Pollen - Gardens by the Bay, Singapore

Lunch - Sunday, May 19, 2013

The Flower Dome in the Gardens by the Bay is an amazing feat of engineering - a climate-controlled eggshell structure that forms the world's largest columnless greenhouse. Within the dome, temperature and humidity are regulated to simulate a cool Mediterranean climate year-round, making for a welcome reprieve from the oppressive Singaporean heat.

Jason Atherton (of Pollen Street Social) has had plenty of success in Asia, with restaurants in Shanghai, Hong Kong and Singapore - he opened Pollen in the Flower Dome last year to a significant amount of fanfare. Pollen occupies two levels in the corner of the dome, allowing for a singular "al fresco" dining experience. I can't think of a more pleasant man-made environment that we've eaten in. Luckily, the food was more than a match for the setting.

Puffed pig skins, honey dijon dip
Black truffle gougères, onion croquettes, brandade dip
Three different canapés were served while we perused the menu. The pigs skins were interesting - much airier than the chicharrón we're used to. The warm gougères, with a truffle cream filling, were also excellent (great with the brandade).

Basil-cucumber sorbet
Tomato jelly, avocado, peppers, sourdough
Marvelously refreshing - the sorbet was bright and herbacious, and much smoother than the picture would suggest. The gelée underneath was equally pleasant, and packed with flavour despite its cold temperature.

Onsen egg
Asparagus, bacon, roasted hazelnuts
Roasted snapper, salt-baked carrots
Spiced carrot purée, citrus emulsion, orange butter sauce
The citrus elements in this dish really raised it to another level - sour and bitter (zesty) notes neutralized the creamy richness of the butter and carrot purée. The fish was very nicely done, with well-crisped skin, and a sprinkling of puffed saffron rice added more textural pop.

Spring chicken, confit leg
Butternut squash, sudachi, romaine, chicken jus
Very moist chicken supreme with crispy skin, and a deboned leg that was slow-cooked to an almost jelly-like texture (in a good way). The sweetness of the squash, both puréed and roasted, was a welcome complement to the umami chicken jus and the caramelized lettuce. A sharp hit of sour sudachi was a nice surprise, brightening the entire plate.

Pollen "tatin"
Verjus, crème fraîche, caramel jelly, apple
Andrés Lara, the pastry chef in residence, spent time at el Bulli and noma, and was the executive pastry chef at NoMI (in Chicago - I recall a very good meal there back in 2007) and Iggy's. An impressive CV, and he lived up to it - I was quite taken with the desserts. Here, verjus ice cream was spooned over compressed red and green apples, and draped with a thin sheet of caramel jelly. A swath of crème fraîche served as the base. Light, refined, balanced, delicious.

Madras curry ice cream
Banana rice pudding, frozen coconut, sudachi, freeze-dried corn
Even better than the previous course - this was inspired. I loved the curry ice cream here - it just made sense with the other components. The frozen corn and coconut pearls were crunchy and had a lot of natural sweetness, which balanced the ice cream perfectly. The pudding was at the other end of the textural spectrum, and was beautifully executed. Like with the chicken course above, a surprising pop of sudachi kept the sweetness from becoming too cloying.

Mango pâte de fruits, chocolate ganache lollipops
In many ways, I enjoyed this meal more than our previous night's dinner at JAAN. Execution was more consistent, the service staff were more well-informed, and the food was just tastier overall - I imagine the desserts here must be some of Singapore's best. Jason Atherton is (obviously) not in the kitchen every night, but he has clearly left it in capable hands. We must return for dinner.

Flower Dome, Gardens by the Bay
18 Marina Gardens Drive #01-09
Singapore 018953
Phone: (+65) 6604-9988