Chef Tetsuya Wakuda is widely recognised as being one of the world’s great culinary figures, with his Sydney restaurant Tetsuya’s consistently being rated as one of the best in the world. Last week I finally had the opportunity to visit Tetsuya’s for the first time. I have to admit that I was concerned that my expectations were so high and the hype around dining at Tetsuya’s so great that I was bound to be let down. Instead, I was treated to what has to be my most memorable and pleasurable culinary experience to date.
With the exception of a beautiful glass of sake from the excellent selections on offer, (our waiter Nicholas’ sake recommendation was spot on) we chose not to go for the wine matching option. It was a weeknight and I was having a huge week, so I decided that alcohol probably wasn’t the best idea. The wine list however, is incredible. I fully intend to go for the wine option next time. And yes, there will definitely be a next time – we have vowed to return once a year.
Walking through the iron gates that separate Tetsuya’s from busy Kent Street, you do feel as if you are entering a very special place. Once inside, it is hard to believe that you are in the centre of Sydney, such is the sense of peace and elegance. Walking up the steps of the beautiful Japanese inspired building and being greeted warmly by the staff I could already feel that this was going to be a special night. We were led to the upstairs dining room which overlooks a tranquil Japanese garden.
Make no mistake, Tetsuya’s is a fine dining experience but this is no gilt edged, gaudy “look at me!!! Look at me” type dining room. I have actually read reviews where the space has been criticised for not having the tizz and trappings of what many might expect from a fine dining establishment. No flowers on the tables or extra adornments – just good quality linen, cutlery and stemware and nothing to distract you from the reason you are there. You will also not find background “dining” music ( I recently saw a documentary on Tetsuya, who stated that he didn’t play music in his dining room basically out of respect for the food and the music – that each deserve your full attention.)
What you will find is a room that envelops you like a warm cocoon, a few beautiful, well chosen paintings and sculptures and lots of room to take it all in. I loved the restrained décor and sense of space. I remarked to Andrew that nothing bad could ever happen to anyone in a room like that! The worries of the day melted away as our waiter began to describe the 11 course degustation menu we were about to experience.We were offered a choice of house made sourdough or white Italian style rolls, along with truffle butter – divine.
Before starting on the main menu, we were treated to an amuse bouche of chilled cucumber soup with sheep milk yoghurt icecream. A perfect beginning – clean, clear flavours with the light tang of the sheep milk to prepare for the delights to come.
Sourdough with truffled butter
We opted for the optional additional starter course - Pacific Oysters with rice wine and ginger dressing. Sounds pretty standard right? Wrong. Hands down the best oysters I have ever eaten in my life – so fresh, so creamy and perfectly complimented by the dressing that was beautifully balanced. I actually sighed when I put the first one in my mouth – pure bliss.
Pacific oysters with rice wine and ginger
Next we enjoyed a superb sashimi of kingfish with blackbean and orange – the freshest and most beautifully flavoured sashimi I have ever eaten, with a sauce that dared you to lick the plate. I kept myself nice and restrained myself, but it was a struggle! I particularly loved the texture and organic character of the glazed green ceramic plate it was served on. A thing of beauty.
Sashimi of Kingfish with black bean and orange
The following course was actually one of my favourite dishes of the night (alas, no photo to show you) – beautifully textured New Zealand Scampi served with a soup of avocado and caviar. The saltiness of the caviar, the velvety texture of the avocado and the sweetness of the scampi was just beautiful.
Next came Tetsutya’s much praised signature dish – the famous confit of Petuna ocean trout with konbu, celery and apple. I am a huge fan of ocean trout – I vastly prefer it to salmon and I want to eat it like this for the rest of my life! The crisp and slightly sour character of the apple and celery works beautifully with the gorgeous buttery tasting trout, and the konbu (a variety of seaweed) that crusts the top of the trout gives the most wonderful savoury element to the dish. Fabulous.
Confit of Petuna Ocean Trout
with Konbu, celery and apple
with Konbu, celery and apple
The last seafood dish of the night didn’t disappoint either – fillet of roasted mulloway, cooked to absolute moist perfection and teamed with grilled artichoke and a garlic puree.
Next came a trio of meat courses, starting with the sublime braised Wagyu tail with sea cucumber (a brilliant addition and texturally gorgeous) and a sauce of yuzu (a variety of Japanese citrus), Pancetta wrapped breast of quail with a delicate onion petal salad and finally grass fed Tasmanian Black Angus beef, served with the sweetest and most delectable baby spring vegetables. All were a knockout.
Wagyu tail with sea cucumber
Now, regular Gourmet Goddess readers would know by now that I’m not a big dessert devotee, so the thought of 3 dessert courses had me worried that it might be gilding the lily a bit. I should have known that, like all of the courses, the dishes would work beautifully in the context of the menu. We began with a stunning Blood Orange sorbet, served with a delicious ruby coloured jelly and Tetsuya’s own version of that classic dish – summer pudding. The next dessert was based around golden peach – a parfait with a lovely crumbly, buttery, biscuity element that was just right with the peach. The finale was a chocolate pave with cream cheese ice cream and cinnamon “twigs”. The texture of the pave was a knockout – like the richest of silk on the tongue. The slight milky tang of the cream cheese icecream and the quirky, snappy “twigs” made this dish a taste and textural delight.
Chocolate pave with cream cheese icecream
and cinnamon twigs
I was completely blown away by my evening at Tetsuya’s. To me, every element worked perfectly – and I savoured every single part of it. The food, the service, the ambiance. I now understand why Tetsuya Wakuda is considered one of the truly great chefs in the world. Is it expensive? Indeed. Be prepared to pay two hundred and ten dollars per head – without drinks. But is it value for money – one hundred percent. Might sound insane, but really, an experience like that can’t be measured. I would happily eat baked beans for months to save up for a meal in that dining room.
And just when I thought my night couldn't be more perfect, I happened to look up from my dessert, across the room to see a familiar figure standing in the doorway. Tetsuya Wakuda in his chef's whites, lit by the glow of the dining room, quietly watching and smiling to himself. I was smiling too.
Five big, glorious stars!!
You will find Tetsuya's at 529 Kent Street, Sydney. For resevations phone (02) 9267 2900
for more info and to check on the latest menu (it changes quite often) go to: http://www.tetsuyas.com/index.html