As I cast my eyes over Se Sa Me’s interior, I was reminded of a Zen sandpit, with the gentle undulations of the eating booths area akin to the inroads made by the rake on the sand. Everything is in this neutral, uniform, pine colour and due to the open layout and quiet buzz around the place, it’s quite easy to see how this is an ideal location for a casual yet sophisticated catch-up meal with friends.
Opened in January this year, se sa me’s cuisine is described as ‘Japanasian’ – contemporary Japanese suffused by influences from across Asia. Executive chef Dominic South has designed an innovative modern menu, which introduces what he and his team feel are the most intriguing elements of Asian cuisine, whilst giving the dishes a fresh twist. In keeping with the theme of most restaurants this year, the dishes are designed for sharing.
The chef had prepared for us an impressive array of their signature dishes, starting with some of their small bites: charred asparagus with crab butter and salted egg white, sweet corn crunch with scallions and nuoc cham, and Chawan Mushi.
The asparagus was tender but still had a good firmness to it, but I didn’t feel that the salted egg white added much to the dish. The sweet corn crunch, a deep-fried tempura style dish was excellent, the batter thin and crisp and I enjoyed the Vietnamese nuoc cham dip, which really brought the dish alive. The Chawan Mushi, or steamed egg custard, was nicely seasoned and very smooth.
Our salad was the compressed watermelon with watercress, radish and chilli vinaigrette. The watermelon taste was very concentrated and extremely fresh, and I thought the sesame seeds were a fantastic crunchy contrast. The chilli dressing gave some added zest and lifted the dish. It was altogether a highly interesting take on a salad.
se sa me’s signature dish, the Dragon’s breath, made its way to our table and I noticed that it was an adaptation of a traditional Szechuan dish. There are several ingredients to choose from for this including squid, soft shell crab and lamb, but Chef Dominic had prepared the cauliflower for us to try. The vegetable came nestled in a heap of dried chilli and garlic, and though the name might put you off, don’t worry, it wasn’t too fiery at all (in fact, it even had an interesting hint of sweetness in the mix too).
For mains, we were treated to The Sushi Monk Selection, a beautifully presented selection of five pieces of sushi. The sushi pieces were arranged on a gorgeous wooden boat-shaped dish, complete with its own little flower arrangements at the flanks. It was almost too pretty to eat. Chef Shinji Tomori is the Executive Sous Chef who has created the sushi menu and from this dish, it’s obvious he has quite the elegant touch.
Our second main dish was the seabass with a coriander lemongrass cauliflower puree. Again, this was a delicate and tasty dish, but given its portion size (several bites for one, at best), I was puzzled as this is labelled as a large plate for sharing.
By far the champions of the meal were the desserts and Chef Dominic excels in this corner with his Passion Fruit Cloud and Yuzu parfait.
The Passion Fruit Cloud was astonishingly light, both in consistency and in calories, as it is made with no egg or cream. I adored the flavours of the passion fruit, mixed berries and lime gel with a tiny dollop of meringue on the side.
The Yuzu parfait with sancho pepper tuile was lovely to look at and had a delicious creamy texture, but wasn’t overly sweet, which made me hanker for more. Both were light fresh fruity and lovely, perfect desserts for summer.
se sa me has a made a quiet entry onto the Central dining scene, and whilst the dishes are of a good standard and the menu creative, I feel the portions are a little on the small and delicate size (a comment echoed amongst friends) to really give a diner complete meal satisfaction. But I have hopes that se sa me will do well. With both Chef Dominic South and Chef Shinji Tomori at the helm, I’m sure their creations will ensure that this restaurant stays on the scene for a while yet.
se sa me 2/F, L Place, 139 Oueen’s Road Central Central
Check out more food-related writings from Michelle on her blog, Chopstixfix!