I wish there was some way I could prepare you all for the story I am about to tell you, but I didn’t even get any preparation time myself! Instead, on Friday night, I was unexpectedly presented with a culinary dream come true. Here’s how it happened.
About 3 months ago I got an email from Andy. It seems that he and Jason and Steve had planned a surprise night out for Jody, Maja and myself. We had no idea what the surprise was, but we were told to dress up. We guessed that we might be going to a play or to the Opera House… but none of our guesses were even close.
We went to Tetsuya’s!!! For those of you who don’t follow food news, Tetsuya’s was named the #5 restaurant in the world by the UK magazine Restaurant. I have wanted to go there since we moved to Sydney, so this was an evening more than 3 years in the making for me.
I don’t want to spend this whole post telling you how excited I was… after all, we have 13 courses to discuss. But I would like to say that the evening was everything I hoped for and I am so lucky to have a husband who would plan a surprise like this and wonderful friends to enjoy it with.
So, let’s dive right in, shall we??
Tetsuya Wakuda is the chef and owner of Tetsuya’s. He grew up in Japan and has lived in Australia for more than 20 years. His food is an exciting mixture of the best of Australian produce, Japanese simplicity and austerity and French technique and sensuality. We had the 13 course degustation menu with matching wines. It was thrilling.
I should apologise here for the quality of these pictures. I didn’t have the good camera with me and I was so anxious to try the dishes in front of me that I didn’t spend much time photographing them. The food at Tetsuya’s is stunning and these pictures do not do the dishes justice.
First course: Chilled pea soup with minted creme fraiche and dark chocolate shavings
I found it funny that this was our first course, because I had literally written a post the night before saying that I don’t like chilled soups. Well, I would like to amend that statement. I don’t like chilled soups that aren’t prepared at Tetsuya’s. I really liked this chilled soup. Each ingredient tasted perfectly of what it was, but the whole was greater than the individual parts. Peas and mint are a natural pairing, but the bitter chocolate was an unexpected and very successful addition.
Second course: Smoked ocean trout with Avruga caviar
We couldn’t figure out what the yellow centre was here, so I asked the lovely waitress. Turns out, it’s the yolk of an egg that has been frozen. It wasn’t cold, but the texture had totally changed. It was more like the texture of butter. I liked it, but some of my fellow dinners found the texture off-putting.
Third course: Custard of caramelised leek and Queensland spanner crab
This was amazing. The custard was smooth and studded with chunks of sweet crab meat. The flavour of the leeks was strong, but didn’t overwhelm the delicate flavour of the crab. Gorgeous.
Fourth course: Trio of scampi
This dish was interesting to me because each component had the same main ingredient- scampi. But each tasted so different. They recommended that we start with the one in the shot glass. It was full of sea water flavoured with lemon and olive oil. The scampi had a texture that was both silky and firm… perhaps from its time in the liquid? The first flavour you got was of the olive oil, then the lemon came through. Really cool.
The preparation on the left was scampi wrapped in pancetta. This was delicious… as are all things wrapped in what is basically high-end bacon.
The third preparation, the one on the right, was my favourite of the three. It was scampi marinated in white miso and passionfruit. It was sweet and sour with a smooth texture. I loved it.
Fifth course: Confit of ocean trout with a salad of fennel and daikon
God, I wish this picture had come out better. This was a beautiful dish. This is actually Tetsuya’s signature dish and I can see why. You could easily build an empire based around this dish. The fish, which looks raw here, is actually slowly cooked in fat (peanut oil and something else I think). It is creamy and rich. We were told that the salad was fennel and daikon, but I didn’t taste any fennel. I think it was daikon and green apple instead. Either way, it was a delightful, light and crunchy foil to the rich fish. This was one of our favourite dishes of the evening.
Sixth course: Terrine of spanner crab with Nori and avocado sauce
Are you getting tired yet? By this stage, we all were… which may explain our reaction to this dish. This was the one we liked the least all evening. Which is a pity because it was made of 2 of my all time favourite foods… crab and avocado. But the general consensus was that this was too rich. Perhaps it was the additional creamy topping? I’m not saying this was bad. If I had been served this at any other restaurant I probably would have swooned. It was just not our favourite.
Seventh course: Grilled barramundi with braised fennel
Oh, I will dream about this dish. It was a perfect plate of food. The fennel was sweet from a slow braising, but still had a bit of crunch and bite. The fish was perfectly cooked and seasoned. This was one of the highlights for me.
Eighth course: Roasted breast of duck with braised witlof and walnuts
I love duck, so I was sure I would like this. And… I was right! The duck was cooked perfectly, still rosy on the inside and juicy. The sauce was rich and a little sweet. The witlof was the perfect match. The bitterness that witlof typically has had been cooked out of it, leaving us with a slightly crisp offset to the soft duck.
Ninth course: Grass fed angus with chestnut mushrooms
I actually don’t like mushrooms much. I don’t cook with them and I avoid them on menus. However, as you can tell from the photo above, this dish looked and smelled so good that I forgot to take a picture until after I got started on it. It was distractingly good. Even the mushrooms. They were earthy and soft and not at all spongy (which is usually my issue with mushrooms). The beef was cooked just like I like it. I asked how they cooked it, and was told it was done on the grill, but on a hotplate over the grill. We all loved this one.
Tenth course: Comte with lentils
This served as a transition between the savoury and the sweet portions of the evening. Each of us got a Chinese spoon full of sweetened lentils topped with salty, grated French cheese. It was a strange combination. I always love a combination of sweet and salty, but I had to really get my head around these lentils.
Eleventh course: Beetroot and blood orange sorbet and summer pudding
Isn’t that pretty?? You could really taste the beetroot in the sorbet, which I loved. It was sweet and sour and not too frozen… the perfect consistency. And the summer pudding was… wow. Honestly, summer pudding is easy to make and a crowd pleaser, but this was on a whole other level. Sweet and tart and juicy and creamy. Love!
Twelfth course: Lemon scented “floating island” with vanilla anglaise
I am swooning just thinking about this dessert. I love lemon desserts, so I was thrilled when this course arrived. A floating island is a traditional French dessert. An “island” of meringue “floats” in a sea of creme anglaise. As delicious as that sounds, this was even better. The island was light and fluffy and smooth. The lemon was really tart and cut through the sweetness of the vanilla creme. Basically, this is my ideal dessert and I will dream of this for years to come.
Thirteenth course: Chocolate ganache with green tea and red beans
This dessert was really cool. The red beans, which are common in Asian sweets, formed the base. The chocolate cookie disk on top held the ganache away from the base. When cut or moved, the velvety ganache mixed with the beans. Fun and delicious!
We had matched wines with each course, which added another dimension to the meal, but I forgot to make note of what we were drinking.
So, there you have it. It was the coolest evening ever. We were at the restaurant for about 5 hours. The staff were friendly and funny and knowledgeable. Best of all, I had a once-in-a-lifetime experience with some of my favourite people. Which means that, for me, Tetsuya’s is #1.