If you’re a public transport warrior like I am, you’d know that getting to Dempsey is quite a pain in the ass. What I can best help you with is that once you’re at the foot of the hill at Dempsey Road (not Peirce Road), just keep walking upwards and keep right, until you see Dempsey Block 6 & 7 (as depicted above). Continue keeping right, and you’ll soon see Pidgin Kitchen & Bar, a few doors away from the first photo. Well, think about getting home later.
If you’re a Dempsey veteran (which would also mean that you’re a rich ass), you’d notice that hey, this exact space used to be Pamplemousse Bistro a couple of months back, a very French-focused and inspired bistro. Surprise surprise, the Bistro was closed down for Pidgin, because the Chef finds the former cuisine too restrictive. So now, the same team behind Pamplemousse, has rebranded the restaurant, did a facelift to the space, and created an all-new menu; a Southeast Asia-inspired one – what many would know it as ‘fusion’ cuisine. However, thanks to many restaurants’ loose usage of the word ‘fusion’, it has not been very well-received. I’m proud to say though, that Pidgin is bringing
sexy fusion back. After all, the definition of ‘Pidgin’, if you search, is the ‘communication between people not sharing the same language’. Apt.
I admit that not all the items are worthy (duh, that applies everywhere), thus I’m going to let you know which of them are worth a space in your stomach (and wallet) and which are not, categorically.
Snacks, Bites & Eggs :: If you ask me to pick one starter to kickstart the night, I’d say go for the Crab Otak Croquettes ($12++) and the Chicken Rice Arancini ($8++). Busted, I can’t decide on one. The former’s ramoulade has chye poh in it, whose distinctive taste makes the east meets west perfectly. I also like that the crust was crisp and the fillings generous. The latter uses carnaroli rice, a firmer and longer grain, which makes the bite a more substantial one. They are inspired from, okay, their name says it all.
While the Lamb Meatballs ($12++) were ordinary to me, the Yogurt sauce that came with it mellowed the otherwise strong flavor of the meatballs. In addition, the Yogurt utilizes a local product – Hay Dairies Goat Milk. Supporting local material is always a plus. The Oyster2 Eggs ($19++) however, did not quite impress, considering the price tag attached. The ‘squared’ in the name refers to both the oyster that lays on the egg, and the dried oyster bits present in the scrambled eggs.
Pasta :: A spin-off from wonton noodles, the Lobster Wonton Capellini ($26++) is merely a more atas version of it. I do appreciate the effort of the dish, having Canadian Lobster Meat as part of the ingredient, and the noodles drenched in Lobster Oil, but it just did not quite sit well with me. I thought the noodles were on the dry side and didn’t really have the fall-all-through-my-fork texture. The crab meat and chorizo iberico were forgettable too. The Uni Tagliolini ($28++) is slightly better, but I foresee that it’s a love it or hate it dish, due to its very heavy crustacean cream sauce. It is topped with nori, pork gratons and shallots. I find that it can be cloying if I were to finish the entire dish by myself.
If you’re dying to select a pasta option, I say go for the all so amusing Bak Kwa Mac & Cheese ($20++). When you start digging through, you’ll find penne pasta and pork belly bak kwa masked with gruyere, cheddar and truffle oil. It’s evidently very heavy and thus a small bowl would suffice. I thought the mash-up was quite brilliant. But again, don’t order this if you’re not up for a creamy and cheesy meal.
Fish & Seafood :: To me, Tartare is almost always enjoyable. And it’s no exception for Pidgin’s Spicy Tuna Tartare ($24++). The fact that it’s generously drizzled (and thus substantially flavored) with spicy belacan oil gives it a tad’ more kick to it. The presence of wonton skin produces good occasional crunches. A worthy starter for me.
I also like its Razor Clams Tau Suan ($20++). This was the ultimate mind-blowing dish as far as ‘fusion’ goes. Everyone knows how tau suan tastes like. Imagine, okay, I know you can’t imagine, because the end product was pretty abstract. The inclusion of razor clams gives the dish a whole new twist; stealing some flavors away from the usual tau suan and replacing it with the distinctive clams taste. A little bit of sweet + savory + mild bitterness. On the downside, I thought it’s a little too steeply priced.
Meat & Poultry :: No matter if you are craving for foie gras (or not), or that you simply can’t resist ordering one when you see it on the menu (like me), I say just whack its Foie Gras with Rojak Sauce ($28++). Two simple reasons. (1) It’s a sizable piece of foie gras. In fact, the largest I’ve seen as far as my memory serves me well. (2) The Southeast Asian-inspired Rokjak sauce was genius. I was deeply impressed. I find it challenging to describe, but they just go well together lah. Just order, trust me on that. You can share it amongst 3 – 4.
The Lamb Rack ($38++) in wolfberry jus was pretty ordinary and paled in comparison with the Pork. Bone. Tea. ($24++). Cherry wood-smoked pork rib + oolong tea-smoked bone marrow + garlic and pepper jus makes a very well-executed and wholly bak kut teh taste in the pork ribs. My favorite main course here, hands down.
Desserts :: The Bandung Panna Cotta ($12++) uses rose syrup and rhubarb in it, thus possessing a slightly tart taste on a smooth exterior. I have always not been a fan of bandung / rose syrup, so with prejudice, I’d say skip this. And instead, go for the Kaya Bread & Butter Pudding ($15++)! Served with Milk Tea Ice Cream, the pudding, though filled with homemade kaya and raisins, was surprisingly moderately sweet. This set of Kaya ‘Toast’ + ‘Teh Peng’ calls for an award. Ingenious invention. Bravo, Chef!
If not for the excessively limelight-stealing Kaya Bread & Butter Pudding, I would have recommended the Milo Dinosaur Version 2.1 ($15++) too. I kid. But if your table (and / or stomach) has a space for a different dessert, this is the one to go. It’s named version 2.1 because it has been touched up from the previous menu at Pamplemousse. It’s everything a Chocolate & Milo-obsessed diner would yearn for – 72% dark chocolate flourless cake, milo ice cream, milo streusel and dulce de leche (slowly-heated sweetened milk). It’s simple ingredients combined into a sophisticated dessert platter.
What I love about Pidgin Kitchen & Bar is also its resolution to be above the rest in terms of new creations. They are constantly toying with ideas, flavors and tastes to bring out the best combination and complements from items that are already there but no one had thought about concocting. It is perceivable from their latest ice cream flavors – Black Vanilla, Goreng Pisang and Pineapple Sorbet ($8++ each). Most of us fell head over heels in love with the Goreng Pisang flavor.
Disregarding the fact that this was a media tasting session, I daresay that I will be back for more, and I will recommend everyone to give them a try, never mind that it’s located in the rich man’s world. As far as I am concerned, that means much because after a while being a foodie, it’s hard to give a recommendation when people ask for one. And largely it’s because everything tastes just about the same. This potentially has the wow-factor; it challenges your taste bud and promises a very different cuisine. It’s thus good, in that it leaves a deep and pleasant impression.
If you’re looking for a self-created 3-course meal. I say go for this:
Appetizer: Crab Otak Croquettes ($12++)
Main Course: Pork. Bone. Tea. ($24++)
Dessert: Kaya Bread & Butter Pudding ($15++)
That’s the star-team in my opinion.
Special gratitude to Kherray, LeRoy and the FoodNews team, and Chef Adrian and the Pidgin Kitchen & Bar team for the hospitality and hosting the media tasting session.
Address: 7 Dempsey Road, #01-04
Telephone: 6475 0080 (Takes Reservations)
Opening Hours: 12pm – 2.30pm, 6.30pm – 10.30pm (Mon – Sat); Closed on Sundays