Chef Spotlight: Keisuke Uno of Mikuni
The new executive chef at Fairmont Singapore's Japanese restaurant has a trove of treasures to share.
04 September 2017
Dining at Mikuni has always been about a multi-sensorial experience. Helming the Japanese restaurant in Fairmont Singapore
now is new executive chef Keisuke Uno, who oversees the restaurant’s three main areas — the Teppanyaki, Sushi and Robatayaki live stations — as well as designs the kaiseki menu here.
Among his treasure finds is wakame soba
that is brought in exclusively for Mikuni
. These noodles are brought in fresh so they are less brittle than the dry varieties, and are made from buckwheat flour and wakame (green seaweed) harvested only from the Naruto strait. Here, the waters between Shikoku and Awaji island come in fast stormy waves. Yet, it is precisely this that makes this seaweed harvest worth it: The green strands are thick and crisp, and when mixed with the buckwheat flour, suffuses the springy noodles with plenty of umami flavour, enhanced by a light delicate broth.
“I first tried these noodles 20 years ago in Kyoto, and I could remember their flavour so vividly,” says chef Keisuke Uno.
“Sometimes, luxury is in the simplest things.”
Take sashimi, the mark of whether a Japanese chef is worth his salt. While a sharp knife is definitely key to slicing the fish well, chef Keisuke points out that the plating of the sashimi is equally important. “It is not just about cutting the fish. Japan has four seasons, and we try to showcase this in every detail,” he shares. At Mikuni, the slices of fresh fish are garnished with seasonal flowers, such as sakura blossoms in spring, and served on plates that reflect the mood of the season — glass plates in summer months and black plates in winter.
Chef Keisuke Uno is not one to shy away from experimenting with local flavours either. While he built his foundation in traditional Japanese cuisine at the long-standing Minokichi
in Kyoto, where he received a strong foundation in the art of traditional Japanese cuisine, his resume includes stints at India at Guppy by Ai restaurant in New Delhi.
He has also worked at IST TOO at Shangri-La Bosphorus in Istanbul, Turkey and most recently at Kushi restaurant in Shangri-La Le Touessrok Resort and Spa in Mauritius.
In Singapore, chef Keisuke Uno finds inspiration from the way sambal is made. As Japanese chillies are quick to pack a punch with their sharp heat, chef Keisuke Uno prefers the gentler spice of the sambal tempoyak, a result of the fermented paste left to age to produce a depth of flavour.
“I thought it was a good way to reduce sharpness of flavours, and I saw how it worked for the sambal that has shallots in it. So, I decided to try the same thing for an onion dressing (used over salads),” says chef Keisuke Uno, who ages his onion dressing for three to four days to reduce the sharp bitter taste of raw onions.
Mikuni's 63'C Slow-cooked Ohmi Wagyu Short Rib
Indeed, no little detail escapes chef Keisuke Uno. Considerable thought is put into how ingredients can be showcased, where even the live seafood he imports is used to engage the senses. Hokkaido sea urchin, for instance, is presented table-side in its spiky shell that is opened in front of guests, cleaned, and served for visual impact.
Says chef Keisuke Uno: “Three very important things: the guests, the farmer (who grows the produce) and the life of your ingredients. You must respect all three, that is the key to a meaningful and holistic experience.”