Lunch @ Tetsuya’s (Sydney, Australia)

July 7, 2020 in Australian, French by thywhaleliciousfay

Because I was going to be in Sydney for 2 years for my overseas (work) stint, I decided not to be (too) aggressive in checking out the dining scene in Sydney. I guess one could say I was also trying to go easy on my waistline and purse when I self-imposed the ’1 atas splurge meal per month’ rule. But!!! Who would have known dining out was actually an activity most have taken for granted. :(

When COVID-19 restrictions were eased and dining at restaurants was allowed, I made reservation at Tetsuya’s for a Sunday lunch.

There were 2 seating areas. And I liked how the seating areas were built around Tetsuya’s on-site garden such that everyone had access to the view of the Japanese garden. Although I also overheard 1.5 to 2 months of advanced reservation was required for a window table.

Tetsuya’s had a wine-pairing course to go with the degustation menu, but I decided to go by the glass instead. And after taking my drinks order, I commenced my 8-courses degustation lunch, AUD250 with:-

1) Oysters, AUD15 (above) – From Tasmania, served with ginger & rice wine vinaigrette.


2) Dish #1 (above) – Sashimi of Hiramasa kingfish with sesame leaf and daikon. So good!


3) Bread, Complimentary (above) – Organic sourdough and kombu scroll, served with truffle butter. And the pastry of the scroll was buttery and flaky. Almost similar to that of a croissant.


4) Dish #2 (above) – NZ scampi tails with vanilla and lemon zest. And I loved the attention to the small details. The flesh was detached from the shell till the tail for ease of consumption. And I noticed the kitchen also drizzled dressing onto the shell such that not just the top side but also the bottom/non-exposed side of the scampi flesh was seasoned. This dish made me realise this was truly fine dining at its best. Loved it!


5) Dish #3 (above) – Confit of Tasmanian ocean trout with salad of apple and witlof.

6) Deep-fried golden mushroom with roasted mushroom broth, Complimentary (above) – Got a surprise when the waiting staff came up to me and said “Chef arranged an additional dish. Our chef likes to spoil single diners if you don’t mind.” Oh my god! Was definitely not expecting that.

7) Dish #4 (above) – Patagonian toothfish with cannellini beans and TAS black truffle.

8) Dish #5 (above) – Snowy mountains squab with charred onion broth and enoki.


9) Dish #6 (above) – And because I don’t take beef, they replaced it with spatchcock. Paired with shiitake mushroom and char-grilled red cabbage.


10) Palate cleanser (above) – Yuzu, chartreuse, apple.


11) Dish #7 (above) – Chocolate stone with honey and milk. I tried different renditions of ‘pebble dessert’ at various restaurants, and this certainly impressed. I wasn’t expecting the ‘pebble’ to be so complicated! Loved it!

12) Petit fours (above)

13) Coffee, Complimentary (above) – And as always, I went with latte. Keke.

I left Tetusya’s very happy and I highly recommend one to check them out in Sydney. Food was great, but the service was better! When I was looking at the drinks menu before my meal started, I had shortlisted 2 whites that I wanted to try. And when I was still on my first, the sommelier came up and generously poured me a glass of rose to go with my ocean trout. And I really appreciated it because the white that I was having tasted quite weird with the trout! And when I was onto my second glass of white, I was touched when the sommelier (yes! again!) poured me a glass of shiraz (that’s specially made for Tetsuya’s) because he really wanted me to try it with my main. I mean, 1 glass on the house is already much appreciated. But 2? Wow.

Now… In my recent bid to know my wines better, these days I would request to take picture of the wine bottles. And when I was taking picture of the third wine bottle, the sommelier was holding it in his hands. Though that’s actually because I had too many glasses on my table and there was no space for him to place the bottle beside the (original) glass. As I was taking the picture, he asked “do you want it on the table?” How cute! And I really appreciated it because that simple gesture was an example of how Tetsuya’s waiting staff understands and tries to anticipate the different requirements of their customers.

If it wasn’t for my secondment, I would have missed out on a great meal because I didn’t visit Tetsuya’s when I was holidaying in Sydney back in 2017. But I didn’t then because I wanted to dine at restaurants which served Australian cuisine. But Tetsuya’s is definitely worth visiting for its Japanese-French cuisine. To be exact… As taken from their website, Tetsuya’s degustation is based on the Japanese philosophy of using natural seasonal flavours, enhanced by classic French technique and utilising the freshest possible ingredients.

Would I recommend Tetsuya’s. A big yes. I am definitely making a return trip.

TETSUYA’S
529 Kent Street, Sydney, Australia
+61 2 9267 2900, Website
Overall: 9
Opening hours:-
Food/Beverage: 9
Sat : 12:00 – 15:00 (Lunch)
Ambience: 9
Tues – Fri : 17:30 – 21:00 (Dinner)
Value: 8
Sat : 18:30 – 21:00 (Dinner)
Service: 10
 
* Closed on Mon & Sun

Lunch @ Tempura Kondo てんぷら 近藤 (Tokyo, Japan)

June 28, 2020 in Japanese by thywhaleliciousfay

When I did my first (ever) research for tempura restaurants in Tokyo, Michelin-starred Tempura Kondo was one of the few names that came up top in my Google search. But… It took me almost 4 years to eventually dine here. My bad. And for my restaurant reservation, my hotel concierge assisted me with it. I was given the second seating at 1.30pm, and was also informed that Tempura Kondo provided 2 menus (¥6500 and ¥8500) which I was to choose at the restaurant.

And on the day of my lunch, I was really nervous as I made my way to the restaurant. I didn’t realise there were 2 counters at Tempura Kondo, and was praying hard I would be assigned to chef-owner Kondo Fumio’s.

Located on level 9, I stepped out of the lift at 1.25pm to see a group of people had already gathered outside the restaurant. But because we belonged to the second seating, we had to wait for the first seating to finish their meals before we could be seated. As we waited patiently, a staff would regularly step out to check who (else) had arrived. Although I guess if one was anxious, one could also head into the restaurant to inform the staff of one’s arrival. I ain’t sure if seating arrangement was first-come-first-serve, but I noticed the staff indicated a ’5′ beside my name on her reservation list.

Words couldn’t express my relief and excitement when I was led to the main counter. The pair who entered before me was somehow led to the other counter which was located at the back.

And for our bags, there were baskets placed beneath every chair. However, I had trouble putting mine. I was lazy and was trying to place my handbag into the basket by bending over while seated. Haha. I was so focused that I didn’t realise head chef Fumio san noticed my struggle. He got his waiting staff to help me, and only resumed what he was doing after making sure I had settled down comfortably. How did I know? After the staff helped me out, I looked back to the front and locked eyes with head chef Fumio san. He gave me a gentle smile, and that’s when I realised. And honestly… That gesture touched me a lot.

And from the menu (pages 1, 2), I ordered:-

1) Tsubaki course (¥‎8500) comprised of:-

(A) Tempura #1 (above) – Prawn heads.


(B) Tempura #2 (above) – Prawn. Ever since I was taught a perfectly fried prawn tempura is one with a slightly raw centre, I since developed a habit to bite into my prawn tempura and check the centre. Keke. And yes! Perfectly fried prawn tempura by head chef Fumion san. :)


(C) Tempura #3 (above) – Prawn.

(D) Tempura #4 (above) – Asparagus. These didn’t look like it but they were so hot within!

(E) Tempura #5 (above) – Lotus root.

(F) Tempura #6 (above) – Japanese whiting/sillago (kisu) fish.

(G) Tempura #7 (above) – Eggplant.

(H) Tempura #8 (above) – Ice fish wrapped with shisho leaf. This was really interesting. Although it was made with many (fishes), the texture was like that of a thick fish fillet.


(I) Tempura #9 (above) – Sea urchin. And it’s becoming a habit that I would pay extra attention to the preparation of sea urchin tempura. And I noticed head chef Fumio san would ensemble his and dip it entirely into the wet batter before frying.

(J) Tempura #10 (above) – Lily bulb.

(K) Dish #11 (above) – Onion.


(L) Tempura #12 (above) – Sea eel (anago).

  
  

(M) Rice dish (above) – We were given 3 options to choose from; Tendon-sauce dipped, tencha or scallop-prawn tempura served separately from the rice. And I went with tencha.

(N) Roasted tea (above)

(O) Dessert (above) – Strawberry.

2) Sweet potato, ¥2400 (above) – When the staff went round taking our order at the start of our meal, it was specifically mentioned that the course menu do not include sweet potato. And the sweet potato was an item which many highly recommended. So I ordered it as an additional a-la carte item. And I must say, I wasn’t expecting it to be so big! As I was trying to finish it, the waiting staff came up to me and said I could pack the untouched half. Thank goodness! But to be honest… I didn’t really enjoy my sweet potato. It was a little dry in the centre.

3) Oolong tea, ¥400

I was thankful to sit at the length of the L-shaped counter where head chef Fumio san faced. I always appreciate being able to watch chefs in action. And although he had 2 sous chefs, I noticed head chef Fumio san preferred to do almost everything. He would personally fry all the pieces as his sous chefs prepared the various ingredients. And when he was done with the frying, he would put the cooked ingredients onto a common metal tray where his sous chefs would then take over and distribute the various tempura pieces to us. I guess that’s head chef Fumio san’s way of managing the quality of food at Tempura Kondo. Everything at the frying section was personally handled by him. Although he was visibly aged and with a hunchback, the arduous task of changing the oil was also done by him. The only time the sous chef came near to his frying station was to help him top up the dry flour in the bowl.

My lunch came up to ¥12,204 (including tax and service charge). And I liked that it was a very straight-forward dining affair. Head chef Fumio san was very focused with his cooking. The only times he interacted with customers (including his regulars) were before he started cooking and after he finished cooking. I guess it’s also because of that, that Tempura Kondo don’t receive much attention on social media. But head chef Fumio san definitely left an impression on me. I could feel his sincerity through his food, and from our brief interactions; Ready to leave, I bent down to pull my handbag from beneath my chair. And when I looked up, he had positioned himself in front of me behind his counter. He smiled and bowed to me. I bowed and smiled back, and thanked him for the enjoyable lunch.

Will I recommend Tempura Kondo? Yes. But again, one should manage one’s expectation. If one’s after an interactive experience with the chef or to be swept off by fancier food presentation, Tempura Kondo isn’t a place for that. And having said that, one should also order the carrot tempura as an additional item! Head chef Fumio san does his differently where the carrot were shredded before deep fried. And it looked so delicious!

TEMPURA KONDO てんぷら 近藤
9F, Sakaguchi Building, 5-5-13 Ginza, Chuo, Tokyo, Japan (東京都 中央区 銀座 5-5-13 坂口ビル 9F)
+81 3 5568 0923, Tablelog
Overall: 8
Opening hours:-
Food/Beverage: 8
Mon – Sat : 12:00 – 15:00 (Lunch)
Ambience: 7
Mon – Sat : 17:00 – 20:30 (Dinner)
Value: 8
Service: 8
* Closed on Sun

Dinner @ Torioka 鳥おか (Tokyo, Japan)

June 23, 2020 in Japanese by thywhaleliciousfay

I got to know about Torioka through a friend. “Sister branch of Torishiki,” he texted. And that message got me so excited! You see… Ever since I began my annual trips to Japan in 2016, I always tried to make reservation at 1 Michelin star Torishiki. But of course, I haven’t been lucky yet. I reckon I need a miracle to get through Torishiki’s busy phone line. But I digress…

So when my friend told me chef-owner Yoshiteru Ikegawa of Torishiki had opened an offshoot in September 2018, I knew I had to make my reservation because Torioka could be the closest I ever get to Torishiki. And honestly, the timing couldn’t have been more perfect too. Just in time for my 2019 trip to Japan! I also liked that chef Ikegawa san appointed Noriyuki Kurosaki, his long time assistant at Torishiki, to be in charge of Torioka. It meant I was definitely in good hands!

And surprisingly, reservation at Torioka turned out to be more straight forward than I thought. One didn’t even need to call. Everything could be done with a few clicks on the reservation website. So different from Torishiki’s reservation system!

My dinner booking was at 8.45pm. But what I didn’t know was that the restaurant was located inside the mixed-use development Roppongi Hills. And Roppongi Hills was huge! I reached the compound at 8.35pm and ended up being late for my dinner because I had much difficulty locating the shop. And it was uncomfortable stepping through the entrance and directly into the main space because everyone turned to stare at me.

A U-shaped counter took the main stage of the space. And hidden out of sight by the black noren (Japanese fabric divider) was the kitchen. Upon seated, I was given the drinks menu. And after placing my order for beer, I commenced my omakase dinner with:-

1) 11 skewers course (¥7300) comprised of:

(A) Assorted pickles (above)

(B) Skewer #1 (above) – Chicken thigh.

(C) Skewer #2 (above) – Chicken gizzard.


(D) Skewer #3 (above) – Chicken skin.

(E) Skewer #4 (above) – Mushroom.

(F) Skewer #5 (above) – Quail egg.

(G) Skewer #6 (above) – Tofu.

(H) Skewer #7 (above) – Liver. Didn’t quite enjoy this though. It was too thick and soft. But not to be confused as raw.

(I) Skewer #8 (above) – Gingko nut.

(J) Skewer #9 (above) – Chicken heart.


(K) Rice (above)

(L) Skewer #10 (above) – Head chef Kurosaki san tried to explain what the skewer was (in Japanese), but I unfortunately couldn’t understand him. But it tasted a lot like skin to me. On the fattier side though.

(M) Skewer #11 (above) – Meat ball.

(N) Chicken soup (above)

(O) Roasted tea (above)

2) Beer

When I was onto my meat ball skewer, I realised it was the last of my 11-skewers course. It then dawned on me that I wasn’t getting any chicken wing. Sad. And because I arrived to the restaurant when everyone (who had reached earlier than me) was already in the midst of their dinner, I rationalised head chef Kurosaki san must have run out of chicken wings.

And when head chef Kurosaki san doused the ember charcoal of his grill (which was also the main grill), I wondered why the others were still grilling at the secondary grill. Especially since I was served the last skewer for the night. I watched on curiously and got to witness a beautiful scene…

  

Chef Yoshiteru Maekawa, another of chef Ikegawa san’s trusted assistant, was also stationed at Torioka. He’s helping out at Torioka before he leaves for Torshiki’s overseas branch in New York in June 2020. And it was very heartwarming as I witnessed him patiently training the assistant. Chef Mawkawa san never left sight of his assistant even when he stepped aside to give the assistant his space to grill on his own. Loved it!

My meal came up to ¥9590 (including tax and service charge). Will I recommend Torioki? A definite yes from me. Not just because I was touched by what I saw, but also because food was good! Every skewer was beautifully grilled.

I would also recommend one to dress up a little. The customers on a Sunday night were mainly young adults who looked pretty well-to-do. I was put to shame sitting alongside dolled-up female customers who had really thick lashes. I only had concealer to cover my eye bags. Oops!

Torioka 鳥おか
5F, Roppongi Hills West Walk, 6-10-1 Roppongi, Minato City, Tokyo, Japan (東京都 港区 六本木 6-10-1 六本木ヒルズ ウエストウォーク 5F)
+81 3 6447 2933, Tablelog
Overall: 8
Opening hours:-
Food/Beverage: 8
Mon – Sun : 16:00 – 22:00
Ambience: 8
Value: 8
Service: 7