Sunday, August 29, 2010

An Evening with the Master - TETSUYA'S, Sydney

Apart from the almost inconspicuous name at the gate there was no other indication that a Michelin starred restaurant is located in this battle-axe block behind a heritage listed property on Kent St, Sydney.

Yes, there was and still is a gate which further emphasises the exclusivity of Tetsuya's (and made me wonder if they'll let me in). Guests are normally chauffeured in. I'm one of the very few who came by foot.

The evening started with drinks at the bar where I joined a dozen or so of my dining companions. Various aperitifs were on offer including Bollinger champagne. I was still too much in awe at that stage and decided to have some sparkling water instead.

Before we knew it we were all ushered to the upstairs section of the restaurant where the man himself was quietly completing some final touches for his master class.

Tetsuya's Master Kitchen by Electrolux was a sight to behold. One major feature of his impressive domain is the absence of any buttons/knobs/dials/handles etc. which makes keeping it spick and span easy (an army of staff doesn't hurt either). Heat levels seem to magically change with the slide of his finger. His cupboards open/close with a slight touch. I would love to have my kitchen fitted as such. But that dream would have to remain...a dream.

With all his accomplishments and various honours chef/owner Tetsuya Wakuda did not put on airs. He gladly answered every question in his soft-spoken manner. At the end of the class he also happily stayed for photos with humble bloggers like yours truly. Calling him Tets did not seem irreverent any more after personally talking to the man. One priceless thing I found out that evening is the fact that he does not like salmon.

He began the master class by skilfully preparing a warm tuna salad with black beans and orange garnished with fine tendrils of chilli. I scoffed this dish down like there's no tomorrow. No precise measurements were provided. As suggested by Tets, it's all up to the diner. This plate of sublime elegance is definitely something I will give a go at home. Tets made it seem easy enough.

Next to Japanese, Italian is his other favourite cuisine. He demonstrated this by showing us how to cook fregola/fregolone (a type of pasta from Sardinia) for a quick yet impressive meal anyone can do at home. He prepared fresh tomato sauce which he lavishly finished off with spanner crab meat from Noosa.

Other tips from the Master:

1. Use grapeseed oil (mainly for non-Italian dishes). It can stand higher temperatures than other oils.

2. Tuna is best aged a couple of days rather than fresh out of the sea to allow the fish to develop that distinct tuna taste.

3. Fresh tuna is best wrapped in paper towel then plastic wrap before storing in the fridge.

4. Use medium to low temperature when cooking garlic in oil for Italian dishes.

We were then escorted to our table to begin the evening’s degustation. We were first served with a choice of fresh sourdough or Italian bread and luxurious butter whipped with ricotta, black truffles and parmesan. That definitely set the scene for an evening full of superlatives.

Rather than boring you with details of the menu I purposely took a photo of every single dish and labelled them accordingly.

If I’m to choose a favourite it would have to be the oxtail with sea cucumber. It was rich, smooth, melt in your mouth stickiness. Among the desserts I’m very partial to the warm bread and butter pudding. It was cinnamony creamy comfort goodness served in a pot.

To cap off what was already an unforgettable dining experience a gift bag was handed over to us containing a signed copy of Tetsuya the cookbook, truffle salt, and a box of macarons amongst other things.

Once in a lifetime is the only way to describe it. As much as I would like to think it will happen again I know it will be a while if at all.

The Beancounter was a guest of Electrolux. Flights, accommodation and dinner at Tetsuya were part of Electrolux Tetsuya Masterclass Competition.


Julie A. Cox said...

Wow, what a great experience you had! Was your wife able to go with you too? Are you a fan of truffles? I've never personally had them, but I've heard people either LOVE them or don't particularly care for them.

cusinera said...

wow, talaga! what a fabulous experience=) with regards to grapeseed oil, super useful ingredient but expensive compare to other oil in supermarket, got the habit of using it now c/o Momofuku cookbook=)

The Beancounter said...

It was a great experience indeed Julie! My wife was not able to come but we'll be doing another trip to Sydney in the very near future...

I love truffles now that I've tasted them...I knew of them only through others but it was my first time to try them that evening. I'm in the "love it" camp now. I couldn't get enough of the truffle butter served to us...

The Beancounter said...

wow talaga cusinera! It was an incredible experience...

grapeseed is at least double the price of sunflower (what we normally use) but i think it's worth it... gotta wait for the Coles or Woolies specials... ;)

ziggy said...

you are one lucky son of a gun. i want more! tell us more! please!!! the dishes look surreal... i'm in a trance now.

The Beancounter said...

I feel extremely blesses ziggy...