Pollen @ Gardens by the Bay: New Year, New Chef

Since it's the start of a new year, I decided that it was timely that I disclosed one of my favourite eats of year 2016. That being the profound modesty of Chef Steve Allen and the new culinary direction he has Pollen embarked on.

Novelty is a major lure for me and this is enhanced by a personalised buggy ride service from the arrival plaza to the restaurant, through lush foliage and scenic views of the Marina Bay waterfront. Sights targeted at calming the senses and whetting the appetite. To top it all off, you'll get to wander into the Flower Dome too! free of charge. Yes, they weren't kidding when they said POLLEN experience.

Now back to the food. The kitchen at Pollen, in the hands of new Executive Chef, Steve Allen has a bit of British humour injected in its lap. Taking timeless classic French techniques, he touches it up lightly with worldly Asian influences gathered from his tours in S.E.A. as well as Mediterranean touches which are a sure sign from the quality of seafood employed in most of the dishes we enjoyed that night.

Pre-dinner snacks were a party in the mouth. Holding intricate shapes from magic carpets of wafers to foie gras pate composed mini apples lookalikes, the real palate shocker came in the form of celery with seaweed. One would half expect the cold treat to be sweet, but the sea-worthiness of the dish works effectively as a palate cleanser. Seaweed-infused brown butter sand topped with celery sorbet which is tightly tied in with Chef Steve's fond memories of eating ice cream on the pier. This leaves the taste buds, bewildered and bothered by the hits of umami between frosty bites.

At this junction, you know....the meal is starting to look a lot more evocative...

For starters, the Red Prawn Tartare and Tomatoes (pictured at the top) comes highly recommended. Chef Steve's intuitive French-Mediterranean style strongly represented in this multi-textural dish that consists of red prawns from Mazaro del Vallo in southwest Sicily, prawn oil-infused mayonnaise, pickled tomatoes, prawn crumbs (made with dehydrated prawn heads) and frozen tomato consomme. The Crab, Butternut Squash, Sage Ricotta, Pancetta sounds risky too, but trust me, this dish encapsulates the finesse and innovative cooking techniques involved in Chef Steve's menu. A bed of Scottish Crab that had just been harvested at 5pm that very day is perfectly molded with wisps of homemade sage ricotta dolloped around the edges. The piece de resistance, those poached butternut squash which works to ground the sweet combination.

Perfect for this holiday season, the Poached and Roasted French Duck, Pear, Celeriac and Anise Jus warms the heart. The imminent perching of the sliced duck on its side displaying pink centers, this is flanked by cep relish, and pickled orange for intense hits of caramelised citrus reminiscent of  Christmas roast. Delicious and very complex.

Busting conventions of surf and turf, the next dish combines an unlikely pair - Scallop, Joselita Ham, Sea Lettuce, Squid Ink Croutons. It's rich and the perfect accomplice to a night spent in the temperature controlled restaurant grounds. That being said, do bring a shawl along if you mind sitting in sub-20 temperature while dining  Another stellar dish is the Poached Salmon, sorrel, ikura and radish; don't be fooled by its elementary description because this conjures some, out-of-the-ordinary flavor stakes. The way each slice of fatty salmon flakes away at the slightest touch is ecstasy. You let out an audible sigh mingling contentment and resignation. Best salmon I've ever eaten.

After a quick run-through of the Flower dome, all decked out in Christmas lights (yes, evidently we were too excited for desserts), we settled on stools placed strategically in front of the pastry counter. Truth be told, Chef Steve Allen was never pastry trained, the splinters of gregarious laughter and jokes about musicians being a bit twack in the head showering additional interests on the desserts to come.

And boy did they not disappoint. My love for pumpkin restored again in the Pumpkin, Yogurt, White chocolate, Blueberry dessert. Uncomplicated, this dish highlights the essence of pumpkin which the pastry kitchen obviously nailed with a killer recipe for that luscious quenelle of pumpkin ice cream. This sings in sweet symphony with the white chocolate mousse, blueberry and a final swizzle of pumpkin seed oil for a brown-butter like wham-bam finish.

Dinner ends with a punch with a second round of desserts. Beetroot sorbet meets 70% guanaja chocolate ganache stained with beetroot juice for a strong earthy tone and reddish tinge. This is perched atop pistachio biscuit almost akin to a florentine. The best part of it all - kombucha tea infused tea infused chocolate ganache, wait for it... aerated for extra textural peculiarities.

Last point to note, do save space for their celestial petit fours cause those matcha marshmallows are absolutely glorious.

Note: These dishes are featured across the a la carte, set lunch and dinner tasting menus at Pollen. So make sure to line up those reservations for your special occasions!

18 Marina Gardens Drive 
t: 6604 9988

Operating Hours:
12pm - 3pm (lunch)
6pm - 10pm (dinner)
Tuesday: Closed

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