I’ve heard so much about Chef Bruce’s tasting menu but I couldn’t find any one of my friends willing to go to Parañaque just to eat. I thank my new foodie friends who are willing to brave the traffic for good food. Most of them have eaten at Sensei Sushi several times yet they’re willing to go back over and over again.
We left Greenhills at 6:30 on a Saturday night and arrived at one and half hours later. Road reblocking or just regular traffic? Another friend used the Skyway and got there much earlier. Thank goodness I wasn’t the one driving.
It was my first time to go the famous Aguirre Street which was lined with so many, many restaurants and shops. If you blink you will miss Sensei Sushi. You should see this sign and hit the brakes.
I knew Sensei was small but I didn’t expect it to be this small. The store size was good for a donut shop or even a laundry shop but you wouldn’t expect it to house a restaurant serving world class modern Japanese cuisine.
The restaurant was so small you can hear the conversation of the people in the next table. I’m sure nobody minded since everyone was excited just to eat.
Here’s Chef Bruce who took time to pose for me before he got back to preparing our food.
The restaurant has an a la carte menu as well as changing specialties on the blackboard depending on what fresh ingredients the chef can get from Japan. We were there for the tasting menu which happens only at dinner time. I later realized everyone in the restaurant was there for the same thing.
Chef Bruce came to our table to introduce each dish in detail. I wasn’t as fast a typist as Andrea so I recorded his description on my iPhone. He did this with each of the 12 dishes and with each table. In the middle of the meal he was able to catch up the service with all the tables so he described the food to all the diners in the restaurant at one go. It was the only time the place was quiet.
I will just use Chef Bruce’s words to describe his food so you will realize the creative genius that he is. I want you to take a peek in his thought process and get a glimpse of his passion. It’s not an exact transcription but it’s as close to it. I realized I typed really slow and had to listen to the recording over and over again. I hope you appreciate my efforts. 😀
We started of with a salad made with watermelon, cherry tomatoes, cucumber with a dressing made from fermented watermelon juice to make it sour and a bit of fermented cucumbers and a bit of pickle juice, basil and summer herbs. For a bit of crispy texture we take dulse or söl which is Danish seaweed and we fried it really fast. We used a cleaner tasting fish, the kampachi which I cut thicker so that the firmness of the fish is emphasized.
I was so enthralled with the first course that I forgot to record this dish’s description. One of my favorites was the oysters cooked low and slow in its own juice. It was garnished with seaweed breadcrumbs and shallots cooked in butter with yuzu and sauerkraut juice. He finished it with a couple of brussel sprout leaves and sake jelly.
Akoudai is a red Japanese fish with eyes that bulge out and come from the Southern waters where the current is very strong. The texture is very firm. It’s easy to like toro and mackerel because of the oil but the challenge is how do you go crazy with the flavor? You take advantage of the texture. We torched the skin and slice sashimi and take all the bones and roast it make a broth cook it until super reduced and season it with soy sauce.
In the restaurant I kill crab very differently by pouring hot water and leaving it to die for a few minutes that way the flavor of the crab doesn’t go into the water or leak back into the crab. We remove the crab meat and season it with a bit of pickled ginger, salt, olive oil, orange sheet, avocado puree. The sauce is made from the innards of the crab, the aligue, the broth and cook it until super thick and blend it with sea urchin and dashi.
This one was a unanimous favorite in our table.
Tairagai in English is called pen shell clams or queen scallops. In Baclaran they have this when you open it and smell it you won’t want to eat it. In Japan it’s a different story. The great this about this is in a tasting menu I can get away doing it like this but if I serve it a la carte I would have to charge P2,000 per piece. That’s the beauty of tasting you don’t have to give everyone a whole order. We use Japanese uni which isn’t in season in Japan anymore but if you torch it it can still add creaminess. I made a sauce from the liver and a bit of XO sauce and made a butter out of it then douse it so it’s nice and seasoned. And the skirt around the scallop I fried til crispy.
This is the firefly squid which the Japanese catch after they lay their eggs because they die after laying eggs. We wanted to be more cerebral with food and tell a story. The sago represents the eggs of the squid and we cooked it with the liver of the squid and a little lobster broth season it with a bit of lime. That’s corn panna cotta at the bottom. We wanted textural contrast so we did it as a tempura for a mix and match.
The __ meatiness and the fattiness of the hamachi but we wanted to play with it and push it into a more savory sweet side by pairing it with onions and things with umami. We made an onion broth cooked really low and slow and we let the power of patis and calamansi bring out the flavor out. Think like your nilaga or bulalo. We have pickled mushrooms to cut the sweetness and fried mushrooms just to give it a bit of crunch. At the end of the day I don’t get to try most of these dishes so if it sucks please forgive me. But the idea is to use the broth to carry the fish and use the mushrooms for different texture.
I loved the broth and could drink a whole bowl of it. Chef Bruce you should try this because it was amazing!
We paired scallops with barley thickened with squash puree seasoned with a little lemongrass, a few squeezes of lemon puree, cauliflower seasoned with a bit of turmeric. It’s like Southeast Asian curry but not so curry. The sauce is made with coconut milk, parsley, ginger, garlic blended together with oysters which acted as thickener for the sauce. We fried some brussel sprouts for some crunch and bitterness.
Foie gras as a palate cleanser is a challenge for us. Roasted carrots cooked in raw butter low and slow and grilled lightly paired with guava made into honey, some raw carrots and carrot juice fermented for a few weeks then we season with sampaloc and green chartreuse so that the alcohol can help and play nicely with the foie gras, a bit of dried juniper berries and ginger cardamom crumble for crunch.
Most of my friends have eaten at Sensei before so this Japanese A5 Wagyu beef with fried leeks wasn’t new to them. This plate was good for 4 people and I was able to eat 3 pieces of the tender beef which was best eaten with a piece of leek. If you order this a la carte 150 grams would cost P2,600.
The steaks is Japanese Wagyu from Saga prefecture with charred eggplant puree. The sauce on the steak is made from sake, ponzu and cabrales cheese which is Spanish blue cheese. The reason for the cheese is you can’t really age Japanese Wagyu because it’s so fatty but we wanted to give you that funk and we found that blue cheese has that. The charred eggplant is just to give you that charred taste.
Since Sharlene doesn’t eat beef the chef prepared a special dish for her called “Colors on Collars”.
Collars on the grill from different fish like kinmedai, akoudai, kampachi with different sauces. With this dish I gave the freedom to my cooks and I just tasted it.
He trained his cooks well since we all liked this too. Surprisingly there was a lot of meat from the collars.
Sweet potato, cucumber granita and roasted pineapple. I thought it was ice cream. Sheesh he’s good!
This is mango and yuzu in the form of a curd around it is a brown strip made from sesame paste and seasoned with agar agar. Along with that is black sesame shortbread and a bit of meringue that we torched so that it adds a nice sticky creaminess and a bit of matcha powder. And that completes the tasting menu.
We all gave him a round of applause for a truly unique and delicious meal.
The Tasting Menu costs P2,850 (US$65 or HK$500) and it was worth every peso. Chef Bruce constantly changes the items in the tasting menu so if you google other blogs you will find different dishes. That’s why I want to go back and try more his ingenious creations. Can you believe the chef has never been to Japan? All this he creates from what he thinks will go together and I admire his excellent palate. He’s opening a restaurant in The Fort soon so be sure to try to Sensei Sushi soon because it may be your last time to try these food.
Be sure to make a reservation at least one week in advance. Also bring cash since they don’t accept credit cards. I highly recommend that balikbayans, tourists and most specially people who call themselves foodies try this restaurant. You won’t regret it.
Sensei Sushi Bar
268 Aguirre Street, BF Homes, Parañaque
telephone: +632-3581387, +63917 5157018