Neon Pigeon

At first blush, a restaurant named 'Neon Pigeon' doesn't exactly titillate. I mean, I wouldn't associate pigeons, which inconvenient crap have plunged many a car owner to depths of depraved cursing, with good food.

Notwithstanding my reservations to Neon Pigeon's less-than-tantalising moniker, dinner at said izakaya with the M&Ms turned out brilliant. Serving up small plates of Japanese-fusion fare, the gastropub was hipster central. Lively and boisterous, replete with low-lights and the undone-doneness of industrial finishings, it was a place to see and be seen. Aside from having to bellow above the music blaring out the speakers and the cramped seating, we had ourselves a most delightful dinner.

The food was inventive and delectable; flavour fusions were unexpected but finessed seamlessly. Also, the tapa-portions allowed for greater variety of dishes ordered, so we nibbled our way through the menu.

The tobiko-topped Baby Scallops ($12) may have been smaller than I'd like, but they were perfectly cooked, and the piquancy of the tomato seed ponzu and Japanese plum emulsion was exquisite. I licked the shells clean off.

A must-try, and perhaps the best hummus I've ever had, the Tokyo Hummus ($9) was blended with edamame for a savoury undertone. Curry-dusted bread chips lent contrast with a mild spice. We actually ordered three extra portions of chips ($3 each) just to eat this all up.

The succulent Tsukune Meatballs ($16) was given crunch and enlivened by peanut-speckled tare, pickled carrots, aonori seaweed and fresh watercress.

The Bamboo Shoot Tempura ($11), wonderfully crisp, was burnished with a black garlic and katsuobushi (bonito flakes) for an umami boost.

The Miso Roasted Eggplant ($12), set on a bed of creamy eggplant puree was jazzed up with zesty mint and fried lotus chips.

Fat and juicy, the Black Pepper Teriyaki Mushrooms ($22) was seasoned with sesame and shishito peppers for a subtle heat and fragrance.

The only blah dish of the night, the Yuzu Kosho Cauliflower ($28) was a smidge undercooked. A minute or so in the oven would have rounded off the florets beautifully. Also, the coriander leaves-infused cauliflower puree wasn't exactly enticing.

The classic pairing of brussels sprouts and bacon was given a Japanese twist with the Crispy Brussels Sprouts ($28), which was laced with bacon that was glazed with mirin. Yuzu-inflected karashi mustard provided a refreshing sharpness to the sprouts.

Intoxicatingly smoky, the Charcoal Grilled Asparagus ($30) was dotted with broccoli stems and finished with a black goma and ponzu dressing.

The Roasted Tiger Prawns ($18), swimmingly fresh and sweet, was dunked in a tepid broth with buckwheat soba, mountain yam, and perked up with ohba leaf slivers (or what the Koreans call perilla leaves).

Another must-try, the wonderfully luscious Octopus Leg ($21) was imbued with an aromatic char, and glossed with black vinegar, garlic puree and herbed dip.

The aptly named Bonsai ($12), which seriously looked like the Japanese plant, was scrumptious. A base of chocolate mousse, rooted in matcha soil, and showered with honeycomb and frozen raspberries, it was nuanced and balanced.

Neon Pigeon
1A Keong Siak Road
Tel: 6222 3623
Open Mondays to Saturdays from 6pm to 12midnight;
Closed on Sundays (note: they don't take reservations)
Website: www.neonpigeonsg.com

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