Singapore is one city where many great food is left undiscovered, and hidden. Despite its small size, restaurants, cafes, and eateries are almost everywhere. Even in the quieter areas of Outram where most of the crowd are the executives in the area, this is my third take to the Neil Road-Tanjong Pagar area for another new discovery of cuisine masked behind the scenes. Its easy to miss the restaurant Pavillion if one were to simply drive past it. The nondescript entrance would not instantly attract attention, but if one were to take a step in, the first impression would be set with the traditional, classy drapes and decor that adorn the petite restaurant.
The outfit is traditionally Chinese, but the spy on a room full of stocked wines leaves a hint towards something extra. Decked in warm wood brown with tinges of red here and there, the restaurant does little to suggest very subtly on the cuisine it serves – full fledged Cantonese flair with a tinge of inspiration from Western ingredients, pairing, plating and serving. Not fully fusion, yet with that touch that makes it unmistakable of the marriage between culinary cultures. Pavillion, Notes of the Contemporary Cantonese Cuisine.
Dinner for the night was a 5-Course Menu priced at $88++ a person. The sets change fortnightly possibly to reflect the Chef’s latest creation from the kitchen and the use of the freshest ingredients at hand. The meal was started off with the Pan-Seared Scallops Accompanied with Mango and Avocado Salsa. Minimalism takes centre stage here with an idea of symmetry in presentation. The scallops were quickly seared on the hot pan to give the glisten of brown on both sides while leaving full flavour and juices of the shellfish within. In a sparkling contrast of flavours, the sea richness was a subtle complement to the Mango and Avocado Salsa, itself tossed deeply in creamed avocado to give a mix of sweetness and an addition of richness. A very familiar dish, but possibly with familiarity leaves comfort.
The Braised Shark’s Fin with Bamboo Fungus in Shark’s Cartilage Broth served with Hot and Sour Consomme is possibly one of the longest dish’s name I’ve ever seen yet it truly reflects the imagination of tastes to ensue. The Shark’s Cartilage broth presented as a velvety golden stock is slightly thick, collagen rich with flavours ranging from the savoury to the slight bit of acidity.
The experience simply does not end there. The soup is also paired with a Hot and Sour Consomme where despite the small serving, the flavours of hot and sour spiciness is concentrated in each sip to give that momentary burst of alertness and the refreshing opening up of the tastebuds. It might be a little too strong for some where it could overtake the Shark’s Cartilage broth as a centerpiece but I felt it was an interesting palate opener to soften the richness of the thick broth from before.
When it comes to impressive dishes, sometimes all it takes is just a simple creation of Chef’s Roasted Chicken in Si-Chuan Sauce. Crackling. That’s the best word that describes the skin of this serving of roasted chicken. It crackles in the mouth upon first bite, and it crackles again each time you chew. Pair that with the thin layer of fat beneath the skin and match the portion with tender chicken with its base slightly soaked in the spicy sweet sour si-chuan sauce, a basin of flavours and textures definitely left me impressed. At the end, you would wish you had double portions. And possibly the best roasted chicken I’ve had thus far.
The second main of the set was the Steamed Cod Fish in Chef’s Special Sauce accompanied with Mushroom Fragrant Rice. Cod, itself a neutral yet fatty fish, is steamed, and paired with the salty slightly spicy fermented bean sauce on the top. A little salty, the light soy at the base gave another dimension of saltiness with an added sweetness.
The mushroom fragrant rice, lightly aromatic comes with the cod and it does well in toning down abrupt flavours to a better match of soothing delicacies.
The dessert of the set was the Hot Almond Cream with Hashima served in Young Coconut. I very much appreciate that Pavillion serves its Almond Cream piping hot, as I feel the temperature plays key importance in the sweet enjoyment of the cream itself. A little cooler and the cream becomes a tad thick with a slight bitter acidic taste, but this serving was excellent. Two levels of sweetness envelopes the dessert with one from the almond and the other of the young coconut flesh, where bits of it add a slight textural contrast and fruity scent. The dessert is very hot though, and definitely not to be deceived with the airy and loft presentation from the mist of dry ice.
As a final course, the restaurant’s signature and popular Deep Fried Durian Ice Cream with Sweet Potato ($10) was ordered. Presentation was kept simple with colours being the main contrasting roles upon serve. The durian ice cream is without doubt rich with a slight sticky creaminess. And though the ice cream is deep fried, the crust encasing it is surprisingly not oily. Flavours wise, the durian was a little too sweet and I would have preferred a little fibrous texture of the fruit within. The Sweet Potato in all its purple glory is more of a presentation highlight than a real contribution to the otherwise excellent ice cream itself.
The dishes at Pavilion from the menu I’ve had is just a representation of what more Pavillion is able to create. With a certain degree of finesse, thoughtful creativity in pairing ingredients, textures and presentation together, this becomes more than just good ol’ traditional Cantonese Cuisine, but one that strikes at the level of a Contemporary touch. Its locality away from the city centre makes it an exclusive getaway into a removed experience on its own. And with that serving of excellent Chef’s Roasted Chicken in Si-Chuan Sauce, I am very tempted to be back for more.
This was an invited media session from Pavillion
20 Craig Road
#01-02 Craig Place
Tel: 6557 2873