While contemporary Asian fare is the trend du jour, Ding Dong's an establishment that was cued in on the scene early — turning what could be considered a fad into a cash cow. With a kitchen helmed by Sabah native Jet Lo, who sharpened his knives under owner-chef Ryan Clift (the man behind molecular gastronomy outfit Tippling Club), you can expect a menu with a similarly inventive spirit, and a bit more heart.
For chef Lo's first Asian-led foray, it's pretty impressive. The menu is split between cold and warm small plates and big plates. Sharing is recommended, Asian-banquet style. One of their oldies but goodies, the Asian wagyu beef tartare is an excellent starter. There's nothing locally familiar about beef tartare, but when you throw in homemade chili sauce, Japanese mayonnaise and the pickled babies of onions and shallots into the Australian wagyu striploin mix with cucumbers and onions on the side, it does alternate between two territories. Instead of thin slices of toast, you'll find crispy pappadums on the side.
A dish that ticks all the right boxes for comfort food is the warm pumpkin, prawn and coconut velouté. Its aroma takes you back to the humble Southeast Asian kitchen with whiffs of kaffir lime and lemongrass upon its arrival. These tom yum staples form the base flavour of the creamy butternut pumpkin, topped with coconut foam for a mild, milky taste.
An update to their big plates, the wagyu beef char siew is Ding Dong's twist on the hawker staple. Beef short ribs are marinated in char siew sauce and sous vide for 48 hours to give a tender, melt-in-the-mouth experience on your tongue. It's sticky, succulent and layered with texture — the acidity of the accompanying pickled papaya helps to cut down the fat in the meat.
Another twist on tradition is the mah lai goh, a Cantonese sponge cake that's gone bananas, quite literally. Different forms of bananas frame this fun dessert: Jelly, ice cream and actual slices of fresh bananas decorate this steamed treat. Lastly, ask one of the affable bartenders to shake up Roti Kaya, a whiskey-based cocktail that utilises pandan extract with gula Melaka and egg yolk. Don't fret, it isn't as sweet as it sounds — the pandan and gula Melaka taste is very mild. Either way, we have to hand it to Ding Dong for its cheeky stab at experimentation.
Ding Dong is located at 23 Ann Siang Road. Tel: 6557 0189