Where to eat and what's new in Singapore: Pollen, Minjiang's Chinese New Year treats, Violet Oon's gluten-free menu
Where we dined this week...
A meal at Pollen never fails to incite feelings of ease and serenity, despite in direct view of our city's beaming skyline. If anything, we have the verdant foliage and the soothing reverberations of dining in a massive greenhouse to thank for. Its new chapter, helmed by executive chef Michael Wilson makes room for experimentation — in what he dubs "modern interpretive cuisine". Which really means one thing: food out of the box. The snacks prove just that — some visual trickery with "Cornetto', cones plied with delightful chicken liver parfait and watermelon pockets, made from dehydrated fruit, that we demolished in no time. Another surprise to start: Slabs of smoked eel adorned with sea succulents while the seaweed vinegar countered the umami bursts deftly. The salad saw heirloom tomatoes sourced from Cameron Highlands taking on a herbaceous profile —with basil peppered throughout, with the aid of various organic leaves and flowers. To elevate the dish, the plate eschewed the typical mozzarella and instead, in its place, was sheep's curd. An embellishment we found surprisingly light and airy. A lettuce gazpacho landed next, a soup one would either love or hate. A delicate green pool made out of 17 ingredients, and poured over Australian spanner crab, green tomato granite and Espelette pepper. It was just the zingy refresher we needed before the heavier plates. A heady compilation of acquerello rice concentrated in prawn jus came to be the star, more so than the seafood itself, which turned out to be scarlet prawn finely pressed into a cake-like texture. All we did miss was tasting a fresh produce for what it actually was. Like the aged duck breast that was unfaultable, joined by a creative interpretation of a foie gras sausage, but instead of any synthetic lining, the grind was housed in the duck neck's which also implored the use of its skin. Not to mention, no waste of the kill. —JS
18 Marina Gardens Dr, #01-09 Flower Dome
Opening hours: (Wed-Sun) 12pm-3pm, 6pm-10.30pm
Chinese New Year at Minjiang Goodwood Park Hotel and Minjiang Dempsey
The annual rambunctious event, Chinese New Year might be played out in safe-distancing subtlety this year, but we're pretty sure the feasting will go on, quite like any other year. And at Minjiang — we get not one but two grand display of dishes — from its renowned address at Goodwood Park Hotel and Dempsey respectively. The latter proffers a slightly varied version of yusheng — Alaskan king crab stands in as the highlight, instead of the typical fresh fins. Joining the fresh crabmeat are a bevy of other shredded nibs or "blessings" — crunchy rice crackers, wild argula, baby abalones, fresh pomelo, and more. But ingredients in a yusheng platter are only half the battle won, the rest is summed up in the dressing of choice, which the Dempsey branch nails a delicate balance of sweet and tart all at the same time with plum sauce, rosella jam, and a splash of lime juice. They also do a mean braised pork belly, which won't just please your in-laws but worthy enough to break your post-Christmas diet for. The pork belly is first blanched then braised for two hours — lending a molten texture to the entire slab of meat. The rest? Somewhat predictable but entirely delicious, with the familiar flavours bestowed by hua diao, soya sauce, spring onions, and chicken stock. At the hotel's Minjiang, make sure to introduce the zodiac of the year onto your dinner spread: spicy braised oxtail in a hearty claypot dish. The oxtail is flavoured with Sichuan peppercorn, fermented chili bean paste, red chili, and star anise — an amalgamation of spices to do slabs of meat a good deal of justice, sans the numbing lips. Another one-pot dish to ride home about, their stewed rice in a hot stone seals in the goodness of minced chicken, liver sausage, diced mushrooms, dried scallops, and last but never least, dark soya sauce. We suspect seconds of this hot stone rice will be abundant this year. —JS
Advance orders of five days are required for deliveries and takeaways from Minjiang Goodwood Park Hotel and Minjiang Dempsey. Availability for all Lunar New Year specials is from 24 January to 26 February 2021 and the last pre-order date is 21 February 2021, 12pm.
Place your orders here.
Violet Oon's gluten-free menu
Here's an ambitous move: Nyonya cuisine going plant-based and gluten-free. Well, not entirely, but there's now options for diners with dietary restrictions and preferences at Violet Oon. A challenge that the homegrown name has risen to sate the growing demand within our local dining sphere. No one is left behind from a grilled feast here. Kick off the hearty meal with a variety of starters — start with the Emping Cracker with coriander infused eggplant puree, a perfect balance of tangy and bitter. Vegetables and mushrooms are lit with the signature chargrilled treatment, as we tucked into perfectly grilled King Oyster Mushrooms served with turmeric-infused coconut sauce. The Garam Assam Tay Kwa came to be a personal favourite, with flame-grilled tau kwa garnished with a sweet diced pineapple compote perfumed with julienned ginger flower. Of course, an experience at Violet Oon is never complete without a taste of their all-star rendang — you guessed it — plated with meatless meatballs. This rendition is instead, made of walnut and stringy cheese, then braised in spices and christened with kaffir and bay leaves in a creamy coconut cream sauce. We also loved the idea of grilled cauliflower, dished on a bed of sweet and spicy sambal sauce. For another scene-stealer, call for the Jagung Bakaar Pedas Manis — especially if you love a well-oiled corn on the cob. The fried jasmine rice (Basi Goreng Kang Kung) also held its own, against the sinful plate of buah keluak fried rice, to which we say, forget about holding off on the carbs here. Especially with the desserts — the classic kueh beng kah, served with coconut milk and gula melaka, as well as a very special pulut hitam featuring dairy-free coconut ice cream. No tummy troubles here, that's for sure. — CL
3B River Valley Road #01-18, Clarke Quay, Tel: +65 9834 9935
Opening hours: (Tues-Sun) 6pm-10.30pm
Where we're looking to dine...
1-Atico at ION Orchard
Get ready to experience a distinctive dining experience up on the peak of ION Orchard, as 1-Atico launches FIRE and FLNT. FIRE focuses on Argentine wood-fired cooking techniques where an exclusively variant selection of woods such as oak and almond wood are utilised in the process of fuelling the fire to provide a fresh flavor profile. Of course, one can expect only the primest cuts of meat, seafood and even plant-based options. Alongside it is FLNT — where Japanese cuisine meets Peruvian. Expect a sumiyaki binchotan grill, a Raw Bar of sashimi, and Japanese interpretations of Peru's national dish — ceviche.
Level 56 ION Orchard, Tel: 6970 2039
Opening hours: FIRE (Mon - Sun) 12pm to 2pm, 6pm to 11pm; FLNT (Mon - Sun) 11.30am to 11pm
Beats Bites & Cocktails (BBC) at Bukit Pasoh Road
Housing a lounge space of 50 pax, things will get a little experimental here as you sip on a wide range of spirits set to surprise, including the Cane & Caffeine or Purple Rain just to name a few. Of course, the expected accompanying dishes such as the Bertha Ash Biscuits or Nambanzuke, are of a standard that will not falter in comparison.
8 Bukit Pasoh Rd, Tel: 6221 3880
Opening hours: (Tues - Sun) 4.30pm to 10.30pm, Closed on Mondays