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Sydney, Today


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Going to Sydney soon for a few weeks on business (and they're trying to get me to relocate there... we'll see about that). Where should I eat besides Quay and Tetsuya's?

I wish I could have tasted it.

My dinner at Tetsuya's ten years ago, for comparison.   Caviar and snow egg sandwich; beetroot and blood orange salad; gazpacho with spiced tomato sorbet; tuna tartare with goat curd and wasabi  

I know I've mentioned this before, but back in the good old days, bars were only permitted to open for an hour or so after work. That's why so many of the old bars in The Rocks have tiled walls. Nobody had time to repair to the restroom.

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The Wikipedia article confirms the tiling (if it's on the internet it must be true). Truly idiotic laws. Did they really not forsee that people would rush to the bars and get slammed?

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Well, I was thinking of the urinal aspect. Sawdust too, I assume, back in the day.

 

Easy to mock, but of course growing up in the UK we had only a slightly moderated version of this. Licensing hours originally introduced during World War I persisted until the 1980s, with bars closing between lunch and evening hours. I don't know the current state of play, but I assume that even now most bars close at 10.30pm.

 

The effect, of course, is to have people ordering drinks frantically in the last few minutes and downing them as fast as possible.

 

You also have everyone leaving bars at the same time, with the predictable problems that causes.

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After being seated I experienced a new type of upsell I hadn't seen before - a guy rolled a cart of champagne on ice up to my table (dom and veuve cliquot) and asked if I'd like to start with a glass. I declined. (He didn't quote the price of course, but on the wine list the prices were $55 and $40 a glass, respectively.)

Possibly before your time, but Alain Ducasse Essex House did that. At least, they did when I was there not long after they opened.

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Interesting. I forgot to discuss the cocktail list at est. Good list (better than Quay), but not necessarily well-made drinks. I ordered a Woodford Reserve old fashioned. It came out looking red (too much bitters), and tasted medicinal.

 

Their menu also said in big, bold letters "Service Not Included" - first time I'd seen that in Sydney, and a pretty flagrant lie.

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My last big meal was at Tetusya's. This place was not easy to find. It's located on a desolate block of Kent Street. The block is mostly dark and filled with parking garages - I walked past the location a few times until I realized it was set back from the street - behind a gated driveway! Once I walked through the (luckily open) gate and down the driveway, I was greeted by the host and seated in a dining room (they have a couple) overlooking the garden. It's a quiet and serene space - almost feels like dining in someone's house. Service is tops in Sydney - and like est., the menu promotes the untruth that service is not included.

 

The meal consists of a nine course tasting menu, of which the only choice is whether or not to add an oyster course for $9, which it would be silly to decline. The beverage list was more wine-focused than you'd expect - plenty of old world bottles, some first-growth, and also surprisingly shitty for sake, with one mediocre by-the-glass sake option and only a handful of bottles. Bread and water were gratis! And these consisted of a slice of whole wheat and bauguette with a terrific whipped black truffle and parmesan butter.

 

The Tasmanian oysters with ginger and rice wine minionette were the finest oysters I've had on this trip - but still quite awful compared to what's available on the east coast of the US. This was followed by an excellent chawanmushi with caviar - supremely light and delicate, one of the best examples that I've tasted. Slices of very lightly seared bigeye tuna were quite nice, as was a scampi tartare with walnut oil and an impossibly silky egg yolk.

 

At this point the manager offered me a tour of the kitchen. Tetsuya himself was nowhere in sight. The kitchen is a machine. Tickets move through in assembly-line fashion, and along each station the cooks focus on plating the same exact course all night for like 100+ people.

 

The next course was Tetsuya's signature dish - confit of ocean trout with apple salad and trout roe. Predictably, it was awesome. The trout was crusted with an amazing spice mixture - which from reading his cookbook (they dropped one on the table for me) I gathered contained coriander, basil, thyme, and a few other things. I heard the guy at the next table decline this course because he didn't like ocean trout - he's out of his mind.

 

The next two courses were unusual in that they mixed seafood and meat - moreton bay bug with briased oxtail and tea-smoked quail breast with squid and parsnip. Both were good, although I don't think I would say they were better than the sum of their parts.

 

The final savory course was a braised beef short rib with eggplant puree and truffle - basically an umami bomb.

 

This was followed by two desserts - a sauternes custard with mixed berries and apple granita which, unlike the apple granita at Quay, actually tasted of apple. Finally, Tetsuya's chocolate cake, an excellent layered chocolate mousse cake with macadamia nuts and covered with ganache and a tiny fleck of gold leaf.

 

A pretty excellent meal that would rank very highly even in NYC. If I could do only one blowout meal in Sydney, it would be at Tetsuya's. If I could do two blowout meals, it would be Tetsuya's and Sepia - although the place I'd most like to return to is Sepia.

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