Lunch @ Tetsuya’s (Sydney, Australia)

July 7, 2020 in French, French Japanese 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 yes! Tetsuya’s is 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. In fact, I am thinking Tetsuya’s should be given 3 hats by Good Food Guide (2020) instead of 2 hats.

TETSUYA’S
529 Kent Street, Sydney, NSW, 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 @ Ode オード (Tokyo, Japan)

May 31, 2020 in French by thywhaleliciousfay

Ask me what I remember of my meal at Ode and my first answer would be… The good looking staff! Like seriously, there was so much handsome-ness in the space. So much that I couldn’t resist locating the instagram account of the cutest staff sous chef. And yes, I followed him. Sheepish grin. Don’t judge me, please. :)

Opened in September 2017, Ode was a 10 minutes walk from Hiro-o metro station. And spring is always a beautiful time to be in Japan. If one walked further along the street, one could enjoy the sight of many cherry blossom trees lining both sides of the highway.

It was not hard to notice everything was in shades of grey. From the grey skim-coated external wall and door, to the dark grey painted interior walls, and even to the (grey) stainless steel island counter within the U-shaped counter. Although the (harsh) all-grey interior was softened with bits of wood; Timber feature ceiling and wooden chairs. I wondered if chef-owner Yusuke Namai has an obsession with grey. Even his signature dish was named ‘Grey’. Hmm…

Although we were seated at the U-shaped counter, most of the actions including plating were behind the kitchen walls.

After I was led to my seat, the staff confirmed with me the menu that I had booked when I made my reservation before continuing to take out an iPad. There were many words on it. But the word ‘degustation’ jumped out at me. And that got me momentarily confused because I thought they reconfirmed my choice of menu just seconds earlier. It was only as she scrolled through the document that I figured it was the drinks menu. And yet again, another word jumped out at me. And it was the word ‘tea’. So I said “tea” to the staff. But what happened next was a blur. My intention of wanting to order a cup of tea suddenly became an order for their non-alcohol (tea) pairing.

And just when I thought lunch would be commencing after settling my drinks order, I noticed head chef Namai san was making his round to greet the different groups of customers. A very nice personal touch! Shortly after which, I commenced my lunch omakase (carte blanche menu, ¥7000) with:-

1) Dish #1 (above) – Hot milk with Taiwanese spices.

2) Dish #2 (above) – The staff came up with a big bowl of dry ice. On it was a brass coloured ball. The staff proceeded to transfer the ball to my plate and asked me to open it up. And within it was the famous ‘power ball’ which many had taken photograph and posted on instagram. Inspired by head chef Namai san favourite Japanese anime Dragon Ball, I was told the ball contained shrimp flavoured mousse within.

3) Dish #3 (above) – Foie gras and sweet potato tart. And as I chewed through, there were also chunky pieces of nuts which tasted like pistachio.

4) Dish #4 (above) – Cherry blossom leaf and clam (hamaguri) in clam broth. I was told to eat the leaf first for the flavour before proceeding to the broth. And the leaf which got me really curious was crisp like a chip. Pretty neat!


5) Dish #5 (above) – “Grey, our signature dish”, said the staff. And he went on to emphasise by pointing to the grey painted wall (just beside us), to his grey apron and to the dominant grey interior. We laughed. And hidden out of sight beneath the meringue (made with fish innards) was sardine, beetroot, fennel, pickled onion, lemon purée and cherry vinegar. I heard beef tartare when the staff introduced the dish to my neighbour, so I guess the kitchen must had removed that to cater to my dietary requirement (of no beef).


6) Dish #6 (above) – Freshly baked focaccia, brought out by none other than the cutest staff! It seemed he’s in charge of the baking and sweets department. And when he came round to ask if I wanted seconds, I nodded with a big grin. Haha. But no, really… I couldn’t resist good bread.


  

7) Dish #7 (above) – Risotto with white mushroom, Japanese spinach and kelp powder. I was told the mushrooms were cooked 2 ways for varying textures. Although I wasn’t sure why the risotto was so orange. Didn’t hear any particular ingredient in the dish introduction which could explained so. Strong cheese?

8) Dish #8 (above) – Snapper with mountain herbs, bamboo shoot (including the foam) and firefly squids.


  

9) Dish #9 (above) – Chicken wellington with chicken sauce, cauliflower mousse and foam, and vegetables (cabbage and beans) on mashed potato.


10) Dish #10 (above) – Chrysanthemum (which texture was similar to marshmallow), strawberry and pistachio bits, served alongside chrysanthemum ice cream. And this was seriously good. I was literally scraping my plate clean in an attempt to get everything.


  

11) Dish #11 (above) – Sakura biscuit and wafer biscuit (monaka) with filling of yuzu, green tea and rice cake.

As with most Japanese meals that come to an end, it’s (almost) customary to offer tea. But because I was doing the non-alcohol pairing which was basically different types of tea, I had the “What. More tea?” moment. Haha. But between the 2 options of roasted black tea and local bean tea, I went for the latter. Right choice if I may add. It was really fragrant.

With my non-alcohol pairing, my bill came up to ¥13,068 (including tax and service charge). Would I recommend 1 Michelin star Ode? Yes! I certainly enjoyed myself. And for ¥7000? The meal was very value-for-money. Skip the pairing though. One could tell I wasn’t really into it with the lack of pictures. My personal preference if I may add. Hee. It’s a plus too that reservation could be done easily on Ode’s website. But hey, don’t go dressed in grey. You, may, just, blend, in. Okie, lousy attempt at trying to be funny. Ha!

ODE オード
2F, 5-1-32 Hiroo, Shibuya, Tokyo, Japan (東京都 渋谷区 広尾 5-1-32 ST広尾 2F)
+81 3 6447 7480, Website, Tablelog
Overall: 8
Opening hours:-
Food/Beverage: 8
Mon – Sat : 12:00 – 15:00 (Lunch)
Ambience: 8
Mon – Sat : 18:00 – 23:00 (Dinner)
Value: 8
Service: 8
* Closed on Sun

Dinner @ Courgette (Canberra, Australia)

January 2, 2020 in European, French by thywhaleliciousfay

Because I was spending 4 days in Canberra, I made a pact to myself to try at least 2 fine dining restaurants. Keke. So beside Aubergine which was an obvious choice as it’s the highest rated restaurant in ACT (Australian Capital Territory) by Good Food Guide 2019 with 2 hats, I decided on Courgette which was awarded 1 hat.

Now… I originally made reservation for lunch via Courgette’s website. However, when I was in Canberra, I called the restaurant to ask if I could change my lunch reservation to dinner; I was visiting galleries the day I meant to have lunch at Courgette, and it didn’t make sense to cross the bridge to go to the restaurant and cross the bridge again to resume my gallery-hopping. My bad. When I did my itinerary planning on Google map, I didn’t expect Canberra to be so big. And thankfully they could slot me in at 8.30pm.

On the day of my dinner, I decided to reach much earlier than my 8.30pm reservation time. I honestly thought I could be seated earlier by reaching earlier. And thus starting dinner earlier for me to return to hotel earlier (Haha. The number of ‘earlier’ I used). However, I soon realised it was a bad decision.

Entering through the entrance at 8.10pm, I immediately noticed the staff was bustling around. Even though they saw me, no one came forth to the receptionist desk to acknowledge my presence. And soon, more customers streamed in at 8.15pm. It was apparent the staff were struggling with crowd management. But thankfully chef-owner James Mussillon stepped in to manage the mess.

There’s 3 dining areas. The main dining area had a view of the internal garden through the full-height glazing. Unfortunately for me, I was seated in another area and right at the corner. So it could be because I was out of the waiting staff’s line of vision or they were seriously too busy understaffed that I only had my order taken 20 minutes after seated. For dinner, Courgette offered a 4-courses meal (AUD88). And from the menu (pages 1, 2), I ordered:-

  

1) Bread, Complimentary (above)

2) Welcome soup, Complimentary (above) – The waiting staff didn’t elaborate the flavour, but I guessed it’s probably celeriac.

3) Dish #1 with options of:-

(A) Hawkesbury River stuffed baby squid, blue eye cod, Eden Bay mussels, chorizo, charred red pepper (above)

(B) Beer battered courgette blossom filled with lightly, smoked buffalo mozzarella, basil & olive pesto, carrot gel (above) – I was surprised to see head chef James serving the dish personally. And after introducing the dish, he apologised for the slow service as it’s a busy night with many big groups. I softened. Ha!>

4) Dish #2 (above) – Seared clearwater scallops, free range confit chicken wings, cauliflower puree, star anise & Szechuan pepper gastrique.

5) Dish #3 with options of:-


(A) Spinach & ricotta tortellini, pumpkin, baked eggplant, haloumi, mixed seeds, sage beurre noisette (above) – I didn’t like this. The pasta skin was too thick.

(B) Market fish of the day, smoked salmon custard, herbed potato hash, seaweed salad, avruga caviar sauce (above)

6) Dish #4 with options of:-


(A) Caramelised honey crisp apple and cinnamon, flaky pastry, milk sorbet, freeze fried maple (above) – Similar to the pasta, I found parts of the pie pastry too thick. Especially the perimeter. It even tasted a little… Doughy? But the apple puree served alongside with the pie was really good.

(B) Brillat-Savarin, red wine poached pear, granola cookie, quince, lavosh (above)

7) Petit fours (above)

I wasn’t too impressed with my meal at Courgette mainly because of the service. But! When I was onto my last dish, head chef James came over. He was surprised at how much I could fit into my stomach. HAHA! So the thing was… I ordered extras. A supposedly 4-courses dinner became a 7-courses meal. Keke. And through my conversation with him, I learnt that they were short handed because a number of his staff pulled out at the very last minute. At 5.30pm! It was the Labour Day long weekend that I was in Canberra too. So that explained the bad service. He went on to say he could have done something if his staff gave him enough notice. In fact, I noticed head chef James was busy shuttling between the kitchen and dining area. And I really give him credit for it. He’s a good multi-tasker.

So ignoring the poor service standard (which shouldn’t happen normally), I would say Courgette is ideal for a fancy dining experience. And because my 3 additional dishes coincidentally happened to be 1 appetiser, 1 main and 1 dessert, I was told I was charged AUD154 which was the price for a 4-courses dinner & a 3-courses lunch.

COURGETTE
54 Marcus Clarke Street, Canberra, ACT, Australia
+61 2 6247 4042, Website
Overall: 7.5
Opening hours:-
Food/Beverage: 7
Mon – Sat : 12:00 – 15:00 (Lunch)
Ambience: 7
Mon – Sat : 18:00 – 23:00 (Dinner)
Value: 7
Service: 6
* Closed on Sun