Following our meal at the Bourke St. Bakery, we took a trip around the city to see famous landmarks like the Sydney Harbor Bridge and the Opera House. While it took us almost an hour to reach it was worth the trot. More importantly, I can now say that I have seen these two very popular tourist attraction. Apparently it is a big sin to go Sydney and not see them =.=! For me, the highlights were probably the other things I saw along the way such as Hyde Park, the Botanical Garden and St. Mary’s Cathedral. But still, it was a food trip so buildings and landmarks were secondary compared to my next restaurant which was Tetsuya’s. Let’s put it simple: Chef Tetsuya Wakuda is the most prominent Japanese Chef in Australia with his restaurant’s consistently ranking among the top 100 in the world. Also, he has been awarded top scores in Sydney for close to two decades. But records, wins and awards are no more than figures if it does not live up to its hype, no?
When we walked into Tetsuya’s on 529 Kent Street, I immediately felt like this was a different place. The restaurant felt like someone else’s house with a Japanese stone garden. As we reached the entrance, the waiters kindly offered to keep our bags before escorting us to our table. In terms of service, I will say that I have not had better service anywhere else in the world but here. The waiters were keen and our cups were never empty despite only ordering water only. It was that good. So then comes the food.
The start of this degustation and one of the key points which I judge restaurants (especially those who claim to associate themselves with anything French), is the bread course
The butter with chopped black truffles and white roll. Our first bread was cold but the butter was simply stunning. It had the lovely buttery flavor infused with a prominent black truffle fragrance. It is one of the few pleasures in life that can be so very simple yet extremely satisfying. But it was not until when we had the second roll served warm where we truly felt indulgent. The small amount of steam seeping from whatever heat that was left melted the butter that was spread on it. Even Andrew who dislike cheese and butter was sold. Needless to say, we were left impressed and wanting more!
Next came the Amuse Bouche
Chestnut Soup with crème fraiche. The soup by itself was smooth and according to my past conversation with fellow blogger ChompChomp, such soup is common in France especially during winter. This was a treat but did not feel extremely special. I would have liked it to be a little more runny. As it was, the soup felt a little thicker than necessary.
The first course; Scallop like Oysters with Roasted Rice Vinaigrette
In this dish, finely diced oysters were wrapped in thinly sliced scallops before being arranged with micro herbs and a drizzle of Vinaigrette. While I found joy in the mild acidity of the vinaigrette, I found it hard to appreciate the dish. There was some taste of the scallops but it was mainly the taste of oysters that pervaded my palate. This dish felt like an impressionist rather than a mouth pleaser.
Second course; Salad of the Sea
With such simple flavors, it is almost impossible to hide anything. In this dish, Tetsuya’s combined the nigiri with salad. It was simply stunning. I enjoyed the fresh and clean flavors of the plate. All of the fish were really awesome with the exception of the white one which I assume is King Fish? haha. Not too sure. But the marinated ocean trout belly and salmon were top notch product. Also present on the plate were so many other element which gave the whole dish a lively texture where you get the crunchiness of the vegetables to compliment the softness of the fish. Yums! This was strongly preferred compared to the former course although it did not last for long.
Third course; Marinated Scampi with Walnut Oil & Egg
As Jordan and I snapped our cameras busily, Bel took a bite and paused. She was like OMG. And so I went and had a bite. I too went OMG. It was not long before both Jordan and Andrew went OMG too. Enough said, this dish was just superb. I am not sure how the egg played a great role in this dish but it did along with the walnut oil which coated the scampi giving it a light nuttiness and a smooth texture. Also, the scampi had unparalleled freshness as it still had a slight bounciness to its flesh! The cream on top was a nice touch. This dish was by far the best scampi dish I have ever had!
Fourth course: Confit of Petuna Ocean Trout with Fennel, Unpasteurized Ocean Trout Caviar
Long hailed as the must try dish at Tetsuya’s one can easily tell why. Sitting on the plate, it looked sensational. The presentation was flawless with the seasoned crust made from konbu, sea salt and chives so well thought of. Even the dots of oil concoction was so neatly done. For me, I started on the thin end where my knife cut through the flesh like a hot knife melting through butter. The chemistry between the savory crust and the buttery confit was delicious. Fennel salad was refreshing and it was simply great. My biggest issue with this though is that this sensation felt diminishing as I continued my feast. The middle bit felt tougher than the thin bit. Was it because the thin bit cooked more easily? I am not sure. Also, Bel thought that the horseradish cream under the fennel salad was a little powering and tasted licorice like. Nevertheless, Jordan who loves strong flavors absolutely enjoyed the cream.
Fifth course; Snapper with Soy Butter & Nameko Mushrooms
This dish was damn good if you look past the recognition of Tetsuya’s. Not everyone can pull of something so delicious. However, if you put in all the awards, talk, hype and what not, this becomes a little underappreciated. The flesh of the fish was cooked just right with the buttery soy giving it a distinct flavor. Mushrooms were well cooked and gave it a little earthiness. But that was about it. I felt like I expected something more mind blowing as this dish comes from a Tetsuya’s kitchen. Perhaps a really crispy skin? That might have made a different albeit little.
Sixth course; Poached Spatchcock with Asparagus & Morel
The highlight here for me was the perfectly poached game bird which can be a total flop in a matter of minutes. High protein foods like birds tend to overcook very easily. Seeing a shiny glaze was achieved with a tender inside was awesome. Also, among the morel and other greens hid a speck which was very tasty! I asked the sommelier and he said it was cured in house. As a dish it was nice, but not great.
Seventh course; Lamb Backstrap with Seasonal Vegetables & Sheep’s Yoghurt.
Last dish before the dessert was a lamb course. Once again, I cannot help but feel that every course plated so far was so manicured it looked too good to eat. This was no exception. To complement it, the lamb was nice and tender though it was not melt in your mouth. Smoked tomato puree which it sat on, tasted nothing like its description. The vegetables and yoghurt were OK but when mixed together with the tomato puree created much more of an impact!
Palate cleaner; Pear Sorbet
This was probably the best sorbet I have ever tasted. In our first spoonful, everyone felt over the moon. It was smooth, super fruity and the sweetness was just right. To us, it has rightfully claimed its position as Tetsuya’s palate cleanser. If only we had more than 2 petite scoops. When asked Andrew what was the best thing at Tetsuya’s he said “sorbet”. I was like =.=
Eight Course; Apply Granite, Mine Ice Cream & Basil Jelly
With a thin slice of what I perceive as a dehydrated apple slice, this dessert that stood in a martini glass fits all the requirement for a fine dessert. It had texture, complexity and layers of flavors. For me, I really like the pairing of the sweet apple along with the refreshing mint ice cream and basil jelly. I think Bel and Andrew found the taste of the mint and basil a little too taxing but was ok. I have had several variations of dessert which mixed strong flavors like basil and mint, but this was by far the best pairing. And it suits the color theme too i.e. green :)!
Ninth Course: Chocolate & Hazelnut Marquise with Cognac Ice Cream
Just looking at the level of perfection once again was kick ass! Clearly defined layers! Not to mention the ice cream which sat on the crumbs which looked like a bird’s egg in a nest! The chocolate was not lacking in any richness for sure! Fortunately, it was no more than a thin slice! Anything more and I would have been done for. Most people know I am not a big fan of alcohol and I found the cognac ice cream to be not a big hit. It did complement the chocolate but I would have preferred something else. Something less sophisticated. I am still a self-proclaimed kid after all :P!
Meringue, truffles, meringue nut, and profiteroles. They were all good but from memories only the profiteroles were memorable. Yes it is simple, but at least it is different!
At the end of the meal, it was no surprise why Tetsuya Wakuda’s skills were unparalleled when it comes to Japanese cuisine. With consecutive back to back 3 hatted scores for close to twenty years, he still has heaps left to offer. However, knowing that he lost his 3rd hat 2 years ago and until today is unable to retain it makes me ponder why. Was it for the reason that my friends and I felt a slight dissatisfaction at the end of the meal? Several of the courses today as I have mentioned above were really good. The salad of the sea, scampi with walnut oil & egg, as well as the confit and dessert were all plausible highlight of the day. However, a certain something felt lacking at the end of the meal. It felt like several dishes like the snapper, lamb and Spatchcock could have been more special. It needed that one extra element of surprise.
Our lunch was a good meal but perhaps just need to go one notch up considering its heft tag of $210pp. So, does Tetsuya’s Japanese cuisine with classic French techniques have what it takes to knock off Le’ Atelier’s French food? Not quite but close although the bread and butter here is definitely “one to rule them all”. Is Tetsuya’s worth a revisit? I have to say maybe yes. Especially when the third hat comes back.