BENI- A Japanese interpretation of French Fine Dining
Always say yes to the hush-hush behind the dark curtained BÉNI at Mandarin Gallery. You wouldn't be blamed for not knowing much about exclusive Japanese-French fine dining establishment by Chef Kenjiro ‘Hatch’ Hashida (also better known for his Hashida establishment). Well unless you're one of the privileged 15 pax who has snagged a seat around the open industrial bar. Then, you would be able to dine on the exquisite seasonal French omakase that also changes daily, depending on what is fresh.
Expect the usual (or perhaps fanatical) dedication to excellence by the team of Japanese chefs led by Chef de Cuisine, Kenji Yamanaka. You'd see precisely plated dishes of specific temperature, served in particular ways. The result was impressive and truly enjoyable, which is expected considering the price tag you're paying. It's $127/228 for a 5 course lunch, or $298 for a 7 course dinner (with more premium ingredients). But of course, indulge further with a tea, wine, or sake pairing.
We started with the King of Green HIRO premium, a Gyokuro Japanese tea. I've never thought of green tea having that umami flavor until this one. After the first brew, olive oil and salt was added to the mix and we were told to eat it up. That was when the umami was enhanced and it tasted like seaweed.
Next, the Miellefeuille de Crabe Royal au Nayet SHOGOIN. A Hokkaido red king crab layered with pickled Shogoin turnip (using rice vinegar), and a Shungiku sauce (made from Japanese spinach). The light refreshing flavor of the turnip was punctuated with a slightly strong vegetable sauce. That said, it was still balanced with the sweetness of the crab and briny caviar.
The Gateau au Foie Gras was a generous and creamy 3 layered foie gras cake. The bottom layer of marinated foie gras was super smooth, the middle a Jonathan apple celeriac puree, and the top was the Johnathan Apple skin jelly. I liked how the foie gras was balanced with the refreshing and slightly tart Apple and it's a nice depart from the usual berry pairing.
The Homard Bleu took the cake home with the rich crustacean cream coasted risotto with cep mushroom duxelles and plenty of shaved truffles. Of course, it was topped with impeccable pieces of succulent lobster and a salty Parmesan crisp for contrasting flavors and texture.
The Kinmedai Origine mer du Japon paid homage to the Japanese roots with the lingering freshness of yuzu in the flavored white wine cream sauce, and also chunks of soft yuzu peel. By presenting the steamed red snapper with scallop mousse wrapped in butter lettuce, the typically one dimension textured fish dish was lifted with the juicy crunch and coolness of the vegetable.
I cannot resist the exclusive A5 Ozaki Wagyu from Miyazaki Prefecture in Japan, a precious piece of tenderloin baked in a matcha salt crust to maintain its moisture. The meat was simply drizzled with a super umami Madeira wine sauce which was reminiscent of marmite. Chef made it rain with black truffle coullis for that added earthy perfume. Oh, and Beni's rendition of potato puree was the next best thing after Joel Robuchon, though I found it to be slightly starchy.
Next, a simple Brie Cheese salad served on a heated glassware for that melty texture. Simple but gorgeous, and thoughtful. We were then presented with a pre-dessert of Murata strawberries, fragrant rose jelly, and milk granite, which was delicious but I found it too sweet as a palate cleanser. That said, it was a decent dessert on its own.
Desserts kind of missed the mark at Beni. I wasn't a fan of the Chocolat Framboise as it was on the sweet and heavy end. The raspberry mousse in the chocolate sphere failed to give the dish a much needed tartness to balance the flavors. Also, I'm not a huge fan of the curdy panna cotta texture.
Plus a surprise birthday cake of semifreddo (which was simply.. cream).
Finally the last course, cafe ER mignardise. As full as I was, I continued popping these little desserts, which fared better than the actual desserts. A cloud like calamansi marshmallow finally gave me the acidity I needed to end the meal. Followed by a dense and nutty cherry financier (lovely), an average blueberry tart, and little morsels of caramel coated Rice Krispies.
Great meal at BENI nonetheless, perhaps save the dessert space for Hashida Garo next door. The Japanese are really good at what they do, regardless of the cuisine. Try this definitely.
333A Orchard Road, #04-16 Mandarin Gallery, 238897
Tel: +65 6235 2285
Mon - Sat: 11.30am - 3pm, 6.30 - 11pm