Tetsuya’s has been high on my to-eats list for years. I remember when Ms London left for her overseas sojourn, which has now become a permanent affair, that her first return trip to Sydney involved a meal at Tetsuya’s organised by a lovely friend of hers months prior to the event. I remember seeing photos and being completely mesmerised – she even managed to score a photo with the man himself! Many years have since passed and there have been numerous other photos admired from meals recounted at Tetsuya’s that there is a definite fairy tale aura surrounding this serene, modern restaurant overlooking an internal Japanese garden in the heart of the city.
It is a wild and windy evening in Sydney and we are the first table to arrive in our dining area. We are given a brief introduction to the menu, asked if we have any food allergies or aversions (no, and no), issues with meat cooked medium to medium-rare (no) and asked whether the meal is for a special occasion (my birthday). I enjoy a Perry Street cocktail made of cinnamon vodka, pear and peach juices whilst Monsieur Poisson and I joke about whether we should have mentioned his dislike of cucumber to the waiter. Funnily enough, about half an hour later, when another table arrives and are given the welcoming spiel, we hear the gentleman at the table quite emphatically state that he does not eat cucumber. This caused the husband and I giggles to no end!
We are treated to a suitably wintery amuse bouche of ‘Chestnut soup with roast chestnut cream’. Naturally sweet and nutty, even Monsieur Poisson who’s not a massive fan of chestnuts falls in love with this velvety smooth soup embodied in an espresso cup.
Then it’s a choice of either sourdough or Italian white bread rolls with Tetsuya’s famed truffle butter made with parmiagiano reggiano for added pungency and ricotta for a fluffy lightness. We both choose the sourdough but Monsieur Poisson loves the butter so much that he follows it up with an Italian white roll as well. And what’s not to love about it – the butter is pungent, and earthy, and salty, and smooth, and light and oh-so tasty!
Monsieur Poisson has an added course of oysters for a mere $9 extra only. I give them a miss as, although I do eat oysters, I feel they’re a bit wasted on me at times as I don’t always appreciate their taste and texture. They’re exceptionally good value though, being round and plump and submerged in a delicate broth of ginger and rice vinegar.
The official first course is ‘Hiramasa kingfish with seasoned black bean and orange zest’. Although there’s very little detectable orange zest, with the black bean flavours being also very, very mild, the dominant taste is that of a slightly sweetened soy sauce punctuated by aromas of finely sliced spring onion and micro herbs. We both agree that the soy mixture reminds us of that which accompanies Chinese steamed fish and once we’re done devouring the slices of firm, bouncy kingfish sashimi, we’re left wanting some rice to slurp up the more-ish soy remaining on the plate. And the plates – the subsequent courses are served on white crockery but these first two remind us of the ones used at Koi.
The next course of ‘Scampi tails with jus, curds and goat's cheese’ doesn’t look terribly impressive on the plate. Arranged somewhat like a short terrine, there are sweet scampi tails – scampi being one of Monsieur Poisson’s absolute favourite things – sitting on a bed of the softest, silkiest tofu curds imaginable with the whole lot topped with three small dollops of a very mild goat’s cheese and finished with a jus that tastes like an uncreamy bisque yet still manages to pack a lot of punch. Goat’s cheese is very divisive amongst my friends, I believe mostly due to its pungency. Weirdo loves it because he can ‘taste the farm’ from whence the cheese came, while Ms Sourdough simply claims that it tastes like goat – and not in a flattering way either.
Next we are presented with what is often described as the world’s most photographed dish – ‘Confit petuna ocean trout crusted with konbu and chives, served with apple celery salad and unpasteurised trout roe’. Much in contrast to the previous course, this dish really is something beautiful to look at with the coral hues of the trout and roe contrasting with the crisp green of the apple and celery, and the dark konbu chive ‘crust’ resembling crispy fish skin. Taste and texture-wise there is the salty smokiness of the konbu against the sweetness of the soft trout and the slightly tart crunch of the apple celery salad. Roe always provides fun through salty popping mini-spheres in the mouth. If you’re interested in recreating this masterpiece at home, then you need to take a look at this.
The last of our seafood dishes is the ‘Barramundi with garlic purée and globe artichoke’. The piece of fish is small and delicate and, we deduce, hard to cook well due to its small size. The garlic purée is light and creamy and I greedily want something crispy to dip into it. A side salad of greens was served along with the preceding dish and we are thankful for some refreshing crunch against all the array of flavours provided by these other dishes.
The first of the meat courses, ‘Slow-braised wagyu ox tail with sea cucumber and yuzu’, has Monsieur Poisson a little undecided. He loves slow-cooked beef cheeks and ox tail but has never been a fan of sea cucumber. I, on the other hand, love sea cucumber even when it’s been stewed Chinese-style in oyster sauce so it’s an absolute pleasure to see it at Tetsuya’s as two spongy gelatinous discs perched atop a few chunks of richly-flavoured tender oxtail. The subtle yuzu flavour offers respite from an otherwise rich and sticky dish.
The next meat dish is ‘Slow-roasted duck breast with leeks, onion purée and sansho’. The sansho has been liberally rubbed on the skin and lends a lovely peppery flavour although I do find the flesh a little rarer than what I’m used to with duck. The roasted leek and onion pureée complement each other well.
The final meat course and the last of the dishes before dessert is ‘Grass-fed black angus with swiss brown mushrooms, potato cream and porcini jus’. If only steak and mash with mushroom sauce was always as good as this! Tender beef sitting on a smooth and creamy dollop of potato with mushrooms hidden in between and a mushroomy broth that you just want to mop up with more bread.
And then it’s dessert time! And multiple courses of it too, starting with ‘Pear sorbet with walnut, and Tetsuya's bread and butter pudding’. The pear sorbet is smooth and refreshing, with half in the shot glass topped with walnuts and another quenelle perched atop. The bread and butter pudding is more like a crème brûlée studded with spiced bread bits and sultanas but is thankfully not overly rich.
The next dessert is unusual yet familiar to Asian cultures through its use of beans. Although we’re used to seeing azuki, mung beans and black beans, the cannellini beans in this ‘Sweetened cannellini beans with soy caramel and mascarpone mousse’ are actually quite similar in texture. Monsieur Poisson isn’t sure about them being in a dessert but I quite like their sweet nuttiness and contrast with the smoothness of the light soy caramel and fluffy mascarpone mousse.
Because we mentioned that the dinner is for my birthday, Monsieur Poisson and I receive different desserts. His is the standard menu item of ‘Chocolate pavé with cream cheese ice-cream, chocolate soil and cinnamon twigs’. Although, of course, standard is not apt in describing any of the food here. The chocolate pave is filled with a milk chocolate mousse-type centre sitting on a thin foundation of sponge and topped with a thin layer of cream before being enrobed in a dark chocolate jelly-like layer. From appearance, what we expect to be a rich chocolate ganache outer, turns out to be more like an Asian agar set dessert layer.
For me and so many others also celebrating their birthdays that evening (and yes, it did feel a little odd knowing other people in the same confines shared their birthday with me!), we received the alternate dessert of ‘Chocolate hazelnut fondant’. Soft and gooey, it was decorated with a few salt flakes on top, a couple of slicks of chocolate sauce around it and some cocoa dusted hazelnuts. Oh, and don’t forget the candle.
As if this wasn’t enough food, we round off our meal with a caffe latte for the husband and a pot of Earl Grey tea for myself. A plate of pretty, pastel-hued macarons arrives on the table and a big smile spreads across my face. We start with the pink rosewater ones, move onto the chewier green pistachio ones and finish with the chocolate ones. They are incredibly light, being sandwiched with a cream centre rather than ganache. Actually, the whole meal has us marvelling at how light everything is. As opposed to other meals with rich sauces that leave you happily clutching your belly afterwards, Tetsuya’s achieves a level of satisfaction that doesn’t leave you groaning from over-indulgence.
Our meal lasted around four hours but the courses were very evenly paced with not much of a wait in between. The intervals between the meat courses were a bit longer, possibly due to an influx of coinciding table bookings, but this was quite welcome and gave us time to appreciate as well as digest the food before more appeared. We had a selection of waitstaff looking after our table that evening but all were very well-versed in what was being served and most polite. They were very obliging when it came to taking photographs for diners and mindful of not blinding others with camera flashes in the process. I also received a copy of the menu as a birthday memento.
529 Kent St, Sydney NSW
Tel: (02) 9267 2900
Opening Hours: Sun & Mon CLOSED
Tues-Fri dinner from 6pm (dinner only)
Sat lunch from 12pm
dinner from 6pm