Fusion food, all the rage 15 years ago, is now so commonplace that any restaurant that announces its fusion credentials invariably feels at best unoriginal, at worst, dated. Husband-and-wife Adrian Ling and Cleo Chiang-Ling, however, seem determined to buck the odds with their new Dempsey dining room. It quickly became clear to us, on recent visits, that the duo are not trying to chase trends, nor are they trying too hard to impress the diners. Instead, the meals at Pamplemousse gave the impression that restlessly creative minds in this kitchen are churning with one goal in mind: to produce brilliant tastes.
The diverse flavours of the beef carpaccio are a perfect example. Thin slices of perfectly chilled meat blanketed the plate and were topped with sweet slices of crisp Chinese pear, creamy quail egg yolk, a sour yuzu and sesame dressing, salty shavings of parmesan and the bitter kick of mesclun greens.
Another well-received appetiser was found in a creamy bath that resembled a simple lobster bisque in which floated curls of tagliolini. Nuggets of fresh uni provide a powerful punch, while a sprinkling of crisp pork and crunchy chives separated the dish from its commonplace cousins in Italian restaurants run by Japanese chefs.
The kitchen’s originality shines especially with the main courses. Somehow, a foie gras-stuffed French pigeon breast – ostensibly fine dining fare – was transformed into comfort food. The pigeon featured three textures: a tender breast, dark meat in the wings, and smooth foie gras that fairly melted in the mouth, while tiny cubes of spiced beetroot lounged alongside a creamy corn mousse topped with crispy potato chips.
But it is bistro-inspired dishes that make up the bulk of the menu, all infused with detail and prodigious dollops of creativity. The shredded beef in the ‘beef bourguignon’ was marinated in red wine and reclined in a Guinness froth atop creamy mashed potatoes, bacon bits, mushrooms and pearl onions. The bistro influences were also found in the tender duck confit where the crisp skin and moist meat were highlighted by the notes of a rich lychee and vinegar reduction.
If you feel that after all this heavy dining, you have no room for dessert, suck it up – and in – because you’ll be missing out, big time. While both the sticky date and summer berry puddings left deeply favourable impresssions, the real gem was found in the ‘Toast & Milo’ dessert: a scoop of ice cream made out of Milo served alongside a pool of dulce de leche, fresh strawberries, and sprinkled with crunchy dehydrated Nutella bits. And just to pile on the insulin overload, caramelised bananas sandwiched between slivers of chocolate-covered brioche are served on the side.
Diners are given the choice between a two- or three-course meal, and while several of the dishes include add-ons, the wait-staff are commendably quick to point this out in order to avoid surprises when the bill arrives. The exemplary service continued when enquiries about dishes were knowledgeably answered.
The stylish interior stands apart from faux-bistro decor that you tend to find in Singaporean French restaurants: shabby chic white leather chairs, glowing candles, and giant colonial pillars, while a long list of ingredients – capers, lemongrass and truffles – are etched on a giant chalkboard. We’re pleased, and relieved, to report that Pamplemousse’s Italy-meets-France-and-stops-off-in-Asia cuisine is not copying has-been dishes of years past. Instead, the kitchen sends out plates brimming with freshly conceived flavours. That’s fusion we can live with. Alexandra Karplus
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