A long-standing fine dining establishment such as Tetsuya’s hardly needs the insights of an unlisted food blogger with a cell phone camera and no hats to give, but this blog isn’t about what Tetsuya needs. It is about what I need.
Let’s first set the scene. Tetsuya’s tucked away behind a nondescript, kind of shabby looking former homeless shelter on Kent St. It would not be possible to tell, from the street, that there was a beautiful Japanese inspired building and one of the most expensive restaurants in Sydney just metres away.
Diners were seated around the dining hall, with two groups seated in the middle. There was ample room between us and the other diners, and we were seated in a way so as to face away from the other parties. Our seats were in fact arranged facing the window as opposed to the inside of the room, which helped create a sense of intimacy as well as a sense of insulation from the other diners. We had the opportunity to admire the serene Japanese garden for a few minutes before sunset
Table water was ample, and surprisingly served with a slice of lime. It was at testament to the service that I only found myself wanting for water once during the entire three hour affair. Utensils were adequate.
Our waiter joked that Testuya’s Negroni (L) was the best in town, and that he wasn’t just saying that because he was Italian. This joke was lost on us, two casual diners who were not previously aware of the geographic origin of the drink. My partner just wanted it because it had cherry in it. I had the Kyoto Mule (R), which was a non-alcoholic, yuzu and ginger beer based mocktail. Both drinks were good.
The oysters were a $12 supplement (for 2 oysters each) per person. The citrusy dressing paired well with the fresh oyster meat, so much so that my partner even enjoyed them. You will know from my review of our time at MOXHE that she doesn’t like oysters very much at all. A worthy supplement, in my opinion. After all, when you’re spending $250 a head, what’s another $12?
One of the things that I quite enjoyed at Tetsuya’s was that each dish was served to us in the same orientation. That is, while my partner and I were sitting at right angles from each other, the dishes appeared the same for us. This was actually quite helpful for photography, as I did not have to turn the dishes to get the full view.
The first dish was “Sashimi of SA Hiramasa Kingfish with Sesame leaf and Daikon”. I cleansed my Kyoto Mule addled palate with some table water before digging into the daikon radish, however I found that this was pointless as it was marinated in prominent yuzu flavouring. Indeed the taste of the yuzu-marinated daikon radish was very similar to my drink. I found the kingfish to be fresh with its characteristic mellow and mild flavour, and we did note some flavour cuts in the sashimi itself to help accentuate its taste. This dish was ultimately good, however I did think that the strong yuzu flavour overpowered the delicate kingfish.
The Sancho Infused Corn Custard with Alba White Truffle was a disappointment and a half. The corn custard was very sweet and tasty, so much so that it made it very difficult to appreciate the subtle flavours of the shaved white truffle. The sweet corn was no more than just sweet corn, and neitiher my partner nor I were wowed. The custard was allegedly flavoured with sancho however it lacked both ma and la. This was the first dish that our waiter served without calling it memorable, and I stronlgy agree. A truly forgettable experience.
Whilst eating the above corn cream dish we were presented with this bowl of butter without explanation. I will reveal what it is later on, but for now I want you to feel the feeling of disjointedness that I felt on the night. My impression of fine dining is that the restaurant’s staff are meant to anticipate your speed of eating and deliver the dishes as you finish the previous one. This was not the case however, and I felt like I had to hurry through my disappointing corn cream as I wasn’t sure if they were about to bring the next dish.
The Confit Ocean Trout with Salad of Apple and Witlof is Tetsuya’s specialty, and it shows. Cooked in oil at a very low temperature, the trout maintains its raw, firm texture. We were instructed to cut the portion of fish up with our spoons and then eat it however we liked. The seaweed and spice crust was superb. The roe was deliciously creamy with a physically strong wall which required greater than average pressure to pop open. While a delight I can’t help but notice that we only received one scoop of roe as opposed to the four scoops of roe featured on Tetsuya’s website. The apple salad was fresh and tangy, and provided a good counter for the taste of the trout. Hidden underneath the apple salad was a smear of goat’s curd, a hidden ingredient if you will, which really elevated the dish to the standing of a specialty.
This is a pretty standard leafy green salad. It is not part of the written menu. It was served at the same time as the confit trout, however I do not understand how they fit together. Nothing to write home about.
Next was the Patagonian Toothfish with Asparagus, Smoked Pil Pil and Finger Lime. We’ve been having quite a bit of toothfish around the place as well as at home, and unfortunately I think that took away a bit of the magic from this dish. The serving of fish was extra small but quite nice. My partner very kindly said that it was not cooked as well as the toothfish I made recently at home, but I disagree. It was not faultable. I enjoyed the asparagus which was wrapped in seaweed along its stem but not at the head – a nice detail to add. This was my first time eating finger limes and I was surprised by how such small beads could pack so much sour flavour, however I didn’t think they went well with the more traditional flavours of the asparagus and toothfish.
Welcome back to the truffle butter, now with breads. We overheard the water telling the couple seated next to us that they had forgotten the bread, which was meant to be served at the start of the dish. They did not afford us the same courtesy of open disclosure, which was disappointing. The bread was served four courses in. It consisted of one piece each of loafy bread and one piece each of a seaweed flavoured scroll. Both pieces of bread were good. I thought that the seaweed scroll stood well on its own merit (with a bit of a vegemite scroll feeling) and did not benefit from the addition of truffle butter. The loafy bread did benefit from the addition of truffle butter, which we found to be very soft and almost foamy.
I really enjoyed the NSW Duck Breast with White Turnip, Kohlrabi and Pickled Garlic Capers. The duck was dry aged and had a delicious honey-soy like flavour. The skin was extra crispy, with a delicate layer of sweet fat underneath. The garlic capers added a fun zest to the flavouring, while the white turnip mash provided a mellow and sweet homey feeling to the dish. I didn’t enjoy the green garlic sauce.
I enjoyed the fatty marbling of the NSW Rangers Valley Wagyu Sirloin with pickled Shittake and Radicchio. The meat was cooked medium rare which was perfect to bring out the marbled texture. The sliced shittake was a delicious and perfect accompaniment. I did not care for the radicchio/chicory.
This Yuzu, Chartreuse, Apple dessert was a light and tangy and cold palate cleanser. I really liked this one.
This is a chocolate stone with honey and milk. We both really enjoyed the milk-flavoured ice cream. The chocolate was indeed a stone and the external layer required some force to crack. I did not find the chocolate circle to be any different to the chocolate on top of the chocolate stone, however I understand it must have been difficult to arrange.
These are the petit fours, however there were only two per person. The mandarin flavoured macaroons were some of the best I’ve ever had, however they were certainly very petit.
Happy birthday to my stupid and smelly girlfriend. The diners next to us did not receive such cake as it was merely their Scottish wedding anniversary. Their son, now 18 years old, stays inside his room all day playing video games. They are scheming as to how to get him out of the house – perhaps on a holiday (they seem like they can afford it – they ordered sparkling rather than tap water to drink), perhaps in a part time job.
529 Kent St, Sydney NSW 2000
(02) 9267 2900