Sunday, March 6, 2011

Time flies.

Apologies for the delay in any new posts what can I say work and life got in the way and before I knew it a few months have gone by. So what has been happening in my world well quite a bit actually. Lets see if I can pick up from where I left off. So early November 2010 saw a very important event for Mrs Chef and myself it was our 25th wedding anniversary so what better way to celebrate than another trip to Sydney to visit some of our favorite restaurants. We arrived in Sydney just before lunch time so we dumped our bags and hit the streets in search of sustenance. Our hotel was close to China town and the Spanish quarter so finding lunch was not hard. We were in the mood for tapas as we wanted to eat light before our dinner that night at Tetsuyas. We ended up at a restaurant called Spanish Terrazas in kent street. We spent a leisurely few hours grazing on some fantastic grilled sardines, choizo, jamon, croquettes and tortilla. Of course all washed down with a few sangrias and Spanish beer. The food was so good that we just kept ordering more, so much for eating light. So after lunch it was back toy the hotel to check in and a good lie down before dinner.

A selection from lunch, half way through before I remembered to take a photo.

As it was a beautiful night we walked the few blocks to Tetsuyas with eager anticipation, and what a night it was. From the moment you arrive and are greeted at the front door you know you are in for a good night. All of the staff through out the night were fantastic, professional, friendly and anticipating your every need. Once at the table we were given two lovely glasses of champagne to start our celebration and then escorted behind the scenes for a tour of Tetsuyas kitchens, wow talk about kitchen envy I loved it. On the way back to the table we saw a tray of the most exquisite strawberries that I have ever seen. They are a Japanese variety that Tetsuya gets grown for him at the foot of the Blue Mountains and these little beauties were to make an appearance latter in the meal. So onto the main event, sorry no photos as I did not want to intrude on our special night. I will post a scanned copy of our menu from that night. We decided to have each course with matching wines to get the full experience. We started with some Tassie oysters and some fantastic sake, every course a delight and the wines superb, service flawless. As a little extra we were treated to a few extra courses that the chefs thought we might like, of course with more wine. So instead of the normal 14 courses we ended up with i believe it was 17. Details from our previous visit had been noted and this demonstrates to what lengths they go to for guest satisfaction, outstanding. I would like to thank all of the staff that looked after us that night for helping make our special night one we will carry with us always. Now I recommend all you young chefs and food lovers get to Tetsuyas as it is an experience not to be missed.
Our menu from that night that was presented to us at the end of the evening.

After a good nights sleep and a late breakfast, with a couple of panadol, we hit the shops for some retail therapy. Then it was off to China town for one of our favorite treats, Chinese pastries, light flaky cases filled with egg custard and various sweet treats. It was hard to stop at a few and we ended up with quite a selection to take back to our hotel for afternoon tea. As this was to a short trip we were in a bit of a quandary as to what restaurant to have dinner that night. Our two other favorite restaurants in Sydney are Rockpool and Buon Ricordo. as we were already suffering from a bit of over indulgence we decided on Buon Ricordo for a small dinner maybe just a few courses, you know what they sat about best laid plans. In a lot of ways Buon Ricordo is our favorite restaurant and we always have a fantastic night there. Armando Percuoco is the consummate professional both in the kitchen and front of house.

Anyone that has dined at Buon Ricordo and has watched ans listened to Armando as he walks around the restaurant talking to every table can not help but be swept up in his passion and love of food, wine and life. This restaurant is one that makes the guest feel like one of the family. So to the food, after we decided we were going to take it easy and enjoy a few courses of the best Italian food around we discussed the menu and specials with our waiter and made our selections and sat back to enjoy the night. Somehow we got our wires crossed and what we thought we had ordered to share quickly turned into a 5 plus course event. When faced with this much good food, wine and service what are you going to do, complain and send it back, hell no time to man up and go for it. Throughout the night Armando was making his rounds of the tables talking food, wine and life in general and during one of the few chats we had with him he asked what had brought us to Sydney. Once we told him that we were here to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary with dinner at Tetsuyas and his restaurant and had in fact celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary at his restaurant at the table under the fireplace and quite a few more dinners in between that is when the gloves came off. More courses followed with more wine, quite a lot of grappa and talking about our industry and mutual acquaintances for the rest of the night. Way too much food was consumed, wine and oh the grappa but again it was one of the best nights we have spent in a restaurant. So to all the team at Buon Ricordo a big thank you and we will be seeing you in 2011. At some very late hour we poured ourselves into a cab and back to the hotel to pass out.

A selection of our meals from Buon Ricordo.

The next day was our last day in Sydney for this trip so in the morning, without any breakfast as we could not even look at food yet, we hit China town for some more shopping. We got our food legs back under us by lunch time so it was back to Spanish Terazas for a paella as we had promised ourselves we would not leave Sydney this trip without trying this iconic dish. Must say it was fantastic washed down with a few cold Spanish beers a great meal to end our trip .

So we move on to December and the build up to Christmas and of course being short staffed does not help at the pointy end of the year. Now a few months have gone by and I have managed to block out most of the horror memories from Christmas so all I will say is that involved way too many hours, few and often no days off and mountains of roast meat. We got through as best we could with what we had to work with but is was an experience NEVER to be repeated. Our daughter arrived home from the UK on Christmas eve so this was a very nice Christmas present. After an early start Christmas day I got out of work around 3.00 pm for a few days off with my family. So into the new year and fast approaching the opening of the new build. Very busy now with recruiting, new menus and possibly another trip to China and Japan, who is a lucky chef then. I must say it has taken a lot longer than I would have liked to get on top of things at work but now there is light at the end of the tunnel and it is looking good as we get closer to opening.

A few weeks ago Mrs Chef and I went to the wooden boat festival and this was a first for us as this event did not exist when we lived here. What a day it was the weather was fabulous and what better way to spend a day than walking around the waterfront looking at all the sights and displays. We were actually there to see the cooking demonstration by Tetsuya and he did not disappoint. The demonstration on this day was with Tassie crayfish, picked a good day to be there. Tetsuya spent over two hours on stage demonstrating and talking about Tasmanian produce. There was one moment of angst when Tetsuya dispatched the first crayfish by slicing straight through the brain and splitting it in half with a knife. Of course the crayfish was still moving with involuntary muscle spasm and this brought forth a few gasps and mutterings from some audience members. After hearing this Tetsuya had his assistant dispatch the rest of the crayfish out the back and out of sight.

Come on people if we are to eat animal protein then the animal must first be dispatched. Much better for the crayfish to be done this way than a slow death in the freezer or drowning in fresh water. This is how we dispatched the crayfish when I started my apprenticeship at the old Mures in Battery Point many many years ago and it remains the fastest, cleanest and most humane way to do this job. So after seeing some simple but delicious ideas for crayfish we got the chance to have a chat with Tetsuya. The first thing I asked him was seeing that he is such a fantastic ambassador for Tasmanian produce when is he going to open something down here. This was met with a little laugh, pause and the comment you never know we will see. We then spoke about our industry and the common problems and issues we all face. One topic that Tetsuya is passionate about is the fact that he gets a lot of people in his restaurant that have come to Tasmania and  been disappointed about the lack of the Tasmanian produce experience that they have been sold on and why a lot of people come to Tasmania to enjoy. Now this is something I found a lot when I was at Cradle Mountain Lodge for the 12 months that I was there. A lot of guests were telling me the same thing they are sold on this idea but in reality it was very hard to find. Now at the Lodge we put a lot of effort into sourcing and promoting Tassie product and telling the story behind the product. In fact I had a lot of my suppliers call me and tell me that they had people just drop in for a chat as they had dinned at Highland restaurant and learnt about the product and decided to call in to see the producer on their way around the state. Some of those producers were selling direct across the country so the guest could enjoy the product when they got home as well.

Anyway I found it interesting that Tetsuya was saying the same thing that I had been hearing and saying since I returned to Tasmania. So what could I do about this? I see a fantastic opportunity here as I know what the results can be. So once we have opened the new build and renovated Hadleys I will be able to make restaurant 1834 much more of a Tasmania produce dinning experience. This will entail many more road trips to meet producers and learn their stories so I can pass this onto our guests. I have seen first hand what this can lead to and I am very excited about this and I have a few of my Cradle Mountain suppliers ready to send me their product as soon as we are ready to use it.  So there we have it as I said the months have gone by very fast but I am very much looking forward to the next 12 months as it is going to be a busy, crazy yet fantastic time. A lot happening so stay tuned for more updates.