Akasaka Szechwan Restaurant, or Shisen Hanten as it is popularly known in Japan, was started in 1958 by the late Chen Kenmin who is regarded as Japan’s “Father of Szechwan Cuisine.”
Born in the Szechwan province of China, Chen Kenmin perfected his craft in Taiwan, Hong Kong and China before settling in Yokohama, Japan. Capitalising on his culinary expertise in Chinese food, he worked his way to become a culinary legend in Japan. His vision was to “make Shisen Hanten customers truly appreciate Szechwan food through all the five senses.” He passed down his legacy to his eldest son, Chen Kenichi, who himself earned wide acclaim as one of Japan’s most celebrated iron chefs.
Nicknamed “The Szechwan Sage,” Chen Kenichi expanded the family business, branching out across Japan and imbuing his personal touch to the Shisen Hanten brand by incorporating fresh new ideas into the menu offerings. His signature dishes emphasised the seven basic flavours that give Szechwan food that distinct boldness, namely – sour, pungent, hot, sweet, bitter, aromatic, and salty.
To date, the Shisen Hanten chain boasts 14 branches in six cities across Japan, to include Fukuoka, Matsuyama, Nagoya, Takamatsu, Tokyo, and Yokohama. Chen Kenichi has also devoted his career to educating Japanese audiences about Szechwan cuisine. Amongst his bestselling cookbooks are – “Ironman Kenichi Chen’s Chinese Cooking,” “Today’s Main Dish by Kenichi Chen,” “My Honest Cooking,” “Iron Pot Rules,” and “Carrying on My Father’s Work – Creating My Own Flavors.” He also regularly appears on Japanese television for cooking demonstrations on popular shows such as NHK’s “Kyo No Ryori” and Fuji TV’s “Ryori No Tetsjin” (Iron Chef).
Chen Kenichi, in turn, passed down his love of Szechwan cuisine to his son, Chen Kentaro. Chen Kentaro followed in his father’s footsteps and picked up the tools of the trade through observing his father in the kitchen and learning by experience. He further honed his skills by working in Szechwan restaurants around the Szechwan province in China from 2005 to 2008. Chen Kentaro is a rising star in Japan’s culinary scene, often appearing on a number of popular cooking shows in Japan.
Shisen Hanten at the Mandarin Orchard Singapore is the chain’s debut outside of Japan, setting the stage for third-generation Chen Kentaro to continue his family legacy and introduce Japan’s best loved Szechwan restaurant to audiences in Singapore.