To the uninitiated, the name Shisen Hanten seems strikingly Japanese. However, for those who know and have been to one of its many restaurants, Shisen Hanten simply means Szechuan Restaurant in Japanese. Shisen Hanten by Chen Kentaro at the Mandarin Orchard is the first venture of the original Shisen Hanten outside of Japan. Its history began in 1958 when Chef Kentaro Chen’s grandfather – Chen Kenmin, introduced Szechuan cuisine to the land of the rising sun. Also renowned in the family is Chef Chen Kenichi (Chen Kenmin’s eldest son), one of Japan’s most celebrated iron chefs. As such, Chef Kentaro Chen is the third generation chef in the family, with the Shisen Hanten restaurant in Singapore a demonstration of his art in Szechuan cuisine alongside an infusion of traditional Cantonese fare. And from what I’ve tasted, I must say that he does produce an excellent serving of Mapo Tofu and Sauteed Wagyu Beef with Red Peppers. The new additions on the menu are decent, but it is the signatures that still stand out more.
Photo credits: Mandarin Orchard
The restaurant, located on the 35th floor of the Mandarin Orchard, boasts a stellar dining hall equipped with chandeliers that seem almost magical and perhaps an ideal place for events and even a wedding.
We first started with the Salmon sashimi dressed with leek and oyster sauce ($16++/portion; tasting portion depicted). Simple and easy on the palate, the oyster sauce dressing by the side added a layer of sweet savouriness to the fish’s overall freshness. A good starter.
The Foie gras chawanmushi with Hokkaido hairy crab soup ($24++/ person) sounded decadent. As though chanwanmushi was not delightful enough, Chef had to infuse the Japanese egg custard with a hint of foie gras, and then topping it with a hearty Hokkaido hairy crab soup. I appreciate the choice of ingredients but did think that the dish’s main focus was certainly the more robustly flavoured crab soup. The foie gras chawanmushi was light tasting and overshadowed. It was a warm and satisfying dish, but not one which made me go ‘wow’.
Braised 5-headed whole abalone with Szechuan soy bean sauce ($38++/ portion)
One dish that is worth the order is the Braised pork belly and autumn mushroom with Szechuan pickles ($28++/portion; tasting portion depicted). Buttery smooth pork belly yields to the gentlest cut and its slightly gamey pork flavours is well balanced in doses of crisp pickles. A portion that must be enjoyed slowly.
I found the Stir-fried oyster with spring onion, ginger and Szechuan chilli ($30++/portion; tasting portion depicted) surprisingly closely flavoured to a compact Orh Luack (or Oyster Omelette). Oysters are coated in batter, fried and tossed with a lipsmacking sauce that was a touch spicy and a little sweet at the end. Because the oyster had a layer of batter around it, I did think that each piece resembled the rice starch found in the local orh luack. It was decent and the oysters could be a touch juicier with a burst of sweet creaminess.
The Fish fillet with pickled vegetables served in Claypot ($30++/portion; tasting portion depicted) was comfort food for me. What is particularly enchanting for this dish is the savoury slightly salty gravy served together. Viscous, with hints of umami tastiness, it was the gravy that dressed up the cotton textured fish. Excellent.
The use of wagyu for this dish was well called for. With a decent degree of fat embedded within, each beef slice was crisp and clear to the bite. Its deceptive spiciness and instead good use of chilli hotness encapsulating the meat, makes this Sauteed wagyu beef with red peppers ($34++/portion; tasting portion depicted) one of my favourites for the night. Goes well with beer if I may add.
Apparently, Chen’s Mapo Doufu ($22++/portion; tasting portion depicted) is an original Chen family recipe. The tofu, first boiled in hot water before being cooked in a spicy bean paste sauce that has been fermented for over three years, is paired with a bowl of fragrant Hokkaido rice to serve. I absolutely loved the dish’s tender hotness. And although the chilli oil might be a tad discouraging, it certainly was awesome enough to go with a bowl of steaming short grain rice.
To end off the meal at Shisen Hanten, have a serving of Hokkaido Ice Cream with Warabi-mochi ($8++/person). Although expectations for a lusciously creamy ice cream was already met, what I didn’t expect was how soft the warabi mochi could actually be.
One of the private dining rooms
Chef Kentaro and Me
I enjoyed my night at Shisen Hanten. While the new flavours on the menu was decent, the more impressive fare for the night stemmed from traditional signature favourites that Chef Chen excels in. I adored highlights like the Mapo Tofu, the Wagyu beef with chilli pepper, and perhaps the best new offering was the Fish Fillet with pickled vegetable served in claypot. Still, this was a worthwhile visit and a place to consider if there is a family dinner to come. Perhaps it is also time that for my upcoming trip to Japan, I should make a stop by the original Shisen Hanten in Akasaka, Tokyo. It might be an interesting eye-opener to see how more can this family of chefs spice up an already flavourful lineup.
Thank you Mandarin Orchard Singapore for the invitation.
*Each portion serves 2-3 persons unless stated otherwise.
|Level 35, Orchard Wing
Mandarin Orchard Singapore
333 Orchard Road
Mon to Sun
Lunch: 12pm to 3pm
Dinner: 6pm to 10pm