbean and orange
We're enamoured by the crockery that holds our next dish, a glazed terracotta tile with rough edges that makes you want to touch and explore every crevice. It's a fitting match for the sashimi of kingfish, the raw fish dressed simply with olive oil, sesame oil and the zest of orange. Micro herbs and wisps of chilli add textural interest and we all comment on how the orange zest leaves a lovely citrus echo on the palate.
Soft roast scampi with herbs and citrus oil
Two halves of a New Zealand scampi are soft-roasted and served on a slender length of witlof that has been cooked confit and then charred. The drizzle of oil sings with notes of lemon, lime and tarragon.
Salad of confit ocean trout with zucchini and non-pasteurised roe
Tetsuya's confit ocean trout is his signature dish, and the entire table naturally falls into a respectful silence as it's thoughtfully inspected and consumed. The plating of this dish has a more modern look compared to my last visit in 2005, with the salad now served separately.
His confit ocean trout has often been waxed lyrical, but truly, it's worth the hype. The ocean trout, cooked at a very low temperature in oil, is so soft you could eat it with a spoon. It's buttery, velvety and smooth, with highlights of saltiness from the crust of finely chopped kombu and the bed of ocean trout roe, milked by hand and non-pasteurised.
Mixed salad leaves
Raviolo of octopus with oregano and black olives
Raviolo of octopus is a bold take on this usually subtle pasta package. The last time I'd had this dish at Tetsuya's, it had included lobster and crab, and secretly I'm pining for more of the same. The octopus pieces are large but tender with strong flavours coming across from the black olives, basil, oregano and tomato. Sushi rice is also a surprise component. If this dish is meant to startle the palate and surprise patrons, it certainly succeeds.
Breast of chicken with corn and foie gras
Conversely, breast of chicken is a step back to more understated territory. Its stark appearance belies its flavour. The breast, from a young chicken, is as tender and succulent as the best thigh fillet you could imagine, and its pairing with pureed sweet corn reminds me of chicken and sweet corn soup. Beneath the fillet is a petite portion of foie gras, a rich enhancement to a seemingly simple dish.
Sirloin of wagyu with braised leeks, sansho and soy
Wagyu beef is always the last course at Tetsuya's, it seems, and we're not complaining. Paper-thin slices of wagyu sirloin are so soft they almost melt in the mouth. I take great joy in the turrets of braised baby leeks too, pressing them with my fork so I can enjoy each layer one ring at a time.
Pione grape sorbet with sauternes jelly
The pione grape is a Japanese grape varietal created in 1957. Known for being extremely juicy, sweet and almost devoid of seeds (only every sixth or seventh grape will have a small seed), they're particularly popular in Japanese desserts.
Our quenelle of pione grape sorbet is a welcome palate cleanser, made from the skins of the pione grape. At the bottom of our glasses, in the cool wobble of sauternes jelly, lay the peeled grapes themselves -- a tongue-in-cheek tribute to the opulent demand by royalty to "peel me a grape"?
Cannellini beans with mascarpone and soy caramel
Cooked beans are a common ingredient in Asian desserts (eg red beans in soup, kidney beans in ice kacang) but they're not often found in fancy restaurants. Together this dish works well, the slippery legumes of cannellini benefitting from the sweet drizzle of soy caramel, the blue cheese anglaise and the foamy lightness of marscapone.
In practice, however, I find myself eating all the cannellini beans first, just so I can enjoy the lighter-than-air marscapone on its own. The soy caramel, we're told, is made by adding soy sauce to caramel at the last moment. I also adore the blue cheese anglaise which has a lingering sharpness and salty tinge.
Floating island with double anglaise of vanilla bean and praline
Floating island is another classic dish by Tetsuya, a quivering column bathed in a double anglaise of vanilla bean and praline.
Chocolate and raspberry sauce inside the floating island
We sink our spoons into the airy dessert to reveal not one, but two surprise pockets of sauce inside, the chocolate and raspberry rivers flowing quickly down the stark escarpment of egg white. It's as ethereal as eating a cloud, bathed in swirling flavours of vanilla, raspberry, chocolate and hazelnut.
We're also let in on a kitchen secret - that the inclusion of finely ground rosemary helps eliminate any overwhelming egg white smell.
Handmade tea cups
Handmade tea cups are another tactile pleasure, the ceramic vessels complete with indentations that are a perfect fit for your thumb and forefinger.
Petit fours: green tea marshmallow, coffee and date friands
and chocolate macarons with lemon curd and pink peppercorns
It's no secret that the platter of petit fours is our childlike highlight. Green tea marshmallow has a quiet intensity of matcha that leaves a slight, but not unpleasant, bitterness in the mouth.
In the centre are coffee date friands, not the usual shape, and certainly much lighter and moister than you may have ever encountered. A faint speckle of coffee grounds offsets the sweetness, the date present in flavour but not appearance.
We leave the chocolate macarons for last, not strictly a macaron but presented in a macaron-style, we're told. It's a crisper version of a macaron, sandwiches with quite a wet lemon curd. Coarsely ground pink peppercorns provide an occasional hit of heat.
Win your own ticket to a Tetsuya Masterclass
Have you been reading this post and been threatening to lick your monitor in envy? Would you love to meet Tetsuya Wakuda and take part in an intimate Masterclass with him too?
Electrolux is giving Grab Your Fork readers the chance to win a ticket to this exclusive event. All you have to do is click on this special Grab Your Fork competition page and fill out the entry form.
This competition is open to entries across Australia. The 12 best entries received will win:
- A single invitation to an exclusive Tetsuya Masterclass at Tetsuya’s restaurant, 529 Kent Street Sydney NSW – on the evening of Tuesday 24th August 2010 from 6pm
- Return economy airfares from the major prize winner’s nearest Australian capital city
- One nights’ accommodation on the night of the Masterclass Tuesday 24th August 2010.
- A private car that will transport the winner from their accommodation within the Sydney Metro area (50km radius from Sydney city centre – GPO) to Tetsuya’s restaurant for the Masterclass and then back to their accommodation within the Sydney Metro area stipulated above.
EDIT: Read Judi's account of her evening in a guest post on Grab Your Fork here.
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529 Kent Street, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9267 2900
Grab Your Fork attended the Tetsuya Masterclass and dinner as a guest of Electrolux and Wakuda Tetsuya.
Related Grab Your Fork posts:
Tetsuya Wakuda demontration at David Jones, Sydney
Other related sites:
Tetsuya Wakuda interview on ABC TV: Talking Heads [transcript]
Freebie Friday winner
Congratulations to Ladybird for her winning entry in the Jed Wine Freebie Friday competition. One case of Jed Sauvignon Blanc will be delivered to your door shortly - check your email for further details.
Don't forget you still have time to enter the Freebie Friday competition to win two tickets to a Beef and Beer Masterclass at MUMU. Entries close this Thursday, 11 March at 5.30pm AEST. ENTER NOW
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3/08/2010 12:55:00 am