After a few fun events with 2 Michelin Star Chef Kentaro Chen, I was very attracted to his humbleness and humour, in addition to his Japanese work ethics and dedication to spread the Chen’s family Sichuan (or Szechwan) cuisine legacy throughout Asia and beyond. It seems a blessing for my recent Dining For Charity event (Asia In SA held on 30th September 2016) that Chef Kentaro Chen’s first ever restaurant outside of Japan, the famous Shisen Hanten in Singapore, was awarded 2 Michelin Stars in mid 2016. Adelaideans are really lucky to have another Michelin starred chef volunteering his time to visit and cook in the city of churches, after the momentous inaugural event in 2015 where we featured the Demon Chef Alvin Leung.
I had to make a trip, not because Shisen Hanten received 2 Michelin stars, but because I have heard ravings about the legendary London Roast Duck and I missed that sensational Mapo Tofu that Chef Kentaro Chen cooked in Melbourne and Adelaide. Located on the 35th floor of the glamorous Mandarin Orchard building, the restaurant’s view overlook the stunning Singapore city, I brought 4 friends with me and we were welcomed by the team led by Head Chef Yuki.
Our menu has been set by Chef Yuki, no doubt I told Chef Kentaro Chen that I will eat anything he wants me to have. We started the degustation with the appetizer of the day which includes Shisen Hanten Signature Cold Steamed Chicken with Sesame Sauce and Marinated Jellyfish with Pickled Vegetables, Szechwan-style.
Next up was a dish I really enjoyed, the 云白肉 Sliced Steamed Pork with Chilli Oil – the pork slices were so delicate, together with the Szechwan spicy oil, it’s a match made in heaven. As per its Chinese name, it certainly is a dish above the clouds for me.
The main course got to be the famous 伦敦烧鸭 London Roast Duck – I can’t remember the last time I had such a delicious duck cooked in Chinese style, the meat was so tender and juicy, the herbal fragrant and flavours were incredibly sexy in my mouth!
Next dish was 干烧明虾 Stir-fried Prawns with Chilli Sauce, I liked the mildly spicy sauce and wished the prawns were fresh and in shells, not frozen. I must say I’m very particular about the seafood I eat, it’s gotta be the freshest to retain that flavour from the sea. I do want to rave about the fried buns, I’ve been secretly in love with them for decades now, and I can’t believe they are available in such petite size, I almost felt like they were made specially for me! (If you’re on a low carb diet, you’ll know what I mean.)
You can’t go to a fine Chinese restaurant without enjoying a steam fish, I was happy that Chef Yuki included 笋壳 Marble Goby (a.k.a. Soon Hock) Steamed with Superior Soy Sauce. The waitress made a demonstration of slicing the whole fish into small portions for us, so we can eat gracefully – top service! I love the julienned spring onion and coriander garnish, soak it in the sauce and it’s to die for!
And the moment we were all waiting for, 陳麻婆豆腐 Chen’s Mapo Doufu! If you have never tried this authentic Chinese dish in your life, it’s simply a stir-fried tofu in hot Szechwan pepper-flavoured meat sauce. You can get this at almost any Chinese restaurant in Australia but honestly, no one makes the real stuff here and far from THIS Chen’s recipe. Ever since I tasted this dish for my appearance at the Ironchef Melbourne dinner in February 2015, I have not attempted to order Mapo Tofu at any restaurants since. It’s the one dish that I can get to the bottom of the rice bowl – it’s that good (or bad!)
To finish off the feast, we had the 杨枝甘露 Chilled Mango Purée with Sago and Pomelo topped with Sherbet. Yum, perfect ending.
Upon our departure, Chef Yuki waited for us at the reception, bowed in the humble Japanese manner that I absolutely admire, we took a few snaps and he sent us off at the lift.
Chen’s signature dishes emphasised the seven basic flavours that give Szechwan food that distinct boldness – sour, pungent, hot, sweet, bitter, aromatic, and salty. This amazing rising star Chef Chen Kentaro is the son of the Szechwan Sage – Chen Kenichi, grandson of the Japan’s Father of Szechwan cuisine – Chen Kenmin.
Visit Shisen Hanten Singapore’s website for further information and to make a reservation.