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I first met Chef Seiji Kamura way back in 2009 when he had a small and cozy Italian bistro called Don Eduardo’s at the Valuepoint Building in Legaspi Village, together with his partner Ms. Bingbing Santos. The restaurant was named after her father.

Back then, I wrote of Chef Seiji as an uncharacteristically tall and broad-shouldered Japanese who not only looks Pinoy, but even sometimes talks like one. The tanned and soft-spoken Chef Seiji has been working and living in the Philippines for almost 20 years now, starting as the Executive Chef of Tsukiji at the Century Park Hotel in Malate. I first enjoyed his innovative culinary creations when he had his Japanese-fusion restaurant Joan Miró on Pasay Road way back in the early 90s. Aside from his decades of experience in Japanese cuisine, he had also undergone a 2-year stint in France training with the great master himself, Paul Bocuse (one of the proponents of nouvelle cuisine and for whom the international culinary competition, the Bocuse d’Or, is named). I remember teasing Chef Seiji that time: “How international can you get! A Japanese from Yokohama who trained in classical Japanese cuisine AND French nouvelle cuisine cooking Italian in the Philippines!” He was pretty amused himself.

Just this year, Chef Seiji opened his restaurant Seiji along Pasay Road (now called Arnaiz Avenue). He prepares the most masterfully-done traditional Japanese dishes — with ingredients air-flown from Japan such as scallops, sanma (Japanese mackerel pike), wagyu beef — as well as exquisitely inventive and unexpected dishes, our favorite of which was the Foie Gras and Unagi Salad with Aged Balsamic Vinaigrette. Chef Seiji himself will welcome you as you enter and oversees his staff and sous-chefs to make sure everything is just so. In fact, up to now, he wakes up every day in the wee hours of the morning to go to market, usually the Baclaran Seaside Seafood market, to select and buy the freshest ingredients himself, as he has always done since he started working in the Philippines. Although you can order from a selection of premium sakes, he also even makes his own home-brewed sake, flavored with fruits like grapes and pears. And the true professional chef that he is, he holds tasting sessions for his staff so that they can knowledgeably describe to customers what they are like or made of.

For sure, my bouche was more than amused. So much so that Seiji merits a return or two or three…

Seiji Restaurant is located at the ground floor of the Cedar Executive Bldg on 1006 Arnaiz Ave, Makati (across Ayala Center). You may call 478-7550 for reservations.