Ding Dong (Singapore) by Ryan Clift

Setting

Ding Dong @ Ann Siang Road

You never know what to expect with Ryan Clift, the envelope-pushing chef-owner of Tippling Club and the enfant terrible of the Singapore food scene. Barely 2 years after opening ODP at Tiong Bahru, Clift is flexing his culinary muscles again. His latest outing with long-time business partner, Cynthia Chua, steers clear of his comfort zone – i.e., in avant garde-style cuisine and bistro fare – into relatively uncharted territories.

Ground floor kitchen (upper left), upper floor dining room (upper right), second floor bar + diner

Enter Ding Dong that took up residence via a triple-storey conservation shop house in the throes of the recently revived Club Street/Ann Siang Road enclave (opposite Lolla and a few steps away from Oxwell & Co.) since July 2013. All dolled-up with Oriental flourishes to play the part of a seedy bar, the 60-seat cramped digs will not look out of place in the colourful world of Suzie Wong, not with those neon lights, tiles-clad bar bearing Chinese-inspired murals and walls adorned with Chinese red paper cuttings.

Aerial view of the second floor bar/diner from the upper deck

Oddly enough, what greets you upon entry on the ground floor of Ding Dong is not a buzzy bar or the dining room but a glass-gated kitchen and this connects to the second floor bar/diner and upper deck dining room via a wooden spiral stairway.

What to Expect

The small plates menu – featuring “cold plates”, “small plates” and, ironically, “big plates” – pays homage to the exotic flavours of South East Asia, but flirts fleetingly with Japanese inspirations.

 

Scallop ceviche is served but not as you know it

Featured most prominently are Indo-Chinese influences and the one dish you should not miss is scallop ceviche (S$18). The lime-cured Hokkaido scallops are sliced, then topped with onions, chillies, bean sprouts and lashings of herbs (laksa leaves, Thai basil, coriander) and wrapped in Chinese cabbage leaves with a whisper of nuoc cham sauce and coconut cream. Eating the mound can be a messy affair but it’s well worth the effort.

Vietnamese Scotch eggs

Another ‘must have’ is the restaurant’s take on Vietnamese Scotch eggs (S$15). Quail eggs are wrapped in minced pork infused with chopped laksa leaves, coriander, Thai basil and cut chillies, then deep-fried and served alongside a cup of heady nuoc cham dipping sauce. We adore the runny yolk and the zing lent by the dip, but it’s the lavish use of herbs that elevates this otherwise staid dish to the state of brilliance.

Tom kha crispy quail

If you cannot resist Thai tom kha, a coconut milk-based broth infused with galangal, lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves, don’t miss the crispy quail basking in an intoxicating reduced tom kha broth (S$23). Yes, there’s barely adequate broth to be slurped but there’s just enough clinging on to the crisp quail’s meat to leave you begging for more.

Carbon-dusted lemon sole with red curry marinade and corianger mayo

Carbon-dusted lemon sole with red curry marinade and coriander mayo (S$16) showcases Ding Dong’s Thai take on fish & chips, albeit one clad in charcoal-grey carbon dust. We love its cool appearance, yes we do but the fish can do with a stronger red curry-kick. A minor tweak to up the coriander infusion in the mayo will also do wonders in enlivening the dip.

48-hour beef rendang skewers

Moving South, the 48-hour beef cheek rendang skwers (S$15) is a nod to the Malaysian hometown of head chef, Jet Lo. Lo renders the beef cheek completely tender via sous vide, then serves it doused in a way-too-(coconut)creamy rendang espuma. Its texture is textbook-perfect but the meat has the potential to reach new heights if allowed to embrace a rendang-inspired marinade whilst slow cooking.

Roasted black miso kingfish collar

The Japanese-inspired roasted black miso kingfish collar (S$22), on the other hand, is top-notch flavour-wise (thanks in no small part to the bursts of umami from the black miso and konbu salt) but the dish is let down by the fish’ slightly tough flesh.

Malacca chendol 2013

Still, the dinner will end on a Tippling Club-style high, courtesy of Clift’s vanguard-style desserts. Go figure the Malacca chendol 2013 (S$15), which shall remain unexplained so as not to spoil your surprise, or explore the tropical delights of pineapples via Ananas Siang Hill (S$16).

Fujiyama (left) and Golden Mile (inset)

Did we mention that the local and Asian-accented cocktails at Ding Dong gain plaudits for originality and taste? We highly recommend Golden Mile (S$17) and Fujiyama (S$18) – try the latter if you’re curious about yoghurt sake.

Ding Dong | 23 Ann Siang Road | 65-6557 0189 | www.dingdong.com.sg

© Evelyn Chen 2013

Please note that the reviews published in this blog are sometimes hosted. I am under no obligation to review every restaurant I’ve visited. If I do, the reviews are 100% my own.

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