Tetsuya’s confit ocean trout dish has been the restaurant’s standard-bearer for close to three decades. Glistening belly is crusted with kombu (a type of seaweed) and chives and sat atop apple, witlof and goat’s curd. More often than not the rest of the fish goes towards a staff meal: poke bowls, curries and, when Broadsheet visits, handsome fish pies [jump to recipe below], the flavour dialled up with Murray cod tails and leftover seaweed trim. “The quality of the food we get to eat is amazing,” says head chef Josh Raine. “We use the best for the customer and the offcuts always come back to us.”
At 4.30pm sharp around 30 staff – everyone from the director of wine to the kitchenhands – ascend the stairs, pass the high-end art and head to a function room overlooking the Japanese sculpture garden. There’s no music, just a soundtrack of accents: French, Italian, Korean, Chinese, Australian and more. The 17-deep kitchen brigade from all around the world makes for diverse staff meals. Korean fried chicken from apprentice Isaac Courtelis one day, Jean Roth’s beef bourguignon the next. “It’s good for the guys to show off what they can do,” says Raine. “People take it quite seriously.”
At one of two long tables dressed in white linen, Slovakian sommelier Martin Knut animatedly explains the Ice Hockey World Championships taking place in his home country. An Australian staffer teases that Twenty20 is the only thing worth watching. When lunch arrives, everyone agrees on the seductive charms of buttery pastry, whole-roasted miso cauliflower and smashed chats.
The secret to a great pie, says British-born Raine, is all in the sauce. “You’ve got to cook it for a long time and season it well,” he says. “I pre-cook my fish, and then use the milk that I’ve poached the fish in to make the white sauce. It intensifies the flavour dramatically.”
As for whether or not chef-owner Tetsuya Wakuda ever makes it to the restaurant in time for staffies? “He gets involved when he’s here,” says Raine. “He might test out new products or cook pasta for Saturday lunch. When I first started, he’d say, ‘You need to make sure you have a good staff meal, it’s very important for the team’.”
Recipe by Josh Raine, head chef at Tetsuya’s
1 bay leaf
1kg fish trim (trout and cod), diced
75g unsalted butter
2 tbsp lemon juice
50g tasty cheese, grated
50g parmesan, grated
200g onion, finely chopped
200g kombu (seaweed), chopped
100g leek, finely chopped
10g garlic, chopped
100ml white wine
100ml double cream
1 bunch dill, chopped
1 bunch parsley, chopped
500g puff pastry
1 egg yolk (beaten)
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 175°C.
Put the milk, bay leaf and some black pepper into a pan and bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer. Add the diced fish and poach until half-cooked. Transfer the fish to a steaming tray or basket and allow the juices to drain for later use.
In another saucepan, melt half the butter over a low heat. Add the flour and cook for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Pour the hot milk in little by little, stirring constantly. Add the lemon juice, salt to taste and simmer for 8 minutes until the sauce is nice and thick, then add the cheese. Remove the bay leaf.
Melt the remaining butter in a large pan over a low heat. Add the chopped onion, kombu, leeks and garlic. Cook for 5 minutes, making sure not to colour anything. Add the wine and cook until the liquid has almost evaporated. Add the cream and milk mixture into the pan and simmer for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the fish, drained fish juices and chopped herbs.
Pour the mixture into a pan measuring roughly 32cm x 26cm and cover with puff pastry. Brush the egg yolk over the top and add a sprinkle of sea salt. Bake for 30 minutes and serve immediately, with roasted cauliflower and chat potatoes.
This story originally appeared in print issue 19.