To discard a primordial soup of names as a wall décor, and gun for a name – Pidgin, which means a mash-up of languages that bridges communication in a region, say, Singapore – that declares its wish to go local, restaurateur Adrian Ling had boldly overhauled his French bistro Pamplemousse to make way for Pidgin Kitchen & Bar.
In its rebirth, the bistro now has a white-walled interior (that aims for industrial chic, alas, again) that registered more as greenhouse or chapel, with an adjacent open bar roofed by black wooden beams. Most things stay European. Tables and chair in Nordic blonde wood lighten up the overall palette. Columns of mirrors towards back reflect back the length of the space, echoing an extended feel of the restaurant.
The menu runs in bold 50’s-era typeface, in powder blue-green, and food is split according to categories. Further nostalgia stems from the use of blue-rim enamel-tin cup with prints of flowers. Description wise though, the menu reads locavore, at least regionally. (It even said Malaysian tomatoes without batting an eyelid.) This is not followed up with advocacy. Instead, the dishes seem more bent on intrigue and novelty.
RT’s Uni Toast ($18.00)
Rectangular strips of brioche with comte and a square of uni were simple and clean. A hint of salt from the cheese worked as a balancing part and it was light as a whole, if too light for an appetizer.
Bread & Butter & More ($7.00)
Mow down the hype and read for the subtext on the menu instead, if you need substantial carbs: bread rolls (including some sourdough bun and other darker breads) with a terraced cone of Bordier (you have to try this) butter, some excellent extra virgin olive oil, and sundried tomato and marmite pesto. Bar grub should be skipped for things like these.
Crab Otak Croquettes ($12.00)
But perhaps more pressing is Pidgin’s direction for Singaporean staples, paradoxically, in transmuted familiarity. A trio of crab croquettes underlaid rempah and kaffir lime leaves with crispy breaded béchamel. It was tasty on its own. Comparatively, the cai poh remoulade beneath was a slumbering tar tar sauce.
Bak Kwa Mac & Cheese ($20.00)
Adding Asian elements was more forced for a cocotte of mac and cheese with bak kwa. The roux-drenched penne is rendered heavy with truffle oil alone while the sweet barbequed meat only made it waxy, and not any different than adding lap cheong to the mix.
Razor Clam Tau Suan ($20.00)
At other times, novelty surfaces in the façade: a tau suan (it clearly was the starched mung bean soup in appearance) turned out to be savory, made with dashi, and has juicy nuggets of razor clams. Purists may cringe but this was rather pleasant and strangely, light.
Foie Gras with Rojak Sauce ($28.00)
They should have been after a rojak that finds an excuse for foie gras. It was as if a sparse rojak, waiting to be tossed, had a random friend in a piece of foie gras and offered its you tiao as a pedestal. It was admittedly good, as the sauce and pineapple cuts through the fatty liver, but confounding nonetheless.
Lobster Wanton Capellini ($26.00)
Luxe wanton mee is dressed humbly in porcelain wares. Capellini, courtesy of crustacean oil, was a smack of umami in a slippery mess, topped with sliced chorizo. The fried wantons were more – too – modest; it says lobster wanton and it is a challenge to know that without the menu.
Uni Tagliolini ($28.00)
More subtly Asian are dishes that truly have a clear intent on taste than on concept. Pidgin brought over its uni tagliolini from its Pamplemousse days, a snug roll of pasta soaking in a creamy amber sauce topped with uni and nori powder – you know it is glorious without even tasting it. And it is.
Teochew Pork Trotter, Kurobuta Ham Terrine, Dijon, Chili Vinaigrette ($18.00)
A special of terrine made with teochew pork trotters and kurobuta ham is meaty and chunky, minus the dainty smoothness of most terrines. This is precisely the direction you wish creativity always end up in, where conventional expectations are ignored.
More unexpected and effortless was quinoa, as simply named on the menu. This was bizzare, but after adding a stock of pandan leaves and tomato, and preserved mustard leaves (out of a jar, don’t scoff), this health-food grain came to life. The slivered almonds aren’t distracting but the quinoa alone was punchy, with hints of tartness and a tonne of meatiness. (probably because of the tomatoes.)
Kaya Bread & Butter Pudding ($15.00)
Desserts is where pairings of ingredients caused some confusion, like how did hojicha ice cream seem obvious alongside some rather addictive kaya bread and butter pudding? The edges of the pudding can be dry, so dig in the middle for pockets of creamy custard to go with the crisp, browned exterior.
Osmanthus Creme Brulee ($12.00)
Lychee sorbet quite made sense with osmanthus, as with a crème brulee, except its heaviness masked the floral scent. The sorbet, on the other hand, was fragrant but could benefit from some acidity.
“Milo Dinosaur” Version 2.1 ($15.00)
Then came an easy winner – Milo dinosaur on a plate: a flourless chocolate cake slab that melts on demand, chocolate and milo ice cream, milo streusel and some dulce de leche as a round up. Everything is basically there: milo, milo powder and condensed milk (all caramelized), and they demand to be licked off the plate.
It is also worth taking a shot at Pidgin’s bar. They have quite a refined selection of liquor and their signature cocktails make a good testimony to that. One with nin jiom old fashioned syrup with fedra branca was grassy and slight spiced while a colonial whiskey sour with bourbon bore alcohol names that stumps most of us.
Pidgin’s agenda seem mostly to be for fun and experimenting, down to the choice of wares to evoke nostalgia. While some went over the edge in terms of rceipe, there are many that continued to keep their stripes from the defunct pamplemousse. And if it ain’t broke, why fix it?
Many thanks to Mr. Leroy Chan from The Food News for the kind invite.
7 Dempsey Road, #01-04
Contact Number: 6475 0080
Mondays to Saturdays, 12.00pm till 2.30pm and 6.30pm till 10.30pm
Closed on Sundays