You know what people say: Having great expectations can be both a good and bad thing. When something lives up to great expectations, the experience is complete, right down to the beginning: the point of anticipation. But, on the flip side, great expectations can lead to great disappointment. Tetsuya’s is a case in point.
Tetsuysa’s is rated as one of the top restaurants in Australia, and some say the world. After all it was once listed no. 5 in the renowned S.Pellegrino World’s 50 Best Restaurant list, that’s before it has tumbled down to no. 17 this year. Indeed, it has fallen from grace!
With a pedigree like Tetsuya’s under the helm of a chef with his own line of vinaigrettes and wares, Tetsuya Wakuda, it would be an insult if you didn’t have high expectations.
The reason why I put off writing this blog entry is that I didn’t know how to put to words my disappointment. On certain points during the four hour degustation meal, I even wondered if it was just me and my tastebuds playing tricks on me. How could everyone be raving about Tetsuya’s but me?
Tetsuya is located along Kent Street in the City. My three dining companions and I were greeted by well-trained wait staff. Service was immaculate.
Walking through the doors into the dining area of Tetsuya’s was actually pretty surreal. “I am finally here,” I thought to myself.
The vastness of the restaurant actually surprised me. Inclusive of its private dining rooms, it actually could seat a good hundred people. Even with a large restaurant, you still had to make reservations a few months in advanced to snag that coveted spot.
The dinner was off to a good start. Warm bread was served after we settled down in our seats. Given a choice between sourdough and white rolls, all of us promptly opted for the sourdough.
As I always say, the bread that the restaurant serves tells a lot about the restaurant and its food. Tetsuya’s has certainly passed the bread test. First, the bread was freshly baked and warm and secondly, it was served with black truffle and parmesan salsa butter which was “ooh, so divine”! It left me desiring more but I stopped myself to save my stomach for the 13 courses that followed.
Amuse bouche was a chestnut mushroom soup with shaved white mushrooms.
We also ordered an extra course which was coffin bay oysters with grapeseed oil, rice vinegar and ginger. A simple dish that brought out the freshness of the oysters and it was really refreshing in taste. The only complaint, if any, was that it left an oily sheen on my lips, much more than desired.
We moved on to smoked ocean trout with avruga caviar with a round reconstructed egg yolk in the center. We were advised to eat all three components together. I love caviar and I love smoked ocean trout. Poke into the egg yolk and it burst, the three weaved together beautifully with a good texture and flavour play.
Next came the spanner crab custard. Smooth, light custard with really fresh crab in it.
Dinner was building up pretty nicely. Well paced, good selection of dishes, freshest ingredients. But the dinner just went downhill from this point.
Ironically, that point coincided with Tetsuya’s signature dish: Confit of Petuna Tasmanian Ocean Trout with Konbu, Daikon and fennel green apple salad.
My first question is why they are serving us Ocean Trout twice in the same dinner in quite a similar way. The konbu crust unfortunately taste like MSG. The Ocean trout was soft as it was slowly-cooked under tender oven heat after being marinated in grapeseed oil and salt. Good but if this is his signature dish, then I was really very let down. The sides of daikon, fennel and julienned green apple was a nice complement but it isn’t an out of the world combination.
I kind of lost track of the dishes in between. But the twice cooked de-boned spatchcock stuffed with foie gras with an olive tapenade with shaved truffles was another disappointing dish, just when you think things will get better. First of all, I don’t understand the use of summer truffles (Those truffles are from Perth apparently). But to me, it lacks the distinctive flavour that truffles ought to have. Summer truffles are a restaurant’s attempt to give a dish a boost of glamour. Other than that, I can’t imagine why they are included really. Oh, another thing was that I didn’t really enjoy the foie gras stuffing. To me, it just didn’t work. Call me a purist but I prefer my foie gras pan-seared where the crusty top gives way to a melt-in-the-mouth sensation.
Next, we had the terrine of Spanner crab with avocado soup. Why Spanner crab again? And I really didn’t think this dish work for me in terms of flavour and texture. It left me with a fishy after taste.
The next course was grilled wagyu beef served with lime and wasabi and a jelly sheet made of dashi stock. Truth be told, it was good but not great.
But one can always look forward to great desserts to round up the meal nicely.
In this case, desserts really revealed the weakness of Tetsuya’s. In the presence of pastry students, the desserts were dissected apart.
To be honest, I cannot remember much of them. They were all too forgettable. Tetsuya lent his name to a dessert called Tetsuya’s strawberry shortcake. It was served in a fancy martini glass but fancy was the only way to describe it. It was simply strawberry puree with cream..the shortcake element was kind of missing.
Tetsuya's strawberry shortcake
Next was a chocolate mousse with a crème anglaise. Nothing exciting.
chocolate mousse and creme anglaise
My point exactly. The entire dinner was good but not great and I was certainly let down by a restaurant of such great pedigree. It did nothing to blow me away in any of the dishes at all. And I found out that Tetsuya’s menu don’t really change that much; it evolves but no radical changes. I feel that that isn’t quite becoming of one of the world’s best restaurant.
I like to be surprised when I dine out; to be surprised at the unexpected combinations of the textures, flavours that come to play so harmoniously.
I can think of many places that I have dined better than Tetsuya’s. this may be a harsh review but only because I was expecting a whole lot more.
See what they say: the more you expect, the greater the impact of the fall.