What can I say? I've been asked to review a book by a chef from what is probably the best restaurant in Australia.
The name Tetsuya Wakuda is one that young Australian chefs like myself have grown up with. His remarkable story is told from humble beginnings to what is now a world-class restaurant. Tetsuya famously arrived in Sydney in 1982 from Shizuoka prefecture in Japan, with just a suitcase of belongings, dreaming of a land populated by koalas, kangaroos and blond-haired, blue-eyed people. The restaurant is now always near the top of any list of the world's best restaurants, and has been in the top five of The S.Pellegrino World's 50 Best Restaurants for the last three years.
First published in 2000 to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the restaurant, the book includes a foreword by Charlie Trotter. Trotter reminds us that not only is Tetsuya Wakuda a great chef, ‘an amazing man', but also a great eater: something that informs his ‘utterly poetic cuisine'.
Tetsuya's is more than just a collection of recipes. There are also several interesting digressions, including into the work of Mitsuo Shoji, who creates the ceramics used at the restaurant, into the ‘Story of a Fish' – about the genesis of his famous ocean trout dish – and about how the restaurant developed in its first 10 years. There are valuable lessons to be drawn from these various asides, although, as Tetsuya says: "All I want you to take away from this book is enjoyment."
The recipes are truly inspiring from start to finish, always beginning with top-class Australian ingredients given Japanese treatment with some French technique to produce beautifully presented, simple dishes.
Recipes like Tartare of Tuna with Goat's Cheese (p52) best represent this common theme throughout the book.
It is great to see Tetsuya's Ocean Trout (p56) also included in the book, because this dish has been copied many times but never equalled, and has become the dish most associated with Tetsuya's cuisine. Other dishes which make an appearance and have appeared over the years on his restaurant menu are Slow- Roasted Rack of Lamb with Miso and Blue Cheese (p130), Double-Cooked Spatchcock with Bread Sauce (p152) and Roasted Scampi Seasoned with Tea and Scampi Oil (p98).
It would have been nice to see more than just three desserts in a book of this calibre, but the dishes produced and combinations like Sauternes and apple, ginger and lime, chocolate and orange, although familiar, are delicious.
This book will have great appeal across a wide range of audiences, from the simple dishes, which are all pictured, to a few wine suggestions with each dish, as this type of cuisine may be challenging for a wine novice.
This book will certainly remain near the front of my book collection not only for its great selection of dishes, but also for the story of how Tetsuya's has become the place it is today and a quick glance into the cuisine of the great chef Tetsuya Wakuda.
Tetsuya by Tetsuya Wakuda
Harper Collins, £25.
Review by Brett Graham, Head Chef, The Ledbury, London W11
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