After a stint at Uchi in Austin, among other posts, Jeramie Robison took over as Shinsei's executive chef in February, and like most new chefs he was careful not to make waves. The Pan-Asian restaurant has been courting a loyal customer base for close to a decade now, and to overhaul the menu in one fell swoop risked stirring discontent.
But like any good chef, Robison felt a need to flex his creative muscles, and he's been doing just that across dishes he has slowly made his own. Now, much of the menu bears his stamp, which means if you haven't been to Shinsei in a while, and you're a fan of the restaurant, this is a good time to go.
I stumbled upon a steamed halibut plated up with a yellow curry Thai restaurants in the area should note. The sauce was light, almost airy and tasted of fresh aromatics. Roasted root vegetables were strewn about, and then a huge hunk of perfectly cooked halibut was floated on a cake of compressed and seared rice. The crunchy rice grains offered a textural contrast to nicely executed dish.
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Meanwhile a slow renovation continues upstairs in the second dining room. When it's finally completed Robison will add an izakaya happy hour to his arsenal, which sounds like a good bet for diners who want to avoid the crowds. After nearly nine years of serving the neighborhood, Shinsei has wooed customers who are as loyal as they are ravenous. Friday nights here are packed.