Restaurant Sela: Modern European with a fleck of Asian confusion

Situated between Cityhall and Bugis, Seah street is home to one of my favourite baking supplies shop; my frequent visits to the joint during my better days as a budding pastry chef blinding me to potential great food experiences along the way as I spearheaded my way thru Raffles Hotel with cumbersome bags full of chocolate and dry ingredients to spin up sweet tales in my kitchen. Apart from my distasteful meal at Third and Sixth that forever left a mark on my soul (read about it here), Seah Street occupied no space on my map to achieve culinary satiety on local shores. Up till now.

This is SELA, an industrious restaurant dressed in a gobs of muted whites and muji like shades of wood and old fashioned tweed; fortuitous swirls of ink across white canvas decked the walls with their artsy intentions. Pushing past all that, I was solely focused on the food, having heard some amazing stuff about the petite courses, I came armed with expectations. Some of the most dangerous weapons, so they say...

It wasn't long before, our first dabble into the minds of the culinary minds behind SELA hit the table. Charred Balsamic Teriyaki Baby Octopus ($14) served with wild rocket, homemade sun-dried tomatoes, toasted almond flakes and smoke paprika oil. I found this dish terribly disjointed, the wild rocket on the plate an overt affair to force the diners to eat their greens. A longer marination time could have yielded a more tender octopus, scented with stronger hints of teriyaki flavor as undertaken.

Hawaiian pizza lovers, you'll love the next dish. The Maple Glazed Kurobuta Ham ($16) serves up an assault of flavors provided by charred pineapples, salted plum gel, shaved asparagus and a racy mustard vinaigrette. This Spanish Kurobuta pork rubbed me the wrong way, it's strangely fibrous texture interfering with my knife progressions.  Sadly, not the finest moment for a particularly rare breed of porcine delight.

The one appetiser to really blow it out of the water for me was the Pan Seared US scallop ($16), cooked to perfection, this dish presented an sophisticated display of flavor combinations that worked in perfect tandem with one another in a very abstract way. Forbidden rice cooked bubur hitam style is sculpted at the bottom of the dish, the plump scallop over that and then dressed with a salacious torrent of salted egg cream, yes, you heard me right. The provocative concoction causing me to roll my eyes back in delirious revelry.

Across the board, the mains fared a whole lot better than their appetisers. The Miso Chilean Seabass ($32) seizing taste buds with its delicate composition of perfectly cooked seabass with a confit of shimeiji mushrooms forming a soft cushion below, shielding the protein from the distressingly cold plate. Wilted arugula adds a clever touch, soaking in the saline complexities of the lemon dashi broth.

Another majorly successful main was the Kakuni Style Pork Cheek ($20), a good alternative to the over-executed beef cheek more commonly found in restaurants these days.  Here, the puffy cheeks have been simmered down to fork tender status, each and every morsel bursting forth with soy and dashi broth.Accompanying the star is a mix of arugula, charred corn kennels, braised leeks, roasted parsnips and granny smith sauce for that mandatory play on pork and apples.

Evidence that the kitchen may be running some consistency problems came in the form of overcooked steaks. The "1824" 120 days Grain-fed Striploin ($28) varied across the board in doneness with the 8 plates that graced the table. Mine, being of a modest size, bordered on being chewy and tough. I say meh... but then the luscious butternut puree makes me think twice about hurling insults at the dish. Avoid this, unless you craving for steak is too intense to manage.

Thankfully, finales were drawn up in sweet reconciliation. The White Chocolate Mousse ($15) pacifying the most of us with its deftly nectarous light airy texture, raised above the plate by a cream crackers base that possessed a slightly salty edge to excite the palate. A cooling quenelle of raspberry sorbet overhead punches through the sweet whispers with a heady tanginess that makes your tongue ache in lust. Lots of spoons tussling over this plate, a clear sign of its superbness.

The Dehydrated Pineapple Pavlova ($10) is another noteworthy dessert that combines the likes of charred pineapple, paprika, thyme, salted caramel and a beguiling scoop of vanilla ice cream in a meringue constituted bowl. Tear through the shatteringly crisp walls and attempt to get everything in one bite, because that's the way things ought to be done. 

Restaurant Sela running a tight ship on its costing manages to push out two specials, the 5 course special with a glass of house pour wine at $40/pax may seem like a real bargain, but my advice would be to take up the 7-course challenge, also adorned with a glass of wine, Chef's choice of 3 starters, 3 mains and 1 dessert to be shared, all this jollification for only $50 per head. Can't touch this...

Restaurant SELA
32 Seah Street
t: 6337 6358

Operating Hours:
Mon - Sat: 11 30am - 2 30pm; 6pm - 11pm

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