EPICURE

Jinhonten: Japanese fare with flair in Singapore

Jinhonten at Shaw Centre is the newest kid on the Japanese restaurant block and it isn’t only fancy but its chef is also snazzy 

 

Jinhonten restaurant Singapore

Counter balance: Jinhonten’s decor is both traditional and modern

July 2022

What happens when you add some drama to dashi? At Jinhonten on the ground floor of Shaw Centre, you get an extravagant kappo/kaiseki spread and a bit of entertainment – both courtesy of Issey Araki.

The 36-year-old chef from Kumamoto prefecture in Kyushu is already known for his winning ways from his previous stints at the eponymous Araki as well as Kyuu by Shunsui. But at Jinhonten, which is part of the Les Amis Group named after the three-Michelin-starred French restaurant (also at Shaw Centre), Chef Araki amps it up.

Chatting and joking with guests at his 10-seater counter, he is not only charming but playful too, with a nightly “performance” that includes a couple of signature acts.

One is when he hauls in a whopper of a fish – sometimes over his shoulder if it’s still swathed in its plastic wrap. Depending on the catch of the day, it can be an 18kg menuke or red rock fish, or a 22kg kue or grouper, from which a few slices of sashimi are served.

Another is when he dons a crab shell like a face mask when presenting the rice dish.

Jinhonten restaurant Singapore

Not crabby: Dinner theatre with Chef Issey Araki

Unlike his older and more staid Japanese counterparts here, Chef Araki’s fun personality lightens the mood to ensure a relaxing atmosphere in a very stylish restaurant.

Jinhonten is part of a bigger Japanese dining concept and its counter and private room are tucked away at the back of a sprawling and more casual Japanese restaurant opposite the entrance to the Isetan department store.

Beautifully decorated with stylised clay walls and luxurious washrooms lined in huge single slabs of black stone, Jinhonten’s upscale look is a reflection of its high-end price and quality. Dinner is S$450 for 10 courses although lunch is a more affordable S$180. To refresh your palate, there is a very wide range of sake to choose from or if you prefer wine, the extensive Les Amis list is also available.

Jinhonten restaurant Singapore

Uni ebi: Luxurious sea urchin and botan shrimp

The menu goes something like this:

  • The most deliciously rich and clean-tasting murasaki uni or sea urchin (ask Chef Araki how much a box costs and the answer may knock your socks off) is matched with botan ebi (sweet shrimp) and gold leaf-topped caviar wading in a creamy egg yolk sauce.
  • A hefty kuro awabi or black abalone (you only get a few wedges of it, of course) is simmered for hours, with the tender and bouncy mollusc served in its abalone liver sauce; it is accompanied by a tiny cup of its juices in a dashi heightened by sake and kombu (seaweed).
  • A hunk of fatty nodoguro (black throat perch) is broiled and wrapped with sushi rice in nori (dried seaweed). A secret ingredient is the sliver of kanpyo (pickled gourd) that is sweet and crunchy, adding novel taste and texture to what would be just an oily indulgence.
  • The sashimi – garnished with a sprig of shiso or perilla flowers, with salt and grated wasabi on the side – has, as mentioned, thus far been kue or menuke. The former has a slightly milder flavour but both have flesh that promise a satisfying resilience.
  • Another fish follows – kinki or channel rockfish – but in a more unusual form: shabu shabu or lightly blanched and topped with shredded leeks on a bed of spaghetti squash, cut into strips to mimic noodles, and in citrusy ponzu sauce.
  • For a pleasant change in pace, there are a couple of deep-fried nibbles. On two separate visits, they were either a crunchy spring roll of shiro ebi (baby white shrimp) or breaded managatsuo (milky butterfish) – both crowned with a dollop of caviar.
  • To let you catch your breath, Chef Araki provides a palate cleanser with a difference – nasu (eggplant) cooked in dashi until soft in a cold soup of junsai (watershield). Together, the tender nasu and slippery junsai perk up the palate before the only non-seafood course of the night – beef.
Jinhonten restaurant Singapore

Wonderful wagyu: Hida tenderloin and asparagus

  • Hida wagyu tenderloin is broiled and presented with asparagus in an unusual sauce made from tomato and yuba (beancurd skin), with the slight acidity of the fruit perfectly balanced against the richness of the A5 beef.
  • The gohan (rice) that usually marks the end of a Japanese meal (before the fruit or sweet) is presented with some frivolity. Chef Araki cooks crab rice in a donabe (claypot) and serves it with a shell (from another crab, of course, not yours) on his face – on top of the obligatory face mask he wears. Cooked with stock, it may be sometimes be topped with edamame (green soybeans) but always paired with shredded preserved vegetables as tsukemono or pickles and a small saucer of crab aioli on the side.
  • Dessert is a sweet slice of Crown musk melon.

For a lighthearted dinner with serious ingredients, Jinhonten has to be one of the most interesting new concepts to appear on the Singapore fine dining scene.

https://www.jinhonten.com.sg/

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