A little over a month ago when I was wondering around the Outram area looking for food, my boyfriend and I stumbled upon this very busy, very chic-looking restaurant that didn't have a signboard with a name, but only a small neon pigeon. Curious about this very modern establishment we decided to head in.
Needless to say, a few weeks later when I was given the opportunity to return to this restaurant to write a proper review on their new items just added to the menu, I jumped at the chance. They did not disappoint me the first time, so I doubted that they would the second.
To see the restaurant empty was certainly different. Walking in as the first customer of the night, I was greeted at the door by a very friendly, entertaining host that quickly led me to my table.
Normally, I'm not much of an alcohol-drinker, but the cocktail menu just looked far too tempting to resist. And the drinks definitely tasted as good as it looked because even though the light-weight in me only had one drink for the whole night, my dinner companions just kept the drinks coming and each was received with more compliments than the last. Not to mention they were all very, very beautiful.
Being a big fan of gin, I decided to give their Kickin' Mule ($18) a try. House-infused jasmine banes gin mixed with yuzu sake, ginger syrup, shiso, sweetened with citrus syrup and pomegranate molasses. Oh man, quite likely the best cocktail I've ever had, just the perfect combination of sweet and spicy, made icy cold by liquid nitrogen and placed into this Harry Potter-esque pewter mug, better than any Butterbeer that's for sure.
A little buzzed and with the restaurant beginning to fill with more and more patrons, I could barely wait for the food to begin coming out.
Before we go any further however, I should briefly explain how Neon Pigeon's menus work: they are basically a tapas/family-style type restaurant, where they encourage ordering several dishes in various sizes so that everyone can try as many things as they would like from their very diverse and unique menu. Almost every dish come in two sizes of which the prices are denoted and separated by a '/'.
The first dish that came out was the Seabream Sashimi ($18/$34). Can't say I've ever had seabream before but I am a huge, huge fan of sashimi so I had no doubts it would be excellent. The fish was cured with tamari and presented with green apples, yuzu kosho (a blend of citrus zest, garlic, chilli, and salt), and tempura seaweed. Oh man it was certainly excellent. Juicy, fresh and packed full of flavours that contrasted well with the texture of the tempura. Even as I'm writing this my cravings have begun.
Next up was the Tsukune Meatballs ($16/$30), with a little bit of debate whether the meat was pork or chicken (turned out it was chicken), the tender meatballs were served with peanuts, pickled carrots and teriyaki-like sweet Japanese sauce. This was probably my least favourite dish of the night, I felt that their chicken was a little bit too soft, almost mushy, and didn't feel like it packed enough of a punch the way Neon Pigeon usually does.
Immediately after this however, came a simple, but incredibly beautiful dish that blew my mind away, winning the #1 spot of all the things we had that night - the Bamboo Shoot Tempura ($11/$20). Had you told me what I was eating was fish, or some sort of incredibly juicy meat, I may have believed you. Succulent, rich, with an incredible texture and so well seasoned, I thought I loved their Roasted Bone Marrow ($19/$36) from my previous trip, but the black garlic spread, smoked fermented tuna and crispy breadcrumbs-like tempura atop just... bamboo? How did it achieve that sort of satisfaction I have no idea - but I was, and still am, fully enveloped in my love for it.
If there is one dish you want to try at Neon Pigeon just to see the depth of their abilities, go for this. It won't disappoint I promise you.
Next we had the Roasted Tiger Prawns ($18/$34). Served a top buckwheat soba in a light broth, this was a pretty decent dish. A little lackluster after that incredible bamboo treat, but it tasted good and clean, and the prawns were fresh and firm.
Perhaps seeing a little bit of a trend here, me, a typically vegetable-hating eater turned hypocrite at this restaurant's abilities to turn what I feel are such dull ingredients, into amazing works of art. Another dish that I loved that night were the Chargoal Grilled Asparagus ($16/$30). Drizzled with Japanese black sesame sauce (goma) and grilled to perfection, I was a big fan of how they were able to maintain the juiciness of the asparagus while adding condiments to enhance its naturally light flavours. Mmm mmm mmmm.
There was one final dish that night that I could not eat, but have been repeatedly told by the people around me that the meat served was divine. The Tomahawk Steak ($25/100g, typically served at 1-1.5kg and recommended to be shared between 4-6 people). I don't know what it tasted like but my stomach could only imagine that it must have been as tender, fatty, and beautiful as it looked.
As it probably isn't very hard to tell, I really, really love this place. I adore places and restaurants that dare to try something different, that combine experiences and cultures to form works of consumable art that you can journey through. A lot of places fail to do so, and although I have to admit that the prices for Neon Pigeon are quite steep I do believe that if you can afford it, they do present an experience worth trying.