Seki, the latest Japanese restaurant to impress the local culinary scene opened to fanfare last December at the former Hotel Rendezvous (now known as Rendezvous Grand). Starting off as an initiative by Takuma Seki of Hide Yamamoto, Seki aims to delight guests with a spread of delectable fresh seafood, an impressive array of sushi, and a range of robatayaki and Japanese cuisine favourites to the table!

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The journey to Seki at Rendezvous Grand!

Stepping into Seki, it is hard not to notice the quaint cool classy bar-like atmosphere of the restaurant. With a simple modern decor, ranging in the hues of red and black, this is one place which offers a contemporary style to emphasize the naturalness of Japanese cuisine.

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Drinks were served to begin, and for starters I was recommended to try the Kodakara Yogurt Sake and Kodakara Yuzu Sake. This was my first introduction to this range of flavoured sake and I have to admit, they are excellent! The yogurt sake was especially smooth and creamy with just that tinge of alcohol flavour flowing through. For something a little lighter and citrusy while appreciating more of the sake taste, the Yuzu variety stands out better.

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Chief Executive Chef Dawn Pau preparing our starters

A take from the traditional sushi bars in Japan, Seki offers guests the opportunity to dine at the Sushi bar counter where you can witness the chefs at work, crafting out their masterpieces. It was a real treat witnessing Executive Chef Dawn Pau individually preparing the sushi for guests while he engaged in cheerful banter. Chef Pau’s cuisine style emphasizes traditional ingredients paired with fresh ideas in order to stretch the imaginations of what the dish is, be it visually or in taste.

Formerly the first non-Japanese Head Sushi Chef of Inagiku (now Mikuni) at Fairmont Singapore, Chef Pau had a range of experience exploring global cuisines in Japan, Italy, Holland and India. He playfully told me his history when he was an apprentice in Japan training under the traditionally rigorous Japanese cuisine hierarchy for 2 and a half years, and the regimental discipline he had to put himself through.

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Before the meal started proper, I was served Chef Pau’s specialty of Sashimi Cocktail. Bits of sashimi and salmon roe are placed within shot glasses, subsequently layered with sake and grape soda and topped with a crisp slighty bitter sweet salad leaf. As Chef explained, the salad was to cleanse the tastebuds first, and thereafter the sashimi pieces were meant to be eaten. From what I experienced, the grape soda toned down the oiliness of the fish and yet brightening up the flavours within the first bite.

Once this is done, stir up the remaining roe and cocktail, and take the whole dish down as a shot. Simple ingredients put together harmoniously, all to experience the flavours of fizzy grape soda tinged with the warmth of alcohol. Before it all ends, the burst of salmon roe as it slides down reveals the sea saltiness only to emphasize the sweetness of the cocktail.

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After the refreshing lightness from the Sashimi Cocktail, I was served with the Foie Gras Chawanmushi. Foie Gras itself an intoxicating delicacy is a recipe for pleasure when paired with the steaming hot smooth egg custard. By blending deep earthly aromas with the lightness of the chawanmushi, a contrast of flavours is to be well expected. With a consistency almost to a melt in the mouth standard, this is one dish that I will come back for. To top it off, crisp salty black tobiko provide an additional dimension of flavour and texture.

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As a main, I had the Mentaiko Salmon with Asparagus. A firm block of salmon is nicely seared and topped with a heap of mentaiko flamed to a slight brown. Breaking into the fish, I appreciated its slight oiliness and natural flavours. The cod fish roe topping was also salty sweet and it complemented the salmon well. The presentation of the asparagus was thoughtful, though I would figure using White asparagus would provide an added effect in presentation with a subtly softer texture.

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The way Chef Pau moved his hands around as he made each piece of sushi was a visual treat of art.

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The first creation was the Chutoro Hotate Sushi. Deftly prepared, a slice of the fatty tuna was paired with a fine thick film of scallop, brushed with a special sauce and then topped with freshly grated wasabi. The sweetness of the meat and the luxurious tenderness of the scallop really stood out in this serving. It was good to note that the amount of sushi rice was not overwhelming and it acted as an accompaniment with the slight vinegared taste emphasized slightly by the spicy sweet wasabi.

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For the next serving, it was a plate of Flounder Sushi. The skin is left on to provide a smooth hued contrast, and it comes glazed with a light sauce that brought out the fish’s oiliness, and smooth savoury flavour. A memorable piece.

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What really stood out for me is Chef Pau’s full creation of a single Botan Ebi. The flesh of the sweet prawn was separated and the head was halved, deep fried and prepared individually as sushi servings. The meat itself was sweet, crisp and clear. The bottom half of the head carried a slightly stronger prawn flavour with a crunchy bite. But the best was the crispy top itself where the sweet prawn essence was well concentrated. Savour the piece slowly. I insist.

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The last main of Gyuniku was served. As a dish of seared beef brushed with a savoury sweet sauce, each chunk was an enjoyment to slowly chew through. The sweet apples accompanying the side slightly was a fruity flavoured contrast to the intense meatiness. And the molten cheese piece with their sharp saltiness enhanced the flavours of both the beef and apple. Delightful.

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To end things off, I had a serving of Wasabi Ice Cream. I prefer savoury flavours over sweet ones anytime, but this Wasabi Ice Cream was a real eye opener. While it might sound cliche that it is another dish with wasabi infused, I must say that you have to really try it to know this select enjoyment. Not overtly spicy, yet with a smooth savouriness lending balanced to the sweet creaminess of the ice cream, this was a lasting impression for the entire night.

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Seki Private Dining Areas

Dining at Seki was one memorable experience altogether. I was impressed by the sushi craft, the foie gras chawanmushi and the most unique wasabi ice cream. While I did not fully see the artful designs the restaurant is supposedly noted for in some of the mains, I have to admit that this is one restaurant with a good range of traditional Japanese flavours with that touch of fusion in some dishes set to impress. It is a real treat to sit at the sushi bar counter to really complete the dining experience, and for that night, really just leave dinner in the chef’s hands.

This was an invited session.

Note: Chef Pau will be taking a break from Seki. When I knew of this, I simply had to go back the following day to try even more creations. Look out for the following article on Seki! Certain dishes featured in this article might be unavailable as there could be a concept change in the restaurant.

Seki
9 Bras Basah Road
#01-02 Rendezvous Gallery
Rendezvous Grand Hotel
Singapore 189559

Reservations : 6336 3806
Website : www.seki.com.sg