Why Every Hip-Hop Lover Needs To Try Sei Less When They Hit NYC

Whether you’re chasing Uproxx’s favorite new restaurant, checking in at some stylish hotel, seeing indie music’s new favorite Broadway musical, or hitting one of the world’s hottest bars, New York City has… everything. And, with no disrespect to the West Coast, that includes being the center of the rap universe. And perhaps no single restaurant sits at the nexus of rap, food, clubs, NYC’s love for overall “vibeiness,” and big, bold theatrics as the Pan-Asian speakeasy and restaurant, Sei Less.

Located in Midtown Manhattan, Sei Less has been open for just over two years. In that time, it’s swiftly become a premier dining destination among entertainers and celebrities (rappers, in particular). In that regard, it’s much like Phillipe Chow in Lower Manhattan — not just a place to dine but a cultural hotbed to see and be seen. From inspiring hit songs by Fabolous and French Montana to hosting the likes of Cardi B, James Harden, Future, Ice Spice, and Burna Boy, Sei Less has built a big, loud reputation in a hurry.

So, what’s all the fuss? Read on for my experience.



Entering Sei Less was an adventure all its own — the door blends in with the massive mural of a cheongsam-clad woman, finger pressed to her lips. As I headed upstairs to check in for my reservation, I began to soak in my surroundings. The décor is luxe and playful with rich red velvet drapes, gilded accents, hand-carved, Asian-influenced designs (including a pagoda across from the stairs leading to the main dining area), neon signs bearing celebrity quotes (i.e., “I’M HERE FOR A GOOD TIME, not a long time – Drake), dark-hued wood furniture, vivid floral arrangements, and colorful paintings.

“My original thought was to create a member’s club for the culture,” says Sei Less co-owner and managing partner Dara Mirjahangiry. “Then, based on the space we found, it pivoted to being more of a speakeasy vibe and restaurant. We wanted it to feel like a continuous space – anywhere you sit in the restaurant feels like a VIP table.”

Although Sei Less is full of plush details and boasts an immense celeb following, the convivial staff enhanced the experience immediately with their friendliness. The austere, sometimes cold ambiance of other NYC buzzy restaurants was nowhere in sight. This is all quite intentional, of course, and extends beyond just the rich and famous.

“At the end of the day, famous people still eat the same food we eat and like to be treated as normal people,” Mirjahangiry notes. “That’s what we embody at Sei Less – it doesn’t matter how famous or wealthy you are – you will feel welcomed.”

“Sei Less is really like family now,” Grammy Award-nominated rapper Fabolous told me on the phone. “They’ve become my go-to restaurant in the city for dinners, celebrations, and events. From the staff to the food, it’s always a vibe, and that’s why they’ve built a great reputation.”

Like a shout-out to a song’s producer, Fab adds, “Dara [Mirjahangiry] always holds me down and the chef never misses with the food.”


While Sei Less has the atmosphere on lock, the food and cocktails are its backbone. The Chicken Satay, which comes with house-made peanut sauce, is one of those “must order” dishes passed from one diner to another — the chicken is tender with a touch of smoke and the sauce adds incredible nuance. I also could’ve quickly eaten two more servings of the Peking Duck Roll, which was crispy and umami-rich, complimented nicely by a touch of salty-sweet Hoisin sauce. Breaking down the menu is causing hunger pangs so I’ll chill.

Chef Allen Ma, a veteran to the NYC dining scene — leans on his wide-ranging culinary experience in developing the Sei Less menu. While the food has an Asain POV, the chef integrates his knowledge of Spanish molecular gastronomy and French sous vide cooking into a range of dishes. You can also taste the restaurant’s innovation through its inimitable cocktail lineup. I paired my satay with the refreshing and tangy Yuzu Margarita, comprised of Don Julio Blanco Tequila, yuzu (an East Asian citrus fruit) juice, habanero, lime, and agave nectar, finished with a tajin rim. Even though Sei Less is an Asian fusion restaurant, they “didn’t want to go too on the nose with the cocktail menu,” notes Sei Less mixologist Dan Shchegolev. While Asian ingredients are used in select specialty cocktails, like the Yuzu Margarita and the Lychee Martini, which has coconut and pandan (a Southeast Asian herb with nutty, vanilla, and floral flavor notes), there are also riffs on cocktail classics. The NY Sidecar includes an Earl Grey tea infusion and agave, which enhances the subtle sweetness of the traditional recipe that calls for cognac, orange liqueur, and lemon juice.

Sei Less’ glam decor also influences the drink menu, which includes ultra-premium cocktails exhibiting “some flash and pizzazz,” as Shchegolev describes them.

“As you climb up the menu into the more premium cocktails, you’ll notice a lot more experiential feel to the cocktails,” he notes. “They’re more showy, ostentatious, and extravagant.”

My favorite was the smoky Primavera Old Fashioned, a twist on the whiskey-based Old Fashioned using Don Julio Primavera Reposado Tequila. This boozy yet approachable cocktail is built tableside and finished with a smoker using applewood cedar chips. As a loyalist to whiskey cocktails, I was surprised at how captivated I was by the richness and complexity of this repo riff — so much so that this may just be my new go-to Old Fashioned when I hit NYC.

As Sei Less evolves, so will its menu and geographical reach. Mirjahangiry partners with Chef Ma and Shchegolev on innovative food and beverage options tied the seasons or significant cultural moments. In August 2023, Sei Less unveiled a specially curated menu for hip-hop’s 50th anniversary. The themed menu paid homage to NYC hip-hop greats – such as JAY-Z, Cardi B, Nas, Fat Joe, and other rap icons – with limited-time dishes and cocktails named after those artists’ legendary discographies. Guests could order two premium-shelf VIP cocktails named after JAY-Z’s The Blueprint and Diddy’s The Saga Continues albums, including their respective D’USSE Cognac and DeLeón Tequila (Diageo became the sole owner in January 2024) brands.

Sei Less has also begun hosting pop-ups at major cultural events. They began this year by already achieving this pop-up party goal by hosting the Sei Less x Lo Kee Experience in Indianapolis in February 2024, during the NBA All-Star weekend.

“Everything that I envisioned in my head – including in my downtime during the pandemic – from concept to the name and the logo – really came together,” Mirjahangiry told me as my mean wrapped up. “Sei Less has far exceeded my wildest dreams in the most amazing way. The support and the level of enthusiasm over the brand has been something I would’ve dreamed about, and it’s come to reality.”

Having caught the vibe, tasted the food, and sipped the cocktails, count me among the enthusiastic masses. When asked by curious travelers for recommendations of where to eat in NYC, I’ll be ready with a pun, “Say less. I know a place. Sei Less.”