What better way to celebrate a significant birthday than visiting the big smoke to enjoy a meal with friends at one of the most highly regarded restuarants in the country, Tetsuya’s.
We were staying in China Town so we were right in the thick of that fantastic food culture. We had lunch at East Ocean, which I did not enjoy as much as my previous visit. Not only have they removed the yum cha trolleys (which left us somewhat confused as to how to place our order – we had no idea until we saw some other diners ordering) but I felt the food was not as good as I had experienced previously. Perhaps with only a photo menu it was just more difficult to decide what looked most tempting. Anyway there were some dishes we really enjoyed such as the Baby Snow Pea and Seafood dumplings and the Egg Tarts which, as always, were very yummy.
Thankfully balance was restored through a visit to the nearby Chinese Garden of Friendship. The garden was built to celebrate the Australian Bicentennary (1988) and it has matured into a lovely space. What is most intriguing about this garden is the way it plays with space. At about one hectare in size it isn’t huge. The views across the lake and the use of vertical height inside the garden remove you from immediate awareness of the surrounding busy city precinct and expand the sense of it being a much larger area.
Once inside the gates you immediately notice the beautiful detail Chinese gardens are noted for, patterned pebble paving
and small ‘windows to capture the detail of individual plants.
From the highest point of the garden a waterfall feeds the lake. It flows from a small pool which flowering waterplants, which look remarkably like Lily of the valley, are growing.
As we wandered around, dodging the various wedding parties and their accompanying possees of photographers you could also see members of the Chinese nobility (oh well, people who’ve hired the costumes anyway).
The local birds were clearly enjoying the garden and there were even some ibis that had nested and were raising their young within the precinct.
After strolling around the garden we were ready to return and ‘frock-up’ for the big event.
Tetsuya’s is well known as one of the country’s finest restaurant and it certainly is just the ticket for a special meal. What is different is that the meal is in the degustation format, a series of small portions of exquisite food and, if you choose, a drink package to accompany the courses. The food went like this:
CHILLED CUCUMBER SOUP WITH SHEEP YOGHURT ICE CREAMPACIFIC OYSTERS WITH RICE VINEGAR & GINGER SASHIMI OF YELLOW FIN TUNA WITH SHISHITO & GARLIC CHIPS MARINATED NZ SCAMPI WITH CURD &JUNSAI CONFIT PETUNA OCEAN TROUT WITH KONBU, CELERY &ApPLE STEAMED MULLOWAY WITH BLACKBEAN & BACON BRAISED OX TAIL WITH SEA CUCUMBER & LOTUS ROOT ROASTED BREAST OF QUAIL WITH PINE MUSHROOMS & LARDO DE-BONED RACK OF LAMB WITH EGGPLANT & WHITE MlSO GOAT’S MILK ICE CREAM WITH SORREL GRANITA &TARTE TATIN GENOA FIGS WITH LEATHERWOOD HONEY &FIG LEAF ICE CREAM CHOCOLATE PAVE WITH CREAM CHEESE ICE CREAM &CINNAMON TWIGS CHAI MOCHI
and don’t forget the bespoke tiny – I’m talking about 8 cms in diameter – chocolate fondant birthday cake that completely finished us off.
As we were intent on enjoying our celebration I actually refrained from taking photos so if you would like to see something similar to what we ate you can visit Eat,Drink,Write, (Bianca ate at Tetsuya’s about 10 days before we did).
I particularly liked the starter of chilled cucumber soup with sheep yoghurt icecream (think savoury, not sweet). The colour and flavour of the cucumber soup was intense and was highlighted by the tiniest cubes of diced apple and similar sized dices of jelly (no idea what it was made of). I couldn’t decide as to which two mains was my favourite, the braised ox tail with sea cucumber and lotus root or the roasted brest of quail with pine mushrooms and lardo. As you can see from the menu we ate or way through 12 courses – I’m afraid the Chai mochi, served with our coffee were a bridge too far so we took those home in a doggy bag instead!
As ever with a restaurant of such exacting standards the quality of the service forms an important component of the experience. The staff were attentive and knowledgeable, but what blew me away was the maitre d’ asking whether he was correct in recognising us from a previous visit, er yes … six years ago! (and I thought only the headmistress of my high school had that level of facial recognition skill!)
We were pleased that our hotel was within walking distance as we definitely needed some gentle exercise to settle everything back down before heading off to bed.