Shisen Hanten at Mandarin Orchard Singapore

I love Sichuan food and used to eat it a few times a week so I was thrilled to be invited to try out Shisen Hanten by Chen Kentaro at Mandarin Orchard.

Shisen Hanten's Entrance
The Chinese characters in the restaurant’s name mean Sichuan Restaurant

Akasaka Szechwan Restaurant (popularly known as Shisen Hanten in Japan) was started in 1958 by the late Sichuan-born Chef Chen Kenmin, who is regarded as Japan’s “Father of Sichuan Cuisine”. The restaurant at Mandarin Orchard Singapore is the chain’s first branch outside of Japan. Chen Kenmin’s eldest son, Chen Kenichi is one of Japan’s most celebrated Iron Chefs.  His son, Chen Kentaro, followed in his predecessors footsteps. A rising star who has appeared in various popular cooking shows in Japan, Chen Kentaro is the third generation in a family of renowned chefs.

Opulent chandeliers at Shisen Hanten, Mandarin Orchard

Shisen Hanten’s interior was impressive! The first thing that captured my attention when I entered the luxuriously appointed dining hall was the cluster of opulent chandeliers. The tables were well-spaced and conducive for intimate discussions, which was probably why quite a few tables were occupied for business lunches that weekday afternoon.

Appetizers from Shisen Hanten's Set Lunch Menu
 Appetizers from Shisen Hanten’s Set Lunch
$42++ per person with 1 main course (5 course) or $50++ per person with 2 main courses (6 course)
* Minimum 2 diners
 

I was glad I took the afternoon off because our host, Christina, had ordered us a set lunch each with additional dishes from the a la carte menu. Diners ordering the Set Lunch are offered a choice between a trio of appetizers or a trio of dim sum. We were offered both options so we could try both. Though the Dim Sum were decently executed, I thought the Trio of Appetizers was more interesting.

Set Lunch - Trio of Appetizers - Shisen Hanten 
Trio of Appetizers (from the Set Lunch menu) 
Cold Steamed Chicken. Cold Steamed Abalone. Cold Sliced Jellyfish with Sweet & Sour Sauce. 
 

The selection changes from day to day. I especially loved the abalone slices because of slightly spicy Sichuan Peppercorn marinade.

Peking Duck in Downward Facing Duck Pose at Shisen Hanten
Classic Peking Duck @ $34 (half) & $68 (whole)
 

Chris had ordered a Peking Duck from the a la carte menu. When it was brought to the table, I couldn’t help thinking that the duck looked like it’s in a Downward Facing Duck yoga pose.

My portion of Peking Duck - Shisen Hanten

Here’s my portion of Peking Duck that had been wrapped in a plain Chinese pancake. The Peking Duck was delicious with a smoky, crisp skin and juicy bits of meat. I thought the pricing was rather reasonable too, worth a try if you love Peking Duck.

云白肉 Steamed pork with spicy garlic - Shisen Hanten
Steamed Pork with Spicy Garlic
One of the main courses on the Set Lunch Menu
A recommended appetizer from the a la carte menu: $20 / $30 / $40
 

Offering a refined spin on traditional Sichuan cuisine, the flavour in this dish was delicate. The thin slices of Pork Belly were tender and slightly sweet. The Spicy Garlic sauce that topped the paper-thin slices of cucumber added a slight touch of spice. Quite different from the usual ones you find at Sichuan diners popping up all over Singapore, where the pork belly slices would have been topped with a huge dollop of spicy garlic sauce. This is worth a try if you have a low tolerance for spices. For Sichuan food aficionados, you might like to ask them to increase the spiciness of the dish.

Szechwan Hot Sour Soup at Shisen Hanten
Hot & Sour Soup @ $10 per person

 

The set lunch offers a daily soup. Whilst the Hot & Sour Soup may not be part of the set lunch menu, it is worth checking out. The thick soup was not too starchy and had a rich flavour, probably due to the stock that was used in its preparation. Filled with slivers of bamboo shoots, mushrooms, pork, black fungus and tofu, it was quite a substantial bowl of soup. It was however, not spicy enough for me so I had to ask for more chili oil. The soup is one of Shisen Hanten’s Chef’s Recommendations and is worth a try if you love Hot & Sour Soup.

青椒牛肉. Shisen Hanten. Stir-fried beef sirloin with green pepper.
Stir-Fried Beef Sirloin with Green Pepper @ $28 / $42 /$56
Available as one of the main course options on the Set Lunch menu

This is a simple dish that was quite well-executed. The tender slices Beef Sirloin were well-seasoned with oyster sauce and peppery sweetness from the Green Peppers.  This dish would go perfectly with steamed rice even though it’s good enough to eat on its own.

Shisen Hanten's 乾烧明虾 Stir-fried prawn with chilli sauce
Shisen Hanten’s 乾烧明虾 Stir-fried prawn with chilli sauce @ $30 /$45 / $60

 

This dish is one of Iron Chef Chen Kenichi’s most memorable creations from the series. When I read the dish’s Chinese name, I wasn’t expected as much sauce. The sauce tasted like a slightly less sweet version of Singaporean Chili Crab sauce. The prawns were crunchy and well-seasoned. This dish is worth a try if you love Chili Crab.

Shisen Hanten's Shui Zhu Yu
水煮魚 Stewed fish fillet in super-hot Szechwan pepper sauce
 

This is one of my favourite Sichuan dishes so I was eager to try out the version at Shisen Hanten. Whilst most of my dining companions started sniffling and reaching for their drinks, I was wondering where the tongue-numbing heat was. Unlike the versions in regular Sichuan restaurants, Shisen Hanten used beautiful chunks of moist and sweet cod. The broth that the fish had been cooked in was peppery but mild enough to drink. If you’ve ever tried the ones sold at many Sichuan diners, the bowl is usually one-quarter filled with spicy chili oil and the broth is usually too spicy to drink. That said, it was a pleasant change to be able to drink the broth. This is one of Shisen Hanten’s Signature Dishes.

Shisen Hanten's 水煮魚 Stewed fish fillet in super-hot Szechwan pepper sauce - extra spicy version!
Extra-Spicy Version
 

However, I had to know how spicy the food could get at Shisen Hanten so I returned for dinner last Friday evening with fellow Sichuan food-lovers. Though it wasn’t as fiery as the ones I’ve had at some places in Singapore, I felt that this version was better than the last. It packed a stronger punch without being overwhelmingly spicy. If you’re a spice lover like me, the extra-spicy version is a Must-Try!

Shisen Hanten's La Zi Ji
Sauteed Chili Pepper & Chicken 辣子鸡 @ $22 / $33 / $44
The portion above was probably a medium / large plate
 

Another of my favourite Sichuan dishes, most places don’t make a good version of this spicy chicken dish. Not as fiery as Chef Tang’s version, Shisen Hanten’s was like a spicy version of popcorn chicken. The golden brown cubes of chicken had a lovely crisp crust that wasn’t oozing oil. Encased within the slightly salty crust were juicy chunks of chicken. The heat builds up as you eat so if you’re not crazy about spices, you might like to venture cautiously. My Sichuan buddies were quite impressed by this dish too. This is also a Must-Try!

Shisen Hanten's Signature “Chen’s Mapo Doufu”. 陳麻婆豆腐.
陳麻婆豆腐 “Chen’s” Mapo Doufu @ $20 / $30 / $40
Stir-fried tofu in hot Szechwan pepper-flavoured meat sauce
Available as one of the courses on the Set Lunch menu
 
 

Shisen Hanten is famous for their Mapo Doufu dish, prepared using an original family recipe that has been handed down over three generations of celebrity chefs. The chefs boil tofu in hot water before simmering it in a spicy sauce made using Pixian doubanjiang from Sichuan province. Pixian doubanjiang is made from broad beans unlike the more commonly available soybean versions and fermented for three years giving it a richer flavour. 

A spoonful of Shisen Hanten's Mapo Doufu on Hokkaido Rice

Mapo Doufu is one of my favourite dishes and a good version of the dish brings back memories each time I eat it. I used to haunt the comics section at Kinokuniya where I would eagerly buy the latest copies of the Chinese version of a Japanese Manga series by Etsushi Ogawa, Chuuka Ichiban. The Chinese name of the comic series was 中華小廚師 (a little Chinese chef). The story is about a young Chinese boy who wanted to be the best chef in the world and one of his signature dishes was Mapo Doufu.

Mapo Doufu on Hokkaido Rice - Shisen Hanten

Best eaten with a warm bowl of steamed Hokkaido rice, I could fully understand why people rave about Shisen Hanten’s signature dish. The tofu cubes were extraordinarily silky and soft. The sauce was a perfect balance of flavours between the numbing and fragrant Sichuan peppers, the umami from the doubanjiang and spice from the chili oil.  More pronounced in Shisen Hanten’s version was a smoky flavour that infused the doubanjiang and seemed to give the dish some form of “wok hei”. The grains of Hokkaido rice were delicately sweet and sticky. The rice grains absorbed the rich sauce and imparted a pleasant sweetness to the dish. This dish had my Sichuan buddies and I scraping up almost every last drop of sauce from the claypot that it was served in. This is definitely a Must-Try!

Shisen Hanten's Dan Dan Mian - Chen's Original Spicy Soup Noodle
担担面 Dan Dan Mian @ $12
Chen’s Original Spicy Soup Noodle
Available as one of the courses on the Set Lunch menu

 

Shisen Hanten’s Dan Dan Mian features springy yellow noodles in a flavourful broth and topped with a spicy meat sauce mixed with some sesame paste. The yellow noodles had a firm bite, like good quality ramen. This won two thumbs up too from my Sichuan buddies. Unfortunately we were too full to order the dry version. The Dan Dan Mian at Shisen Hanten is also a Must-Try! If you’re taking the Set Lunch, you’d have to choose between the Mapo Doufu and Dan Dan Mian. If your appetite is fairly hearty, pick the Mapo Doufu for your set and order an a la carte portion of the Dan Dan Mian.

Dessert Platter at Shisen Hanten
Dessert Platter 
Mango Pudding. Almond Pudding. Fresh fruit.
 

Served as part of the set lunch menu, the dessert platter offers a sampling of two of Shisen Hanten’s recommended desserts with fresh fruit. Whilst the Mango Pudding was delicious, the Almond Pudding was excellent!

Shisen Hanten's Almond Pudding
Almond Pudding @ $8

The Almond Pudding had a soft texture that reminded me of Panna Cotta. Delicately flavoured with “Chinese Almonds” (a mix of sweet and bitter apricot seed kernels) and not too cloyingly sweet, there seemed to be a hint of evaporated milk in the pudding. A refreshing respite from the heat of the spices in the earlier dishes, the Almond Pudding is a Must-Try!

Chef Yuki Sugaya - Executive Sous Chef, Shisen Hanten
Executive Sous Chef Yuki Sugaya

 

The chefs at Shisen Hanten’s Mandarin Orchard branch were previously from Shisen Hanten’s Japanese branches, bringing with them the flavours of Sichuan with a Japanese touch. They were running a credit card promotion for UOB Credit Cardholders, so enquire to get discounts starting from 10 per cent.

PS: Thank you, Shisen Hanten and Mandarin Orchard Singapore, for the kind hospitality. 

Shisen Hanten
Level 35, Orchard Wing 
Mandarin Orchard Singapore 
333 Orchard Road 
Singapore 238867
Phone: +65 6831 6262 / 6831 6266
E-mail: shisenhanten.orchard@meritushotels.com
Web: www.shisenhanten.com.sg
 
Daily Operating Hours
Lunch: 12noon to 3pm  (last order: 2.30pm)
Dinner: 6pm to 10pm (last order: 9.45pm)
 
Upcoming Promotion:
 
A Feast for Dad
Featuring signature creations by father and son celebrity chefs Kenichi and Kentaro Chen.
Father’s day lunch on 14 & 15 June 2014.
Indulge in a scrumptious Sichuan feast with the family on Dad’s special day. *Dad dines for free with every three paying adults. He receives free-flow of Kirin beer or sake, too!*Applicable for set menus only. Others terms and conditions applyFor orders or enquiries, please call +65 6831 6262 / 6266 or email shisenhanten.orchard@meritushotels.com
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  1. Chuan Wei Xuan Sichuan Restaurant in Joo Chiat | superfinefelinesuperfinefeline - July 15, 2014

    […] it was still a decent version. Although the sauce didn’t have the rich and smoky flavour that Shisen Hanten’s Mapo Tofu has, it’s nonetheless one of the best Mapo Tofu dishes from a PRC-run Sichuan […]

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