5 Questions with Shinichi Nakatake, Keyaki’s New Executive Chef

He wants to bring the elegance of Kyoto to your table.
Keyaki is one of the grande dames of Japanese fine dining in Singapore, and a stroll through its manicured Japanese rooftop garden into one of the minimalist Tatami-style dining rooms will whisk you away to the heart of old Kyoto.
New at the helm of the restaurant is executive chef Shinichi Nakatake who, at the tender age of 18, moved from Yokohama to Kyoto to master the traditional methods of Japanese cooking.

He has amassed a wealth of experience at Michelin-starred Joël Robuchon in Monaco, UMU in London and the Japanese embassy in Belgium before returning to his first love of Japanese cuisine at Keyaki.
And what better time than winter for chef Nakatake to showcase the produce and cuisine of Kyoto when the cold waters produce some of the most excellent seafood including Buri (Yellowtail) and Kinmedai (Red Bream), plump and sweet with winter fat. These will be accompanied by the likes of Kabu (Kyoto turnip), Ebi-Imo (taro) and kyoyasai, traditional vegetables unique to Kyoto.

We have a chat with the chef about his approach to cooking and what to expect from his debut Winter Kaiseki menus, available from now to 25 December 2017.
How did your experiences at places like Joël Robuchon in Monaco and UMU in London shape your culinary style? 
At Joël Robuchon restaurant in Monaco, I had the privilege to be part of the team to deliver the sublime dining experience that they are well-recognised for and at UMU in London, I experienced infusing contemporary Western elements into traditional Japanese cuisine. My work experiences in Monaco and London have greatly influenced me on my preparation methods and use of ingredients in my cuisine.

And what is your cooking philosophy?
The food you prepare is the reflection of what you have experienced combined with your imagination. I marry my creativity and experiences and translate my imagination into dishes that would be a culinary journey for my guests. I believe in upholding the traditional Japanese cooking methods in my cuisine, but weaving in cooking techniques that I have learnt and am passionate about.
What do you love about the produce and cuisine of Kyoto?
Kyoto is a place close to my heart as I spent several years training there as a Chef. It has a long culinary history with specialties that are unique to the prefecture, and the cuisine is always a visual treat with its elegant presentation. It is about the delicate seasoning, placing importance on the natural taste of the ingredients, and the meticulous preparation and beautiful, elegant and exquisite presentation of food.

What is one dish from the new winter menu that you’re particularly proud of and want people to try?
I highly recommend all dishes, but if there is one dish that I have to single out, it would be the Grilled Tilefish with Sea Urchin Sauce. Amadai is a delicacy that is best experienced during winter as seafood in winter in rich in fat due to the cold waters, and when served with creamy sea urchin sauce, is one delightful dish not to be missed.
Keyaki is also known for its Wagyu dishes—what can diners expect this season?
At Keyaki, guests can enjoy Ohmi Wagyu at all times and we import them from certified and designated farms in Japan, hence, the taste and quality of the Wagyu is excellent and consistent. We believe in sourcing for new varieties of Wagyu to import from Japan that have not been introduced to the Singapore market yet. We are currently planning for our annual Wagyu promotion next year. Many of our guests continue to return to Keyaki because of the cooking methods used by my team of Chefs to showcase the best of the Wagyu. The best way to enjoy Wagyu is to have it teppanyaki-style or grilled with a simple seasoning of salt and pepper.
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