My first ever visit to the Sydney institution earlier this year for a surprise birthday celebration was everything I expected and more.
From the moment you enter the tranquil restaurant, modelled like a traditional Japanese home off a driveway on Kent Street south of the city, Tetsuya's whisks diners off on an hours-long gastronomic journey filled with sensual delights.
|Bread and truffle and ricotta butter at Tetsuya's, Kent Street, Sydney|
We started with a bread and a pot of Tetsuya's trademark truffle butter, whipped with ricotta cheese to a light and creamy consistency. It's about the most luxurious thing you could spread on bread, with the earthy flavour of the black truffle coming through strongly beneath the rich and creamy dairy components.
In any case I barely remember the sweet apple cocktail or the blood orange one. It also makes me wonder why fine dining restaurants don't just keep to classic cocktails.
|Pacific oysters with rice wine vinegar and ginger|
Excitement got the better of me when the amuse bouche of arrived: a tea cup's worth of chawanmushi-style savoury custard flavoured with soy cream and mirin, topped with avruga caviar. I got to the bottom of it, savouring every small spoonful, before I realised that I'd forgotten to take a photo.
With beautifully rounded and umami-rich flavours and the most delicate texture of the steamed custard against the pops of salty caviar, it truly was a blissful and memorable start to the degustation. A thoroughly Japanese one too, matched with the seriously drinkable Tamano Hikari Tokusen junmai ginjo sake from Kyoto.
|Carpaccio of leatherjacket with nori and citrus soy|
The loose rolls of the white fish were fresh and firm, mostly flavoured by a very well-balanced nori seaweed and citrus soy sauce while pickled onion pieces added zing and crunch. The impossibly thinly cut radish was a stunning feat of knifework, adding mainly to the plate's presentation.
The leatherjacket was matched with the 2009 Tunkakililla Vineyard Riesling from Oregon, USA.
|Marinated scampi with walnut oil and egg|
The scampi tails were marinated quite simply in the walnut oil dressing, allowing the scampi's sea-sweet creaminess to shine while a gooey egg yolk at the bottom of a soft seaweed nest added a velvety texture.
This was matched with the buttery 2011 Pierro Chardonnay made especially for Tetsuya's from the Margaret River in Western Australia.
|Confit of Petuna ocean trout with a salad of celery, witlof, apple and unpasteurised ocean trout roe|
The soft cooked ocean trout is coated in a salty crust of chives and kombu seaweed, which contrasts exceptionally with the sweet, tart, slightly bitter salad of celery, witlof and Granny Smith apple matchsticks.
The ocean trout roe on the side seemed a purely luxurious addition, making every mouthful - best with a bit of everything - more special and fantastical.
The ocean trout was, interestingly, served with a green leafy salad on the side and was matched with a light 2012 Journey Wines Pinot Noir from the Yarra Valley, Victoria.
|Roasted Moreton Bay bug with braised oxtail|
One of my favourite shellfish, the roasted Moreton Bay bug, featured in the next course; free from its shell in large pieces that you rarely see. Given the simplicity of the roasted crustacean, the significantly heartier, oily flavours of the stew-like braised oxtail beneath it tended to overpower the delicate bug meat.
|Tea smoked quail breast with parsnip and calamari|
The latter outshone the poultry with its velvety mouthfeel and uniqueness, while the soft parsnip chip added what I call a quirky root vegetable flavour to the dish.
At this point I was having the 2012 Kellybrook Cabernet blend, also from the Yarra Valley.
|Grass-fed fillet of beef with soy braised tendon and wasabi leaf|
Thoroughly cooked, the beef fillet had some surprisingly chewy parts but was nonetheless a great base for the rich feature additions of gelatinous tendons and fatty marrow, while the raw wasabi leaves brought much needed freshness and spiciness.
|White peaches with almond milk ice cream|
The first dessert featured white peach segments poached in champagne and crumbly bits of meringue, topped with a subtle almond milk ice cream. Served with the 2011 Georg Breuer Auslese Riesling, it was mild on the overall sweetness but was a nice, fruity lead into the second dessert, which also doubled as a birthday cake for one.
|Tetsuya's chocolate cake|
While the non-birthday version showed off the mirror chocolate glaze, rather than an over-the-top amount of gold leaf and a candle, it was the rich, multi-layered, all-chocolate affair inside the coating that was mind-blowing. Mousse, cake, crisp and creamy bits - this chocolate cake had it all.
Adding to the sense of indulgence was the final matched wine: an almost syrupy 1983 Toro Albalá Gran Reserva Pedro Ximenez.
While the meal itself was punctuated with a couple of clear highlights - in particular the amuse, signature confit of ocean trout and Tetsuya's chocolate cake - some of the other dishes faded into the overall experience which was certainly one to remember.