When a Japanese chef marries pristine seasonal ingredients from his motherland with classical French cooking techniques, and throws in exquisite European ingredients for good measure, diners are in for a unique treat of the French-Japanese kind.
Such is the way with Kenji Yamanaka, chef de cuisine of the one Michelin-starred béni at Mandarin Gallery. An alum of French fine-dining institutions including the three-starred Georges Blanc in Vonnas (France) and Restaurant L’osier in Tokyo (Japan), Yamanaka purveys Japanese ingredients like wagyu from Kobe and Hokkaido scallops from Nemuro, matches them with the occasional seasonal produce from Europe (think French turbot from Brittany and morel mushrooms from the Loire Valley) and cooks them with utmost French finesse.
For the special menu curated for OCBC Gastronomic Adventures, Yamanaka has created a spring-inspired special dish of Scallop. It’s worth noting that the plump mollusc from Nemuro Peninsula, Hokkaido, arrives at béni fresh rather than frozen. The Japanese chef pan-sears it and serves it with bijou pink petals of salted sakura flowers, sprigs of green rapeseed plant (also called nanohana in Japanese), fava beans, baby kale and a beignet (fritter) of in-season sakura ebi that is not unlike a tempura batter. The arrangement arrives with a puddle of green pea purée to add a dose of earthiness to the dish and dehydrated squid ink chips for texture. As you slice through the thick scallop, be sure to dab a little of the dehydrated sakura flower for that heady counterpoint (be careful not to dab too much!) and a bite of the sakura ebi beignet for a rush of umami. Apart from being aesthetically pleasing, this spring dish delivers a touch of zing with every bite.
There are other béni signatures on the OCBC menu. Take Yamanaka’s signature dish of Mushroom, a decidedly French take on egg royale to mirror the popular Japanese dish of chawan mushi (Japanese egg custard). The native of Hiroshima serves a chilled black truffle-infused egg custard, on top of which he layers an ethereal cream of a trio of mushrooms (shiitake, enoki and shimeji) studded with the tiniest and crispiest cubes of crotons. While deliciously creamy in its own right, the fungi-inspired egg dish speaks volume of the chef’s French-Japanese culinary leaning.
The wagyu dish, termed Kobe on the dinner menu, is also another béni fixture. While the source of the Japanese wagyu has evolved from Ozaki to Nozaki, Yamanaka now prefers the “more discreet fat content” of the A5 Kobe wagyu from Hyogo prefecture. The cut served is dependent on what the restaurant receives from Japan – you may well be get a generous sirloin cut or smaller cuts of both the sirloin and tenderloin. The chunk (or chunks) of marbled wagyu arrives with Perigord black truffle shavings in a mellow Madeira sauce with seasonal Japanese vegetables alongside a mound of buttery Hokkaido potato. While it’d go with a glass of wine, we highly recommend that you pair it with a vintage Taiwanese tea bottled by Royal Blue Tea, Japan, exclusively for béni labelled Queen of Blue (not included in this menu).
For his dinner menu, Yamanaka also fields Catch of the Day, in essence a piece of Japanese sea bream from Kagoshima Prefecture or French turbot from Brittany beautifully matched with combs of succulent morel mushrooms from the Loire valley and spears of green asparagus from Provence enveloped in clouds of Jerusalem artichoke foam.
béni offers a special OCBC Gastronomic Adventures menu for for both lunch (S$108++ for six courses) and dinner (S$238++ for eight courses) from 21st March 2018 to 20th June 2018 for OCBC Cardmembers. The above-mentioned dishes are featured in the OCBC dinner menu. VOYAGE Cardmembers will also receive a complimentary glass of Champagne. Find out more about OCBC’s exclusively curated menus here.
333A Orchard Road, #02-37 Mandarin Gallery, 238897; +65-9159 3177; beni-sg.com
This post is presented to you in partnership with OCBC Bank.