On Tuesday night, I dined at the lair of a great.
HP launched a bunch of new products tonight and some of the lucky press got to see just a taste of what it's like to eat at what's considered the fifth best restaurant in the world. The world, people!
And the best in Australia!
I don't know what "Three Chef's Hats" means but I'm guessing it's something bloody impressive if it's the top honour from the Sydney Morning Herald.
The menu was preset and at a price of $195 per person with $90 for the wine set with it, HP sure didn't go cheap on us.
Want to know how it fared in the minds of a cynical writer who swears that some of his food is out to kill him (that would be me)?
UPDATED!!! (I've now got some videos to show the texture… why, it's almost like being there!… except not)
What do you do when you've taken a bite of your first course and you realise that any of the words you might choose to describe what you're enjoying just won't do the meal justice?
You bring a camera!
Unfortunately, I decided early on before going that me sitting there amongst everyone and whipping out the D70 for a shot every time just wouldn't be all that polite. So I opted for the Sanyo I'm currently reviewing instead. If anything, it showed me how weak a camera it is in situations where you have to rely on available light so consider this sentence my early apology for the image quality appearing shortly.
Without wanting to get ahead of myself though, let me just say one thing:
Tetsuya's is remarkable.
And seriously, how often do you say that about a restaurant. A comment like that really only serves to prove how brilliant it is and my Trilby goes off to HP for allowing me the chance to try it. Why, the Trilby even stayed off for more of the night and didn't get to partake in the marvelous food I got to experience in. I'm unfair to my hat, I know.
So rather than keep you here for five-and-a-half hours (which is how long our meal went), let me start my little blog now (despite me having already started it several paragraphs ago). I don't think that I'm as good with words as Mr. Tetsuya is with ingredients, but I'll sure do my best.
To begin with, you might actually want to see the menu. It's got a lot on it and if you've never seen one before, you might need a GPS to tell you what you're having. Luckily, they have waiters to tell you as it comes by which is most helpful.
I feel however that I need to write down what the food was like. While I'm not sure I remember exactly, seeing the images (as bad as they are) jogs my mind a fair bit and while remembering food might not be too easy, this evening and it's food will probably be impossible to forget. Not that I'd want to forget either.
1. Pea Soup with Bitter Chocolate Sorbet
Cold pea soup isn't something I'd normally like the sound of. And mixing it with a bitter chocolate sorbet doesn't seem like it'd be all that good. But the flavours smack you in the side of the head. The sweeness of the pea and the bitter dark chocolate which while I find hard to qualify as a sorbet, still find strangely alluring. The ingredients feel like polar opposites and yet seem to apply themselves to the rule that opposites attract.
An amazing way to start a dinner.
2. Smoked Ocean Trout & Avruga Caviar
I never considered caviar as something I'd like. I do like egg roe in Japanese food, but usually only of the tiny orange variety. This was what I think a sort of compressed piece of ocean trout served cold with a thin layer of caviar on top. I don't know what the white bit on top was, but it felt like a jelly like substance. Regardless, it was excellent. A smattering of fishy flavours and unique textures. I might like this caviar stuff a bit more.
3. Leek & Crab Custard
This one caught me off guard. As they placed the plates with wooden mats and small spoons on our places in front of us, I wasn't really sure what to expect. At one point, I think I even considered eating the wooden mat thinking it would be some sort of a wafer. Before I got the chance to test my theory, they put down the little dish-bowl-thingy instead and we were treated to the Leek & Crab Custard. It's a pudding like dish (considering the custard) with what I'm guessing to be some sort of soy sauce on top that just helps to cement the strong flavours of this dish.
I'm really not sure if I'm qualified to write even the slightest bit of commentary on food this good. It's like the Holy Grail of food. I'm honoured just to be in its presence. In case you were curious, I thought this dish was excellent.
4. Scallop Carpaccio with Red Wine Vinaigrette
This was tasty, but I wasn't sure about it. It was sort of like a layered scallop dish and it's one where my mind's gone fuzzy on the details on it. It was one of those areas that either I was talking to someone while I was eating it or it just wasn't as brilliant as the previous four dishes so I might not have paid too much attention. I think I liked it, but as the words start to fade from my mind — the words I need that I feel might do this experience some element or at least illusion of justice — I know I might end up just scrambling for the words to define with.
I feel I should point out that the fine team at HP Australia did an excellent job at showcasing their new wares. I'm usually especially hard on new technology — especially if it's likely to be expensive — and while some of the gear they're
launching doesn't look like something I'd want to review, the products that did get my attention look as thought a great deal of thought went into the planning and creation of them. One of them in particular looks like it would be an excellent product come Christmas time. I'm referring to the A826 which — if it's as good as what I'm guessing it will be — will probably be near the top of my suggestion box for people who have digital cameras and want a convenient and easy way of printing their pictures.
And as someone who works with a lot of photography, I can easily see people getting into this.
While the dinner was being eaten & the wine was being consumed, there was plenty of talk. From gadgets to life to travel and what-not, the talk was abundant. I was sitting next to MJ, HP's desktop guy who I actually met in my first week at CBN. Across from was Nick Ross from PC Authority and Stephen Fenech from The Daily Telegraph's tech publication Connect, as well as one of the HP big-wigs in Australia that I remember only as Christoph (although the website will probably tell me otherwise… yep, there it is… Christoph Schell). They're all great people and I look forward to seeing them again.
A few years ago, I probably wouldn't have been one of those people that was into meeting others. My my, how times change.
5. Confit of Petuna Tasmanian Ocean Trout with Konbu, Daikon & Fennel Seasonal Green Salad
What I love about some of these names is that I don't have to go about explaining them. Chefs must just have a field day by writing the titles of these meals exactly the way they are. In journalism, scripts, and story writing, we dance around the title until we have something fun and interesting. In food, the chefs just make the food fun & interesting while the names are definitive. This was what it says up there: ocean trout with konbu, daiko & fennel seasonal green salad.
And it's soooo good. I could eat that again and again. The smattering of salt and pepper on top of a raw piece of fish. I think it was raw, anyway. It was excellent. Exquisite. E-e-e… I'm out of good "e" words. Enjoyable. Highly enjoyable.
6. Ravioli of Queensland Spanner Crab with Tomato & Basil Vinaigrette
I should probably say that short of Wiki-ing it, I have no idea what a Spanner Crab is.
I suppose someone came along one day and threw a spanner at a crab. It would have likely surprised the person that the shell protected the animal from the person's stupid spanner tossing (spanner tossing championships, no doubt) and thus he named it the "Spanner Crab". I'm guessing here. Fictitious guessing.
The Spanner Crab probably used its claws on that person to inflict some damage which in turn cause the person to break the Spanner Crab over their leg. He then ate the Spanner Crab.
I'm being really fictitious here.
Look, the point I'm trying to make is that Queensland Spanner Crab tastes good when it's made into ravioli.
7. Baby Abalone with Braised Ox Tail & Orange
The abalone was done in thin pieces and I'm sorry that the picture isn't great. The camera is less-great and that's all I have. While it was still excellent, I don't think I was as impressed with this offering as I was everything else up to this point. It had the excellent coarse texture that abalone frequently has and was nice, but I don't suppose I was into this as much as I expected.
It also could be I'm beginning to lose the memory of the food. Sure, I remember the ones I loved… but the ones that just blended into everything (the very small few) I might be losing all the descriptions in my head to make room for… uughh… "work".
8. Twice Cooked De-Boned Spatchcock with Olive & Caper Jus
Much like the previous meal, I wasn't all that… into this one. Another one that I'm losing my memory to, I suspect.
I do remember not knowing what a "Spatchcock" and needing to ask but short of that, I can't remember a whole lot.
9. Grilled Wagyu Beef with Lime & Wasabi
This was another of the group that rated highly with me. Maybe it was due to my love of beef and lime or maybe it was because it was truly excellent. I've never mixed beef with lime and now I see a need to. I did try this with the wasabi and I thought it didn't need it, personally. So after trying it with the green spice (because seriously, how many chances am I going to get to try this food), I just ate it without it. I'm not much of a fan of wasabi being someone who favours what I see as more flavourful peppers… like chipolte and the like.
But this was brilliant. I'd look forward to this.
10. Comte with Lentils
While I had a menu sitting next to me, I had no idea what this was.
It's a spoon… ok yeah, aside for that. It's got lentils on it… ok, once again, understood.
So you just stick it in your mouth and– instant eyelift! Great dish though it's literally gone in the first bite which is a shame.
11. Beetroot & Blood Orange Sorbet and Strawberry Shortcake
This was an interesting one. The first of the three desserts with the mains now over, we were told by one of the waitresses
to eat the beetroot & blood orange sorbet first and as that flavour began to leave our tongues, we should take some of the strawberry shortcake (on the right), mix it around a little, and then eat that. I'm really not sure the effect they were looking for, but even for someone like myself who isn't too fond of beetroot, it was an excellent dessert. Like… truly excellent.
It only got better.
12. Vanilla Bean Ice Cream with White Beans & Dates
Upon putting a spoonful of this in my mouth, I thought I'd tasted the best bloody ice cream dish in the history of ice-cream-kind. Sure, I enjoy making ice cream… but I'm no Tetsuya. Like… wow. The white beans & dates help to bring flavours like hazelnut (I think) and sugar and it's really just a mesmorising experience.
I could eat this one again and again. Sure, I'd gain a few pounds if I had a lot of it and probably lose a fair chunk of my wallet in the process… but yeah, it'd probably be worth it.
13. Chocolate Terrine with Mascarpone & Cognac Anglaise
Ok… so you know how people can say that chocolate can be orgasmic?
While I didn't have an orgasm through this incredibly brilliant chocolate terrine, I can see how someone would. It was… soft… and luscious… and creamy… and… oh, oh… OH– I spoke too soon.
You get the point.
To be honest, I preferred the previous dessert as a favourite… but this one was to die for too.
You really can't go past Tetsuya's desserts.
"Incredible" is the word I'd use.
14. Coffee or Tea & Petit Four
I unfortunately did not manage to take a photo of the excellent cappuccino served in cool pottery cups with interesting glazes. Nor did I manage to grab a snap of each of the four kinds of Petit Four. I did manage to take a shot of some of the wine, so here's some of the wine we had as well as the wine list and my thoughts summing it all… everything… up.
NV PolRoger Brut Reserve (Epernay, France)
I didn't partake, I'm afraid.
2005 Crawford River Riesling (Henty, Victoria, Australia)
Quite nice, actually. Refreshing and easy to go down.
2005 Bindi Composition Chardonnay (Macedon Ranges, Victoria Australia)
I found it very wooden. Not my sort of drinking style. Probably too mature for me, but still quite nice.
2005 Stonier Reserve Pinot Noir (Mornington Peninsula, Victoria, Australia)
I don't usually like red's, but this was magnificent. I really need to buy some of this.
2003 Parker Estate Terra Rossa Cabernet Savignon (Coonawarra, South Australia, Australia)
I think this was too full-bodied for me. My taste buds are still forming and I found this one too rich, though I bet in a few years I'd probably love it.
2005 Wellington Iced Riesling (Coal River, Tasmania, Australia)
Being one who normally loves dessert wines and ports, I tried an ice wine about a year ago. While I find ice wines too sweet, this one wasn't as sweet as that one I'd tried. It did seem to leave a the palette not so much feeling invaded, but I found that it left an imprint more so than I would have wanted. The Wellington Iced Riesling was still very nice, but from my point of view, it was maybe too sweet.
… and that was the end of the meal.
So seriously, what do you do now after having a brilliant experience at one of the world's best restaurants?
Now I fear that I'm going to look at the rest of the food world and go "well… it's just ain't Tetsuya's".
But that's fine. I'm just glad to have had the experience.
In fact, the whole separate main course thing has made me re-evaluate how I think restaurants should serve food. McDonald's seems to indicate it's a restaurant (if you agree with their signs) so maybe they should start serving their food in courses.
"Ah, sir… here is the bun. In ten minutes time, we'll be coming out with the meat, followed by the fake lettuce, fake onions, pickle, bottom part of the bun, and topped off with a generous serving of our famous fries. I do hope you enjoy it."
Cheers HP & Burson-Marsteller for the wonderful experience. 🙂
(I might try to update this entry later on tonight with videos I got of some of the food showing texture so… look for it again tomorrow. I'll leave a note on the main page before the "continue reading" bit if I have!)