Dinner at Sushi Seki (Hell’s Kitchen, NYC)
Sushi Seki in Hell’s Kitchen is a brand new location of Sushi Seki (there’s the Upper East Side and Chelsea locations) that is a stunning, large bi-level space. The main level is Bar Seki, a more casual experience featuring shared plates and a long 15-seat bar, complete with artisanal, craft cocktails with a Japanese twist, perfect for sipping before or after dinner. It also has an additional 80 seats for diners including a communal table for shared dining, as well as many banquettes and tables facing the fully open kitchen.
A 6-seat Kappo/Chef’s counter for food enthusiasts who have come to know and love Chef Seki’s innovative cuisine. The counter will be available by reservation only and feature a prix-fixe Chef’s tasting menu, changing daily. Here Chef Seki and his team will entertain guests, featuring a raw bar as well as a grill for meats, vegetables and many other seasonal preparations.
Upstairs, on the spacious second floor of the new Sushi Seki, there is a small bar at the entrance with 6 seats followed by 3 traditional tatami rooms, seating 8-10 guests each and 30 in total for a private dining experience. Here, an expansive 12-seat sushi bar will offer lively, theatrical entertainment for the entire room. A total of 70 seats will fill the upstairs and the menu will represent the traditional sushi and sashimi selection that Chef Seki has become known for.
We started our evening with a wonderful glass of Champagne Philippe Gonet, Grande Reserve Brut. Medium-bodied, lovely golden straw color, yeasty, biscuit notes that tasted delicious by itself and works with our sushi coming up.
Our first dish was the evening’s special of chutoro tataki topped with fresh shredded root vegetables like daikon and carrots and micro greens. The tataki was seared and seasoned nicely and the vegetables added a refreshing, pleasantly bitter notes.
Then came all of our sushi…
The first ones we went straight to was the Hokkaido uni ($11 each) and abalone sushi ($7 each). The uni sushi was sublime. Sweet, delicious and the rice was cooked well. The abalone sushi was steamed that it made the texture a bit more crunchy and chewier. (Abalone is naturally chewy and crunchy with aromas of the sea.)
The two platters of sushi Sushi Special ($45) and Three Golden Flowers ($38) have the unique touches of Chef Seki like yellowfin topped with jalapeno pepper, tuna topped with tofu cream, and a salmon sushi topped with blowtorched tomato, along with the tempura rolls and other traditional nigiri sushi. While the interesting flavors are good and somehow work, my gripe with both of these trays is the rice. It’s too soft and mushy.
For dessert, we had matcha crème brûlée, panna cotta topped with coarse azuki red bean paste, matcha and azuki red bean mochi ice creams. All were very good; nothing too sweet and executed very well.
The matcha crème brûlée was our favorite since we liked the brittle, caramelized top and the matcha custard was so creamy. The panna cotta was set just right and it’s not too thick. The mochi ice creams didn’t have a too thick mochi skin and the ice cream had good flavor.
Overall, the experience was good but the food, especially the sushi, was uneven. Granted, the chef is working with a new crew of cooks and front of the house team since this establishment is two weeks old. I think the team would get their groove on when time irons out the kinks. It has the potential of becoming a solid, upscale Japanese restaurant with inventive fare.
To view more photos of this meal, please see my photo set (click here) or the gallery below: