Mikuni: Rise Of The Titans With New Executive Chef Keisuke Uno
It had to happen. The feeling of an era gone by when former Mikuni chef Moon Kyung Soo decided to leave early this year, in search of greener pastures after being with the Japanese restaurant for 6 years. While everyone mourned the loss, I was extremely excited about the prospects of a new chef; Fairmont Singapore always had a knack for bringing onboard massive talents like Julien Royer and Kirk Westaway, case in point. Moreover with such huge shoes to fill, suffice to say, it would be a mammoth task looking for the right man for the job to cement the establishment’s reputation.
Half a year slips by, and Mikuni unveils its new Executive Chef Keisuke Uno. There are little oddities with this man of few words—his soft-spoken nature only defiled by deft hands and artistry splashed out on plates. Hailing from the city of Hiratsuka, Chef Keisuke’s humble beginnings at Minokichi in Kyoto, Sheraton Grande Tokyo Bay then the fine-dining institution Nobu Tokyo, have since paved the way for an outstanding accolade of global experiences. His impressive resume includes Ai restaurant and The Claridges in New Delhi, IST TOO in Istanbul and most recently, Kushi restaurant in Shangri-La Le Touessrok Resort and Spa in Mauritius. What would compel a man to settle in cosmopolitan, and honestly a tad sterile Singapore bewilders me; but I was most certainly thrilled by the opportunity to witness the culinary magic that he wields.
There’s a real East-West thing soaking into the menu and it’s refreshing, almost like a beacon of light illuminated within its regimental, barely lit interiors. Executive Chef Keisuke Uno is sure to incorporate his wealth of multicultural experiences into his creations. We begin our ‘Gourmet Safari’ adventure at the stunning Sushi counter where an appetiser platter captures the eccentricities of duo minds, Chef de Cuisine Masa Nakao and Keisuke himself. Golden brown sticks of deep-fried Squid are flanked by truffle miso. A neat nugget of poached lobster dangles precariously over Daiginjo sake saffron soup. The hearty broth is an intense experience, details such as the clams steamed in Daiginjo sake elevate the deceivingly simple dish.
I approach the Sushi platter with bated breath. It really works, the vivacious glow of teriyaki sauce over foie gras draped rice teases the diner in encumbering anticipation. “No soya sauce”, croaks Executive Chef Keisuke Uno and you adhere to abiding faith. You are rewarded with rapturous delight in the form of seasonal matsutake mushrooms draped over white fish stock steamed sushi rice. Leaping headlong into the umami party is the Miyazaki Wagyu sushi covered in black truffle slices. The Foie Gras offering takes the cake for me and I paused, not knowing what euphemism to supply for the sorcery displayed.
The big fisted flavours of the Miyazaki Wagyu Sirloin from the Teppanyaki counter is not to be missed. Lightly seared on the Teppan Grill in a fury of flames, the result is a nice crisp surface redolent with smoke licked fats. The expected bits of the formula are all in there, but what surprises is the palate piquing anticucho sauce that Chef Keisuke Uno presents alongside the decadent meat treat. How did Peruvian find a way into his menu? “In New York, I used to work alongside many South Americans in the kitchen. Ecuadorian and Peruvian chefs. I guessed that just rubbed off me,” he explains, as his mind inconceivably draws back to those fond memories.
We venture forth to the last kingdom (Mikuni roughly translates to ‘Three Kingdoms’ in Japanese), the robatayaki station. Inside the hidden room at the back of the sprawling restaurant, the feeling is almost “ironic traditional” with a boundless display of fresh seafood and vegetables set before two chefs manning the grill station with silent focus. This succulent produce is made into revelation level staff over the traditional charcoal grill. No surprises here and the meal is met with flashes of decadence starting off with the Grilled Matsutake and Saury Roulade. Better known as Mackerel Pike, the grilled fish yields a flavour quite reminiscent of liver, the matsutake further priming the earthy references.
Desserts go the deconstructed route with poached pears seeking reincarnation with pear slow cooked in sake, vanilla bean and sugar served with raspberry sorbet, almond crumble, muscat jelly and a tongue-tingling yuzu custard that appeals to the zanier species. Work past its slightly sweetish first impression and the dessert grows on you. It’s likely to please.
It’s been a while since the restaurant has someone at its helm and Chef Keisuke Uno gives the neighbourhood a warm and fuzzy buzz that’s still synonymous with Mikuni’s high virtue. A work in progress, it’s the place you want to eat in right now—especially for that plump foie gras sushi.