Everybody know what time it is? TETS TIME!

That’s right, cast for minds back to last week (or two…) where we drooled over the delights at Quay. Now we are going to delve into dinner at Tetsuya’s.

Tetsuya Wakuda, the dude makes his own knives…need I say more? Tetsuya has been at the peak of gastronomy in the restaurant world ranking within the top 50 restaurants in the world since 2002 to 2010 and in the top 100 in 2011. Tetsuya’s bring unique dishes based on the Japanese philosophy of using natural seasonal flavours, enhanced by classic French techniques, all from his heritage-listed site. I bumped into the manager who has been at the restaurant since 1996 and asked about Tetsuya’s new restaurant in Singapore. Apparently it is very quirky and is a small Japanese bar/grill where you have to move to different eating stations during the meal. Very different to this place!

Apparently the food has changed over time. Tetsuya is going back to his Japanese roots now with a 50/50 Japanese/Eurpean influence rather than the original themed European style with jap influences. Wish I built that time machine now…

We were all very excited to get a table at Tetsuya’s and expected to be knocked back given its prestige and position in the food world. Not only did we get a table, we got a private room! Sweet sweet! Props to Mum!

The restaurant

Tetsuya’s restaurant decor reflects its cuisine. The interior design is very Japanese integrated with Australian artworks across the restaurant. Inside is a little bit like a maze with three main dining areas, and a little Japanese garden in front near the bar facing one side of the dining area.

The bar and the Japanese Garden

It’s a very overall quirky feel to the place which is difficult to describe entirely. Hopefully this picture of the toilets captures the feeling.

Male or Female?

I was escorted to our private room and got to work snapping pics like a Japanese tourist (maybe I was channelling the vibe of the place!).

Our Private Dining Room

We had long table with various art works on the walls along with some Japanese sculptors. Lights were dimmed for maximum ambiance…ooooohhhh yeeeaaaah. One of the most, if not the most important features in the room sat in small ramekins along the length of the table…

Truffle Butter

Ze butter. OMG my family went crazy over this butter. I think by the end of the night we ate them out of sour dough rolls. Our waiter Costa jokingly said he would have to cap us at 12 dishes of butter. In….sane….. This infamous truffle butter was made with reggiano, unsalted butter, ricotta, truffles and love. I have to admit it was delicious butter, soft with a sweet kick of truffles, like a soft buttery truffle salt.

When the team was assembled we all ordered the degustation menu only this time, two of us had matching wines! Boo Ya! I still wasn’t feeling well but sucked it up and had a few sips hehehe. There wasn’t a menu for the degustation as it changes depending on produce and seasons so the staff would verbally present the dishes and wine matchings to us. I think after they saw me beavering away on the phone taking notes, they kindly printed out the menu with the wine matching for us on pretty paper. It was greatly appreciated so thank you!

Let’s get to eating.

Chilled Pea Soup with Bitter Chocolate Sorbet

Ok, this is a very strange dish, as strange as it sounds. The colours were very vibrant and alluring and made me almost dive in without taking pictures. The first mouthful is extremely confronting. Cold and big bitter dark chocolate; highly unusual combination and an attack on your senses. Yes, unusual is a choice word. You get the salty hints and the pea soup in the back palate. The pea is very green with an intense rawness to it. At the very bottom there is small ice block of something, frozen chocolate perhaps? The entire dish felt a bit grainy on the tongue which added to the usualness of the dish. It got better as you ate down the cup but what a way to start the evening, set the scene to expect the unexpected. Overall, don’t know what to think about this very polarising dish.

Savoury Custard with Avruga
Tamano Hikari Tokusen Junmai Ginjo Sake, Kyoto, Japan

This is a very traditional Japanese savoury egg custard; Chawan mushi or set egg custard with Avruga (Spanish herring roe) rolled in squid ink. This smelt delicious, had very good flavours, great balance highlighted by the sweetness and saltiness of the Japanese onions. The texture is incredibly smooth and the aromatics are very warming.
The sake made a perfect match to the dish. The nose was lively and fresh with subtle hints of plums and blossom flowers and little to no hints of alcohol. Palate was clean, extremely smooth and not sharp with some rock melon aspects. I don’t know much about sake but I could have drunk this all day, it felt like drinking some top shelf stuff and brought up a lot of added sweetness to the dish.
My favourite dish and wine pairing of the night.

Salad of Kingfish with Blackbean and Orange
2011 Pike’s Merle Riesling, Clare Valley, SA

Another beautifully presented dish smelling of smoky bonito flakes. The kingfish beautifully prepared, soft and fresh and paired with a sweet and salty almost teriyaki like sauce with a twist of lemon.
The Pikes Riesling had wonderful lively lemon notes with some peach sweetness on the nose. Attack is slightly dry, grippy on the palate with an apricot hit. It helps bring up a bit of freshness and a seaweed note whilst rounding off and bringing a depth to the dish.
I was impressed with this dish for its flavours, freshness and the delicate fusion of European and Asian ingredients. Well played sir.

New Zealand Scampi with Chicken Liver Parfait & Walnut Vinaigrette
2011 Pike’s Merle Riesling, Clare Valley, SA

Seafood and parfait, not a combination you would expect now is it? Well, not what I was expecting anyways but POW! A very balanced dish. You can really get the walnut vinaigrette on the nose right from the start. The scampi is only slightly cooked so it’s basically straight of the shell, coming off slightly bouncy but also a bit mushy and came off less fresh than I expected; could have been served on a bed of ice maybe? The richness of the parfait is slightly dulled by the onion on the top adding a bit too much spice. I do like the texture, smoothness and how it lingers in your mouth. The Riesling comes off more acidic with this dish. Here the Riesling lifts the meal in freshness to offset the heaviness of the parfait.

Another great dish and at this point, I found myself wondering where the meal would go from here and how is compares to Quay, cos at the moment, I think that Tetsuya’s is running away with the gold but hearing the opinions around the table I gather that Tetsuya’s food is very polarising. There are alot of unconventional flavours and parings which some people may like whist others hate. More on this later…

Confit of Petuna Ocean Trout with Fennel Unpasteurised Ocean Trout Caviar
2005 Pierro Chardonnay for Tetsuya’s, Margaret River, WA

Annnnd the dish I was waiting for; Tetsuya’s signature dish. Pretty as a picture, just as pretty in real life as it does in the books. Confit Tasmanian ocean trout crusted with conbu, dried seaweed, salt pepper, parsley and chives on a bed of fennel and non pasteurised ocean trout roe, served with a side salad (which I almost forgot about!)
I took my time with this and took in a huge whiff of the dish. Smells very much like chicken salt!? An aside, I have a few of Tetsuya’s condiments and I don’t know why but alot of his stuff smells and tastes like chicken salt! Anyone know why? I want to see him cook chicken and chips.
Back to the trout. The fish was cooked very well; tender and melts in your mouth but still firm. Lovely slaty flavours of the crust pulled back slightly and balanced by the roe, fennel and the side salad. Nice dish, solid, clean, fresh and warming.

The Pierro Chardonnay (made exclusively for Tetsuya, something that you will see more of as you school down) was banging with creamy oak smells and some minerality. Solid line in the attack, flavours build into a ripe peach, lemon rind and walnuts with a slight touch of heat at the back end. Not sure how the wine matches with the trout, I think you need to drink this wine after each mouthful acting somewhat like a palate cleanser. It washes over your tongue and enhances the roe and chicken salt flavours, which was a combination I liked.

I did expect a little more from this dish. My issue is it felt a bit out of sync with the previous dishes and suffered perhaps from the lack of flow? The previous dishes were so raw and fresh making this come it a bit too heavy and too much in contrast in flavours. Still, I’m not going to complain, I still liked it!

Steamed Tian of Queensland CEAS Spanner Crab with Curd, Foie Gras, Junsai
2005 Pierro Chardonnay for Tetsuya’s, Margaret River, WA

Hummmmmm interesting. Yes….interesting…..Steamed spanner crab stack surrounded with tofu, mushrooms and foie gras. I started my breaking the stack to check out the crab chunks. The crab stack has a touch of pepper but feels a bit fake and has a plastic feel like seafood sticks. It didn’t feel fresh and lacked that sweet crab scent. The mushrooms are coated in a slimy jelly (not to my liking) and the foie gras adds an extra dimension to the dish, some smokiness and creaminess but not sure it works. It and the tofu make the crab stack a bit bland.

The wine brings a bit of sweetness and lifts the crab notes a bit but not enough. Overall, a bit disappointing. Bugga…

Roasted Breast of Duck with Eggplant & Almond
2009 Bass Phillip Pinot Noir for Tetsuya’s, Gippsland, VIC

Roast duck breast with spiced eggplant, almond cream and duck jus with roasted almond pieces and cumin. Neat little looking dish, quite enticing especially sitting next to a glass of pinot. Surprisingly, I found the duck flavours are quite subtle. The eggplant spices are very strong and sit at the forefront with the duck kicking in at the second palate. The skin has nice flavours and definitely ducky to I recommend eating it together with the eggplant. I like the overall texture of the dish, very juicy duck meat, creamy sauce with the occasional almond crunch, though I wished the eggplant was toned down a touch.

The Bass Phillip pinot noir had caramel and burnt wood notes, comes off like a young pinot with red fruit berries and some sour cherries and stems. Attack is dry, some acidity (err…think aftertaste of after you puked? Stomach acid? I know…doesn’t sound like the most appetizing wine). Acidity builds in the mid palate being the main flavour (not the puke flavour, natural fruit acidity) and is semi balanced off with a touch of strawberry. Finishes long and lingering acidity. Acidity? Acidity. Interesting pinot, not sure I like it, but maybe my palate was a bit off; some others around the table got very little acidity and bags of fruit flavours. Err…hummm…perhaps one to try another time.

Nevertheless I like the wine match, adds a touch of sweetness to the dish and diminishes the eggplant spices. A nice match to another interesting dish.

Seared Fillet of Grass-Fed Cape Grim Beef with Wasabi & Braised Mustard Seeds
2009 Torbreck Mataro for Tetsuya’s, Barossa Valley, SA

Beef eye fillet, wasabi mustard, braised mustard seeds, wilted spinach and beef bone marrow sauce. Gotta get me some bone marrow! Smells like a nicely caramelised glazed beef and the beef is soft and very tender, juicy; perfectly cooked with just the right amount of sauce. The beef itself didn’t have much flavour, or maybe it was overpowered by the wasabi and mustard seeds. This combination gave it a lovely dulled down old English mustard flavour which I really enjoyed.

The Mataro had a tight alco hit on the nose, very much like plum wine with caramelised onions. My feeling is it needs to get some decant action. Attack is toasted wood, lovely balanced off acidity from sour cherry and a firm tannin backbone. Strong wine, should develop well in the future. Finishes warm and has a lovely spicy and wasabi heat aspect.

Unfortunately it doesn’t mesh with the meal as much as I hoped; perhaps it dulls the mustard flavours down which is not to my liking. Again, I think it needed some time to breath to tone down the flavours which would complement the dish better but if you can’t wait, eat the meat first, and then polish off the wine.

Pear Sorbet, Bread & Butter Pudding
2008 McWilliam’s Morning Light Botrytis Semillon, Riverina, NSW

Double desert whammy. I jumped into the sorbet to start. The sorbet is nothing out of the ordinary but packs a He-Man punch of pear flavours and very refreshing like a cold wet towel to the face.
This went very with the Semillon which had a creamy pear and cream cheese nose. Palate is exactly like the nose, not too viscous, not too sweet, great balance of flavours and mouth feel. Tip top!

Now to Tet’s bread and butter pudding. Smells like gingerbread topped off with cinnamon. Soft and creamy topping with a piece of bread at the bottom. Be sure to dig deep and eat all the layers together because this is yummo! The bread is mixed with raisins and adds a lovely texture to a very velvety and silky dish. Love it, soft bread with a gooey top.  There is a bit of custard at the very bottom of the bowl which again adds another textural smoothness. Lovely desert.

Floating Island with Praline & Crème Anglaise
2008 McWilliam’s Morning Light Botrytis Semillon, Riverina, NSW

Lightly poached vanilla and caramel meringue with a chocolate and raspberry jam centre. Extremely light, almost “floating” meringue with little mouth feel (think foam?) with chocolate and raspberry jam centres. The custard is also very light, creamy and not rich. An elegant dish though almost too light for me, I needed to sink my teeth into something but I can appreciate the texture of the desert.
The McWilliams doesn’t match as well as the previous desert and came off more like sour peaches but still pleasant to drink.

Chocolate Fondant

Bonus desert! Unbeknown to me, this was also a belated birthday dinner for my 4th Aunty so she got a chocolate fondant birthday cake instead and it was delicious. I got a spoonful in and I just loved the dark chocolate and sprinkles of salt flakes in there. You know me and fondant! I preferred this to the floating island so next time, it will “apparently” be my birthday.

Petit Fours
Raspberry macaroons
Chocolate truffles

The petit fours came round with just enough room in my tummy. The macaroons were a little soft and not as crispy as it should be but the filling was wonderful and nutty. The chocolate truffles had a crispy outer layer wrapped in smooth praline and a solid chocolate centre. Chocolate chocolate chocolate.

Man down! After dining at two crazy ass restaurants, I was calling for my bed to sleep off the food coma. I personally enjoyed my dinner at Tetsuya’s and appreciated what the place was trying to achieve with its Jap/Aussie cuisine.
Sooooo….now to answer the question….Quay vs Tetsuya….

The winner, its Quay and here’s why:

The dishes at Quay matched, flowed and balanced each other very well even without the enhanced flavours of wine pairings. You got a concise theme of simplistic and clean dishes with the flavours building up steadily from each course. The flow at Tetsuya’s was a bit more disjointed and didn’t have direction or theme like Quay, but I think that is the inherent nature of Tetsuya’s dishes in trying to find the balance in the fusion of flavour styles. If these unconventional food pairings are done right, then you have a winner but I found the majority of the dishes weren’t cutting the mustard and felt a bit flat.

The first few dishes (at Tetsuya’s) set the theme of simple food but loads of flavours in each dish and you were going to get well balanced fusion of Japanese and European. The ocean trout, though wonderful on its own, was too much of a jump in flavours and weight of the whole experience. Most of the table suggested that there was just too much food on the plate but I think that it was fine, the degustation just needed to build up better, maybe having a dish in-between the scampi and the trout to bridge the gaps.

Both places had great dishes and not so great dishes. If you took the best dishes entrees and mains from Quay vs the best from Tetusya’s, I would say that Tetsuya’s would just get over the line but only just. In fact, after the ocean trout, I was already thinking that Tet’s was going to kick Ouay’s ass, but then the wheels fell off and only came back with the beef. In the desert department though, it’s all Quay; far outshining Tetsuya’s.

Presentation, I give it to Tetsuya’s but it’s very difficult to compare the two. Each has plates and cutlery to match the themes of the restaurant. One pulled off a great Japanese Australian feel to the place, whist the other leans on the beautiful surrounds of Circular Quay, the Harbour Bridge and the Opera house. The fact that it was a really beautiful day also helped.

In terms of overall experience, I have to give to Quay. Our maître de at Quay was very friendly whist still being professional and it was very easy for us to feel relaxed. I found our maître de at Tetsuya’s a little standoffish, or perhaps stuffy is a better word. I felt that I had to sit there, found it difficult to relax and felt uncomfortable when taking pictures and this can really affect your experience, ambiance and what you feel about the food.

Eitherway, I feel very happy to be able to share my experiences of these two exceptional restaurants with you and hope I gave you an excuse to take a trip to Sydney!

I’ll be back!


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