Sunday, August 28, 2011

Tetsuyas ... again?!!

There is no way to disguise a dinner at this Sydney institution.
I would like to make a declaration - I am not a Tetsuya virgin. I had the great luck to have dined at the original restaurant in Rozelle (twice) and a few times after it moved to its current Kent Street location before this evening; so you will forgive me if I say that I was missing the surprise factor which is part of the whole Tetsuya's experience.
Anticipation is nine tenths of the enjoyment of a good meal and Tetsuya's is still one of the most coveted seats on the Sydney Dining scene. Marry that with a couple of significant birthdays and blogging it for the first time and you expect fireworks. Which is not to say that I was disappointed.We were lucky enough to be offered one of the private dining rooms (usually available at an additional cost). Away from the bustle of the main dining room, and owing to the attentive staff, it is easy to believe the restaurant is open just for you.
But, I still remember the first time fondly - I didn't have to pay the bill; it was the first degustation menu I had eaten (eating what your parents give you doesn't count!); it was one of the first up-market restaurants I had dined at and it was the most expensive meal you could buy.
Tetsuya's (whipped) Truffle Butter on a sour dough roll
Ever since we first devoured it, my family have had an ongoing love affair with Tetsuya's truffle butter. Smeared onto a chunk of the sour dough or white dinner rolls on offer, it is heaven in your mouth. We've gone as far as purchasing Tetsuya's Truffle Salsa and making it at home following Tetsuya's very own recipe. How disappointing then to be offered the whipped version that we were this night. It lacked the original punch. If this is a cost saving measure, personally I would rather be limited to one pot (the waitstaff refill the pot and provide additional rolls as many times as you request them) than a multitude of this watered down version. Please, we beg you, go back to the original recipe!

 Rant over, we were off on the evening's rollercoaster.

Amuse Bouche: Chestnut Soup with a Dollop of Smoked Cream

A lovely way to start a meal, the warm chestnut broth was light and delicately sweet so it couldn't be mistaken for dessert and it paired beautifully with the smoky cream. The ratio of cream to soup was perfect too but probably not recommended on a daily basis!

Pre-Degustation Extra - Tasmanian Bruny Island Pacific Oysters with a Ginger & Rice Wine Dressing

Every time we've been here, we've questioned the wisdom of ordering an extra course knowing that we have 9 ahead of us and every time (so far!) we've thrown caution to the wind. This time, as usual, the risk was well worthwhile.
Although these oysters were served with what appeared to be the simplest of dressings, everyone agreed that it was going to be tough to beat as the overture to our symphony. Not a fan of huge, creamy oysters, I didn't think I would like these but I loved them. They were not briny at all nor too meaty, creamy nor too anything. They were as perfect as an oyster could be.

Degustation Menu
1: Steamed Sea Urchin Savoury Custard with Whole Sea Urchin Roe

Those who ate this tell me that it was smooth and silky as a steamed custard should be. I almost gleefully gloated in the fact that I have an egg allergy which meant that I was served an alternative dish as I personally have never (and suspect never will) appreciate sea urchin roe.

1A - Egg Free Alternative: Artichokes with Parsley Chlorophyll and Peanuts

The idea of degustation and the best scenario for bloggers in particular, is that everyone eats the same dish and has an opportunity to compare notes with their individual palates and preferences. As the only allergy sufferer of the group, my substitute meals can often make me the envy or condolence of the table. On this occasion, I was very happy with my artichokes, they were tender but al dente and not drowned in the dressing.The Parsley Chlorophyll had all but dried on the plate so the only way to have really tasted this was to pick up the plate and lick it but I was in Tetsuya's ...

2: Sashimi of Hiramusu Kingfish with Black Bean & Orange

The only dish to be served on a rustic plate, it was almost hard to tell where the Kingfish finished and the plate began. I remember thinking the dressing was devine and something I would have to try at home myself. The dish itself was the cause of some light-hearted poking as one of the used dishes went back to the kitchen earlier than the rest and the maitre'd tried to establish whether HB's hubby had pocketed it as a souvenir.

3: Confit of Tasmanian Petuna Ocean Trout with a Kombu Crust over a Salad of Shaved Fennel accompanied by Unpasteurised Ocean Trout Roe & a Parsley Oil  garnish
Tetsuya's signature dish, this never fails to impress. We marvel at how the delicate sliver of ocean trout looks raw while (even knowing that it has been cooked at very low temperatures in a bath of hot oil), it does not present nor taste greasy. The parsley oil, while beautiful in its sparseness, would have been appreciated a little more had it had more substance.

4. John Dory with Ajo Blanco & Pil Pil  

We learn that the Pil Pil is an emulsion of fish and oil (in what is quite a complex process) which creates a kind of mayonnaise without egg. I'd like to think this was just for me but the fact that it was paired with the Ajo Blanco, a puree of white garlic leads me to think that this dish was inspired by Spanish tapas cuisine. Perhaps we'd had enough seafood by then (having elected to be surprised dish by dish we weren't sure whether the entire menu was to be seafood) but there wasn't as much rapture over this dish as with the preceding. Then this arrived:

5: Steamed Queensland Spanner Crab served with Fois Gras & Tofu & Junsai

And the reaction was instantaneous. The balance of flavours and textures in this dish were outstanding - the filminess of the fois gras and tofu with the tender crab meat was a big hit. The junsai (a perennial water grass and a member of the water lily family) was best taken in the proportions which came with the dish! It was a little like nibbling on a reconstituted tea leaf surrounded by jelly and while I'm glad I had the opportunity to try this seasonal delicacy, I don't think I would have truly have missed it.

6: Confit of Pressed Duck Leg with Caramelised Shallots & Pancetta

After so much seafood, it was almost a relief when this arrived. The duck was perfectly cooked and moist, the pancetta smoky and the shallots added a satisfying crunch. Similarly to the Trout, while we knew the process required a lot of oil, there wasn't a hint of oiliness except where it enhanced the jus.

7: Young Venison with Salt-Roasted Beetroot & Parsley Chlorophyll

Another confession, I'm not a big fan of game meats in general but having half anticipated that we would be getting a Wagyu beef dish of some sort, we were pleasantly surprised to be presented with this. It wasn't a work of art by any means but the meat was definitely tender and juicy and the beets sweet. Still not sure about the Parsley Chlorophyll but if it's good enough for plants, it's good enough for me!

Pre-Dessert: Hay Infused Icecream with Sorrel Granita
Those who had this swore they could taste the start of summer in the ice cream (I don't recall anyone having chewed on any hay recently in my presence so perhaps they had good imaginations) while the sorbet was refreshing. I thought it was very patriotic! 

8: Tetsuya's Apple Tarte Tartin with Calvados Icecream & Bruleed Bread & Butter Pudding
Definitely falling into the deconstructive genre, these were a novel approach considering Testuya's original goal was the marriage of French with Japanese. So we have the Frenchness of a Tarte Tartin and a regular Brulee, modernised beyond recognition along English lines! I'm hoping my fellow diners will tell me their impressions as these were a no-go zone for me.

8A: Egg Free - Caramelised Apple with Diced Apple in Amaretto with Sugared Walnuts & Coffee Infused Dates with a Bitter Chocolate Sorbet

I had to admire the craftsmanship in this dessert. While not as artistic as some of the desserts we've sampled, the fresh apple was diced to precision and minutely so. To my palate, it was overly sweet and could have done with a little cream on the side but the Dark Chocolate Sorbet was to die for.

9: Spiced Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Icecream

I really do think we were struggling at this stage to rapture over anything, there is full and there is I-can't-fit-another-thing-in-my-mouth full, yet here was another dessert, oh...would we have missed the oysters to better enjoy this? I didn't think so.

9A - Egg Free: Hazelnuts rolled in Cocoa, Bitter Chocolate Sorbet on a Bed of Sago

I'm so glad they brought me this! What is sorbet after all than just frozen water? No calories in that, right? And the chocolate's full of antioxidants! Yay!!! Despite having no room at all for this, I proudly managed to squeeze it all in!

What is a good meal without a sturdy pot of tea?

And some of these ...

No, these aren't small boulders, they're Chai flavoured Mochi, a twist on the traditional glutinous rice treat. 

Happy birthday to Lobo & Wag!

In these heightened days of making food that looks better than it tastes, I would rather eat that which appeals to my palate than a work of art which is questionable on the tongue; Tetsuyas strikes an even balance between the two.

The portions seem to have increased in size, no doubt in response to some criticism which praised the taste but didn't appease the belly, even after 9 courses! We definitely left satisfied.

Dining at Tetsuya's is a commitment and if you're going on a week night, as we did, you should take the day after off to recover!

Will I return anytime soon? I would never say never, there were wonderful highlights (the oysters, the crab and the duck) but some of the magic has gone, possibly to Singapore where Tetsuya has opened up an outpost which harks back to his original dream of keeping it small.

Maybe that should be our next stop!  :D


  1. Lucky you! :-)

    And I agree with you regarding the lapsed aura this restaurant has, but when I was in Singapore last year I couldn't justify going to Waku Ghin because it was too exxy. Maybe if I win the lottery!

  2. heh i wouldve totally licked the plate to try the parsley chlorophyll esp since you were in the private dining room :P

  3. can i say im totes jealous of u. i havent even been once!! >-<

  4. I'd like to visit Tetsuya's at least once - you're lucky to have been so often! I suppose the food will always shine even if the experience itself is a bit 'been there, done that'.

  5. Okay, me bad.... you are not a Tetsuyas' virgin, so does that make you at Testuyas' slut? You can smack me next time you see me for that comment ;p Though, very jealous you experienced Tets at Rozelle.

    I am yet to eat at Tetsuyas and am making a pact to do it soon.

  6. Shame to hear Tetsuyas isn't 'doing it for you' like it used to. I've often been disappointed in returning to restaurants after memorable dining experiences, finding it never quite lives up to your 'first time' ha ha ha. I tend to try and head somewhere new instead ...

  7. Oh yes Waku Ghin is definitely worth a visit. The food is very Japanese which is quite different from Tetsuya's!

  8. I've eaten at Tetsuya's twice but I'd gladly eat there again at the drop of a hat! That ocean trout must be eaten to be believed.

  9. I wish there is one here in Malaysia. All the food looks out of this world delicious!

  10. *hi-5* not a Tetsuya virgin either! hehe
    My parents used to dine ate Tetsuya in Rozelle many years ago too! I'm very keen on trying out Waku Ghin

  11. I've only dined at Tetsuya's once and that was just over a year ago. I have no former experiences to compare it to but, apart from the food, their impeccable service is really something to be marvelled at.