Tucked away on the second floor of L Place, Mark Cholewka and Cathy Kiely have opened se sa me right underneath their initial creation Shore Restaurant and Bar.
se sa me brings together a stellar gastronomic team of opening executive chef Rodelio Aglibot, executive chef Dominic South (from NOBU London) and executive sous chef Shinji Tomori (Sushi Monk) to deliver an innovative menu based on Japanese cooking with distinct influences from the rest of Asia, which they have coined "Japanasian".
Atmosphere: When you walk into se sa me, you are immediately drawn to the lovely wood and stone designs, the thoughtfully placed lighting and of course, the signature sesame motifs carved at the front entrance by award-winning designer, Kinney Chan.
We particularly appreciated the soft beats in the background, unobtrusive to conversation, and the lounge-styled seating area that encouraged communal dining. It's a welcome haven of peace from the other more crowded and noisy restaurants in the Central district.
Food: Not a single aspect of a dish is taken lightly as se sa me. Take for example the compressed watermelon (HK$ 90) which is first vacuumed and marinated with a dash of soy sauce, letting the sodium work its magic to draw out the hidden sweetness of the summer fruit before being plated artistically with the thinly sliced black and red radish varieties and watercress.
For something equally light but probably more addictive, we also tried the crispy baby bok choi (HK$75) with a light drizzle of ginger tomato sauce. The stems are specifically removed leaving only the paper-thin leaves to be as crisp and light as possible - be careful, they're a healthy addiction!
We were told later that chef Dominic South doesn't like to waste ingredients and makes sure that if a portion of any ingredient (in this case the stem) does not add flavour to one dish, he would ensure it was used for another in the most innovative way possible.
Other nibble-worthy dishes include the Vietmanese influenced sweet corn crunch dipped in a salty-sour nuoc cham sauce, the steamed egg chawamushi (HK$50), charred asparagus with salty egg white and crab roe (HK$60) and juicy sea bass (HK$280) neatly decorated with coriander and lemongrass and cauliflower puree spread on the side.
Must-try: se sa me's signature dish Dragon's Breath (HK$90) is a bowl almost entirely covered with bright red chillis with ‘dragon’ fillings underneath. Choose from six fillings including soft shell crab, cauliflower, lamb chops, jumbo prawns, calamari and chicken, and don't worry -- the expected spicy burn is toned down with an infused sweetness from the brown sugar.
We also recommend sushi chef Shinji Tomori's Sushi Monk Selection (HK$380), an almost table-length boat featuring five pieces of hand selected nigiri sushi. As one of only 42 chefs in Japan to be accredited in this culinary art called Hoshuin Traditional Style, we tried the toro tuna, snapper, scallop, seared salmon and sweet shrimp that was so fresh and reminiscent of the Tsukiji Fish Markets in Tokyo, it left us begging for more.
For dessert, the passion fruit cloud (HK$90) was quite frankly, the lightest and fluffiest dessert we've ever tried. Although a bit on the sour side, when complemented by a colourful mixture of berries, each mouthful melted effortlessly and left a pleasant tangy after taste.
Verdict: Service at se sa me is still slightly spotty, as the only hot sake cocktail we ordered was first forgotten and then finally served lukewarm instead of hot. However, the food kept us entertained and we were more than willing to forgive. The restaurant industry is overwhelmed with claims of fusion cuisine but se sa me has proven to be several steps ahead with its originality, creativity and quality.
se sa me, 2/F, L Place, 139 Queen's Road Central, Hong Kong, +852 2870 2323, www.sesamehk.com
It's all about travel, photography and food in Andy Yeo's life and his monthly credit card bills lie testament to this. Born in Hong Kong and raised in Australia, Andy has returned to his hometown to capture the best that Asia has to offer. What good are weekends if not for short trips overseas to get your taste buds excited and memories well documented? His philosophy is to try everything at least once especially when it comes to food, after all, life's too short to say no! Read more about Andy at www.misteryeo.com.