Le Binchotan

Its address might say Amoy Street, but to eat at this modern French-Japanese restaurant, diners will have to make their way to the alleyway off Gemmill Lane to enter through the back of the shophouse. There, a simple sign is all that gives away that there is a trendy restaurant behind the dark metal doors. As its name suggests, the restaurant uses grilling over binchotan (Japanese white charcoal) in much of its food preparation.

Simple, satisfying set courses are available during lunch while dinner sees a much larger a la carte menu featuring mainly grilled items. As of end-2017, Tokyo Chef Atsuhiko Hagiwara, who was part of Le Binchotan’s opening team has since left, and resident Chef-owner Jeremmy Chiam has taken full control of the kitchen. Under his care, Chiam has taken the liberty to revitalise the menu, not that the restaurant needed it, but welcomed nonetheless.

The new dishes are innovative but stays true to Le Binchotan’s strengths—combining classic French techniques with traditional Japanese binchotan grilling. The result are dishes like the Edible Charcoal ($23), which is actually Chiam’s take on popiah, where he wraps slow-braised angus short ribs in popiah skin rolled in powdered bamboo charcoal. Vegetarians will love the Binchotan Burnt Aubergine ($12), where a fleshy eggplant is charred over binchotan then deskinned and served cold. Non-grilled items are delish too, like the flavorsome Sakura Ebi Capellini ($27) and the fragrant Mushroom Risotto ($29).

While chiefly a restaurant, there’s a full-fledged cocktail bar too. In fact, some may mistaken the place, furnished to look like a swanky bunker complemented with an impressive long bar counter that spans the entire length of the narrow space, to be an izakaya at first sight. Pair your foods with tipples like the eponymous Le Binchotan ($23), a stiff and complex blend of whisky, charcoal, cherry syrup, yuzu, Togarashi and bitters. For something more sweet, you can’t go wrong with the Liquid Dessert ($22), made using Monkey Shoulder whisky, frangelico, hazelnut, vanilla and cream.