Dinner at Tetsuya’s – one of the world’s greatest restaurants

My blog’s ‘About’ blurb suggests that I hope to write about food. I’ve considered writing about food often, and have indeed done so on Instagram, albeit in a brief manner. Food has been, and continues to be, one of life’s consuming passions. There are many people that have helped shaped that passion for food, be it my aunt who bought me my first cook book when I was a kid, or the latest food blogger I’ve latched on to.

Just today, I read a great blog post about a truly horrible meal, served at a Michelin starred restaurant in Italy, and costing 130-200 Euro per person.

I thought I would kick off my first food post on this blog with a story about a truly spectacular meal I ate at one of the world’s greatest restaurants.

I am delving back into the deep, dark past, some 13 years ago, for this particular event. The venue was Tetsuya’s in Sydney, the occasion was my 40th birthday dinner!


Tetsuya’s

Tetsuya Wakuda is a Japanese-born Australian chef. He moved to Australia when he was 22 and worked as a kitchen hand before connecting with chef Tony Bilson at Kinsela’s in Sydney. There, Tetsuya learned classical French techniques and formed the beginnings of his own style of cooking, combining those techniques with the Japanese philosophy of using natural, seasonal flavours.

Tetsuya opened his own restaurant in Rozelle in 1989, later moving to a larger location in the heart of Sydney in 2000. In 1992, the SMH Good Food Guide awarded the restaurant three Chefs Hats, the highest award, which was maintained until 2010. In 2021, the restaurant was awarded FOUR Chefs Hats by the Australian Good Food Guide!

Having earned international recognition as one of the world’s great chefs, Tetsuya’s featured in the World’s 50 Best Restaurants from 2002 (when the list began) through to 2013, reaching the top 10 from 2005-2008 (#4, #5, #5, #9).

I made it my mission to dine at Tetsuya’s, one of the world’s best restaurants, for my 40th birthday.

The restaurant

I travelled to Sydney with my wife, Katie, and our great friends Mark and Marita. We booked ourselves a couple of apartments for the night across the street from the restaurant.

On arrival at Tetsuya’s at 529 Kent Street, the restaurant is immediately obvious although set well back from the substantial gate. Access is permitted via intercom.

Once granted permission to enter, we made our way into the beautiful, refurbished, heritage-listed building. There are two main dining spaces, and a handful of smaller spaces with only two or three tables in each. The rooms look into the wonderful Japanese garden.

We arrived at 6.00pm, as advised by the restaurant, as we were in for a four hour dining experience. The ever-evolving, ten course degustation menu takes advantage of seasonal produce, however, there are one or two signature dishes that are always featured. There is a course of matching wines which we naturally said yes to!

The very polite, friendly staff seated us in one of the more private rooms which was cosy without being stuffy, and roomy yet not a barn! The staff then took us through what we were about to experience, and quickly checked for allergies and any particular preferences. The four of us were total omnivores, so we were prepared for anything.

At this point, I just want to explain how the meal was served, and emphasise the total professionalism of the entire operation. Starting with an empty table, covered with a crisp, white tablecloth, the staff set the table for the first course, with the appropriate dishes, utensils and glassware. Then the sommelier came in, introduced himself, told us briefly about the various wines we would be served, indicating that by the end of the meal we would have consumed approximately a bottle each.

As the courses came, the staff explained briefly about the ingredients or preparation, and, if necessary, how to eat it! Shortly after the last of our quartet had finished that particular course, the wait staff would quietly sweep in, remove everything, and reappear with the necessary dishes, utensils and glassware for the next course. The sommelier would reappear with the relevant accompanying wine for that course, then the dish would be served. And the process was repeated. However, we never felt rushed into finishing a course. It was all served at a very relaxed pace, affording us the opportunity to thoroughly enjoy each dish. A very impressive service operation indeed.

A quick photo of Katie and I, with the beautiful garden out the window.


Our meal

Alright, here we go. What follows is some of the most incredible food I’ve ever seen and tasted.

One

Pea soup with mint cream and chocolate salt.

This soup was served cold. The flavours were absolutely astonishing!

Two

Smoked ocean trout & avruga caviar.

That’s an egg yolk under the caviar. It was quite amazing, the yolk was a gooey consistency and was the same throughout, with no hard bits or softer bits. No idea how they cooked it.

The chef’s advice on how to eat this was to have a little bit of the trout, caviar and egg with each mouthful.

The wine that went with this was a sparkling: 2003 Clover Hill Blanc de Blanc, from Pipers River, Tasmania.

Three

Leek & crab custard.

Delightfully light, yet so full of flavour. Three dots of intense herb oil really set this off.

This was accompanied by the Otokoyama Sake, from Junmai, Hokkaido, Japan.

Four

Scampi three ways.

  • Grilled scampi wrapped in pancetta;
  • Scampi in sea water & lemon scented olive oil;
  • Marinated scampi with white miso & passion fruit.

Again, the chef made a suggestion here. With the scampi in seawater, the idea was to slowly drag the skewered raw scampi out of the water and up through the infused oil, and straight into the mouth. We were advised to not drink the water …

Accompanying wine was the 2008 Paradigm Hill Riesling, Mornington Peninsula, Victoria.


A pause …

So, you can see the vast array of ingredients, complex flavours, textures, techniques and presentation in just the first four courses! One might think that this complexity could be overwhelming, however, it was simply incredible with no dish being swamped by the next. Each course was a very pleasant surprise and totally unlike the previous course. Even to this day I can recall the smell, mouth-feel, and taste of these dishes!

Moving on!


Five

Confit of Petuna Tasmanian ocean trout with konbu, apple, daikon and wasabi.

This is Tetsuya’s signature dish, and it was just divine. Konbu is a seaweed and is shredded on top of the fish along with some finely chopped chives, and a bit of sea salt at the top. The apple and daikon radish is underneath the trout. There is also a small pile of unpasteurised trout roe which includes a few little chunks of soy jelly. The whole dish was just absolutely perfect.

This course included a bread roll with whipped truffle butter and a seasonal green salad (not photographed).

The dish was paired with the 2008 Delatite Dead Man’s Hill Gewurztraminer, central high country, Victoria.

Six

Terrine of Queensland spanner crab with avocado.

This was just wonderful! I lack the patience to prepare crab (there’s a surprise!), so I am very appreciative of crab prepared and presented perfectly.

The wine was the 2007 Pierro Chardonnay made for Tetsuya’s, from Margaret River, WA.

Seven

Grilled fillet of barramundi with braised baby fennel.

Sounds straight-forward, but the depth of flavour was astounding. The sauce on and around the food was intense, and the micro herbs had that hint of bitterness. The braising liquid must be some sort of potion because it was magic (and no doubt, the source of the sauce).

The chardonnay was also paired with this course.

Eight

Twice cooked de-boned spatchcock with foie gras and gobo.

Lordy, this was amazing. Gobo was unfamiliar to me; the staff explained that it is similar to a radish with a mild, sweet, yet earthy taste.

Paired with the 2005 Bass Phillip Pinot Noir for Tetsuya’s, Gippsland, Victoria.

Nine

Wagyu beef with lime & wasabi.

The idea with this dish was to have a squeeze of lime, a pinch of sea salt and a dab of wasabi with each mouthful. Yes, it was spectacular!

The accompanying wine was the 2003 Parker Estate Terra Rossa Cabernet Sauvignon, Coonawarra, SA.

Ten

Heidi Gruyere with lentils.

An extraordinary yet very delicious palate cleanser. The lentils were cold and slightly sweet.

Eleven

White peach sorbet with champagne jelly and summer pudding.

A pair of desserts based on seasonal produce (it was the first week of January). This does not get served in winter! There was a lovely custard in the bottom of the summer pudding.

This looked so good we got stuck into it straight away before I remembered to take a photo. This shot was taken by one of the staff in the kitchen as they plated up for another diner!

Twelve

Lemon scented floating island with vanilla bean anglaise.

This was incredible. The most delicate and fluffy soft meringue, delicious custard and yummy candied lime. The two lemon slices (one at the front in the custard) were amazingly sour!

Paired with the 2007 Heggies Botrytis Riesling, Eden Valley, SA.

Thirteen

Chocolate ganache with green tea and red beans.

A simply amazing dessert! Showing off the classic techniques combined with east Asian adzuki beans. This dish should be illegal or compulsory.

Accompanied by the Romate Moscatel Ambrosia, Jerez, Spain.

Fourteen

Tea, coffee and petit four.

From the top:

  • Coconut balls
  • Macadamia shortbread
  • Chocolate macaroon hamburgers with lemon and pink peppercorn cream
  • Green tea marshmallow.

Each of these was spectacular. However, if pushed to choose a favourite it would be the hamburger with the most delicious cream!


Wash up

There you have it. An incredible meal. Perfectly prepared/cooked, and beautifully presented. Somehow, the advertised ten courses turned into fourteen!!

Again, I must emphasise that the pace of serving the courses was relaxed and comfortable, and that each course did not overwhelm the others.

The service was just flawless. I have not experienced anything like it, before or since. You barely noticed what was happening around you. But if you engaged with the staff, the response was always polite and friendly, with a couple even partaking in a little light-hearted banter!

Below is a photo of four full and very satisfied diners!


I hope this brief post has given you some insight into one of Australia’s premier dining experiences.

Have you been? I would love to know what you ate!

Not been before? Please consider it, there will be no regrets!!

Thanks for reading!

Anthony Overs
Canberra, Australia.

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