If there is something to be said about Pollen, it is that it’s perhaps time that you bookmark it because with new-to-Singapore chef de cuisine Michael Wilson, at the helm, the tasting menu takes on dimensions previously unchartered in this Gardens By the Bay restaurant. More importantly, price points remain attractive at $168++ for the seven-course Chef’s Menu.
Australia-born and trained, Wilson was one-time Sous Chef at Cutler & Co, Melbourne, before he packed his bags for Shanghai, where he snagged a Michelin star for Phénix at Puli Hotel & Spa, Shanghai, as its executive chef.
At Pollen, he draws on his French culinary training and Australian kitchen upbringing to serve his take on Mediterranean-cuisine, ostensibly to fit in with the Mediterranean theme of his new roost at the Flower Dome. And the result, while not always Mediterranean, can be remarkably unique.
From the Chef’s Menu, a trio of Ebro delta smoked eel opens the meal with blocks of the fish topped with seaweed vinegar gel and the eel’s own mousse, decorated with a crispy squid ink fish net for umami and sea succulents for a whiff of refreshment.
To ready your palate, Wilson takes his cues from the Spanish gazpacho but instead of using tomatoes or peppers, he serves a thick lettuce gazpacho that, whilst in itself devoid of much flavour, is given a kiss of life with acidity from whey granita, oceanic umami from shredded spanner crab and more acidity from cubes of compressed pickled cucumber
Wilson chooses to serve his beef tomato as an olive oil-drenched chunk marinated in black garlic balsamic for a depth of flavour and dotted with smidgens of sheep’s curd and pillows of basil sponge. Delightly refreshing.
But the most unique dish – yet – appears as a main course. Aptly named Duck Neck Sausage, seven days dry-aged duck neck is stuffed with pork, foie gras and meat from the duck itself, roasted, carved by the table-side and served with a slice of seven days dry-aged duck breast alongside pickled cherries, charred scallion and vanilla parsnip puree. By no means light, the duck neck sausage is as rich as its stuffing suggests but completely irresistible if you adore pâtés. My only gripe – the lack of a side dish to cut its richness although here’s where the menu of jun teas come into play.
A naturally effervescent fermented drink made with green tea and raw honey, the jun teas are available in 4 flavour options – jackfruit, beetroot, pomegranate and prickly pear – all of which you will get to try if you opt for tea pairing ($48++ for six glasses including four glasses of jun tea). But if you have space for just one or two glasses, the jackfruit and beetroot jun teas come highly recommended and either will come in especially useful to cut the richness of the duck neck sausage.
Just so to get across the point about how unique Wilson’s cuisine can be, he could potentially spring a surprise dish of deep-fried sea anemone if he manages to get his hands on some. I won’t kill the surprise by spilling the beans here.
© Evelyn Chen 2020