Le Binchotan: French-Japanese tapas with a mean cocktail bar @ Amoy Street

Perched behind closed doors... Yes... that seems to be the trend nowadays. The presence of open-air brasseries with doors flung wide open, a thing of ancient history. Yet another dining concept to join the ranks is Le Binchotan, BurgerJointsg's not-so-simple girl next door. Here, Chef Atsuhiko Hagiwara from Ginza Tokyo restaurant En.Terrible together with Singapore Head Chef Jeremmy Chiam churn out a sophisticated bar menu with a Japanese touch and a special homage paid to the technique of smoking meats and seafood over bincho-tan (white charcoal).

By lunch, the dark den offers a much-needed respite from the hard-knocked life awaiting most executives on the outside. Lunch sets range from $38+ for 3 courses to an affordable $48+ for 4 courses with the added luxury of having one of the city's more talented bartenders Sugar Ray Ruban (previously of Cufflink Club and Vasco) mix you a stiff one to while away the remaining dreary afternoon.

Once the night falls, the space takes on a mysterious vibe, one that soothes and panders to the needs of the over-anxious figures; it's chilled-out nuances and hollowed out space with mirrored ends creating a ambient space for tight knit conversations saved for only the nearest and dearest.

Menu highlights are centered around the bincho-tan which cooks its food at a much lower temperature for a longer period as compared to ordinary charcoal, allowing more finesse to be executed into simple dishes. The Tripe ($11) and Chicken Tsukune ($13) paving the way for greatness to evolve. The former, alternated between champignon and simply sprinkled with fleur de sel for the finish is lip-smackingly delicious and wining the favor of most gizzard-lovers around the table. I also took to the Chicken Tsukune like a fat kid to cake, the meatball with a good amount of soft bones churned in the mix is a playground of textures. Tare sauce compliments the burnt finish while the flourish of spring onions please the eye.

I did not find the Wagyu Striploin ($15) as enjoyable as the former two, the seasoning lacking that bit of pizazz to lift the cubes forth. The charcoal efforts not quite as prominent in this dish.

Fun-lovers should seek out the pleasantries of the small plates. Some of my favorites include the Foie Gras ($21) which fully embody the culinary direction of the establishment. Here Japanese inspired flavors meets French technique; and shaven foie gras form a forest moat around a gently braised daikon disc, thick with the aroma of homemade dashi broth.

The Madai ($25) and Tenkasu ($15) were equally impressive. I could have sworn I shaved more off my the sharing plate than what was allocated. But then again, you snooze, you lose... The latter especially tickling my fancy with a riot of color and textures on the palate that presides its humble vegetarian origins. Here, deep fried enoki fritters meets mushroom ragout and a vibrant yellow pickled daikon for that slight astringency too crucial towards balancing out the dish.

Unfortunately, the magic ended when the mains were served. Large plates of Iberico Pork Jowl ($35) lacking in flavor and presented in such obscene portions to their garnishes that the oiliness of the protein got a bit overwhelming. Though, meltingly tender, the deep fried charcoal kabocha pumpkin provided little relief to the lardaceous pork jowl whilst the speckles of green apple puree tipped the dish into an overwhelming spectrum of things. The same can be said of the Angus Short Rib ($39); if this had been sliced into tidier portions and plated in between a more balanced proportion of leek and nagaimo; things would have panned out a little differently.

Desserts turned things around slightly, still the same problems of clumsiness plagues the sweet endings here and portion sizes could have been halved and priced like-wise to promote sharing. I relished in the Coconut ($15) - a simple concoction of vanilla bean creameux with matcha chocolate dust and  freeze-dried raspberry crumbs. It's soy panna cotta like texture appealing to diners who don't like to be pushed too much out of their comfort zone. The Smoked Chocolate ($15) however attempts to break all calorie rules with a seductive bacon-like note infused into the chocolate marquise and this served with a shower of powdered yogurt and frozen blueberry. Grab 3 friends and share each of these desserts; trust us, there's a lot to go around.

If you prefer your desserts in liquid form, then you'll dig Head Bartender Sugar Ray Ruban's specially curated list of cocktails at Le Binchotan. Our favourites include the crowd-pleasing The Gin, The Flower and the Bowtie ($23) - inspired by the Chronicles of Narnia and the Leon Tea Professional ($21) -  a classic whisky sour with an earl grey twist. 

Other libations that would put you in good spirit include the peculiar sounding Chocolate ($19) which goes easy on the cocktail-novices with a genial combination of chocolate liquer, simple syrup, lemon and egg white for that dessert-worthy moment.

Note that Le Binchotan does not charge service charge and prefers for its intimate service to be rewarded in terms of voluntary dollars and cents.

Le Binchotan
115 Amoy Street
(entrance via Gemmill Lane)
t: 6221 6065
w: www.facebook.com/LeBinchotan

Operating Hours:
Mon - Sat: 11 30am - 3pm; 6pm - 11pm
Drinks: 10 30pm - 12am (only bar snacks and drinks served)

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