There are lots of interesting eateries along Amoy Street, even around the nooks and corners. At the northern end of the street, turn into Gemmill Lane to find the black wooden door entrance to Le Binchotan, a just-opened French-Japanese tapas bar and the latest venture by restaurateur Jessica Lim (of Salut and Au Petit Salut fame) and three of her Japanese business partners. Upon entering you will be greeted by this long, well-lit bar counter (pictured above) which seems to go on forever, thanks to the ingenious placing of a wall-sized mirror at the end.
Though the place is small (seating capacity: 38), it has a classy look and you can see much effort has been made to make the dining areas as cosy as possible. You can either opt to eat the bar counter or a semi-private room area by the side where one wall is decorated with both real and fake binchō-tan (white charcoal). The latter was where the media tasting to which Musings on the M49 was invited to took place.
Offering french fare with a Japanese touch, the dinner menu offers a decent selection of small plates, large plates and, as the tapas bar’s name suggests, charcoal items featuring meat and seafood smoked over bincho-tan, said to be the preferred choice of most Japanese chefs.
Small Plate items were the first offerings and we had a great start with the Myoban Uni (sea urchin roe) with Corn Mousse, Grilled Corn, Sudachi and Shoyu ($23). The uni was flavourful and I love the crunchiness of the corn bits in the mousse.
Next came the Madai ($25) which is Smoked Sea Bream with Eggplant, Radish and Sherry Vinegrette. Think of it as yu sheng with a French-Japanese flair.
Of the early dishes, this was my fave – the Shaven Foie Gras with Daikon, Daishi Gelée and Cured Shitake ($21). I have friends who gush about Daikon but seriously, it was the delicious – and generous – slices of foie gras all over the Daikon that had me at hello…
Next up were the Charcoal (single stick) items. The Wagyu Loin infused with Port Wine and Ume red plum liqueur ($15) tasted rather like succulent char siew but enjoyable nonetheless. If you are a carnivore, a single stick probably won’t suffice but then again, there are other meaty items which you should leave room for…
The Lamb with Miso and Tapenade ($13) was another delight to bite into. Each charcoal item could possibly be shared between 3 small eaters. More sticks will have to be ordered for bigger groups.
To get some vegetables into the mix, try the Shishito with Furikake and Sea Salt ($9). The crunchy green peppers are not unlike lady fingers albeit with a sweeter bite.
We are now into the Large Plates and they are no less fascinating. Braised for 18 hours, the Iberico Pork Jowl infused with Katsu Curry and smoked over binchō-tan, then served with Green Apple and Charcoal Pumpkin ($35) was yummy with every bite. As tapas go, all the items in Le Binchotan are meant for sharing but this is one item that I wouldn’t mind having all to myself!
The slow-cooked Angus Short Rib – braised for 16 hours – with Leek Puree, Nagaimo and Kurosu Jus ($39) was another succulent dish that would please meat lovers.
For dessert, there are only three choices as the French-Japanese tapas bar wants customers to focus on the main food items but then again, the trio are great choices to end your meal with. First up is this truly creamy and delicious Coconut Pudding with Matcha Ice and Frozen Raspberry Bits ($15)…
…And then there’s this super rich Smoked Chocolate with Frozen Blueberry and Yogurt ($15)…
…And last but by no means least, there is this wonderful Cheese Platter selection comprising Smoked Cheddar, Gorgonzola, Gruyere, Apricot, Quince and Walnuts ($15) which is definitely one of the best cheese platters offered at a bar or restaurant I’ve ever seen in years.
Our table had a special treat when chef Jeremmy Chan came and explained that certain items on the menu will be subject to change whenever ingredients are available. An example was this delicious Goma (black sesame) Ice Cream and Caramel Almond which is usually only served in the lunch sets ($38++ for 3-course, $48++ for 4-course).
Okay, we are finally at the “bar” bit. Le Binchotan offers a wide range of wines, champagnes, sakes and classic cocktails. It also has 10 signature cocktails specially concocted by head barman Sugar Ray Ruben. The one above is Leon: Tea Professional ($21), named after the Natalie Portman-starrer. A fave with many of us, it is a sweet refreshing cocktail featuring Earl Grey Infused Whisky with Lemon, Egg White and Spiced Apple.
This cutie complete with bowtie is The Gin, The Flower and The Bowtie ($23) – inspired by The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe – which is a tangy concoction of gun, lemon, coconut and roselle water.
Then there is the bar’s namesake itself, Le Binchotan ($23), which is a strong-flavoured Japanese Whisky with Smokey Scotch, Egg White, Honey and Lime, and at times served with burning earl grey leaves on the top. Alas, this one came too late to catch the smokin’ drink on video…
I fell in love with tapas bars during my trips to Spain. With Le Binchotan, French-Japanese tapas bars may just grow on me too. Definitely a place to consider with friends who enjoy good tapas, drinks and ambience.
Le Binchotan is at 115 Amoy Street #01-04 (entrance via Gemmill Lane). Tel: 6221 6065. Open Mondays to Saturdays: Lunch: 11.30am – 3pm; Dinner: 6pm – 11pm; Drinks: 10.30pm – 12am (only bar snacks and drinks will be served). Reservation is recommended due to limited seating.