Spoil yourself. Go on. Sure you might've been able to fly to Melbourne and back (twice) — but dining at Tetsuya's is an occasion that is slightly more palpable. This is high-flying dining, with very few institutions left like it in Sydney. And yes it may have slipped off the list of the world's top 50 and lost its third chef's hat in 2011; despite all this, there's something to be said about a restaurant that was at the forefront of Australian dining for so long and still has an extensive waitlist. It's a luxurious experience — nay, a luxurious journey. And plus, who said only the rich kids can have the all the fun?
Situated smack-bang in the middle of the CBD, the refurbished, Heritage-listed site feels like you literally have left the country for dinner. The entire mansion (yes, it's huge) maintains a traditional Japanese theme — right from the front gates and valet parking, through to the polite and gentle escorting to your table. Eclectic artworks and ceramic pieces adorn the low-lit dining areas, all three of which overlook an immaculate Zen-like garden. The atmosphere is professionally formal yet ceremoniously quiet and tranquil. Tables are impeccably set with shining cutlery and crisp white tablecloths; napkins are immediately — and elegantly — thrown onto your lap. The staff is exceptionally efficient; they don't waste any time here.
And they can't afford to waste time — we did warn of a culinary journey. The ten-course degustation menu clocks in at almost five hours, so get comfy.
The cuisine is simple and unique and based on the Japanese philosophy of using natural seasonal flavours, with elements of French hinting through. The comprehensive (and weighty) list has over 3000 wines: you may as well go all out and get the matching wines (and extra $97) as it completes the experience. Moreover, the sommelier has done all the hard work for you and ensured that each of your dishes is precisely complimented.
To get the ball rolling and whet the appetite, the complimentary truffle butter and bread is an uncomplicated yet decadent start. Fellow diners are already dropping their jaws, ramekins are almost licked clean, and a mere crumb is left.
Thankfully, the first dish of the night arrives in due time before you've filled up on glorious carb/fat combo (who would've thought?). And it's a strong start: a warm savoury custard is rich and salty with bursts of flavour in every spoonful. It's paired with a Tamanohikari sake, which — not surprisingly— makes for the perfect accompaniment. Following on from this, Salad of the Sea is nice, and the marinated scampi is a confusing texture combination. Perhaps it's the frozen egg yolk? Suffice to say, truffle butter is winning thus far.
The signature dish at Tetsuya's comes out at plate number four — about an hour and a half into being seated. The waiter will outline the complexities of the dish, but a word of advice: choose to ignore the details should you squirm at 'unpasteurised roe'. Matched with a Riesling, the confit of Petuna ocean trout lives up to all its expectations, delivering a full-bodied texture that isn't overly fatty.
It doesn't end there, though. Two meat dishes take another 45 minutes of your time before the three desserts: because, everyone needs three desserts right? If we may be so bold, the real orgasmic taste explosion is Tetsuya's chocolate cake. Yes, it's insanely original, but it brings the five-hour voyage to an insane conclusion.
While each dish was exquisitely executed and distinctively different, the truffle butter — shamefully? — has to be the hardest act to follow. Or do subsequent dishes just fail to offer that 'wow factor'? If it weren't for the entire Tetsuya's experience — from the service to the setting (to the truffle butter) — would this degustation alone be worth it? There's definitely an argument that the the roller-coaster of dishes is just too much to handle, when all we really want now is simplicity.
Nonetheless, Tetsuya's is a Sydney must-do experience. It's certainly not a cheap affair, but the focus really is about a love of food crafted by chefs who are ferociously dedicated. Branch out from the burgers and enjoy one of Australia's most well regarded restaurants.