The venerated restaurant Tetsuya's has been around for almost 30 years now. First as a small restaurant in Rozelle and a few years later taking over the former Suntory restaurant on Kent Street in a building that was tailor made for the Japanese French cuisine collecting award after award. It has been a few years between visits but what is it like now?
I had almost forgotten about how sleek everything is at Tetsuya's. There's more artwork (or maybe that was always there and I'm only now noticing it?). As soon as I walk towards the Japanese style building I see staff rearranging themselves to greet guests and make them feel like royalty. I am led into a private room. At just past 6pm on a Tuesday night I am curious to see how full the main dining room is but it's early yet. Also knowing how fickle Sydney is and how almost 30 years on, longeivity is somehow thought of in almost a negative light. Yet now he is the bearer of two Michelin stars for Waku Ghin.
Oysters with Ginger and Rice Vinegar
Mrs Skarsgard and I decide to throw caution and budget to the wind and start with a glass of Tattinger champagne and the optional oyster course. There are two Pacific oysters with ginger and rice vinegar. They're the perfect combination of sweet and savoury and I remember Mr NQN making me this dish just before he proposed to me (the recipe is in Tetsuya's eponymous cookbook).
Roasted Scampi Tail with Vanilla served with 2015 Hiedler Thal Vineyard Gruner Veltliner, Kamptal, Austria
The vanilla is the first thing that strikes you as this is put down. Then it's the texture of the scampi. I prise the tail meat from the open cut shell and it's wonderfully creamy. Mrs Skarsgard says, "Why don't we see more scampi on the menu?" and when it's as good as this, I don't know why.
Tuna with Saltbush & Finger Lime
I don't recognise the thin chiffonade of the saltbush at first but this and Australian ingredient finger lime offer a tangy, salty counterpoint to the creamy raw tuna.
Confit of Ocean Trout with a Salad Of Celery & Apple
And then comes their most famous signature dish. The confit of ocean trout with kombu that sits on a bed of matchstick celery and apple with dots of parsley oil. I had forgotten how wonderful this dish was. It really opens up the palate and is actually quite strong and savoury-the saltines from the kombu reminding Mrs Skarsgard of a cured meat. The twice cooked ocean trout has a luscious texture to it and the ocean trout is from Petuna in Tasmania where Tetsuya has had a long term partnership.
"So where is Tetsuya?" we ask. "We just say he's in Singapore (Waku Ghin)," they joke and vice versa the staff in Singapore report his location to be in Australia.
Coral Trout with Sugar Loaf Cabbage and Black Garlic
This is the first day for this dish, a fillet of coral trout with a shroud of Sugar Loaf cabbage leaf and black garlic. It's a beautiful dish but it's about now that I am really starting to get full. The courses, although judiciously sized still add up.
Butter Poached Quail With Parsnip Root and Sprouts served with 2011 Apsley Gorge Vineyard Pinot Noir, Bicheno, Tasmania
There are two meat dishes among all of the seafood. A butter poached quail with a creamy parsnip puree and sprouts. The quail has such a succulent texture and we also love the pieces of crispy skin surrounding it.
Slow roasted lamb rack with sorrel leaves and preserved lemon
The second meat course is a slow roasted lamb neck, all gelatinous and rich in texture. It's a good size too as we are feeling very full but they bring this back from being too rich with sorrel and preserved lemon so that it has a delicious creamy mouthfeel with fresh citrus characteristics.
Sometime between courses we are offered a kitchen tour. They offer us a tip if you want a kitchen tour: be nice to the staff and interested in the food. Because not everyone can get a kitchen tour because of the sheer number of guests and the small waiting area in the main kitchen that fits 3 maybe 4 in a pinch.
We walk into the wine cellar adjacent to the main dining area. There is also a wine cellar below around the size of the main dining room that stores the precious, less commonly ordered wines. The restaurant is buzzing and I look over at the table where I sat many years ago. It was a sublime birthday dinner.
We follow our waiter to the other rooms, passing what was the bar-they restaurant is still so in demand that they needed to make more room. We then go into the main kitchen where executive chef Kevin Mok is busy with the team. He says a quick hello and then goes back to the plates at hand.
An enormous whiteboard stands in one corner with each table, any preferences and what stage they're dining at in their 11 course menu. A visit to the pastry kitchen is next where we meet Giles Gabutina the latest winner of Apprentice of the Year.
Granny Smith Granita with Jelly
Before dessert there is a palate cleansing course of a wonderfully fresh Granny Smith granita on a bed of jelly. I remember how I tried to get Mr NQN to make this from the cookbook but it was a fail. I think it's best enjoyed in the restaurant ;)
Compressed Strawberries with Yuzu Sake Sorbet and Muntries served with 2010 Alois Kracher Muscat Ottonel Auslese, Burgenland, Austria
While it may look simple these strawberries have such a perfect level of sweetness and they are served with a quennelle of yuzu sake sorbet and muntrie berry jam.
Rockmelon Granita with Roasted Soba Ice Cream
This is a bonus course. They retired this course yesterday but Mrs Skarsgard worked with them before so she knows the staff. I have so many questions about the roasted soba ice cream. There is a roasted soba tea but instead of making it a tea, they make an icec ream out of it. Roasting the soba or buckwheat gives it a gorgeous nutty intensity. It is served with rockmelon granita and a ginger almond crumble.
Tetsuya’s Chocolate Cake served with 2013 Chalmers Sagrantino Appassimento, Heathcote, Victoria
And then when I am hoping for some chocolate, out comes a perfectly disc of Tetsuya's chocolate cake, a light as air moussey cake macadamia and praline almonds with a perfect mirror glaze and silver leaf in the centre.
There is a final offer of tea with our petit fours: two lime pineapple amaretti macarons and a caramel chocolate and lavender disc. Even years on, a meal here doesn't fail to impress.
So tell me Dear Reader, have you ever eaten at Tetsuya's? If so what did you think? Do you always ask for a kitchen tour?
This meal was independently paid for.
529 Kent St, Sydney NSW 2000
tel: +61 (02) 9267 2900
Tuesday to Friday 5:30pm–12am
Saturday 12–3:30pm, 6:30pm–12am
Sunday & Monday Closed