29th June 2012 not only marked the opening day for Pollen at Gardens by the Bay, but my birthday too! Before I start the review proper, I just wanted to say that it was great to have lunch together with you.
The word of the wise has always been to never try a restaurant on opening night (or day in this case), but I thought… why not give it a go anyway? And of course, hotelier and partner, Loh Lik Peng and his wife sat at a table in the corner quietly observing their latest venture.
To be entirely honest, I like Pollen – it’s bright and cheery (for lunch anyway), in the midst of so much greenery and the food served doesn’t over-promise but doesn’t under-deliver either. The strong air-conditioning within the Flower Dome and the restaurant is a huge respite from the blistering heat outside.
Pollen has to be one of the most blogged about restaurants in Singapore since its opening, a quick search on Google turned up more entries than I had expected. That… or there has been a surge in the number of bloggers covering food.
The meal started off with some appetite pleasing complimentary dark sour dough bread served alongside, butter, cod brandade and green olives.
To sidetrack, Pollen is the brainchild of Chef Jason Atherton, who owns and runs Pollen Street Social in London, as well as Esquina Tapas Bar in Singapore. Unlike Esquina, Pollen is not a tapas bar, but a proper restaurant where one is able to sit and go through a multi-course meal. One thing’s for sure – the tables are fairly spread out which gives one that teeny weeny bit of privacy.
First up was the Scallop carpaccio, cucumber, apple, horseradish snow. Personally, I liked how the dish felt minimalistic and clean yet being elegant. The scallops were complemented by the ‘horseradish snow’ which lent a both a hint of spicy-ness and freshness to the dish.
The Salad of buttered lobster, pasta, seaweed and maple dressing sounded like a unique dish on paper. I mean, seaweed and maple dressing in the same dish?
The pasta was cooked al dente and the lobster, perfectly. The use of maple dressing to blend the different components of the dish was an interesting choice, to say the least. It was, in my opinion, a balanced combination.
Roasted cod, creamed olive oil potatoes, lemon conserve, orange grenobloise. (Thank you for the correction, ice)
Roasted cod seabass, slow-cooked peppers, olive, fennel, smoked tomato dressing.
We ordered two of their fish dishes as our main courses and were definitely not disappointed. Both dishes were cooked perfectly – certainly no cause for concern here with regards to quality of the execution.
My only minor gripe was that in one of them, the chef was quite liberal on the use of salt - but it was the first day of operation.
P.S. Please accept my sincere apologises for the quality (rather, the lack of) of both photos.
Line-caught john dory, minestrone cabaneros, cocoa bean, baby courgette
The fish used in this dish seem to vary depending on market supply – I’ve read occasions where turbot is used and snapper on others. I’m not sure if the writers got their ingredients wrong, but I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt.
There was a slight mix up in our order and the two of us ended up with 3 main courses instead of just 2. The Rangers Valley 300-day rib-eye, oxtail, charred eggplant, smoked potatoes therefore came by way of compliments from the kitchen.
What is shown above is really only half of the portion that was served, the remaining half remained on a bed of herbs. (pictured right at the top of this post) I’m sitting on the fence on this dish – it was good but lacked the oomph that I would have expected. The gravy was served table-side (yeah.. the theatrics. I hear ye). On a post on another food blog, apparently duck fat chips and green salad now accompany the rib-eye. Honestly, if the decision was left to me, I would stick with the oxtail, eggplant and smoked potatoes.
On a slightly related note, if you happen to drop by Perth, do visit Rockpool Bar & Grill located at Burswood Entertainment Complex; it was one of my more memorable meals – excellent service coupled with great steaks.
Desserts and a Re-visit in the works
Both of us were too full to order desserts but a re-visit is definitely on the cards to not only try Pastry Chef Andres Lara‘s (Iggy’s and El Bulli) supposedly innovative dessert creations but the other dishes that sounded so good too. Of course by then, both the kitchen crew and service staff would have benefited from having a few months of experience under their belt, I’m confident that the service levels would have drastically improved and thus the overall experience.
If you’re interested, by most accounts online, the PB&J dessert (peanut butter and cherry yuzu sorbet) seems like one of the more popular savoury-sweet desserts available at Pollen.
Flower Dome, Gardens by the Bay
Telephone: +65 6604-9988 (Reservations a must!)
Lunch: 12 pm to 2.30 pm
Dinner: 6 pm to 10 pm