Birthdays Part 1: Tetsuya’s, 26 August 2010

spoon, fork & chopsticks is one year old! I’m actually a couple of days late (due to such annoying things as allergies and sinusitis) and as there are no special celebrations in store, I’ve decided to share a series of birthday-related meals instead. The husband’s birthday and mine are a mere eight days apart. That combined with multiple friends’ birthdays on the days in between and on either side makes for a lot of gluttony in the name of celebration. I turned much older than the age of this here wee blog a little over two weeks ago and my husband, the ever-thoughtful Monsieur Poisson, had arranged to take me to the world-renowned Sydney institution of culinary experience known as Tetsuya’s. He made the table reservation four months in advance, although we’re not sure that’s actually required given that we were dining on a weeknight. He tells me that he just happened to be thinking of my birthday at the time. Our dinner was not long before the announcement of the loss of a Chef’s Hat but this is likely to have negligible impact for us general eating crowd – the magic of Tetsuya’s will always be Tetsuya’s.

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

Tetsuya's on Urbanspoon

happy eating!


  1. Happy first birthday and what a way to celebrate :) Chestnut soup sounds amazing!

  2. happy blog birthday & happy birthday to you (again) my friend!

    lovely pictures & i'd be stuffed with a degustation but i'll try it one night, i promise!

  3. Happy birthday lovely! Hope you had a fab time and felt spoiled rotten.

  4. Aww Happy Birthday to your blog, you & your husband! I agree, the magic of a night at Tetsuya's is no different even with one less hat. What a great way to celebrate!

  5. YAY! What a way to celebrate! :)

    I think you were sitting in the same spot I was sitting when I went last year... :D I want more of the confit ocean trout!

  6. Happy birthday! What an amazing meal to celebrate with.

  7. Happy birthday to you, hubby and your blog.

    What wonderful photos of such gorgeous food. What an amazing meal.

  8. Happy birthday & congrats! I agree, loss of hat or not, it's Tetsuya's and that's got "spesh" written all over it!

  9. Happy 1st blog birthday and happy belated birthday to you & hubby! :)

    I'm here in Melbourne with Tetsuya's envy after all your lovely photos of the food... must make sure I plan my next Sydney trip well in advance to be able to secure a Tetsuya's booking!

    I love when restaurants do something special to celebrate a special occasion!

  10. Congratulations on both! What a way to celebrate!

  11. Happy birthday to you and your blog! I don't care how many hats Tetsuya's loses, it will always be a special place for me!

  12. HAHHAHA I went recently for my cousinds bday and it looks exactly the same esp with thr bday cake hee hee hee

    Happy Bday and Blogiversary!!

  13. Happy birthday and congrats on your 1 year bloggiversary! Your meal at Tetsuya's looks absolutely amazing, and I love it when restaurants do something special for your birthday as well :)

  14. Happy birthday to you and to Monsieur Poisson and to spoon, fork & chopsticks too! Hip hip hooray :)

  15. Loved your article!

  16. I'm so envious! I've been wanting to go there for years, but unfortunately my other half won't allow it! But at least I got to live the experience through you! Looks like you both had a wonderful night x

  17. Happy birthday and happy blog birthday!! Our blogs are only a week apart! I'm so jel about your experience at Tetsuya's!!!! Looks AMAZING

  18. Beautiful photos rita! I always get excited and envy whenever someone go to Tetsuya's.

  19. happy birthday! Tetsuya is a place for special moments. :)

  20. tetsuya remains as my favourite meal ever regardless of them losing a chef's hat. happy birthday and happy blog birthday girl!

  21. Happy Blog Birthday and a happy birthday to you too! What an awesome birthday present =) Thanks for sharing your special occasion, I will keep dreaming through this until the day I get to go =)

  22. Hey Helen, thanks, birthdays are always the best excuse to celebrate =D

    Hey Laura, thank you! If I was better organised I would've baked my blog a cake but lack of planning got the better of me =p

    Hey Reemski, it's always lovely to be spoilt =)

    Hey Steph, thank you! A hat is definitely no impact on Tetsuya's, definitely.

    Hey Phuoc, thanks! I could do with more confit ocean trout too - sooo easy to eat =D

    Hey missklicious, worried we won't be able to top this birthday meal come next year... =p

    Hey Sara, thanks! Really, such a great meal and special to boot.

    Hey Forager, thank you! Minus one hat is but other people's subjectivity - we were still enamoured!

    Hey April, thanks! Ahhh, that'll take a bit of planning that. Perhaps a seed to plant in your husband's mind? =p

    Hey Maria, relaxing and most enjoyable =)

    Hey chocolatesuze, JUGS!

    Hey YaYa, thank you! Absolutely agree - how can you take anything away from food which looks and tastes like this!

    Hey FFichiban, hehe, replica food!

    Hey Jacq, thanks =) The copy of the menu I was given had 'Happy Birthday' and the date printed inside as well, so it's nice when there's those special touches.

    Hey Conor, so many coinciding birthdays *faint*

    Hello Weirdo, thank you, and please take Ms Sourdough there soon =)

    Hey Katrina, this is right up there for ultimate indulgence in my book. Something for an upcoming anniversary, perhaps??

    Hey Gastronomy Gal, heheh, blog twins! =D

    Hey Billy, thank you! Think I've always been excited when people visit Tetsuya's as well - even though I hadn't been before! =p

    Hey Penny, thanks =) Absolutely agree - there were so many people celebrating birthdays and, I suspect, other major occasions there that evening.

    Hey Panda, apart from the visual aspect and the taste, I really enjoyed the fact that this wasn't a heavy meal. Definitely one of my favourite meals of all time!

    Hey Angie, thank you! A place for you to keep in mind for a special occasion =)


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