Sumie at the San Want Hotel provides fashionable Japanese cuisine in a sophisticated environment. Diners pay for the setting and the pleasure of intricately constructed sashimi and deceptively simple main dishes such as grilled codfish with miso paste. It is a place for serious foodies and expense account holders.
On a recent weekday lunchtime there was a polite buzz as waiters and chefs in the open-plan kitchen catered for around 100 patrons. The restaurant can comfortably accommodate around 150 guests and has private rooms for up to 30 people.
Named after the hotel owner's sister, Sumie was established just over three years ago. The interior was conceived by Shiro Miura and as such has those typical minimalist lines favored by many Japanese designers. Clad in off-white marble, from ceiling to floor, the color scheme is set off by gray chairs, opaque green screens and a dash of red in the kitchen.
For our food test, head chef Masa (吳富昌) served up an appetizer that he said was typical of the detailed work that goes into each “creation.” Marinating in a refined soy and ginger sauce and nestling on a clear jelly base was a prawn, eggplant, okra and gochi concoction. It arrived in a small, pink bowl resting on shaved ice.
“It's best eaten as a combination,” Masa instructed, as the various ingredients are intended to complement each other as a whole, rather than be appreciated individually. Despite being tiny, it packed more flavors than most main meals.
“We only use the freshest ingredients and these are changed seasonally. This way the food is better and healthier,” Masa said.
Sashimi was next and, it has to be said, this was a different species of foodstuff from the rice rolls supplied at 7-Eleven or various takeaway counters around town. Locally sourced vegetables and herbs were added to imported Japanese ingredients.
Salmon eggs on a salmon slice, with rice, shrimp, avocado and cucumber was outstanding. The eggs popped exuberantly in the mouth and even the locally sourced rice had a superior, clean taste. The sea bream miso soup blended three varieties of paste to achieve the required strength and smoothness. Fish bones were boiled up overnight to create the consomme.
The dessert was an almond-flavored tofu creation, which Masa said was “irritating” and time consuming to prepare. However, combined with honeydew melon and pineapple, the dish was a fitting finale to an impressively expensive meal.