Monday, December 20, 2010

Perfect evening out

It's been a while since I've posted, not for any particular reason, just getting caught up in the rush that is pre-Christmas shopping and socialising. But I had to find time to post about dinner on Ben’s birthday. It was his 30th last Friday. 

After banana and orange hotcakes for breakfast and present opening, we drove to Sydney and met up with Taylor (Ben's sister) and Dave (her fiancĂ©e) who live in Canada. The Sydney trip has been planned for a while. I'd booked tickets to see the Australian Ballet perform the Nutcracker early in the year but meeting Taylor and Dave was a pleasantly unexpected late edition, as was getting a table at Tetsuya’s. I tried to book for the 4 of us about 8 weeks earlier, with no success; but about a week ago, got a call offering us a table.

For those of you outside the southern hemisphere, Tetsuya’s is one of the most famous and arguably the best restaurant in Australia. They serve a 9-10 course degustation set menu, which I had thought would be a problem being on SCD, but the chef's were wonderfully accommodating. I'd expected never to eat dessert at a restaurant again, but I got to eat all three courses of dessert! Yum!

The food was amazing. I wish we'd had a camera to take photos of every dish. The presentation in itself was very special too, so I'm a bit sad not to have captured it more exactly than with my imperfect memory. Also, it got a little blurry in the middle and I can't exactly remember what I ate. I'm blaming it on the many dishes and the long day, but the wines may have had a little something to do with it! Fortunately Ben and I decided to share the set wines - because neither of us would have been able to walk if we'd had one each.

The first course was a chilled cucumber soup, bright green and served in a martini glass. It was slightly vinegary and served with 6 individual drops of unidentified oil (it tasted slightly nutty, possibly walnut) on top. The others had a small dollop of sheep's milk ice cream on top.

Next, everyone other than me had kingfish sashimi with soy sauce, and a glass of chilled sake. It was served on a very rustic looking glazed stoneware plate. I had a cherry tomato salad, with the earliest tomatoes from Tetsuya’s garden. It was swimming in a delightfully fresh salad dressing, garnished with pretty little flowers, including a cucumber from the garden.

The last entree was the most intriguing of the evening. Taylor and I were served a 'carpaccio' but told that it was not meat. It was garnished with some small green leaves and lots of little flowers, and we were told we had to guess what it was. It was reddish pink, rather chewy and slightly difficult to cut through. It also had a bit of crunch to it, like apple sliced very thinly. We sat and ate it thoughtfully in tiny little bites, and jealously shared a small amount each with Ben and Dave (they were eating scampi tails in an avocado soup topped with caviar). We ended up guessing tomato or capsicum with much trepidation; I didn't really think it was either, but could think of anything else it might be either. The waiter gave us a hint that it was a fruit, and which point Dave came out with ‘watermelon’, which turned out to be correct. It is skinned; frozen; shaved; smoked; and dehydrated. I wished that I had a bite left to be able to taste it again knowing what it was, but it was not to be. Maybe next time…my 30th in a bit over a year... (hint hint)

I lost track of the wines well before I lost track of the food, but I recall drinking something cold and white and fruity with this.

I recall that there were two more fish dishes to start the mains, though I’m not sure of the order in which they arrived. We all had something with a crisply fried skin, served with a little blob of something like homemade mayonnaise, which was just lovely. I had a piece of yellowtail kingfish, much softer and more delicate, while the others ate Tetsuya’s signature dish: confit of ocean trout.

Next was a slice of lightly cooked duck with a baby leek curled in the bottom of the bowl, which was served with a glass of Pinot Noir (of course).

The mains came to an end with a nice strong glass of Shiraz with crispy pigs tail, something lobster-like the name of which I didn't catch, and prosciutto. It was pleasingly salty, which matched the rich Shiraz quite nicely.

Dessert started with a pallet-cleansing blood orange and black pepper sorbet for the others and stevia granita for me, served in a double shot glass. It was served with a stevia leaf, of which we all ate a piece: very sweet and slightly herby tasting. It also came with various different berry concoctions. Mine was berries with raspberry puree, I think the others had jelly and/or ice cream with theirs (by this time the wine was really kicking in, and I have no idea what they had next). We had two different dessert wines, which I smelled at greedily, and allowed a little drop to touch my lips.

The second dessert course (multiple dessert courses is just a wonderful idea) was yellow peaches, with zabaglione and ameretti. The combination was lovely, the peaches were a little tart and slightly crisp, the zabaglione was sweet and the ameretti was pleasantly crunchy.

And finally, I had an almond pudding, extruded into a long thin oblong swirled across my plate, with fresh figs and honey meringue, which seemed to have been blow torched into a sweet crispness on top. Ben was brought out something quite chocolaty-looking, with a little candle on top, which was a lovely touch. With this, we all had decaf short blacks, served in cute little glazed terracotta cups, deliciously fragrant and perfect with the sweet meringue.

We wandered back to the hotel, pleasantly full and just a little drunk, bringing Ben’s 30th birthday to a perfect close.