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Moving away from the more straight-forward European sensibilities of his first fusion concept, Pamplemousse, chef-owner Adrian Ling reinvents the Dempsey-area 60-seater into something a bit closer to home: Pidgin Kitchen & Bar.
Reinvention can be tricky, particularly when it’s taking on a concept that’s nothing new – infusing local flavours into European fare can be akin to flogging a dead horse. But the restaurant, sporting a new, industrial-chic look, delivers a rare commodity lacking in the fusion scene: originality.
The razor clam tau suan (mung bean soup, $20) is case in point. It’s somewhat pricey for a pitifully tiny portion, but the sheer audacity of it is refreshing: Ling’s savoury take on the sweet hawker dessert is a clever textural play between the thick, flavourful dashi broth, sweet, expertly cooked clams and crunchy mung beans.
Another creation proves closer to the fusion textbook – Pidgin’s foie gras ($28) is a luxurious extension of rojak. Instead of the ubiquitous puff pastry, the duck liver rests upon a crispy piece of tau pok (beancurd sheet), with Sarawak pineapple, jicama and a piquant rojak sauce on the side. Have a little of everything in one bite for a rich explosion of flavours.
Less successful was the chicken arancini (fried rice balls, $8), a confusing Italian-inspired sharing plate rescued by a delicious garlic chilli jam. But Ling also falls back to familiar comforts – his signature duck confit ($32) with lychee gastrique and duck fat potatoes and crab otak croquettes ($12) are fail-safe dishes.
Desserts are a must; don’t miss the ‘Milo Dinosaur’ version 2.1 ($15) – an evolution of his nostalgic dessert at Pamplemousse – a combo of milo ice cream and flourless Valrhona chocolate cake.
Like its new moniker (which essentially means a simplified language with outside influences), Pidgin straddles the fine line between a bold approach and Ling’s respect for his roots. And we like the result. Lee Min Kok
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