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Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Tetsuya's, Sydney

At $175 a head, Tetsuya's is perhaps seens as the gastronomic Mecca for Australian foodies. "One day I'll go", is the repeated mantra. "It's just so expensive..."

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)

We're still puzzling over why this was called a confit when the ocean trout appeared to be uncooked. The ocean trout appeared to be uncooked but had actually been cooked confit-style, immersed in oil at a very low temperature. The ocean trout was springy with freshness and melt-in-the-mouth tender. Encrusted with finely chopped konbu and highly salted, at times I felt the sweetness of the trout was overwhelmed by the flavour of seaweed but who am I to argue with The Master.

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!

Petit fours

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.

Favourite courses:
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?

View Larger Map
Tetsuya's on Urbanspoon

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)
36 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Anonymous on 4/06/2005 11:59:00 pm


  • At 4/07/2005 1:23 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Ooh, and aah, was all I could manage as I drooled over the pics and read your commentary. What can I say, AG? I'm speechless with envy. :)

  • At 4/07/2005 9:31 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Looks absolutely delicious! Thanks for sharing. :)

  • At 4/07/2005 3:50 pm, Blogger Ms One Boobie said…

    What a heavenly entry.. AG..!! I'm envious.. and drooling at the same time..!
    Give me a big towel.. honey..!

  • At 4/07/2005 5:52 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    wowwww. cant wait for the day when i've saved up enough to eat there! thank god i've got 5 years here to save up for my tets pilgrimage!

  • At 4/07/2005 10:33 pm, Blogger santos. said…

    [burning with envy] you lucky, lucky gloop, you.

  • At 4/08/2005 12:26 am, Blogger pinkcocoa said…

    ahhhhh AG!!! So this is your little secret. You! tsk tsk tsk *shake head*

    But, congrats! You made it there!! Can't believe you waited 3 long months! The food looks soooooo good. grrrrr. I am so jealous! And such a wonderful effort of taking each and every single dishes you guys had! *yum* I wonder if I could get the dessert courses to come first :p The corn soup with basil sorbet looks delicious but I think I am more into the desserts :p

    You lucky thingie!!!

  • At 4/10/2005 8:11 pm, Blogger DiveMummy said…

    Let me just wipe the drool off the keyboard....well done AG....I think I would still be too busy days later, rolling my eyes in gastronomic delight, to be able to speak and articulate the experience.

    I'll have to start saving my pennies.

  • At 4/10/2005 11:40 pm, Blogger Reid said…

    Hi AG,

    The food looks so delicious, but I highly doubt that I'd go out for a $175 per head meal. When I saw the name, I thought this would be a Japanese restaurant complete with tatami mats, but do you think it's more fusion?

    I think if I went to a place like that I'd be afraid to take pictures!

  • At 4/11/2005 2:33 pm, Blogger pinkcocoa said…

    hahahaha AG, I have also noticed it took us so much longer to finish a meal each time we dine out too because I would snap, snap and snap. Er, I also notice there are always ppl staring curiously at my attempt to take photos of my food :p
    I am still soooooooo jealous!!!! *waaaaaaaa*

  • At 4/11/2005 9:16 pm, Blogger Niki said…

    It looks spectacular! I'm looking forward to when I can make it up to Sydney to go there. I'm still planning to write an entry about my degustation menu a few weeks ago at Ezard at Adelphi, which also cost in the stratosphere ($115 for 8 courses), but was certainly a food highlight of my life so far...!

  • At 5/12/2005 11:20 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Hi AG
    I went to Tetsuya's a couple of years ago. I recognise the confit of Tasmanian ocean trout. oh Yummmmm!!!!! ..... Thanks for bringing back some great memories of one of my best meals ever. Yes, I totally agree - non-foodies dont understand and cant imagine spending that much money on whats to them "just a meal". But boy oh boy, what a taste-fest! Each course was sublime, subtle, was I had driven to the city. Once I found out about the matched wines, I decided to leave the car parked in the city carpark (bugger the overnight charges) and taxi it home. Bottoms-up! Not a single regret!

    Glad to find a foodie who likes food and writing! :-) Like the others, am impressed you took photos at a place like that!

  • At 9/06/2005 11:58 pm, Blogger krangsquared said…

    Oooh yeah! Finally, I've got more detail on the food we ate! Went to Tetsuya's for my wife's birthday, and it was simply magical. And I'm really glad I took photos of our food! Wasn't really that embarrassed as I noticed other people started taking out *their* cameras and taking pics of their food.

    From the outside, Tetsuya's actually looks like an embassy, what with the gates and all. Maybe they should rename it "The Republic of Tetsuya's". =)

  • At 12/03/2005 8:40 pm, Blogger ロイ said…

    Geez, great review!! Truly great review!! Yums!!

  • At 1/09/2006 2:21 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I went just after Christmas and it was well and truly fabulous.

    My review will be up soon!

  • At 9/13/2006 5:05 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    you know that if you are there for a very special occasion and they find out, there are a couple of extra courses that they sometimes bring out - free.... I went with my husband on our anniversay and we got the most divine chocolate cake at the end of the meal....and we'd even gone the BYO route, so it wasn't as if we had spent up big on posh wine....

  • At 9/26/2006 10:11 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I went to Tetsuya's last night, and the service was absolutely amazing. Just as we left and got our coats, Tetsuya himself came and spoke to us, asking about our meal and so forth. What a personal touch to a beautiful meal, it made the night so much more memorable.

  • At 12/22/2006 5:06 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Tetsuya's is spectacular - no doubt about it. However, back in the days of Janni Krytsis (however it's spelt), my husband and I were floored by the degustation at MG Garage. Shame it's gone... loved Tet's but MG's made me squeal!

  • At 1/23/2007 10:12 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Just discovered your interesting blog as I am searching for Tetsuya information.
    Note that both the wild and farmed caviar we distribute are unpasteurised - it is allowed.
    See our website:
    I'll track your site now that I have found it as I love reading about our wonderful restaurants here.
    Bryan Burrell

  • At 8/06/2007 4:26 pm, Blogger Chunky Bacon said…

    Is dinner degustation the same as lunch?

  • At 8/09/2007 12:13 am, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi unablogger - I presume so. I haven't had the lunch degustation. Perhaps best to call them to check?

  • At 8/09/2007 4:55 am, Blogger Chunky Bacon said…

    yeah it's the same.
    I've booked it for next month

    btw is there any way to enable
    email notification when someone is replying to a blog comment like in LiveJournal?

    love your blog!

  • At 8/12/2007 11:47 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Unablogger - Enjoy your meal :)

    And no, as far as I'm aware there is no comment-reply notification option on Blogger :(

  • At 9/09/2007 8:42 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    It's an experience

    It's Disneyland for adults who love food and the passion to create a great experience

    Something you need to do once in your life


  • At 9/10/2007 12:03 am, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Oscar - It's an amazing evening of dining isn't it? Great to read that it met all your expectations and more (and the waiter googled you? wow).

  • At 9/12/2007 1:12 am, Blogger Chunky Bacon said…

    alright did a Tets and
    I'm rather disappointed. Found out
    that I don't really like French
    cuisine (first time going to a French restaurant). It's alright but certainly I won't fork out $185 again.

  • At 9/12/2007 6:21 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Unablogger - I think media hype can lead to disappointment, although I wouldn't call Tetsuya's typical French cuisine. It's supposed to be different, unusual, and a challenge to the senses.

    I did find Tetsuya's quite an intense experience, and one that really required thought and deliberation with every mouthful. Not every person's cup of tea perhaps, but certainly a unique Sydney dining experience.

  • At 9/13/2007 7:08 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Always fun to read about Tetsuya's!

    Living on the other side of the world now, we have had the opportunity to eat at some of the best restaurants in Europe and America but Tetsuya's is always the benchmark we come back to.

    On the cost thing - £250 per head is seriously amazing value. I expect to pay twice that for a similar (but not quite as high) quality meal in Europe (England and France at least). Iurge anyone even half-interested to take the plunge - you will not regret it!

    On the world class thing - the only restaurant I have eaten at that has matched Tetsuya's for quality of cooking and interesting options on the menu is El Bulli.

    For me, El Bulli sits a short head in front just because of the scale (30 courses there!), the setting (middle of nowhere on NE Spanish coast), the originality (Ferran Adria's work going back to the early 80's is the reason why Tetsuya's can exist as it does now) and the anticipation that having to fight a year in advance with 400,000 other people to try and score one of 8000 reservations creates! The almost non-existant wine markups were also a pleasant change to the standard extortion.

    Despite all that, my wife still puts Tetsuya's down as her favourite meal ever though - something about your first world class meal always being the sweetest....!

  • At 9/14/2007 10:30 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Homesick Foodie - Oh I'd love to eat at El Bulli. I saw the Anthony Bourdain ep about Ferran Adria and I so want to try all those dishes!

    And yes, I wholeheartedly agree that the Sydney dining scene is very very affordable with incredible value (and ingenuity!).

  • At 7/12/2008 12:57 pm, Blogger Thermomixer said…

    Hi Helen

    Congratulations on ALL the work you do to entertain foodlovers. Have browsed your sites before but saw this post and thought I would add some knowledge (that you may well know now). Have you been back to Tetsuya's?
    The ocean trout is called a confit because it is cooked in oil. It has been a work-in-progress since the early 90s and follows on from a dish that Tony Bilson made. Used to be dome in oil just in the oven at 70 degrees for a long time-not sure how long. It has been prepareed in different ways over the years. When I visited in January, Tetsuya told me that his latest method involves sealing in a vacuum bag with oil - I think grapeseed may be the type now - and cooking at around 70 degrees in the oven (but with the door partly open?). Tetsuya has been involved with Petuna the company in Tassie that produces the ocean trout. When you go back try the ocean trout and you will notice that although it looks uncooked by the colour, that the texture has changed and it has "cooked". Please let me know & I may be able put in a word for you.

  • At 7/16/2008 8:22 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Thermomixer - Thanks for the info, and yes, I had since discovered the secret of Tetsuya's low-temperature cooking. As you say, it seems to be all the rage these days with all kinds of proteins.

  • At 12/05/2008 5:43 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Hi Helen,

    I was lucky enough to get a reservation for Saturday 27 December for lunch! (the lady taking the call laughed at the eagerness in my voice!)

    What is the etiquette in terms of taking pictures of each course? When I dined at Babbo in NYC I was a little embarassed to take pictures so when I got home (the wine didn't help) I forgot courses and it all seemed to blend together into one blissful experience.

    I have a low light lens on my digital SLR, so I wouldn't need a flash. Tips?

    Loved your review and I look forward to trying it for myself! :)


  • At 12/06/2008 3:48 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Victor - Ooh lucky you! I didn't have any problems with taking photos. I think they are quite used to people taking photos what with the popularity of digital cameras and they're not all foodbloggers either!

    I brought a little tripod along as the lighting is quite dim. Generally I avoid using a flash as it can disturb other diners (particularly all those romantic couples celebrating anniversaries). If you don't have a tripod, I'd suggest resting your camera on a glass or book.

    Enjoy your meal, and as a tip, if you're celebrating something and let the kitchen know, I think they usually provide an extra dessert with a congratulatory message ;)

  • At 5/04/2009 5:06 pm, Anonymous bacchaebabe said…

    I've eaten at Tetsuya's on a number of occasions and have unfortunately never had the blue cheese ice cream. For those that may want to try a similar thing in a slightly cheaper environment though, Gelatissimo in Newtown does a stunning blue cheese gelato. They don't always have it on but it can be bought by the tub. It's my favourite flavour there ever.

  • At 5/05/2009 10:36 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi bacchaebabe - Do you mean Gelatomassi? I didn't know they offered a blue cheese gelato. Will have to check it out next time I'm in the area. Thanks for the tip :)

  • At 9/14/2009 9:48 pm, Anonymous M said…

    Nice..i'm getting hungry just looking at them.
    I went in 2008, and i also took some pictures. The courses are very similar.

    check them out at my blog.


  • At 9/15/2009 12:58 am, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi M - Quite a few similar dishes indeed. Thanks for sharing and hope your next Tets meal is just as memorable!


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