Situated in the heart of Keong Saik is Neon Pigeon, doling out its latest menu featuring “progressive Japanese” creations by Chef Justin Hammond, accompanied by Japanese-inspired cocktails.
Having honed his skills in Japanese restaurants and bars in Hokkaido, Chef Hammond draws much of his inspiration from his time spent living with Japanese families. The new menu showcases creations using essential Japanese condiments such as goma dare (sesame sauce), miso (fermented soy bean paste), as well as Japanese ingredients like unagi (freshwater eel) and hamachi (yellowtail).
Our love for Japanese-inspired cuisine led us to pay a visit to Neon Pigeon, and so here we are. While the restaurant may seem unassumingly hushed on the outside, save for its neon pink sign, step inside and be drawn into its cozy embrace.
We started off on a good note with the herb-crusted tuna tataki ($16 for small; $30 for large). Bathed in pea puree and light shoyu, crispy glass noodles casually rest atop thick slices of fresh tuna – a splendid blend of flavors linger on the tongue, so fresh there was no fishiness whatsoever.
The perfect amount of crunch and meat is found in the soft shell crab bao ($15 for small; $28 for large), its perfectly light batter drizzled with black pepper teriyaki sauce. Sidekicks corn and avocado make an appearance before being stuffed into a soft, fluffy bun, an enticing mix of textures in one single bite. There is absolutely nothing like this.
Steamed potatoes – its skin intentionally left on (no, it wasn’t due to sheer laziness) brings an well-rounded earthiness to the dish – flattened and gently smoked over wood chips before shallow-fried till crisp on the outside and fluffy on the inside, layers of smoke and spice evident in these crispy smoked potatoes ($9 for small; $16 for large). A herb-ponzu dressing and house-made Japanese dried chili-pepper mix only served to enhance the dish. We are told this was crafted in memory of his late grandmother who “who made the best roasted potatoes in the world”. Having tried this, we don’t doubt it. Tip: add a dash of Neon Pigeon’s house special crack salt – it’s addictive.
Other noteworthy dishes include the tare roasted chicken thigh ($17 for small; $32 for large) starring juicy and tender honey-glazed chicken yakitori with a warm Japanese kabocha salad. It is no wonder it is one of Chef Hammond’s favorite dishes – this dish is absolutely satisfying. (Edit: Unfortunately, we’ve just been told that it will no longer be on the menu as of this February.)
Resembling Korean bibimbap, unagi rice pan ($18 for small; $34 for large) ups the ante with varying textures. Rice and dashi are cooked with butter before smoked on an open flame until soccarat is formed. The rice is then slathered with sweet snap peas, barbecue unagi, spring onion, crispy fried nori, topped with a raw egg yolk and sprayed with mirin to mimic sushi rice. It begins mildly runny akin the Japanese rice porridge before crusting and slowly thickening into a creamy congee-like texture, stirred in together with a golden egg yolk. We thoroughly enjoyed the lip-smackingly delicious unagi, as well as its accompanying crunchy deep-fried nori sheets.
And if the food isn’t enough ascertainment, these cocktails will set you in place. A medley of bar manager Symphony Loo’s favourite creations, savor the sweetness of ginger-chamomile honey syrup, gin, and sake in Bees-ness ($18); sip on rosemary-infused sake and umeshu alongside prosecco in Teared Negroni ($20); and for those looking to take things up a notch, we recommend Shibuya ($20) – a blend of whiskey, yuzu apricot jam, chamomile cointreau and lychee liqueur.
We’re already planning what to eat on our next visit: Japanese crab cakes generously slathered with avocado, wasabi and red sorrel ($16 for small; $30 for large), and charcoal-fired rump ($20 for small; $38 for large) with konbu vinegar and tempura enoki.
Our verdict? A lovely hangout for delicious fusion Japanese dishes and adventurous cocktails – just what the doctor ordered.
Photo credit: Ling Tay
Neon Pigeon. #01-03, 1 Keong Saik Rd., 6222-3623. Open Mon-Sat 6pm-midnight.