Tetsuya’s – 20 April 2011

Tetsuya’s was my very first fine dining experience, so it marks the official beginning of my food adventures. It’s also the poorest quality set of photos since for a number of reasons:

– I had no idea what the photo/dining etiquette was

– I didn’t intend to post the pictures

– I have never paid this much for food before

– I had zero expectations of what the food would look like and taste like

Due to the time difference, working off memory means that the recount may not be accurate, but the key points are still used as comparison points in my current restaurant experiences.

First things first. Being the first fine dining restaurant I’d ever booked, I was mildly surprised that they required credit card details upon making a reservation, however, the booking process was very smooth, albeit at the time, I believe I called their reservations line, received an email with a form attachment for my payment details, and then received confirmation of the date. In addition, I was advised to call and confirm my reservations two days prior. It was such a nerve wracking experience!

I never knew that the best restaurants in Sydney were generally located in the city, I always imagined such famed restaurants being tucked away in their own magical land that only those attending knew how to access. It sounds weird, but I really did think that. This visit demystified my far-fetched theories, so a short walk on Kent Street lead me to the nondescript building that was home to some of the best food around.

To this date, it’s still the most interesting setup in terms of floor plan. Being slightly bewildered, I recall us being ushered into one of the many dining rooms, where each table had chairs facing the window into a secluded zen garden. There was a very subtle light show where the shadow of a bird would be projected, flitting through the leaves of the garden. The floor was relatively quiet, matching the calm, Japanese ambience of the restaurant.

There were many firsts for me here – being asked for still or sparkling water, being asked what occasion I was dining for, and the offering of oysters for “a small fee.” Any offering of oysters has always elicited a yes from me.

There was only one choice here – their degustation in full, so we weren’t offered a menu or advised of what was coming. That wasn’t a concern, but it was something that I noticed.

The first course was a cucumber gazpacho with goat curd (or creme fraiche). Cold soup was new to me, and I found that it tasted quite nice. The oysters were served shortly after, dressed with a rice wine vinaigrette. Those were some delicious oysters!

 Tuna sashimi with garlic chips, micro shiso. This still lingers in my memory as one of my tastiest tuna bites. I like tuna with a bit of bite to it, but any stringiness that I sometimes experience with standard sushi stalls was completely absent. The preparation and flavours were amazing!

The famous Tetsuya’s signature dish: confit trout with kombu crust, apple, and ocean trout roe. To me it felt like an unusually large serving for a degustation, but it tasted so good. The roe wasn’t too fishy, and that kombu crust was so flavoursome that it complemented the trout very well. I’d never cut into a piece of fish cooked like that before, and loved the texture.

However, after this point, the flavours of the dish took an interesting turn.

I don’t recall the type of fish anymore, however what was certainly eye-catching was the fish skin crackling. It had the most interesting presentation with the largest bubbles of puffed skin I’ve ever seen, and had a great crispness to it. The reason I mention the flavours, was because this tasted remarkably like my parents’ cooking of steamed fish with ginger, soy and shallots. As a result, while I was impressed with the technique of the crackling, the fish reminded me of home in a way that made me think, “my parents cook this stuff.”

A fully gelatinous dish of sea cucumber, braised ox tail and lotus root. I’ve never been a fan of sea cucumber out of all the gelatinous textured foods, but I didn’t mind this one. The flavour again reminded me of home when my parents cook red-braised beef. The texture was different, of course, but the feeling while I was eating this was again, “my parents cook this stuff.”

David Blackmore’s full blood wagyu fillet with mustard. I don’t recall what the green below the mustard seeds were anymore. I enjoyed the flavour of the beef and mustard, and this took my mind off the previous two dishes.

The equally least glamourous of the three desserts presented, this was a grape sorbet and apple tart tatin. The grape sorbet was very refreshing. For me, the tart tatin was ordinary, but I’m not a big fan of apple desserts. The next dessert that was featured was a fig ice cream, however none of the pictures I took of it were worthy of posting.

Which leads us to the last dessert, which was both beautiful and delicious – dark chocolate pave with sea salt, accompanied with a buttermilk ice cream. The chocolate twigs were also edible, and luckily this wasn’t chocolate overload. The slight tanginess of the ice cream really helped balance the dish too.

Macarons were presented as petit-fours, and I had an earl grey tea to end the night.

I was very glad this was my first choice in the world of fancy restaurants, because it helped set the benchmark for all other places I visit now. Whether it was because I’d never sat through 4 hours and approximately 10 courses, or if it was because the dinner was perhaps truly unbalanced, I found that I was getting full after the ocean trout dish – hence I felt it was too large of a serving. By the end of the dinner, however, I didn’t feel like I had grossly overeaten (but I did feel that I had eaten a lot!).

This is the best recollection I could muster together, four years down the track, but still serves as a great point of reference. One of the downsides of an Asian themed restaurant was the fact that twice I felt that the dishes cooked had flavours that could be found in my home, and made me skeptical that any Asian food would be underwhelming, however I have been proved wrong since!

I will probably never revisit Tetsuya’s, however I do look forward to one day having the opportunity to visiting his restaurant in Singapore!