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Monday, March 08, 2010

Tetsuya's, Sydney - and your chance to win a Masterclass with Tetsuya Wakuda

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.

Scallop salad

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.

Alaskan crab

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.

Long pepper

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.

Serving dessert

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.
All entries must be received by 12 midnight AEST Tuesday 4th May 2010.

EDIT: The winner of this competition has now been drawn. Congratulations to the winner, Judi Adams. I am sure you will have a fantastic evening!

EDIT: Read Judi's account of her evening in a guest post on Grab Your Fork here.

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Tetsuya's on Urbanspoon

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's, Sydney
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
25 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 3/08/2010 12:55:00 am


  • At 3/08/2010 1:16 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Woooww you guys soo lucky!!! Mmm everything looks soo good and hee hee love that grin when he is pouring the butter into the pan

  • At 3/08/2010 1:17 am, Anonymous KFC So Good said…

    Very impressive line up of dishes and what an honor to meet the man himself. I am particularly impressed with the Octopus Raviolo - so Takoyaki, but not really :) The other dish that I think that are noteworthy amongst the "expected" dishes is the Cannellini beans with mascarpone. blue cheese anglaise definitely sounded like a hit. What's the choice of blue cheese?

  • At 3/08/2010 1:17 am, Anonymous billy@atablefortwo said…

    Oh my god, this is an epic post! I keep the masterclass short so I don't spoil the fun for the lucky winners.

    It was definitely a great night and also get to meet bloggers from interstates, I say is win win!

  • At 3/08/2010 1:18 am, Anonymous Mrs Pig Flyin' said…

    That's a lot of amazing dishes for one evening! What an epic event

  • At 3/08/2010 1:29 am, Anonymous Hannah said…

    This is almost overwhelming to read - sometimes I think I'd be unable to cope with all of those flavours and ideas and the information that goes along with it! I've always been excited to get raw prawns on sashimi platters so I'd love to try that scampi...

    How lovely to have this experience to "ease" you back into Australian life! :P

  • At 3/08/2010 2:10 am, Anonymous chocolatesuze said…

    man that night was so epic! and yes love that shot of tetsuya happily plonking in the butter!

  • At 3/08/2010 8:28 am, Blogger Peter G | Souvlaki For The Soul said…

    Just looking at it makes me full again! Def a great night and one that I will not forget in a long time!

  • At 3/08/2010 8:31 am, Blogger Simon Leong said…

    i think we'll be seeing 10 posts of this event and just realised it's one entry per person so i've already entered via A Table for Two. wish we could put multiple entries though. such a fantastic opportunity :-)

  • At 3/08/2010 10:35 am, Blogger mimbles said…

    Fantastic post Helen, what a wonderful experience! Thank you so much for sharing it in such exquisite detail :-)

  • At 3/08/2010 11:25 am, Anonymous Renita said…

    Wow! Very awesome!

    I have just entered! Boy oh boy, would I like to win this masterclass! :)

  • At 3/08/2010 6:35 pm, Blogger Craig & Caroline Hind said…

    Oh wow. I have to say you are so lucky to have been chosen to go and do that! All that food looks so amazing, and I think I'm going to have to pay Tetsuya's a visit next time I'm in Sydney, even if it breaks the bank to do it!

    Wonderful photography as well by the way.

  • At 3/08/2010 9:22 pm, Blogger K said…

    What an amazing night! You are all so lucky! My turn now! *frantically trying to think of some winning copy for the competition.*

  • At 3/08/2010 9:22 pm, Blogger Barbara said…

    Great post Helen.I love how you have captured a happy Tetsuya.

  • At 3/09/2010 9:22 am, Blogger Stephcookie said…

    I am extremely envious! What an amazing opportunity for the ten of you, the class looks so fun and the food looks mouth-watering. So awesome.

  • At 3/09/2010 10:36 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Nice post about Tetsuya!
    But I have to say--and I hope it doesn't
    come off sounding like a case of sour grapes (12 bottles of) that the winning entry of the wine contest was underwhelming. I thought it lacked wit, was parochial (what exactly are "have-not" places in the world?), but worst of all lacked delicious descriptions of food which is something I normally expect from GYF. Ladybird, tell us exactly you like about this hulking continent we live on? Abalone from Tasmania? Coral trout from tropical Queensland? Or what about places that intrigue you. The Red Centre? King's Cross?
    Throw us a quail bone here, at least a tiny morsel of wit or description.
    Hope this doesn't offend....
    "johnny forks"

  • At 3/09/2010 6:25 pm, Anonymous Trissa said…

    Heading over there now to enter! I know you've heard this so many times but you sure are lucky! Fantastic experience and super great write up.

  • At 3/09/2010 7:42 pm, Anonymous Veruca Salt said…

    You lucky sods. The desserts look so good. Tets has such a cheeky yet shy grin.

  • At 3/09/2010 9:21 pm, Blogger M R said…

    OMG, Tets is the man. He looks so casual with his cooking, he could probably do it with his eyes closed.

  • At 3/09/2010 10:10 pm, Blogger foodwink said…

    Lucky you! The dishes look spectacular. And I love the pics of Tetsuya grinning while cooking - makes me want to give him a hug!

  • At 3/10/2010 5:39 pm, Blogger Lily Rose said…

    For looking really fantastic, if I have chance to taste, sure I feel haven!!!

  • At 3/11/2010 2:47 am, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi FFichiban - It was an incredible evening, and yes, I love his little smile as well!

    Hi KFC So Good - An interesting idea to compare the raviolo to a takoyaki! I'm not sure what blue cheese was used, and cannellini beans was an intriguing addition indeed.

    Hi Billy - Epic posts seem to be the latest trend at Grab Your Fork. lol. The night was amazing, and great to put a face to a couple of blog names too!

    Hi Mrs Pig Flyin' - We were very full by the end of it. A once-in-a-lifetime experience :)

    Hi Hannah - The evening was quite full-on, especially trying to take photos and make note of all that was happening. The scampi was sensational and yes, I'm certainly not complaining. Just glad I was back in the country in time for this event!

    Hi Chocolatesuze - It's true. Butter makes everybody happy!

    Hi Peter G - I agree. I don't think any of us will forget that evening anytime soon! Was great to catch up with you again.

    Hi Simon Food Favourites - Good luck with your entry! The opportunity is incredible :)

    Hi Mimbles - It always feels a shame not to share such unique experiences. Glad you enjoyed the post. It makes all the effort worth it :)

    Hi Renita - Good luck. It'll be a memorable evening for everyone who is lucky enough to win!

    Hi Craig - There's quite a waiting list for Tetsuya's (3-6months) so make sure you enquire as soon as you book those flights. lol. And thank you :)

    Hi K - Good luck. There's plenty of time to enter so take your time!

    Hi Barbara - Thanks. Was lovely to meet you on the night, and yes, I was trying to snap that elusive smile of Tetsuya's throughout the evening :)

    Hi Stephcookie - It was a fantastic evening and one I was very grateful to be privy to. Hope you enter the competition. Good luck!

    Hi Johnny Forks - Glad you enjoyed the post on Tetsuya. Re: the Jed wines comp, I don't think it's fair to interrogate the winner, as I chose the winning entry. I liked the fact that the answer was a little left-field because I, too, usually take Australia for granted and am too often obsessed with exploring everyone else's backyard. The entry conditioons didn't specify a need to elaobrate on food descriptions either.

    Hope this doesn't stop you entering future comps because hey, you never know your luck!

    Hi Trissa - Good luck with your competition entry and thanks, glad you enjoyed the post!

    Hi Veruca Salt - I think we were all a bit delirious when we first arrived. It was a fantastic opportunity and lol, there's plenty of spark beneath Tetsuya's seemingly serious exterior.

    Hi M - He probably does. lol.

    Hi Foodwink - lol. I think you can always tell when someone is in their element - Tetsuya in the kitchen is a classic example :)

    Hi Lily Rose - It was a fantastic evening. I just wish blogger has taste-o-vision.

  • At 3/14/2010 10:45 pm, Blogger Thermomixer said…

    Good work again Helen. It's good to see the Electrolux demo kitchen is finally finished.

    The bloggers who went to the SSS demo on Nov 14 should have known about the different sesame oils, he showed it then too for the kingfish dish.

    The butter usually has parmigiano and ricotta with the butter.

    The soy caramel has Japanese soy sauce, not soy milk, mixed with the caramel.

  • At 3/15/2010 1:38 am, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Thermomixer - The Elextrolux demo kitchen is a work of art indeed. Thanks for your clarifications too. I've incorporated them accordingly - my bad! I wasn't lucky enough to attend the SSS demo but by all accounts, it sounded like a great event!

  • At 7/01/2010 2:19 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Hi folks
    I tought I should post a comment and say how thrilled I am to have been chosen as the "Grab Your Fork" winner for the Tetsuya event in Sydney in August. This will be one of my memorable foodie moments and a highlight for me to savour for a lifetime.
    Judi Adams

  • At 7/04/2010 2:07 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Judi - Congratulations on winning. I am sure you will have an amazing time!


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