Looking for food with a unique influence from Japanese and French cuisines? Find it at Le Binchotan
Tucked away in an inconspicuous corner of Amoy Street, it’s a blink and you’ll miss it enclave of a restaurant. We know that we’ve definitely walked past without realising that them was a place for good food and drinks inside; perhaps because the entrance is sort of at the back alley of a road.
The restaurant in question is Le Binchotan. The name is reflective of the French and Japanese influences the current chef-owner, Jeremmy Chiam incorporates into his food. The restaurant has been around for a while, but Jeremmy, who has been involved since the conceptualisation of the place took over at the end of 2017, and with it comes a slew of dishes on the menu that reflect his sensibilities.
But first, the name. Binchotan is a special type of “charcoal that burns at a lower temperature for a longer period compared to ordinary charcoal; it also doesn’t flare up, hence food cooked over its fire is seldom charred. Thus as you can imagine, the binchotan grill plays a big role in the food made in Le Binchotan.
You can see Chef Jeremmy’s personalised touches everywhere in the restaurant, after all this is a man who has experience not just behind the grill, but also in the front of house, given his flying days of years past. We witnessed this dedication to service for ourselves–the owner went to fix a clogged up toilet on his own accord when we were there. He joked too that the restaurant’s interiors were reminiscent of the insides of an airplane and hence he felt comfortable in the environment. His photos too line the walls of the private rooms that the restaurant has, making it a restaurant that he has truly made his own.
Even the butter has a unique spin to it. We’re served a nob that is black and orange, charcoal powder and carrot puree, we’re told. These just so happen to be the restaurant’s colours too.
The first dish that was served up is a delightful parfait-looking creation– uni & caviar (S$25), and yes it is every bit as luxe as it sounds. The layers in this dish have been artfully put together. The base is a Japanese corn mousse, with charred corn kernels and it is layered with smoke sea salt flakes, caviar and a generous amount of uni. As a special touch, shoyu pearls are sprinkled on top–these orange spheres burst deliciously in your mouth. We hear that many guests return especially for this dish on the menu and we would again too.
New to the menu is the binchotan burnt aubergine ($12), which as you may guess, is charred over binchotan. The dish comes with the skin removed, and it’s topped with fried rice grains, which adds bite to the otherwise mushy (but in a good way) dish.
Next, we were presented with charcoal itself. Well, not quite, though the black, longish and tubular appearance of the dish did look that way. Chef is a big fan of poh piah, so the edible charcoal (S$23) is a tribute of sorts to his favourite dish. Instead of the typical assortment of veggies that you find lodged in a poh piah, you get angus beef short ribs that has been cooked in saikyo miso and port wine. The skin of the spring roll has been coloured charcoal powder and you must dip it into the accompanying garlic yoghurt to get a scrumptious bite of this dish.
The little neck clams (S$20) was a delightfully light broth of sake with clams simmered inside, topped with sauteed leeks and potatoes, a comforting and warm dish, while the char-pork jowl (S$35) was fork tender and easy to bite. It came accompanied with thinly sliced Chinese yam and a curry cream sauce mixed with mashed green apples.
The restaurant has also created several dishes just for their lunch sets ( S$27 & up) and one of these dishes is the braised beef cheeks, which we had the chance to try. The meat has been braised in Japanese shoyu and molasses sugar and is easily cut apart with just a spoon, and it’s served atop a mound of vichyssoise: sauteed leeks, boiled potatoes and cream.
Two dishes that have been retained from the previous menu are the sakura ebi capellini (S$27) and mushroom risotto (S$29). The former is done al dente and the addition of sakura ebi and shio kombu gives the dish a rich flavour that will have you reaching for more. The same can be said for the latter, as the rich flavour of the truffle jus and truffle paste makes this creamy dish absolutely addictive.
The desserts here are no less special. The matcha lover (S$17) is an apple-shaped white chocolate that has been infused with matcha powder and it hides a red bean paste centre. Served with a dollop of red bean ice cream, it is a dish for the gram.
However, it is their smoked chocolate (S$15) that it truly unique. Made of 64% dark chocolate, it has a distinct smokey taste to it that is reminiscent of whiskey and the profile is rather polarising–you’ll either love it or hate it. It’s smokiness is derived from the multiple times the cake is smoked: during its creation, after its sliced into serving portions, and again while it is stored in a smoke-filled air tight container. To par down the intense flavour is a refreshing yoghurt sherbet that comes at the side.
Good food needs to be accompanied by good drinks and the head bartender here is all about her drinks. While there is a standard selection of cocktails on the menu, you can also make your preferences known to her for an off-the-menu surprise. If you’d rather go for the signature, it’s the le binchotan (S$23), which is unsurprisingly black, again from charcoal, with a healthy dose of glitter and some branding (the words Le Binchotan are “stamped” into the ice). The base is whiskey that it mixed with cherry syrup, yuzu sake and a whole list of ingredients you’ll have to get from the woman herself. For those who prefer wines, chef has got you covered with a selection that he made himself, including certain limited edition bottles that are exclusive to the restaurant.
For those who enjoy a night out with a cosy atmosphere in a place that believes in good food and wine, and where you can tell that the owner poured his heart into, look no further than Le Binchotan.