Tetsuya’s Confit trout (Salmon), homecooked

Well, this should really be a post on Quay as I had previously promised, but I figured that this would be as good a time as any to post this dish. The moment I had it at Tetsuya’s I knew I had to try to replicate this at home. I wanted to challenge myself and do it without searching for the actual recipe online.

I first took 2 sheets of dried kombu that I had bought from tsukiji market a long time ago. I braised it in dashi and soy sauce until it was fairly soft. I then did a rough dice, before dehydrating it at 60C overnight. After it got crisp, I grinded it in a coffee grinder, but I did not grind it down to a powder so it still had some uneven pieces.

The salmon, I struggled to find a cut of salmon that could exactly replicate the shape of the one I had at Tetsuya’s, but the protein was always going to be a compromise since I was using salmon instead of trout. I settled for the best looking piece I could get my hands on. I simply poached it an aromatic oil very very lightly, never letting the oil come above 45C, basically just to warm through. I then pulled it from the oil and placed it onto a plate.

I mixed a little olive oil with the kombu seasoning to make it a paste, but I kept the ratio of the olive oil low so that the kombu didnt get too wet. I then pressed the paste into the salmon, before topping it with chopped chives and sea salt.

I also made a chive oil, but only later realised that it should have been a parsley oil. (I saw the original dish was topped with chives and assumed it would be a chive oil)

It worked out pretty well, the salmon was a good texture, the kombu crust didn’t quite taste like the original but I realise now that the process they use is quite different from what I did, it was still delicious though, seaweed umami seasoning, can’t really go wrong withthat. It was pretty fun replicating a dish based on how I thought I would do it at home, something I definitely need to try more often!

 

 

 

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Tetsuyas, Sydney

It has been a long, long time since I last did a restaurant reflection, I would call it a food review but that seems rather snobbish, considering the fact that I don’t actually know if what I am saying makes sense half the time. Moving on back to Tetsuya’s, what can I say about both the man and the restaurant. Ask any foreigner to name the best restaurant in Sydney and Tetsuya’s will probably come up the most often, ask any Singaporean what the most expensive meal in Singapore is and Waku Ghin will probably come up the most often. It seems only natural that the first restaurant I had to book on my trip to Sydney would be Tetsuya’s.

We start with a bread and butter course. To call this butter would be a bit of a misnomer, this is more of a ‘spread’, and one of the best damn spreads I’ve ever had. It is butter whipped with ricotta, parmesan, and truffle. This is truly a sign of good things to come, the contrast in flavors between the parmesan and truffle were incredible, both bold flavors that didnt jostle with each other, the parmesan being the first thing you detect on the tongue, then the soothing lingering aroma of the truffles shines through as the taste of the parmesan dies down. The ricotta provides body, and the fact that the butter is slightly aerated, just makes you feel less of a fatty when you spread copious amounts of it on bread(It is partly just air after all, isn’t it?). Very good

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Savoury Custard with Avruga

I think technically this was a chawanmushi, I mean, by definition, chawanmushi is a steamed egg custard after all right? Regardless, the texture of the chawanmushi(I am going to assume I am right) was top notch, I would say it was even softer than the one I had at Ryugin, and for some reason I kept tasting scallops in the custard, but the waitress confirmed that it was mirin and soy. You start to see differences between Tetsuya and Waku Ghin within the first course. Tetsuya’s can be likened to being the older brother, more stable, reliable, traditional. Waku Ghin being the younger brother who drives a flashy sports car and constantly wants to impress. I have a feeling that the same dish at Waku would used oscietra caviar instead of Avruga, which doesn’t really matter because I did not really enjoy the texture of the warmed caviar, it lacked that ‘pop’ that I enjoy with caviar, plus there was just too little of it speckled into the cream to make a significant flavor impact. Good-Very good

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Salad of the Sea

Probably the weakest course of the night. Comprised of marinated and cured fish, sushi rice, and assorted vegetables. This was visually stunning but it just felt like a deconstructed chirashi. The rice felt incredibly out of place, especially since it was balled into one giant piece in the center of the plate. The fact that Japanese rice is sticky did not help with the ergonomics of eating the dish at all. It basically became me consuming a bunch of vegetables, then a bunch fish, then eating a ball of rice. I actually thought the meal was going to go downhill at this point. Okay

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Marinated Scampi Tail

This came served with walnut oil and a frozen egg yolk. Yes thats right, that yellow bit protruding out, thats an egg yolk that was simply frozen, then thawed. The flavors of the dish worked pretty well, the sweetness of the scampi balanced with the marinade, the yolk and cream providing richness, the oil a nuttiness. The main problem I had with the dish is that frozen egg yolk, it had the texture of a gel, but it had a very unpleasant gummy like texture that kind of stuck to the tongue and made the flavor of the egg yolk linger. Which was a shame because the taste of the Scampi was exceptionally good. Very sweet, briny, the kind of things you look for in raw seafood, then the flavor went away and the taste of the egg yolk stayed behind… Okay-good

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Confit of Petuna Trout with apple and unpasterised Ocean Trout Roe

This is the dish that defines Tetsuya’s. I actually didn’t know about any of Tetsuya’s dishes apart from this one. Let me break it down on a technical level first. I knew beforehand that the trout was cooked in a pot of aromatic oil (Grapeseed + olive + herbs and spices), what surprised me the most was the texture. This was even less cooked than mi cuit salmon, with mi cuit salmon, the fish flakes apart but the texture is very close to being raw. This, on the other hand, felt like it was completely raw, it didn’t flake apart at all, but it was soft enough to be cut with the back of the fork. I am guessing the confit process was simply to warm it through. The component that makes this dish is actually the kombu crust. The trout relies completely on the crust for seasoning, it is not brined, it is not salted, the crust supports the fish, and it does so beautifully. Its hard to describe the flavor with words because it tastes like the flavor of umami harnessed into a seasoning. It is basically dried kombu from japan, tossed with soy sauce, and pressed into the fish. There really are no more words for this, you just have to try it to understand. Superb

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Shio Koji flounder with tomato and summer greens

I wouldn’t want to be the fish dish that follows up a Tetsuya’s signature, but this dish holds its own weight incredibly well. The flounder is marinated in sake for days before being seared in a pan. You can eat the fish and tell that there are a lot of incredibly delicious, incredibly complex flavors going on, you may not understand whats happening, but you know you are enjoying it. The vegetables added a very refreshing, crunchy textural contrast, and the sauces used carried acidity to the fish. Everything about this dish came together very nicely. And it was a nice transition from the previous trout dish, the former being very rich, this one with much cleaner, calming flavors. Very Good

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Tea Smoked Quail Breast

For a restaurant that serves a menu focusing on seafood, the first non seafood main we had was exceptionally cooked. The quail breast was quite pink, which I have no problem with, because the texture of the quail was incredible. So moist and with a nice chewy bite to it. The squid was another revelation as well, I have never had squid cooked to this kind of texture, it almost resembled cheong fun(rice noodles), but with a silkier and more chewy texture, each bite reminded me of eating cheong fun, but with every bite it realses that familiar flavor of squid. Both proteins with strong flavors but they come together nicely. Pleasantly surprised by how good this was. Very good

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Wagyu beef tenderloin with soy braised tendon and wasabi leaf

Savory dishes ended on a bit of a low. The tenderloin was nicely cooked, especially on a piece of meat that thin, but the jus/sauce it was served with was over reduced and when eaten together with the tendon and bone marrow, it just got too rich too quickly. The sorrel added a little bit of acidity to cut a richness of the dish but there was simply not enough of it. Okay

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Lychee granita with strawberries and coconut

The first of two desserts, refreshing, light, and very welcome at this stage after a very rich and heavy meat course right before this. It was heavy enough to be a dessert but the flavors were reminiscent of a palate cleanser. Its hard to find fault with the dessert, it was just a little bit on the boring side. Okay-Good

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Tetsuya’s chocolate cake

This, on the other hand, was a showstopper. It actually looks very similar to Hidemi Sugino’s infamous ambroisie cake, and dare I say it, the mousse in the Tetsuya cake is even better than the one at Suginos, it is barely set and has an ethereal melt in your mouth texture. The bitter-sweetness of the dark chocolate plays well with the nuttiness of the hazelnut, the dish is inherently heavy but the lightness of that mousse just kept you going back for more. My mind is telling me that there should be some kind of berry component in the dish but my mouth is telling me to shut up and eat. A really nice way to end the meal. Very good

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Tetsuya’s seems to have fallen off the map a little in Sydney, but to the uninitiated, places like Rockpool and Sepia aren’t the first names that register when talking about food in Sydney. For me, the first two names that pop into my head are Quay(will be the next post) and Tetsuya’s. The food may not be as flashy or inventive as some of the newer restaurants, but I would say the food at Tetsuya’s is at about the level of a solid 2 Michelin star restaurant, while the service is impeccable and is easily at a 3 star level. Not only the individual dishes are impressive, but the progression of the meal as well, it is the little details that count, the pairing of heavy and light dishes, the little drops of parsley oil on the plate of the trout dish, or the service that was ever willing to accomodate every request I had., these are the things that make a great meal, and aren’t immediately obvious but do register after the meal is over.  It is definitely worth a visit if you’re in Sydney, and it ended up being the best meal of my trip.

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Homemade: Chicken rice, reimagined

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Something a little closer to home. Not a deconstruction per se, but a familiar dish, re-imagined. 

First, a chicken stock is made by pressure cooking chicken bones. It is then reduced until it tastes very close to the soup that you usually get when you order chicken rice(sans the MSG).

The broth is split into two batches, the first gets tossed with rice krispies. They crackle and pop, and soak up whatever liquid you toss them in; in my case, they take on chicken flavor. They are put into a dehydrator and dehydrated at 40C until crisp again. They take on a darker, browner color from the heat and the color of the stock. They have the flavor of chicken, but the flavor is faint. I re-introduce the same chicken broth into the rice krispies, then dehydrate them again as before. The flavor intensifies. The whole process is repeated a total of 5 times until you end up with chicken rice krispies.

The other half of the broth is further reduced until the flavor is intense, pounded garlic and ginger is added to the broth and allowed to infuse. Chicken breast is placed into a bag with this intense broth, then cooked sous vide at 61C. The breast is removed and chilled.

The dish is completed by tossing the chicken rice krispies with rendered chicken fat, this makes it easier to press it onto the chicken breast. The breast is placed in an oven to bake till the rice toasts slightly and becomes extra crisp. It is served on lines of traditional chicken rice chilli sauce and a ginger-garlic paste. It seems unusual, but when you eat a bite of all components, it tastes exactly kind chicken rice, and yet… it is not.

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Uni caviar pasta, a prologue

I recently caught a screening of ‘Pierre Gagnaire: Inventing Cuisine’, and while the movie is hardly new, it was the first time I have actually seen Gagnaire cooking.

I am admittedly not entirely familiar with Gagnaires cooking, I have skimmed through one of his cookbooks, although calling it that would be somewhat of a misnomer, the book is filled with nothing but incredibly artistic shots, usually macro, with a few words from the man himself detailing the thought or the inspiration of the dish. While I gained very little actual knowledge about food, it made me look closer at the finer things, how the membranes of a citrus can be beautiful, or the flesh of a pear that is stained by red wine.

As such, I had high expectations for the movie, and I left feeling both disappointed and satisfied. It was satisfying because he is just as artistic and creative as I thought he would be, although he has trouble at times being coherent because his mind is just constantly exploding with ideas. And it was disappointing because this is by far the most disorganized Ive ever seen a 3 star kitchen before. Pierre basically jumps in on the line and starts taking control of things he shouldn’t be doing, in the process using some very questionable food safety practices, you can view the video of this on YouTube. That, combined with the fact that it was shot by the cameraman whose resume must have included films like the Blair witch project, led to a very shaky 10 minute clip of pure mayhem in the kitchen, leaving me incredibly nauseous in the theatre.

But back to the good bits, one of my favorite scenes in the movie was when Pierre visits an art museum. The wise curator/owner of the museum offers what has got to be the best quote of the whole movie, “A craftsman is someone who does well,what they already know. An artist is someone who does things that they do not yet know.”

Okay. I’m feeling inspired. It triggered some thoughts I used to have about art and artforms. I believe all great artists start out with similar thought processes, but they all have different methods of externalizing those thoughts based on their trades. Writers write, singers sing, painters paint, cooks cook. The sources of inspiration are bound only by ones imagination, and often in time, artists inspire other artists and vice versa.

I wanted to do something with my food, the uni caviar dish had already been made, so I wondered if anyone could do anything with It. I eventually sent out a photo of the dish to a friend of mine who writes for leisure, explaining the dish to him. I told him he had no walls whatsoever and he could write whatever he felt like writing, based on what the food(well, technically the picture of the food) was telling him to write. And these are his words

When you’re up eventually you’ll come down, but that’s not always true in reverse. I will overcome, I’m stronger now… hush. Shhh, here she comes. I smelt her perfume. I’m remembering her… no, I mean us; I’m remembering us as a light shining over the ocean, immortal; undying in deep orange-red. The light is warm, but not enough… the light is just right… she gets closer and the light becomes too much. Our eyes meet and I unfold, like an umbrella being tormented by the wind.

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Homecooked: Uni caviar pasta

Uni has got to be one of my all time favorite premium ingredients, quite possibly my favorite. Caviar is right up there with it, why do the two go together so damn well? The sweet unctuous flavor of the uni, usually coming with a hint of bitterness, combined with the briny and often complex flavor of the caviar, they seem to pair perfectly together. I first saw a combination of the two on one of Anthony bourdains shows, I believe it was the aptly titled ‘Food porn’ episode, Eric Ripert prepared it in his kitchen and it was truly an eye opener. I immediately listed it down as one of the things I have to eat before I die. 

Unfortunately, I did not have the dish when I was at Le Bernardin, I really doubt that I will go back anytime soon, so late last year I set out to recreate the dish at home. It is one of the simplest dishes to make, but the cooking of the pasta and the sauce have to be absolutely spot on. The uni is first blended, then passed through a tamis, then folded into soft butter to basically make a uni compound butter. The butter is that turned into a beurre monte and the pasta is dressed in it. It is basically a uni flavored butter sauce, incredibly rich and heavy. The first time I made it, it looked a little something like this

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I used spaghetti over the linguini that was called for in the recipe, I cant remember if I did this because all I had was spaghetti, but I do remember thinking that the pasta should be thinner: More sauce, more decadence. I also did not manage to get my hands on osetra caviar because I was a pretty poor guy serving the army in Singapore, bringing home $400 a month.

Fast forward to September, I wanted to do the dish again, but do it right this time. This is my second take on the dish

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I went with angel hair this time, I personally think it works better with the dish. The breakdown is as such: Angel hair pasta dressed in an uni beurre monte, topped with osetra caviar, kissed with specks of chive and threads of parmesan, drops of lemon juice, uni-milk foam, and edible gold leaf.

This is the kind of dish I can only afford to make one a year. This is as close to the original Ripert dish as I want to go, I think the uni milk foam is a nice balance to the very heavy sauce, it is lighter, and carries a very calming sweetness to it, contrasting the heavy and very punchy flavor of the uni beurre monte. The gold leaf is there because… well, it is the kind of dish that calls for it.

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Home cooked: Modernist 汤圆 (tang yuan)

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It has been a long long time since I blogged properly, I had to look through some of my older posts because I can’t even remember the format of which I blog in. To those who still read this, I haven’t been dining out in Singapore all that much, but I have been cooking very actively. I spent about 3 months as a stagiare at Guy Savoy in Singapore(only on the weekends), although I wasn’t very involved with the actual cooking of the food, the pace was intense and I learnt a lot of techniques and skills that I am able to bring back into my home cooking. If you want to keep up to date with what I am doing, it is best to follow my on my instagram: Lennardy

Today I’ll be talking about a dish that I came up with. This is a modernist take on Tang yuan, a traditional chinese dessert usually eaten on certain festivals. A peanut/sesame/red bean paste is trapped in a sticky skin made with glutinous rice flour, it has a consistency similar to that of mochi. I personally find the skin to be the least enjoyable part of the dish because it is very heavy and starchy.

The soup it is served in varies, some serve in a sweetened soup with ginger, some serve in a sweetened soup with pandan, my family serves it with a canned peanut soup. I wanted to recreate this flavor without the chewy/starchy element.

I took the same peanut soup from the tang yuan I am familiar with, added some glutinous rice flour and cooked that down. Then dehydrated it and fried it into a crisp. For the Tang yuan, I reverse-spherified and intense black sesame liquid, before finishing the dish with a sprinkle of toasted sesame seeds.

 

 

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Home Cooked: A tale of two salads

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The first, a robust one. Greens dressed with a sesame vinaigrette, emulsified with liquid lecithin. Oranges bruleed to provide acidity and sweetness, bringing the salad to life. A ramen egg gives body and richness to the dish.

The second- light, crisp flavors. Asparagus cooked in butter with pear slices, finished with a sauce made from butter and lemon juice, and shaved white button mushrooms

 

Homemade: Earl grey tea sorbet

 

 

 

I browse through groupon everyday like a housewife in search of great deals. They have some pretty surprising items that are worth buying at times, case in point, I found them selling a cuisinart ice cream maker for S$200. I pounced on it.

This was my first creation, one of the best sorbets, and possibly best sorbet Ive ever had in my life was the earl grey tea sorbet at Guy Savoy, which I first tasted at Guy Savoy paris. There arent many things as refreshing and versatile as it, as a palate cleanser, at the end of a heavy meal, it is delicious either way. When I eventually ended up staging at Guy savoy Singapore a few months back, I used to pray that the dessert station would have extras, but alas, the only ice cream I got to try during my time there was a strawberry ice cream. Nevertheless, I wanted to attempt to replicate the sorbet at home, and the moment the Cuisinart was delivered, I knew this would be my first creation.

The sorbet failed on my first attempt, it wouldn’t set up and didn’t even get to a slushy point. I started troubleshooting and concluded that my freezer wasn’t cold enough. I reattempted the sorbet a couple of days later, churning the ice cream in my air conditioned bedroom(Singapore is incredibly hot). It worked, the question was what to serve it with.

The make up of the sorbet is simple- earl grey tea, sugar, lemon juice(I added a little leftover yuzu as well), pinch of salt. Serving it with a lemon curd seemed glaringly obvious, the curd providing a creamy mouthfeel that the sorbet would quickly wash away, as well as reinforcing the lemon flavor. It was perhaps a fortunate coincidence that just a week ago, I attempted to make Christina Tosi’s(of Momofuku) arnold palmer cake, and one of the components of the cake was an almond tea crunch(feuilletine, almond butter, powdered sugar, iced lemon tea powder, toasted almond slivers), it was truly one of the most delicious things Ive ever put in my mouth. I could spoon that tea crunch directly into my mouth over and over until I reel over from the amount of sugar. This was another obvious addition, crunchy, nutty, and backing up the tea-lemon flavor, a winning combination.

The final dish: Almond tea crunch, lemon curd, earl grey tea sorbet, toasted almonds, microwave fried mint, black pepper

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Homemade: Seared threadfish

Seared threadfish, cooked on a saute pan till an internal temperature of 50C.

Potato cut outs cooked in duck fat, constant basting

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Ratatouille(baked)

I recently had the tasting menu at Pollen, one of the mains was a beef dish, it had three sauces on the plate- a pesto, a jus, and a parmesan cream. There was no major flaws with the dish, and it tasted well, but it got to a point where it was confusing as to how the dish was meant to be eaten, do I mix the pesto with the condiments, and eat the beef with the jus and parmesan cream? Or does it work the other way around. There were too many permutations. It made me re-evaluate the food I cook, if the diner cannot see the vision and message of the dish in 1-2 bites, then perhaps the dish is too noisy.

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Homemade: Scallop Garden

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Paste: Roasted walnuts – Anchovies – Fish sauce – Water – Sugar – Mascarpone cheese

This is a variation off of David Chang’s variation, I added mascarpone cheese to tone down the ‘fishiness’ of the paste, also to give it a more creamy, melt in your mouth kind of mouthfeel. The paste binds the dish together

Edible ‘Soil’ : Dehydrated black olives

Idea was that tapenade is one of the first condiments I think of when I think of eating scallops, just borrowing flavors that I think work well together

Radishes

Fresh radishes, refreshed in ice water. Brings a freshness and textural crunch to the dish

Scallop carpaccio infused with yuzu vinaigrette

Yuzu vinaigrette is made from yuzu juice, yuzu powder, yuzu gel concentrate, ginger, splash of sesame oil. Scallops are sliced fairly thick, about half a centimeter so that they do not get lost in the midst of all the components. They are tossed in the vinaigrette and put into a iSi whipping cream canister, charged with N2O, this is basically nitrogen cavitation, marinating the scallops in a matter of seconds

Miso Tuille

Sweet, salty, umami bomb. This is just downright fucking delicious. Works with fish, shellfish, chicken, on its own etc…

Chive Oil

Olive oil blended with blended chives, strained

Ham&Bacon Gelee

The idea to use this is based on a very classic appetizer, bacon wrapped in scallops. I am simply borrowing flavors from dishes that already exist. Ham and bacon pieces put into a pot, covered with water and boiled till you get a ham&bacon stock, set in gelatine

Spring onion ‘grass’

Spring onions sliced lengthwise, refreshed in ice water

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