1 May 2010
Tetsuya’s @ 529 Kent St, Sydney, NSW
It is difficult to find a review of Tetsuya's that does not wax lyrically about its splendour. The recent release of the S.Pellegrino World's 50 Best Restaurants list confirmed Tetsuya's status among the world's finest gastronomic establishments, a lofty status maintained since 2004. Locally, Tetsuya's has been awarded three hats in the Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide, the Guide's highest rating, every year since 1992. With these exalted achievements in mind, our expectations were suitably amplified on our visit.
Tetsuya's occupies an unassuming space in Kent Street, Sydney. The restaurant is situated behind a large steel gate and an open courtyard. Pressing an electronic button opens the mechanical gate and begins the Tetsuya's adventure.
The first thing that strikes you about Tetsuya's is the service. The dining rooms are staffed by a seemingly endless army of waiters. The professionalism and attentiveness of each waiter is particularly impressive. On passing through that mechanical gate, no less than half a dozen wait staff will greet you with a smile and an affable "good evening" and guide you to your dining table. Throughout the night, wait staff can be observed at the entrance of the dining room section, carefully and purposefully monitoring the needs of each table. It is a meticulous operation.
On the night of our visit, Tetsuya's offered an 11 course degustation menu. The menu is dominated by seafood elements that highlight Tetsuya Wakuda's mastery with raw fish.
No dishes illustrate this better than the sashimi of hiramasa kingfish with blackbean and orange. The slender slithers of kingfish are sublimely fresh and melt in the mouth. The blackbean and soy dressing, together with the julienned spring onion and coriander, is reminiscent of the traditional soy, spring onion and ginger accompaniment to Cantonese steamed fish, but incorporates a greater complexity of flavours.
The famed ocean trout confit was served on a bed of apple salad and garnished with ocean trout roe. The fillet of trout had been cooked in olive oil in an oven at very low temperatures for an extended period and retained a gelatinous appearance. The flesh was extremely delicate and had the texture of fine sashimi while communicating many of the flavours that had been infused in the olive oil in which it was cooked. A dry chive mix covered the top side and made it appear as if the skin had been left on. The chive mix provided the requisite seasoning for the dish and introduced a complex infusion of flavours. The apple salad was crisp and provided a subtle sweet and sour element which complemented the trout perfectly. In all, a truly remarkable dish.
A twice cooked, deboned spatchcock that was served over a small disc of daikon radish was particularly memorable for the silky texture of the spatchcock; reminiscent of the acclaimed veiled quail at MoMo in Melbourne. Our other meat dish consisted of a thin slice of braised wagyu beef served on a bed of leeks, sansho peppers and soy. It was a solid dish that highlighted the rich tenderness and subtle flavours of the wagyu.
The desserts were pleasant without being spectacular. A highlight was the dish of cannellini beans with mascarpone and soy caramel. The soy added an interesting flavour dimension to the oft used salted caramel and the texture of the mascarpone contrasted nicely with the firmness of the cannellini beans.
The ocean trout aside, the dishes of Tetsuya's did not astound with their flavours. They were superbly executed dishes of simple balance, undoubtedly deceptively so, and delicate, subtle flavours. Each dish comes across as complete with neither an ingredient too many nor too few. When inevitable comparisons are made to other fine dining establishments, the dishes could reasonably be considered conservative. However, these comparisons detract from their simple elegance, an elegance that this reviewer is yet to see from another restaurant.
At $200 per person, Tetsuya's is certainly not an inexpensive proposition. However, in many respects this is justifiable. The dining rooms are attended to by a small army of wait staff, each highly professional and friendly. The menu goes beyond the traditional 8 course degustation and offers a wider selection of interesting and delectable dishes to sample. The basic ingredients used in each of the dishes are outstandingly fresh, and, given the heavy seafood bias, are likely to be expensive.
At the end of the day, Tetsuya's offers a premium gastronomic experience for a premium price. It is the quintessential special occasion restaurant that provides a dining experience to be savoured.