Wednesday, 17 August 2011


529 Kent Street

Sydney NSW 2000
(02) 9267 2900

Category: Rockstar! ($200+)

So here we are… the best of the best The Crème de la crème, the piece de resistance, the pinnacle… of food. Or it is?

It was, it has been… but since September 7, 2010 Tetsuya lost one of his coveted hats. 3 became 2 and now, instead of being in his own company at the top, he finds himself in the same class as the likes of Aria, Becasse and co. whilst Quay, Marquee and .Est take out the podium spots.

Perhaps Mr. Wakuda was too engaged with his new Singapore based venture that he has lost time, effort and perhaps his love for his Sydney flagship. Perhaps he feels he has won enough, proven his worth and does not need to push further. Maybe he is happy to take a step back from the Sydney market?  

Some however say that he has not taken a step back, if anything, he has not taken a step at all. Tetsuya’s has remained at the same high consistent standard for years, and apparently that has been its downfall. The world around has changed, the way restaurants prepare, source and grow food is totally different, and it seems Tetsuya has not changed with it.

With this is mind, it seems to not have fazed the Japanese genius. The menu has continued along the same vein, as has the dishes and the prices have actually gone up?

The restaurant itself is impressive; you can get valet parking for $20 (I advise against this, and will explain later) and it is secluded and tucked away in the bustling heart of the CBD. As with all fine dining restaurants you are greeted by a welcoming party who will happily take your coat, jackets, anything to really make you feel comfortable. Think of it as flying business class but in a restaurant in this aspect.

The décor is divided, again into separate rooms with tables in each. Most have a view of the Zen garden which at night is lit up, and if you have never been to Japan, once would find it quite interesting and peaceful. There is an upstairs dining area for more seating which looks down into the garden also.    

The service as you would expect is brilliant, the staff knowledgeable and all more than happy and willing to assist and help wherever possible. They run through the 10 courses in detail, and you get preferences should you have dietary requirements, or if there is something in particular you are not a fan of they will make adjustments (I like this). Given the menu changes relatively consistently, it probably would make little sense me going through each.

However the signature ocean trout was not that amazing. Maybe it has lost its gloss over the years. Don’t get me wrong, it was very very good but, not outstandingly amazing and not something I will never forget. As far as degustation menu’s go, I will happily say every dish was to a very high standard. The Wagyu was good and well cooked, Ox Tongue was fine, the entree of Kingfish was also pleasant but lacked real star quality, I think this is the differentiation the new age restaurants are making. Whilst their food is becoming gastromonical marvels, pushing culinary limits, Tetsuya has stayed true to the origins of cooking.  

Whereas most degustation menu’s have hit-and-miss items, all of Tetsuya’s were at a very high quality. I don’t think there were any particular stand-outs that had me craving more, and if anything, the complementary salted ricotta and truffle spread that went with the bread at the very start was the most memorable part of the meal…

Let’s face it. For the vast majority of us, this is one of those places you will probably only ever come to once. Tick the box type stuff. Get the experience, and then tell your friends and family that you have ‘done it.’ Furthermore, I would strongly suggest you not try to break it down by cost because at $210 per head and then matching wines on top, no one should, or be able to justify spending that much for 1 meal. Take this place as an experience. Treat your partner, girlfriend, wife as a once off and it is ok.

Remember how I mentioned not to take the valet parking, there is actually nothing wrong with it, but if you get the matching wines at $95 (which I recommend you do) I assure you will not be able to drive home.  It is a shame it is no longer a 3 hatter. I definitely place it higher than Iceberg's, Sepia and Becasse, however perhaps the critics are right that it is not worthy of the highest accolade. Is there a 2.5 hat category?

Overall, is it worth it? No. But then again, no meal is worth $300+ however it was definitely an experience, and one that I encourage you all to try at some point. For me personally, that’s one off the bucket list!  

Bottom line:
$210 per head for 10 courses, then $95 for matching wines. They normally have specials as well such as oysters to start, so you won’t be leaving here without forking out about $650 for 2.

Food                                       7/10
Service                                   3/3 (The guys and girls know their stuff) 
Décor                                     2/3
Cleanliness                           2/2
BONUS                                   1/2

Total                                       15/20

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Red Lantern

545 Crown Street
Surry Hills NSW 2010
(02)9698 4355

Category: Just got paid ($50 - $100)

Before we commence on this one, I have a few things regarding restaurants in general.
Rule no.1 - Cleanliness.
Rule no.2 - Cleanliness.
Rule no.3 - Cleanliness…

I really can’t stress it enough can I? The fact that there was a rather large cockroach crawling up the wall about 10 centimetres away from me towards the end of our meal really was not a good way to finish an already rather dull evening. I understand it was an open restaurant and these things happen, but at this level it is really unacceptable.  

Let’s wind back first however, to before this gruelling event occurred. Welcome! to the famed Red Lantern and none other than our resident go-to Vietnamese chef-cum-celebrity Luke Nguyen and his famous Surry Hills establishment.

Personally, upon arrival, I had high hopes. The location is prime, and the way the restaurant is set out is great; a house conversion does give it that rather homely feel and you can see what Luke is trying to achieve. The use to wood and placing photos, pictures, embellishments all throughout the restaurant makes one feel like they have entered a friends/family dwelling as oppose to a restaurant. Vietnamese food after all and Asian dining in general is all about togetherness. Sitting at a table together with friends and family at home; the idea itself is very clever and one I also find very appealing on first look.  

However, despite his growing status as a celebrity, with DVDs, books etc. (The original Secrets of the Red Lantern book is very good) he should probably stop travelling the world, helping out on MasterChef but instead pack his bags, and return to his restaurant… because it needs help, lots of it.

The staff are very friendly and extremely knowledgeable (which I like), and the menu is simple (which I also like). I see potential if they do this properly and am excited somewhat. We opt for the tasting menu which guarantees us a selection of the best Red Lantern has to offer ($60 per head).

We begin with 4 starters, a chicken and jellyfish salad which is ok (only just ok), Vietnamese rolls which really lack flavour in my opinion, the calamari where the batter was too thick, and a prawn salad which again seems to lack punch. The flavours do not hit me like I am expecting them too and it all seems a little bland and un-engaging for my liking. I do not get the distinct hits of chilli, lime, fish sauce, and mint like I was hoping for, and perhaps I was looking too much for that ‘Vietnam’ experience however I am not getting it thus far. Things were starting to go down hill.  

Bring on the mains, and I am probably more disappointed now than I was with entrées (sigh). 5 more dishes arrive; the pork shoulder stew looks and tastes like something out of a Chinese restaurant (the take away place I go for lunch down the stairs in a food court tastes better). The stewed Wagyu beef again tastes very Chinese rather than Vietnamese, and the texture was not there from the beef to suggest it was a better cut of cow. A serving of green vegetables are provided but very boring and lacked inspiration, flavour and care, and the fish curry was also far from what I would describe as fresh. The duck was probably the only highlight of the 5 dishes provided, however I would call it the best from a bad bunch rather than an actual good dish.

Maybe I am spoilt? Growing up in a family who was very true to real home style cooking, expressing all the flavours that our local cuisine has to offer, and now being married to a Malaysian whose parents and relatives also have show stoppers of their own when it comes to food.

Combine the average food, couple this with the cockroach, and add the $240 bill (for 4 ppl) and I can only say it is not somewhere I will return, nor probably recommend. If you are looking for a proper Vietnamese feed I would still say head to Cabramatta/Canley Vale. It’s cheap, tasty, the food is loaded with flavour, and you can really feel the culture of the place. It’s probably cleaner too.

Overall, I was really looking forward to this place; it had all the hallmarks to be an excellent restaurant. However despite all the seemingly right elements it failed where it mattered, and dissapointingly at the most basic of principles; good food.
Bottom line:
With a group of 4 you can go for the banquet which provides a sampler and you won’t go hungry at $60 per head. Otherwise for 2 you should find change from $100 including drinks.

Food                                       5/10
Service                                   3/3 (One of the I would have to say)
Décor                                     2.5/3 (The idea and delivery was very good)
Cleanliness                           0/2
BONUS                                   0/2

Total                                       10.5/20

Friday, 5 August 2011


Shop 20 World Square Shopping Centre
644 George Street

Sydney NSW 2000
(02) 9283 9686

Category: Cheapo ($0 - $50)

Welcome to Masuya’s 4th installment of its Japanese assault on Sydney. Needless to say it has already built an already enviable empire with its 'holy trinity' of Masuya, Musashi and Makoto. With simple diverse style Japanese, Sushi Bar, and up-market Japanese cuisine covered, owner Ken Sadamatsu enters the world of Teishoku style dining. Basically, this type of cuisine involves a main, rice, miso soup and some additional side dishes all rolled into one order.

Personally, I am not that big a fan of this particular style food. It is a little minimalistic for me, the main dish is never really a main dish (I think it is a little small), your side dishes are tiny and unlike Korean restaurants, there are no free top ups. Your dessert can also be finished in about one mouthful. Not exactly my idea of a 'meal'.

However, it seems to be popular enough so we decide to give it a wiz. The philosophy behind the restaurant is about organic produce, along with healthy and nutritious eating; which I find slightly ironic considering its number one best seller is the deep fried Tonkatsu pork.

None the less, the décor is simple and easy on the eyes. Light greens, pine-coloured woods and white give the place a sense of lightness, which is what I assume they are going for given they are pushing the whole 'healthy image'. The drinks menu further reflects their pursuit of striving towards healthy drinking, with some more ‘greener’ options… literally. I won’t spoil the surprises so be sure to check it out.

On to the main menu… well, there are really not that many options. When you order one thing, you generally order your meal. It is not like a fine dining restaurant where there are only 12 options all up, however this is not the classic large scale menu that we expect to see from Ken's previous endeavours. There is not much sharing either, given each dish is really tailored for one, again a stark contrast to the other three establishments.  

To the actual food however, the highly recommended pork tonkatsu is actually not too bad. I personally would have liked mine a little crispier, lighter and with a little more colour (it was more a light brown as oppose to golden) but they cut generous chunky pieces that make you feel like you are really getting a good bit of meat each time you chomp into the juicy, and well cooked succulent pork.

The support acts however lack effort, punch and real taste. One of mine were three pieces of steamed pumpkin, it wasn't even seasoned! The minature coleslaw was ok however it all seemed a little dull and boring to me. The miso soup is fine, clean, refined and thankfully does not taste of MSG, and surprisingly the little dessert provided was actually quite special. Looking more like yoghurt, you get a nice surprise when the smooth, creamy texture hits the tongue. It’s like an ice-cream but not as cold, think a thick soy yoghurt but creamier and smoother.  

Overall I think this type of cuisine has its appeal. You get everything in one order; rice, main dish, soup, some side dishes and a dessert... who could ask for more? If you are feeling peckish, or do not want anyone picking at your food, this is not a bad place to go.

For me, I would go to a Korean restaurant, order a main, rice and get unlimited side dishes instead, and I personally see this type of cuisine more as an up-market version of your standard Korean restaurant. The servings are smaller, the side dishes are not as good but the quality in the main dish is definitely there. On top of this, it is very clean, the service is good not great, and like all of the Masuya groups creations, is already a success.

I thoroughly believe Musashi is still bar far its best dining experience and restaurant, however considering Sydney has little in the way of Teishoku style eating this is not a bad attempt. Would I return… actually… yes, I would.  
Bottom line:
$25 per head should cover most things on the menu, and unless you are really hungry you won’t need to order additional side.  

Food                                       6/10
Cleanliness                           2/2
Value                                      2/3
BONUS                                   1.5/2 (The drinks, dessert and overall concept of Teishoku style food is good)

NB. I have taken out service & décor as a score for the 'Cheapo' category as the 2 are not relevant, nor to me dramatically important as it is all about value(hence it has been added), and quality and less about the overall dining experience. So effectively it scores 12/17, however for consistency I have re - calculated to reflect a score out of 20
Total                                       13.5/20