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Review: Sekoya, a new sensory experience

A barkeep prepares to serve customers in Sekoya in the late afternoon. Sekoya opened on Aug. 10 on California Avenue. The restaurant features an array of California-style food with global influences. According to owner Steve Ugur, the restaurant is meant to be a meeting space for people in the community. “We don’t want to be one-dimensional,” Ugur said. (Photo: Ashray Gupta)

The moment one steps through the door, one is transported from loud and busy California Avenue to a quiet, dimly-lit space. To the left is the lounge area, complete with cozy couches and a low wooden table. To the right are large tables with appearances similar to a vertical slice a tree trunk and an organized bar. The friendly staff complete the atmosphere. This is Sekoya.

The restaurant, nestled between Ume Tea and La Boheme, formally opened on Aug. 10. Sekoya features California-style food with both European and Asian influences, as well as a sizable selection of alcoholic beverages. Sekoya is the first of its kind with no other locations, though owner Steve Ugur has opened other restaurants before.

Ugur said one of the goals for the restaurant is to be a unique community gathering place.

“We tried to create a nice neighborhood restaurant where people can come and enjoy food,” Ugur said. “You can come in three different times and have three different experiences.”

According to the its website, Sekoya “sets out to provide an experience that seamlessly delights each of the senses.” The restaurant offers five dining areas: the bar, front patio,enclosed terrace, lounge and Tree Tables for parties of six to eight.

Sekoya offers an  “Amber Hour” Monday through Saturday from 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. in the bar and lounge dining areas. The Amber Hour comes with a unique menu that offers many of the regular items at a discounted price, though ordering from the full menu is still an option.

We sat down during Amber Hour to try Sekoya out. We arrived at 4:05 p.m., just after the restaurant opened Saturday evening when it was almost entirely empty. Here is what we found:

Oysters – fresno chile-sangria mignonette, smoked trout roe, citrus pearls (Photo: Ashray Gupta)

Oysters – $5 each ($3 each during Amber Hour)
The first starter was two oysters topped with fresno chili-sangria mignonette, smoked trout roe and citrus pearls. The oysters were very refreshing, with both the roe and citrus pearls adding vivid bursts of flavor. The savory mignonette sauce contributed even further to the oysters’ natural oceanic flavor. The presentation was clean and simple and the oysters, delivered very shortly after ordering, were a perfect start to our meal.

Double-Fried Tempura Muhsrooms – shimeji & maitake, whipped tofu, yuzu, sweet soy, togarashi, chives (Photo: Ashray Gupta)

Double-Fried Tempura Mushrooms – $16 ($12 during Amber Hour) 

The Double-Fried Tempura Mushrooms consisted of shimeji & maitake served with whipped tofu, yuzu, sweet soy, togarashi and chives. According to Ugur, this is one of Sekoya’s most popular dishes.

The mushrooms were flavorful and stayed crisp even after some time passed. Though we were initially skeptical about the whipped tofu, its creamy texture and mild flavor served perfectly balanced out the crunch and strong salty taste of the mushrooms. For those used to eating mushrooms cooked more traditionally, this dish takes a wonderful spin on them. However, the dish is certainly on the saltier side, so those who dislike that may want to steer clear.

Spanish Octopus – crispy chorizo (Photo: Ashray Gupta)

Spanish Octopus Skewer – $16 ($14 during Amber Hour)

The Spanish Octopus skewer came straight from a Hibachi grill. The texture was chewy but not rubbery and still juicy. Similar to the oysters, the skewer’s dual smokey and briney tastes combine to create a dynamic and delicious flavor profile. Note that the price tag is for one single skewer, and may not feed you as much per dollar as some of the other menu items.

Dry aged Smash Burger – double patty, smoked gouda, caramelized red onions, Sekoya burger sauce, house-made sesame bun (Photo: Ashray Gupta)

Dry Aged Smash Burger – $22 ($16 during Amber Hour) 

The Dry Aged Smash Burger was the star of the show with two patties, smoked gouda, caramelized red onions and a savory Sekoya burger sauce, all between house-made sesame buns. Pickles were served on the side.

The burger was on the saltier side as were all the other starters and plates we tasted. The patties themselves carried a strong smokey flavor complimented excellently by the abundance of cheese and onions on top. The savory sauce tied all the individual flavors together. The sweet pickles did well to balance out the salty flavors.

Strawberry Tres Leches Cake – peach shiso jam, macerated strawberries, sponge cake, salted milk foam, lime (Photo: Ashray Gupta)

Strawberry Tres Leches Cake – $16
Last but certainly not least was the Strawberry Tres Leches Cake. The cake itself was firm, dense and on the drier side, but the super fluffy milk foam balanced it out well. The strawberries were tangy and a nice addition to the cake itself. All-in-all a very balanced dessert.

As a whole, dinner at Sekoya was a good experience with delicious food and relatively affordable prices. Those looking for a more elevated but not overly-formal dining location should absolutely try their luck.

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About the Contributor
Carissa Tsui
Carissa Tsui, Senior Staff Writer
Carissa Tsui (Class of 2024) joined The Voice her junior year and her favorite show is Survivor. Also, her favorite color is red and her favorite animal is the ocean sponge.

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