The restaurant is renowned for having been started by Japan’s Father of Szechuan cuisine Chen Kenmin back in 1958. Since then, he had passed on the mantle to his eldest son, Chen Kenichi, who is one of Japan’s most celebrated Iron Chefs. His signature dishes emphasise on the seven basic flavours of Szechuan food, namely sour, pungent, hot, sweet, bitter, aromatic and salty, that afford that distinct boldness to his cuisine. Now, Kenichi’s son Chen Kentaro is also continuing the family legacy by spreading fine Szechuan cuisine to the world. Shisen Hanten in Singapore is the first-ever overseas venture of the popular restaurant chain in Japan and is helmed by Kentaro himself.
With two generations of celebrity chefs before him, Chef Chen Kentaro has a lot to live up to. But he proved himself worthy of his lineage when Shisen Hanten by Chen Kentaro earned two Michelin stars at the inaugural Michelin Guide Singapore in 2016. This makes Shisen Hanten the highest Michelin rated Chinese restaurant in Singapore. Despite this great accolade, the amicable chef remains humble and prefers the kitchen to the limelight. Besides his mouth-watering Szechuan classics, he also continues to experiment and create dishes that defy easy classification. "Everyone can learn the techniques, but not everyone can learn to have a heart to serve the customer," he recalls from his father’s teachings.
Incorporating inspirations from French and Japanese cuisine sensibilities is this bowl of soft egg custard and crab roe bits that hide a generous layer of goose liver underneath. Each mouthful melts in your mouth quickly, but the dish deserves to be tackled at a slow, deliberate pace for the flavours to fully envelop your taste buds.
This may be done in a casual pop-in-your-mouth style, but belying this seemingly simple dish is the use of peppercorn sourced from Chengdu every May-June by Chef Kentaro himself. The small chicken chunks are an addictive crowd-pleaser that packs a decent Szechuan kick.
Chef Kentaro’s rendition of this Szechuan classic is anything but predictable. The doubanjiang sauce used is sourced from Pi Xian, the capital of Sichuan Province, and has been fermented for three years. Other ingredients like chili oil and sweet bean sauce are homemade. The result is a bold and flavourful dish that will have you scooping the bowl clean.