After trying the somewhat disappointing worlds cheapest 1 Michelin star meal here in Singapore, I thought I’d bounce back with trying a two star joint for the first time. The chosen place: Shisen Hanten.
It’s about time I tried a next level Michelin star joint. I’ve previously tasted a handful of 1 star establishments, with the outstanding Cafe China in Manhattan, NY topping the list of my life’s best meal experiences. Could Shisen Hanten beat them? I admit that I was sceptical. But according to the Michelin guide, they should. After all, Shisen hanten is awarded two stars and Cafe China one.
I arrived with a friend about an hour after SH opened without having a reservation. SH is located on the 35th floor of the 5 star luxury hotel Mandarin Oriental. We were greeted very courteously and the hostess asked if we were OK sitting in the middle of the restaurant since they didn’t have any free window seats. Sure!
Stunning. It’s hands down the most luxurious restaurant I’ve been to. High ceiling, open space and uncrowded, lot’s of chandeliers, dark wood, palm trees, fat velvet drapes and lots of Asian style elements to the design. Jackpot! It really is indescribable, the picture doesn’t do the place full justice. It’s something you have to see with your own eyes.
There is a lot to choose from here. The menu offers a very wide range of tempting dishes across a range of price tags. Everything seems good. Extensive wine list as well. I had a hard time choosing! Eventually, we both settled for having an appetizer consisting of four smaller samples of the menu. For main, I went with the chefs signature dish – a sichuan flavoured tofu stew. My friend ordered Beijing duck.
Very important for me, there is nothing that ruins my meal experience more than a loud and noisy environment. SH passed the test well, you could easily hold a good conversation without screaming or being disturbed.
Simply outstanding. We had three different staff serving us and all of them managed to make a personal connection and make us feel at home. Staff constantly refilled our tea, and they knowledgeably answered all of the questions we had about the food or menu. I ordered a martini to go with my appetizer, and my waitress politely informed me that it would take 30 min before the bar would open, which I was OK with. She brought it after less than 10 minutes – that’s good service.
SH is probably the most affordable 2 star place I’ve seen. The prices are low considering the accomplishment of raking in 2 stars! Everybody can afford to eat here. I wouldn’t call it cheap, but definitely affordable. Main courses starting at about 20$ and up.
Let’s start with the appetizer. It contained of jellyfish, chicken with peanut sauce, shrimp, wagyu beef, and bbq pork. Small sample of all. The strongest performer among them I’ll surprisingly have to give the jellyfish. The only other time in my life I’ve had it was actually at Cafe China and I must admit that SH beat themvalue here. It was excellent. The other parts of thethe appetizer were decent, but not spectacular.
Moving on to the main. My tofu stew was delivered in a large ceramic black pot, and my waitress refilled my bowl as soon as I ran out. It was really good! Not a mind blowing experience, but definitely delicious. I’m no tofu expert, but it was silky and smooth.
The best part of the experience was my friends meal. The waitress prepared the food in front of us, and she very skillfully made small rolls of fresh steamed wheat pancake that she filled with the Beijing duck ingredients. It was totally amazing. Like an Asian style fajitas, I thought to myself. She even made two for me to taste! I was in heaven. She also informed us that the chef made the Beijing duck sauce from scratch. On a larger plate, she also delivered the rest of the duck that hadn’t been used in the rolls. It was plenty of food, the portion sizes here are not too small.
Lastly, I took a leap of faith and ordered an almond pudding for dessert. I wasn’t impressed, it tasted kind of flat. Definitely not worthy of the rest of the food. But then again, I’m not a pudding guy. It’s just not my kind of dessert, so I probably should have ordered something else. I prefer no holds bar desserts that are a bit decadent over the top and come with a phone where the coroner is on speed dial one. Pudding..? What was I thinking..
So, is SH worthy of two stars? It’s a hard question to answer and I haven’t made up my mind. The place definitely has a lot going for it. Stunning, luxurious interior design and world class service. But to be honest, my food didn’t take me by storm. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not in any way dissatisfied! It was delicious! But I’m not blown away like i was by Cafe China, which has one less star. And what’s more, I even had two visits at Cafe China during that trip and both of the visits were equally good! Maybe it’s because I had the tofu dish which I’m not that familiar with? And the dessert was a let down. It tasted like the mass produced snack pudding I ate as a kid and bought for 50 cents in a grocery store. The presentation of the dessert could be improved as well.
I draw the conclusion that SH is definitely worthy of at least 1 star. But 2? I kind of want to go back again and try something else before making up my mind.