Le Binchotan

You know, the best thing about working in the CBD, is the easy access to the mind-boggling variety of dining options. So...lately, we've (slowly but surely) been hitting up the gamut of restaurants in the Telok Ayer/Amoy Street enclave, and Le Binchotan was another restaurant that I finally got to tick off my to-eat list.

The late-night speakeasy gastrobar serves French-Japanese cuisine. To wit, the painting at the entrance of Le Binchotan, featuring the Effiel Tower set against the backdrop of a rising sun, is a gorgeously brilliant commission of the restaurant's provisions. Note that while its address stipulates an Amoy Street address, entry is through Gemmill Lane, as with Gemmills and the fabulous Maggie Joan's.

The galley of a restaurant was a veritable who's-who of pleb-ville. There was a gaggle of air stewardesses who were determined to make themselves heard over the piped-in background house music, it wasn't even a challenge to hear the entirety of their conversation. Dreadful English aside (especially with talk of "di-yar tree chew-ren", "di-yar one-der-foo kerliks", and how it was "so sat you noe" that they had to wear girdles under their uniforms on a "Wen-ness-day shiff"), it was an, ahem, entertaining night being an unwitting part of their gossip. BUT, the clincher was the guy who obviously dries his clothes in the tropical humidity, seated next to the unfortunate Hubs. The rancid, sour stench of his clothes, compounded by his sweat, detracted from the food. It wasn't until he finally left, that the Hubs could properly smell our dishes the way they were meant to.

"Amusing" ambience aside, we thought, at first blush, that the food was exceptional, but then inadvertently, by happenstance, commutated that to a hit-and-miss. So...we'd ordered a bunch of dishes, were blown away by them all...and then midway through our entrees, us gluttons decided we would supplement another couple of snacks. Those two dishes, despite being touted as chef's signatures, were markedly deficient to the initial orders. The irony was if we'd have raved about Le Binchotan if we'd stopped at the first round of plates, but because we added on a few more dishes, ended up with a mixed bag.

The Cold Smoked Hamachi ($24) drizzled with a sesame shoyu sauce, and topped with chewy wakame, shishito, and leek was as scrumptious as it was pretty. Crisp, refreshing flavours.

A must-try, the Grilled Hokkaido Scallops ($18), fat and succulent, were sided by a sweet-ish carrot puree, roasted baby carrots, ebi crackers, and microcress.

Another must-try, the Warm Organic Broccolini ($15) tossed with toasted sesame seeds, garlic chips, and a piquant raspberry dressing, was delicious.

Although stated as a chef's recommendation, the Uni & Caviar ($25) was a big big dud. The uni tasted off, a jarring fishy shock to the subtlety of the corn-flecked chawanmushi base.

The Pan-Seared Foie Gras ($23) erred on the livery side, but I liked the stewed daikon, and crunchy nashi pear swimming in an umami furikake-studded dashi broth.

The rich lusciousness of the Charred Pork Jowl ($35) was complemented by a curried mayo, a spin on Japanese curry. I really really wanted more of that awesome sauce. Green apple slaw, and nagaimo (Chinese yam) lent a textural contrast.

A definite cannot-miss, the Mushroom Risotto ($29) was what you'd get if you cross Japanese garlic rice with Italian mushroom risotto. Heady with garlicky and truffly aromas, this was choc-a-bloc with shimeiji and enoki mushrooms. Insanely delicious.

Complimentary crusty bread, paired with an addictive yuzu-flecked butter swirled with activated charcoal.

Le Binchotan
115 Amoy Street (entrance through Gemmill Lane)
Tel: 6224 1045
Open weekdays from 11.30am to 2.30pm for lunch; 6pm to 12midnight for dinner;
Saturdays from 6pm to 12midnight for dinner;
Closed on Sundays
Website: lebinchotan.sg

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