Ding Dong releases 18 new dishes that incite wanderlust in Southeast Asia

I've always had a soft spot for Ding Dong (read my previous extolments here) and its representing unbuttoned Asian-trendy-comfort-food virtues. In a commitment phobic world, it's always refreshing to see a restaurant so enterprising in the spirit of introducing an ever-changing spectrum of Southeast Asian dishes and flavours to its diners, yet still retaining a contemporary edge that's party-ready (it's always tempting to hit the cocktails and bubbly hard). This season, Ding Dong puts on its thinking cap once more and derives a spread of eclectic offerings that will have you at the edge of your seat.

Once you've settled comfortably into your booth seating and resist the urge to go full-on cosy with the new 'Not so Lonely Planet' cocktail menu which (bear with me), incidentally features a tasty Thai-inspired concoction of Sabai Sabai, a vodka-based drink infused with a dash of Thai herbs, blue ginger and citrus.  Focus! on the 18 new dishes! You will peruse the menu with mild amusement, your eye will shine and your face will flush at the fervor of its eclectic theme.

It's a bit overwhelming at first, and here I am to guide you through the unfamiliar. Planning a night out of town, nothing kicks it off with greater effect than a cheeky snack of Chili Crab Kueh Pie Tee. Small nifty crisp shells holding spicy rempah enforced chili crab filling. These make for spice-laden one-bite wonder that would go perfectly with that cocktail you have at hand -  I would suggest The Other Side, bourbon fuelled with Campari, chili, honey and peychaud bitters.

The first dish is a tribute to the land of smiles, Thai Grilled Pork Collar is enthusiastic with spices and sports a lovely sear that pairs well with the sweet, spicy disposition of the accompanying Jaew dipping sauce.

The chef ferry 2 elongated plates to our table. Otah Stuffed You Tiao is reminiscent of the ubiquitous zi-char favourite of salad you tiao, albeit with a bit of spring in its step from spicy fish paste and dollops of fragrant kaffir lime mayonnaise. The other Chicken Lor Bak, delivers on conventional expectations front wise, it's moist innards playing hosts to a bevy of spices that allow for the piquant orange marmalade dipping sauce to shine.

There is a blue-ribbon worthy Curried Pumpkin Soup laced with orange tang, flowing like velvet over succulent crayfish and grilled pumpkin slices. The sort of broth one dreams up of in winter weather.

Hit the mains, and hit them hard. Protein lovers, you'll be hard pressed to make a choice if dining in pairs, my advice would be to find strength in numbers, and with 4 at the table, you can easily work through these 3 mains with ease. Perhaps its merely confirmation bias that the plethora of meat choices are the standouts. Duck Leg with Satay sauce and Ketupat will have you scraping the bottom of the bowl fervently. Crispy duck leg confit with whispers of hair batter brings to mind, fresh-fried Malay fried chicken. This is accompanied by pickled cucumber ribbons, peanuts and an insanely stupid satay sauce releasing buttery fats of peanut oil and coconut milk into a rich palate-coating flood.

If you've never been a fan of lamb because of its gamey stench, you'll find scrumptious resting grounds in the next dish of Lamb Shank in Sauce Merah with Chick Pea. Inspired by Malaysian Kedah cuisine, lamb shank is slow cooked in spicy tomato stew for half a day to achieve that melt-in-your-mouth texture, all of its gaminess fading to oblivion. Perfect with spoonfuls of multigrain rice.

The full roar comes in the form of the Buah Keluak Beef Short Rib with wingbean salad. Obviously Peranakan in its inspiration, one bite and you'll accomplish transcendence - wagyu short ribs weighed with a surmountable amount of fats is bestowed with chocolate hits from the tricky fruit. Herbal hooks from the crisp wingbean salad cutting through its flavor heftiness. Yet despite its ominous appearance, this disappears off the table in record timing.

The desserts keep pace. The green hued spiky dessert, you might have guessed.. is a Durian Alaska , the pungency of the durian tempered by good old pandan. Cutting through the middle of the dome will reveal a spectacle. Atop thin crunchy biscuit base lies a generous layer of fragrant durian kaya and house made durian ice cream separated by a sturdy barrier of pandan sponge. There is a rush of durian fragrance/odour (you pick your side), and an emphatic flavour that is smoothed out by pandan's vanillery overtures. An interesting dessert that all durian lovers should suss out. But not all desserts gets to join the clean plate club. The Kuih Bahalu with nutella powder and p125 ice cream may just be a little over the top in its chocolate extravaganza - perhaps a little sauce put in play would help to dial down the 'dry-on-dry-on -dry', parched predicament of its makeup. Chendol reincarnations are justifiably maligned desserts, but Ding Dong does their justice with coconut snow, pandan jelly noodles and gula melaka ice cream that pave the way for fleeting memories as airy as the dessert itself.

Ding Dong
115 Amoy Street
Reservations: Chope

Operating Hours:
Mon - Sat: 12 - 3pm; 6pm - 12am
Sun: Closed

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