We grew up watching the poorly dubbed version of the original Iron Chef TV show. Still, the show’s concept was entertaining enough to keep a 6 year old glued to the screen. So I suppose it was strange that it took us so long to finally check this place out.
Shisen Hanten specializes in Sichuan cuisine and has its roots in Japan. It was started by Chen Kenmin who then passed down his legacy to his son Chen Kenichi, an Iron Chef of Chinese Cuisine, who in turn passed his legacy to his son Chen Kentaro, the chef currently helming the Singapore branch.
The accolades don’t end there, Shisen Hanten was recently awarded 2 michelin stars, making it the highest michelin-rated chinese restaurant in Singapore.
So we had reasonably high expectations when we chose to have H3’s birthday dinner here.
The tables were spaced reasonably for a restaurant located in an area known for havig one of the highest rental rates on the island. As it is located on the 35th floor, it is worth reserving a table by the window.
We started off with a portion of Buddha Jump Over the Wall each. This was good, the soup was rich, and had hints of meaty savoriness. What was impressive was the texture of the sea cucumber. Instead of the usual spring and slight resistance when first bitten into,as is the case for most sea cucumbers,this was meltingly soft. It was like biting into a mouthful of warm and savory jelly. Although it sounds weird and I was never a huge fan of sea cucumbers, this was pretty good. My only gripe with the soup was that it did not arrive at the table piping hot which is honestly a big no-no for any chinese restaurant.
Next was the La Zi Ji in which pieces of chicken are deep fried before stir frying them in a variety of spices. The spices include dried chilis, sichuan peppercorn , garlic and ginger. This tasted pretty restrained as compared to the other versions I’ve encountered before. There is a slight medium heat to this but nothing over the top. The spices were well balanced, making this version an interesting take on the usual much saltier versions you tend to get.
We also ordered the Black Vinegar Sweet and Sour Pork. The sauce was syrupy and tasted like what you would imagine a slightly sourish version of balsamic vinegar would taste like. It also carried slight caramel undertones, which made this dish a lot more complex than the run-of-the-mill sweet and sour pork dish you get everywhere else. This was very well executed.
Another signature dish of the restaurant, the Mapo Tofu. The tofu was cooked in a well balanced sauce that had hints of pepperiness. It could be spicier but this was fragrant enough a dish to have the sauce be mopped up with rice.
We had to have some greens so we opted for the Bok Choy with Two Types of mushrooms drizzled with truffle oil. This was alright and decently executed with a faint scent of truffle.
We wanted some carbs so we picked the dry version of the Dan Dan Noodles. The noodles were clumped together, making it impossible for us to properly mix in the meat sauce. Due to the overcooked noodles, this dish came across as rather oily,stodgy and heavy.
Lastly we had the Hui Guo Rou, the literal translation being ‘meat return to work’. This was more oily than tasty, it could do with more heat. The texture of the meat and vegetables were executed well enough though.
Unfoturnately, we couldn’t help comparing the place with Summer Pavilion, the choice location for HM’s birthday dinner celebration two weeks ago.
The service was friendly and efficient but lacked the finesse and discreetness as that of the service we received at Summer Pavilion.
Overall, I am honestly rather surprised that it received 2 michelin stars. Its reasonable prices and focus on Sichuan cuisine are plus points for a return visit as there were some still some dishes I would like to try eg the crab fried rice.