Thursday, November 25, 2010

Review - Tetsuya's

A review note from Gourmet Goddess: Whilst I wanted to photograph every course of my Tetsuya experience, when I got there, it just felt completely wrong to be snapping pictures, so I apologise for not including illustrations of all of the courses we enjoyed. I have tried to find as many pictures as I could of the dishes that make up the current menu to give you an idea of what delights were on offer. But seriously, if you love food, this is a must do experience.

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 d├ęcor 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

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:

Friday, November 12, 2010

Today's Catch - Sensational Salmon.

Hi everyone - We are back from New Zealand and so impressed by the fantastic food that we ate while we were. You know how much I love seafood and I have to say it was pretty much a seafood - fest! I have been told that seafood that comes from colder water has a better flavour - don't know if that is actually true - but the best seafood I have eaten this year has been from the waters around Scotland and New Zealand. There could be something in it? I am preparing a run down of my favourite NZ food experiences to share with you all, so stay tuned for that. Is it wrong that most of the photos I took when I was away were of food?

So, staying on the seafood theme, today's recipe uses fresh salmon fillets, with clean flavours and an elegant presentation that would suit a dinner party. I took the salmon fillets, fresh herbs, a handful of gorgeous green pistachio nuts and a pink grapefruit from the fruit bowl to create this tasty dish that is a breeze to make and a delight to eat. I used quite large fillets, but you could use small ones and have this as a lovely light entree. Just remember to reduce the cooking time if you choose the mini option.

I love citrus with seafood, and the pink grapefruit gives just the perfect balance of sweetness and tartness, as well as that lovely blush of colour. You don't even need a complicated dressing for this salad - I just used a drizzle of good extra virgin olive oil and a touch of salt and pepper. The juice from the grapefruit and the oil is all that is needed. For the accompaniment, I used a tangy continental yoghurt as the base for a creamy sauce that has a little kick of horseradish to compliment the richness of the salmon. This sauce also works well with simply grilled chicken or other seafood, so give it a try. My recipe today serves two.

Pistachio and Poppyseed Crusted Salmon
with Parsley and Grapefruit Salad
And Horseradish Yoghurt sauce.

You will need:
For the salmon - 2 salmon fillets, 1 large egg, 2 teaspoons water, 2 tablespoons plain flour, 1/3 teaspoon cayenne pepper, 1 cup breadcrumbs, 1 tablespoon pistachio nuts (unsalted and unshelled), salt and pepper, vegetable oil for shallow frying.

For the salad - 1 cup continental parsley leaves, 1/3 spanish (red) onion finely sliced, 2 tablespoons finely sliced red pepper/capsicum, Flesh of 1 pink grapefruit - be sure to remove all of the white pith. a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper.

For the sauce - 1/2 cup natural yoghurt (I use the thick continental kind), 1 tablespoon mayonnaise, 1 tablespoon horseradish cream.

Method: First pin bone the salmon fillets, being sure that you remove all of the bones. Bones in your fish is a particularly bad look! A pair of tweezers is best for this.

Whisk together the eggs and water. Set aside. In a bowl or old plastic bag, combine the flour, cayenne and a few generous pinches of salt. Set aside.

In a food processor (or mortar and pestle), crush the pistachio nuts until they are quite fine. Combine these with the breadcrumbs and poppyseeds and a generous seasoning of salt and pepper.

Dust the salmon with the seasoned flour, then the egg mix, then the crumb mixture. Put them in the fridge for about 10 minutes.

To make the salad, just gently combine the ingredients and season with salt and pepper.

To make the sauce, combine all ingredients and mix well.

To cook the fish, heat a pan with a shallow layer of oil and cook each side until golden. This will not take long because of the natural oils in the nuts. Transfer to fish to a baking tray and cook in a moderate oven for 5-8 minutes depending on the size of the fillets.

Allow the fish to rest for a few minutes before slicing diagonally for presentation. Serve the fish with the salad and a spoonful of sauce.


Thursday, November 4, 2010

Char! Char! Char!

I love the flavour of BBQ or char grilled food. Something about that smoky flavour and caramelised character really adds another dimension of flavour and texture to the food. Today's recipe uses this technique, along with delicious fresh herbs and the lovely rich citrus kick of preserved lemons to make a very special roasted chicken. I cooked the chicken on the Weber - over the coals with the lid on - and I flattened the chicken, Portugese style to speed up  the cooking time and maximise the exposure of the meat to all those lovely coals. You can of course cook the chicken in the oven or on a standard hooded BBQ if you aren't able to do the coals thing. I teamed the chicken with a very simple char grilled vegetable salad and ate it with some lovely rustic sourdough bread.

If you haven't used preserved lemon before, I have included instructions for how to prepare it for cooking in the recipe below. You use only the rind - the rest of the preserved lemon will be very salty and inedible. You will find preserved lemon at middle eastern grocery stores and gourmet food shops. It is very easy to make your own preserved lemons, but they take about a month to be ready for use. Make them when lemons are in season and at their best. I just wash the lemons well and slice a deep cross into the top of them (they should open up like a flower but still be in one piece) Then I pack them into sterilised jars to which I add a few peppercorns, a bay leaf, a few cloves and a stick of cinnamon. Then I pack them in salt and top them up with lemon juice. They then go into a dark place for about a month. I turn the jars every few days to keep everything well mixed. The lemons should be completely covered, so you may need to add more lemon juice and salt as you go. Choose jars with airtight lids - you don't want the air getting in to your lemons and spoiling them.

All of the herbs that I used in my recipe were picked fresh right from our garden. I am getting so much pleasure from having some outside space and growing herbs and veges. I currently have 13 different herbs, along with baby Cos lettuce, Roma tomatoes, chillies, beetroot, capsicums and french radishes. I will add to this as time progresses. I am really new to the whole garden thing and it is pretty much trial and error - with advice from friends and some online info. I am blessed with a sunny yard so things seem to be growing very fast. I am looking forward to when the vegetable crops mature and I can take them straight from the garden to the table. We recently aquired a compost bin so we will be recycling our scraps too, to add to the already rich soil that we have. There are lots of worms in the ground and the plants look happy - so far, so good!

Hope that you enjoy this different take on the basic roast chicken....

Lemony Herbed Chicken with Char Grilled Vegetable Salad

You will need: 1 whole chicken
(for the chicken marinade) 4 cloves minced garlic, 1 teaspoon thyme (I used lemon thyme for an extra lemony kick), 1 teaspoon finely chopped tarragon, 1 tablespoon chopped continental parsley, 1 teaspoon minced red chilli, 1/3 cup olive oil, 2 teaspoons pureed preserved lemon*see note, salt and pepper.

(for the char grilled vegetable salad) 1 medium eggplant, 2 medium zucchini, 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar, 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1 tablespoon chopped continental parsley, 2 medium tomatoes - diced with seeds removed, salt and pepper, extra olive oil.

(for the chicken) Combine all of the chicken marinade ingredients and set aside.

Wash the chicken with cold water and dry inside and out with paper towels. Lay the chicken on a chopping board breast down. Now, with a sharp knife cut down either side of the backbone. This will remove the backbone/tail in one piece - disguard this backbone. If there is any offal attached to the remaining chicken, trim it off.
Next, turn the chicken over so that it is breast up. With the palm of your hand, push down firmly to flatten the chicken out. Now that the backbone is removed, this will be quite simple to do. You now have one flat chicken!
Rub about 2/3 of the marinade mixture over the chicken, including under the skin as much as you can. This should be easy now that the backbone has been removed. Allow the chicken to marinate for at least 30 minutes.
Cook the chicken on a BBQ with a hood, or a Weber (preferably over coals if you can, the flavour is even better this way) breast down to start with - for about 40 minutes. Turn frequently and baste with the remaining marinade. Allow the chicken to rest, covered in foil for 15 minutes before serving.
(for the salad) Slice the eggplant into pieces about 1cm thick. Cut the eggplant into long or diagonal slices (whatever is easy for you)
While the chicken is resting, splash some olive oil on the vegetables and season with salt and pepper. Cook on the BBQ a few minutes each side, until they are tender and you have nice grill marks on the vegetables.
Remove from the heat and just before serving, toss through the tomato, parsley, balsamic, olive oil and season generously. Serve with the chicken.

*To prepare the preserved lemon: With a teaspoon, gently scrape the flesh and the soft pith away from the rind - it will come away very easily. Disgard this. Rinse the remaining lemon rind with water to remove the salt that it has been preserved in. Chop the rind very small and then using the flat side of your knife, squash the rind until it is a smooth puree.