It is not very often a Japanese-French restaurant pops up on our little island and I am quite the sucker for novelty so as soon as I found out about Shibaken French Cuisine, I was eager to check out French food served in a kaiseki manner.
The open kitchen is surrounded on 3 sides by counter seats (not unlike sushi counters) and there are four other small tables as well, suitable for those who prefer a more private affair. The small seating capacity made the restaurant seems more exclusive but the table setting was a little off -- fine metal cutlery and paper place mats? Anyway, I was seated at the counter to witness all the action and watch my dinner being prepared by head Chef Shibata Kenichi and his assistants. Currently only a fix prix menu ($88++) was served, saving me the headache of having to make decisions.
The first few dishes were cold and prepared so only assembly work was required.
The amuse bouche of bean curd and yuba (soya milk skin) topped with jellied fish consomme was quite bland except when you bite into the ikura that gave a salty tang. That was followed by a cold leek and potato soup, sprinkled with fresh lime zest. I could taste the grains of the potato but not much of leek. The next dish was better, a cold pasta dressed in marscarpone cheese and topped with creamy uni and caviar and Canadian lobster. The cheese sauces were not heavy at all and rather mild flavoured. The organic salad with fresh sashimi left-eyed flounder with tomato dressing was rather interesting as I seldom have sashimi with anything but soy sauce and wasabi.
By that point in time, I was seriously looking forward to something warm.
The sauted rock fish with stewed vegetables and bouillabaisse sauce would have just been forgettable if not for the mixed herb salad that contained panfried julienned ginger strips that gave the salad a bit of kick. A freshly baked petit bread roll was served with the fish and had a buttery, fluffy innard perfect for wiping up all the thick bouillabaisse. After the fish, we had a hot soup with fish cake and scallop and chopped bamboo and lady fingers. The next dish was a cold soba dish topped with grated dry mullet roe (bottarga). It was the most interesting dish of the night and I could not see how it was a French dish at all. The grated dry mullet roe was like fish floss but in a more crystalline form. Anyhow, it was surprisingly quite tasty!
As you can tell thus far, the menu was primarily focused around seafood that was really fresh, but there was a meat course that I requested for a substitute. Complimentary sake went well with the baked seafood parcel with a dill cream sauce that was just so-so. My friend thought the Japanese beef with Portuguese wine sauce was really tasty and tender though. The savoury courses concluded with a bowl of fluffy Japanese rice, pickles and red miso soup, just in case I was still peckish after all the earlier (eight) courses.
Dessert was a trio comprising of home made earl grey creme brulee (fantastic!), crunchy chocolate ice cream (interesting to bite into the crunchy pearls) and madeline (slightly too dry) with fruits. The desserts were lovely with a choice of coffee or tea. Did you notice the really pretty coffee cup?
Shibaken French Cuisine
Gallery Hotel, 1 Nanson Road
Open for dinner only from Sunday to Friday
Cosed on Saturdays