Shisen Hanten – Sichuan cuisine prepared by a Japanese chef

Shisen Hanten

Mandarin Orchard Hotel

DSC_0714

Utterly disappointed was how I felt when I left this highly touted as one of the best new restaurants in Sg this year. It would have been utterly if not for some better tasting dishes and good service rendered by the auntie crew over there. The younger crew members who seemed to be dressed more primp and proper, in blazer and whatnot, should really learn from the aunties. It is really strange that the younger crews (though seemed to be of a higher rank than the aunties), are actually the ones who are affecting the quality of the service (in a negative way). Not only do they feel really rushed, they also exert pressure on their patrons just to make you get some of the ‘super popular’ or rather want-to-get-rid of dim sum which I will elaborate in a while as we were the unfortunate victims. Taste-wise, it is not bad with some good dishes but really doesn’t justify its cost, other than that it’s from Orchard Road. This may seem to be a much more polarised post when compared to the raving reviews written by many other bloggers. Bear with me please and you will see the reason why. Oh, and have I written a caption for the restaurant interior. It felt opulent, comfortable and relaxing, all to be marred by what’s coming up next.

DSC_0710Yes, this restaurant has a dim sum menu and we didn’t want to get any dim sum at all when we saw a set lunch that we were interested in. And this young staff, in her blazer, asked told us if we want to get the bird nest egg tarts as there are only two last plates left. Body language and tone wise, it was apparent that she seems to be trying to get rid of this dim sum. My accommodating friend, K, said OK before I interjected and asked for the price. It was a damning $12.80. Bird nest it is on the top of these petite egg tarts. I had them in HK before and they were no where near this price and I didn’t want to get it but she continued her touting techniques in a higher pitched voice now and asserted that they are the last two plates left. In the end, we succumbed as she was so furiously selling this plate of egg tarts. Technically, the waitress is at no fault as we made the choice but Hello Shinsen Hanten, you are a fine dining place and such service shouldn’t be condoned. Learn from the really nice auntie crew please. They are so much more patient and accommodating. I was annoyed already when this first plate was brought to us. I shouldn’t have wavered.

Shisen hantenFor the set lunch, we got the $50 one and you get to choose two main choice for each person. There were 6 on the menu and since there were three of us, we got all 6. To start off, we had the appetisers which aren’t really nicely plated. From the left, we have scallop, sichuan chilli chicken and some jelly I guess. The memorable one surprisingly isn’t the scallop, but the chilli chicken as it was tender and the chilli was intensely flavoured. The scallop was actually quite tasteless, and if you don’t tell me they are scallops, I wouldn’t have known that it is.

Shisen hanten-001For four of the less memorable mains, we had from top left clockwise: hui guo rou (double fried pork), chilli prawns with mantou, beef, pork again. They were all oily dishes except for the chilli prawns. Hui guo rou and the other pork were not bad, quite fragrant but nothing to rave about while beef tasted normal. The chilli prawns were basically prawns in chilli crab sauce. Quite delicious but that’s about it.

DSC_0726Gong bao chicken is also pretty normal but thought the picture taken was quite nice. Not super spicy at all.

DSC_0728This cod fish with glass noodles at the bottom is super delicious. Very well cooked, smooth, creamy, moist, this fish was perfect. The sauce was also very fragrant and goes so well with the fish. The springy glass noodles at the bottom too has soaked up the essence of the sauce and tasted delicious as well.

DSC_0734Then came the carbohydrates to fill your stomach. The dan dan noodles were not bad, pretty fragrant with springy noodles while minced meat also felt delicious. The soup doesn’t taste heavily nutty unlike some other renditions. It was slightly more polished but wasn’t a far cry from that of ding tai feng, or crystal jade which couldn’t allow me to justify its price.

DSC_0737The mapo tofu is good. Very spicy it may look, but is actually very acceptable. Tofu was smooth and I liked to have it with the rice provided. There is still a slight stinging spiciness which stimulates your appetite while at the same time numbs your tongue a little. Delicious mapo tofu here.

Shisen hanten-002And the desserts were the winner of the day from a sichuan restaurant. The mango pudding was smooth and has a good consistency with chunky mango cubes in it while the almond pudding was the more special one as I believed it has condense milk in it. That helps to make it even more fragrant and palatable.

From my rantings above, this definitely isn’t a restaurant I would recommend. OK, I may be biased as I am not quite a fan of spicy sichuan cuisine but I guess my sentiments are justified by my friends who are less picky; they were actually not piqued by the food at all. They or rather We felt that for such a premium price at a premium restaurant, its standard isn’t a quantum leap when compared to those that you can find in Chinatown. It’s just like when I compare Shinji to Itacho and you will know that the price is justified as you are really paying for a much higher quality sushi. Taste wise, I am quite certain that sichuan people would not find this place spicy at all. I have been to Sichuan and this is considered nothing when compared to theirs. But I am not complaining about that as I couldn’t even eat a single of their mapo or spicy dishes; they are way too spicy for the Singaporean standard. There were though some memorable dishes like the mapo tofu, cod fish and the desserts. Standard of service, as aforementioned, is highly polarised as the older crew is much more professional than the younger waitresses. The younger waiters though, are pretty professional. So I guess more training has to be given to the younger waitresses. Of course, not every service crew member is lousy but it just takes a black sheep to ruin a supposedly enjoyable dining experience.

Verdict: An above average restaurant.

And did I mention, we spent $71 per person for this meal. The egg tarts indeed made a big impact.

 

 

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