September 12, 2013

Pidgin Kitchen & Bar ~ An Intriguing Restaurant at Dempsey Road

Pidgin is a simplified language to bridge communication between speakers of different languages, while the appropriately named Pidgin Kitchen & Bar does their bridging of different cultures through the universal language - Food. Inspired by popular dishes and flavors in Southeast Asian cuisine, the creations by Chef-owner Adrian Ling at this newly opened restaurant at Dempsey Road are nothing short of being bold and imaginative. I didn't expect to be in for so many surprises when we chose to dine there on that Friday evening.

Pidgin sits on the former grounds of Pamplemousse Bistro & Bar, which may be familiar to some of you. Yes, it's the same location, same chef, even the same team of service staff! The menu is of course entirely different now but a few favorites are still retained.

After a makeover spanning two months, we see a sparkling new industrial-chic interior set against a backdrop of airy space with high ceilings and soft lighting, making Pidgin a sophisticated yet casual enough place for a relaxed meal. The 4.4-metre bar marks a good spot for guests who wants a drink or two, carrying artisanal beers, craft cocktails and over 100 labels of wine.

The service staff made us feel welcomed with their little gestures, greeting us at the door, filling up our water glasses promptly, all done with a smile. The smiles are the key difference between obligated service and warm service.

I was intrigued by Pidgin's menu which boasts of favorite flavors-inspired dishes in a whole new rendition. Expect a controversial spin on our iconic national dish in Chicken Rice Arancini ($8), essentially fried rice balls coated with breadcrumbs (uncle, chicken rice mai chicken please!!). Lobster Wonton Capellini ($26) sounds like an atas version of wanton mee, with the capellini (replacing mee kia) being tossed in lobster oil aglio-olio style, flanked by fried lobster wantons and topped with Chirozo slices (instead of char siew). Pork.Bone.Tea. ($24) is a direct translation of bak kut teh, now manifested in form of American-style marinated pork ribs with tea-smoked beef bone marrow, sealed in garlic and pepper jus.

Everything sounds soooooo interesting! We couldn't make up our mind on what to order, and decided to go along with most of the server's recommendations, but one dish which caught my eye and I really wanted to try is the Razor Clams Tau Suan ($20). Tau suan is a sweet Chinese dessert made of split mung beans but now we're gonna have it as a savory soup! The beautiful broth is richly flavored with clams and kombu (a type of Japanese seaweed), and the split mung beans gave a nice al dente bite. Topping it off were slices of fried dough fritters. I later learn that Chef Adrian is indeed inspired by the classic local dessert and by dishes with beans and clams. What a superb merge of cultures, tastes and textures. Excellent!

My friend and I both enjoyed the Crab Otak Croquettes ($12)! A bite into the crispy breaded exterior revealed an inner bursting with creamy chunks of crabmeat in fragrant spices and coconut milk. Deep fried to perfection, there was no trace of oiliness at all and it paired very well with the chye poh remoulade. This is without any doubt a starter not to be missed!

Chef Adrian is passionate about all things local and uses ingredients available from Singapore's farms wherever possible, so the Frog Legs ($19) we had were specifically from our local Jurong Frog Farm. Frog legs could very well be the next best thing I can have if there's no chicken wings. It's such a delight to gnaw the flavorsome meat off its bones. The barley is permeated with the distinct aroma of laksa leaf, and served risotto-style. I wish it to have a creamier texture though, as overall, the whole dish came across as slightly on the dry side.

The pasta section features Bak Kwa Mac & Cheese ($20), Lobster Wonton Capellini ($26) and we trusted the server on his recommendation of Uni Tagliolini ($28), which is by the way, one of the popular dishes from the Pamplemousse days. The pasta is twirled beautifully and smothered in a luscious crustacean cream sauce, accompanied with sea urchin and pork gratons, with nori brightening up the dish with a touch of green. Every bite was bursting with robust flavor! My friend felt "jerlat" after awhile but I did not get the surfeit feeling though I'm the one who finished most of it.

Long strands of fragrant tagliatelle enrobed with the briny essence of the sea, accompanied by little bits of sweet raw uni that burst in your mouth with each bite of the chew - See more at:
The finished dish? Long strands of fragrant tagliatelle enrobed with the briny essence of the sea, accompanied by little bits of sweet raw uni that burst in your mouth with each bite of the chewy noodles. - See more at:

The Duck Confit ($32) is the only item on the menu which is highlighted as a famous must-try and so we did. I would prefer the meat to be more tender, but the skin was done marvelously! Well brown, thin and crispy with some fats underneath, it was so sinful but wonderful! Coupled with yummy potatoes cooked in duck fat, this huge duck leg was a dish which made me think about the calories, but I just couldn't stop eating. I do not care for the lychee gastrique, finding it too sweet for my liking, but love the red cabbage which serves to cut through some of the greasiness.

Our choice of dessert to end off the meal was "Milo Dinosaur" Version 2.1 ($15). I almost burst out laughing when the piece of flat "airport runway" cake was placed in front of me. Aiyoh, such a skinny "dinosaur"!! But then again, this was supposed to be inspired by, not a replica of, the local chocolate malt drink. The medley of 72% dark chocolate flourless cake, milo ice cream, milo streusel and dulce de leche is not too bad, but I would prefer a real milo dinosaur. I'd probably opt for Bandung Panna Cotta ($12) or Osmanthus Creme Brulee ($12) next time.

I must admit, by the end of the meal, I was extremely overwhelmed by the array of surprises in flavors that it's a tad tiring to my tastebud and I actually craved for a simple steak. But the dining experience at Pidgin got me still thinking about it a few days after (especially the Tau Suan Soup), which is a good thing. Pidgin offers favorites which we are familar with, yet is able to capture our attention with their brave and interesting twist on it. My friend is taking on a more conservative stand, but for me, I definitely wanna be back for more :)

Pidgin Kitchen & Bar
Address: 7 Dempsey Road, #01-04, Singapore 249671
Contact: +65 64750080
Opening Hours: Mon-Sat Lunch 12pm-2.30pm, Dinner 6.30pm-10.30pm / Closed on Sun

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