Tetsuya’s – It’s a knockout!

A post from No Experts Australian Correspondent

I have to confess Tetsuya’s has been very high on my list of restaurants to visit since our move down under. Despite losing a “hat” recently, it remains the most notoriously difficult restaurant in Sydney to bag a table at. Think Fat Duck, at the height of it’s fame and you’ll be  getting close! Waiting lists currently exceed 3 months.

The restaurant itself is tucked away on Kent St,  behind an extremely industrial looking grey wall and electronic gates. On entry, however one is greeted by a beautiful Japanese Garden and Villa. The steps up to the entrance are pretty intimidating, and one could be forgiven for thinking one was braving the domain of a noble Samurai Lord. Entrance to this exclusive domain is the privilege of few.

Our entry, on this occasion, was to attend The New South Wales Wine Awards Dinner, part of the Sydney International Food Festival, hosted by “Tets” himself (why do the Aussies have to shorten everything?) and  Huon Hooke, the Sydney Morning Herald’s wine critic. We were certainly in for a treat.  Hosted in the Private Dining Room, we were a little disappointed that we would miss the views of the garden that diners downstairs enjoy, however we were not to be disappointed in the food! We were greeted with a Glass of Centennial Sparkling and settled in to meet and chat to our fellow diners.

Our 13 course dinner was absolutely incredible,  and I am at a complete loss as to where to start.  Chilled Cucumber soup with sheep’s curd ice cream was deliciously refreshing, somewhat overwhelming the poor Pokolbin Estate Riesling that really didn’t have a chance. Sashimi of Kingfish with Black Bean and orange, was an exquisite dish, the citrus from the orange beautifully counter balancing the black bean.  Our surprise dish of “Just like Oysters”, turned out to be a shaving of scallop, with seaweed and foie gras, which with the metallic zinc seaweed tasted “just like oysters” but finished with an amazing rich finish from the foie gras! Delicious!

The NSW wine of the year, Tempus  Two’s Copper Zenith Semillon From 2003  turned out to be a revelation. It had a kerosene like nose typical of Semillon, but with layers and layers of complexity. It went surprisingly well with Marinated Scampi, Avocado, and caviar. Having been to this winery on a visit to the Hunter Valley, I was extremely unimpressed with their wines, and the poor knowledge of the staff at the Cellar door. The winery is located in one of the most stunning winery buildings I have ever seen, but all style and no substance does not  impress me! Earlier in the evening I had been fairly vocal about my disbelief that Tempus Two could actually produce a decent wine, only to discover that Scott Comyns the wine maker was at the table next to us! Oops! My embarrassing moment didn’t last long, and Scott proved to be a nice guy, who was delighted to have proved that his winery can produce a decent drop!

Tetsuya’s signature dish of Confit Ocean Trout followed. The accompaniments  to this dish are varied by season, and while the apple complemented the fish superbly, I found the flavours of the celery a little bitter.  Every dish was brilliant, and it is almost impossible to pick fault. The nuttiness of the grilled artichoke with the barramundi matched well with our wooded Chardonnay. Braised oxtail  just melted in the mouth,  the sea cucumber that accompanied this dish was an interesting experience for someone who had never before tasted this delicacy.  I found it rather bland, although the texture contrasted nicely with the softness of the Braised oxtail, making this one of my favourite dishes of the night.

I could wax lyrical for hours on how wonderfully exquisite and beautifully delicate each dish was. However I am conscious that a blow by blow account of 13 courses will  probably have your eye’s glazing over! The food at Tetsuya’s is simply world class. So how indeed did they lose a GFG Hat?  I was absolutely perplexed as to how this amazing restaurant could possibly be deemed unworthy of 3 GFG Hats?  The answer lay  half way through this meal,  when I was elbowed in the temple by a waitress. No apologies at all from this young lady!  In response to my discomfort, she retorted with a sarcastic “would you like an ice pack for that madam?” An hour later, with my head still ringing from the blow I’d received, I was beginning to wish I’d accepted that offer!  Quite shocking in a restaurant where other than this one incident,  the service was superbly courteous and friendly.

In summary then, the food at Tetsuya’s is an absolute knock out, that is providing the staff don’t knock you out first. Despite my bad experience with one waitress, I would not hesitate to return. Simply, despite the blow to the head, this probably is the top dining experience of my life.  If there’s one restaurant that’s worth flying across the world for, then Tetsuya’s is it.

Marks out of 10

Food  9.2

Service  6.9 (Should rate a high 8 really)

Ambience  9.0

 

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Bilson’s – homage to Nouvelle Cuisine

A post from No Experts Australian Correspondent

I would suggest to any foodies planning to visit Sydney, that they should try if at all possible, to visit in October. Not only is it the beginning of Spring, but it is also the Sydney International Food Festival, a month long festival, where Sydney celebrates everything good and great about food and wine. From Picnic’s on the Harbour Bridge to 100 Mile meals,  Lunch on Fort Dennison to Market Tours with Celebrity Chefs.  From Shoot the Chef (a photography competition) to Night noodle Markets and Hats Off Diners, this year the festival had over 600 events in one short month!

This year Bilson’s chose as it’s theme for it’s weekly Hats off dinner, a homage to Nouvelle Cuisine. A menu designed to showcase the iconic dishes from Chef’s such as Paul Bocuse, and demonstrate how Nouvelle Cuisine has influenced contemporary cooking. The menu comes with a complimentary glass of champagne, and we decided to go for the option of matching wines, which were without exception sourced from France.

Our first dish, with the deceptively simple name of “Eggs and Caviar”, inspired by Michel Guérard the Godfather of Nouvelle Cuisine, was a complex layering of smoked eel, smoked eel mouse, coddled eggs, creme fresh, asparagus foam topped with chives and caviar, and accompanied with asparagus and Brioche soldiers. Beautifully light, the dish disappeared in a couple of mouthfuls, leaving me wishing for more.

Our second course of Mussels in Saffron Sauce (Roger Vérge) was tasty, a light saffron foam with very fresh mussels. I would question the necessity for the julienne of carrot and leeks underneath. I know it adds some texture to the dish, but I will never understand why is it that Australians have to serve carrot with everything?

The fish course was Salmon a l’Oiselle  inspired Jean and Pierre Troisgros. The Salmon was beautifully pan fried, and slightly pink in the middle, which is just how I like it, however I have to say that the Sorrel sauce was bitter, and while Jean Troisgros has a reputation as the Master Saucier, I would rather this part of the dish had been omitted.  The accompanying green beans were deliciously tossed in butter!

The Main course, would have to be my dish of the evening. Partridge accompanied by peas, lettuce, and salami, lending a  twist on this classic french combination. The partridge was deliciously rich and beautifully tender.  The dish was inspired by Paul Bocuse, and somehow manages to remain light while retaining the original rich earthy flavours from which this game dish is inspired.

I love cheese, and even better than cheese, I love a good cheese souffle.  Our cheese course, Petit Fromage Affiné, inspired by the eponymous Michel Roux Senior, for me was a slice of heaven! In fact if I could die and go to a heaven padded with this fluffy cheese Souffle instead of Clouds, I would be a very happy bunny indeed!

Our last course of Mille-feuille  with Red Fruits accompanied by a Chantilly Cream and raspberry coulis rounded off the perfect meal.  Coffee and Petite Four made a nice finish, and I couldn’t resist a 1959 Armagnac from Darroze.

Service was good, and it appears that all of the front of house staff are either English or Scottish. Initially they seemed a little aloof, but seemed to warm to us eventually. I would also question having just one restaurant manager who is also the Sommelier. Andrew Cullen is a nice guy, however he did seem to be running around, and was very rushed, which is not ideal, especially when you consider that we were dining early and the restaurant was quite empty to start with.

The  dining room is nicely decorated, but at the end of the day, it’s just a hotel dining room. One has to question whether a restaurant of this calibre really needs gimmicks such as a Clock where the hands are made of knives and forks, and re-hydrating wet towels. However they make for a little light entertainment, in what could otherwise be quite a stuffy dining room. Great food, although sadly, as I visited in the same week as dinner at Tetsuya’s, perhaps I didn’t really appreciate the quality of this restaurant as much as I should.  A good excuse to go back and try their normal menu!

Marks out of 10

Food 8.2

Service 7.5

Ambience 7.0

 

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