When the restaurant names a dish simply as “Aged duck breast”, the least you’d expect is a whole duck neck — beak and all — arriving at your table.
What it really is, is a duck neck sausage; which is placed on a trolley and then tenderly sliced in front of you before being transferred to a plate. This masterpiece then rests on a bed of parsnip and vanilla puree, where its rosy hues mirror the colour of the duck breast by its side.
This arresting visual won’t be the last thing you’d remember. The paper-thin skin from the duck neck crackled with every slice, and hugged the stuffing of foie gras nuggets and spiced duck meat that yields to the knife with ease.
Lest we forget, the gorgeous seared aged duck breast by its side is a tender, juicy cut that sings with a rich meaty flavour, elevated with lashings of duck jus.
This is Chef Michael Wilson’s signature dish. He is Pollen’s newest chef and he brings with him a Michelin star from Phenix in Puli Hotel and Spa Shanghai. “(I) noticed how much people love to photograph their food in Shanghai and thought that (I’d) try to create a dish that not only tasted great but was also provocative.”
Provocative it was indeed.
Previous years would’ve seen Pollen fully booked with diners, mostly tourists, at any time of the day, for its location within the chilly Flower Dome serves as the perfect place to dine at after traversing the grounds in the blistering heat.
Yet, if you expected a white table-clothed atmosphere, you might be mistaken. The fine-dining establishment is fitted with wooden furnishings, abundant with botanicals, and the ambience is pleasant and relaxed — in dour times like these, Pollen fashions a lovely escape from the world outside.
The intriguing duck dish is part of the eight-course Chef’s Menu (S$148++) that includes snacks, a trio of appetisers, another main of sous-vide Wanderer free-range beef and desserts for a Mediterranean-influenced spread.
For a garden-esque restaurant like Pollen, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that some of its best dishes focus on its greens.
The verdant Lettuce Gazpacho pooled around a dome of spanner crab, which was capped with dazzling crystals of granita, compressed cucumber and flecks of Espelette pepper. The marriage of natural sweetness and heat was wonderfully balanced and came together in an invigorating bowl.
Other notable mentions include the organic Beef Heart Tomato that used a variety grown in Genting Highlands, Malaysia. Here, the tomato is first vacuumed in a piquant marinade of black garlic balsamic, then crowned with a spongey basil cake, dollops of sheep’s curd and a beautiful arrangement of chive flowers.
Ready for dessert? While the duck may have steered the ship away from the Mediterranean seas, Ancient Grains pulls us back on track with its quintessentially Mediterranean ingredients. The moreish bowl sees a chocolatey, textured mix of delicately-flavoured roasted barley ice-cream, carob mousse and rehydrated figs. Top that with a smattering of crispy spelt biscuits and you have a glorious combination to end the meal with.
Chef Wilson’s latest tenure at Pollen this year may have been fraught with the pandemic, but that hasn’t deterred him from coming up with an impressive menu.
While Pollen’s unique setting within the Flower Dome is definitely one of it’s biggest draws for many guests, the refreshed menu proves that the establishment isn’t just another tourist trap for holidaymakers. Yes, the menu sees a medley of unusual combinations, but at its core, is a deep, comforting familiarity that rings particularly well in these uncertain times.
Wednesdays to Sundays: 12 pm to 3 pm for lunch (last seating 1.30 pm) and 6 pm to 10.30 pm for dinner (last seating 8 pm)
Price: S$148++ for the Chef’s Menu without wine pairing