Pollen Creme Catalan

Though we only get two seasons here in Singapore – hot and rainy or just plain hot – we love it when chefs make an effort to present seasonal produce. It means we get to dine on freshly flown in fish, vegetables and fruit from all over the world – a great consolation prize for anyone who hasn’t got the time to travel.

So if you can spare a couple of hours on any evening this month, book your table at Pollen. Through July, the restaurant is serving up its five-course anniversary tasting menu, created specially by executive chef Colin Buchan (below). (Fun fact: Buchan was private chef to the Beckhams while they lived in LA.) If you’ve never been to Pollen before, this is the perfect way to sample its signature Asian-influenced British cuisine.

Pollen Executive Chef Colin-Buchan

Buchan calls the new tasting menu Culinary Constellation and every dish is plated to resemble a star. Sounds rather banal, but the execution is so beautiful you won’t care if it is a little cliched. Every dish arrives looking too good to eat, plated on specially sourced tableware ranging from chilled ceramic mounds (below) to hand-finished plates

Pollen Hokkaido scallops

And after you’ve taken your fill of Instagram photos (good news is that the three out of the five dishes are cold, so you’re not risking these culinary masterpieces turning congealed or lukewarm) and dig in, you’ll find everything prepared and seasoned to perfection.

The first course is simple – heritage tomatoes from France (below, right) with tomato jelly, buratta and sago-like balls of olive juice (these burst open when you chew them, flooding your mouth with sudden, intense jolts of flavour). The tomatoes are so fresh and flavourful – downside: you won’t be able to eat supermarket “tomatoes” for a month. Trust me.

Pollen Raw Hokkaido Scallops

Next come the Hokkaido scallops (above left, my favourite), served raw with dashi (the stock base for miso soup) jelly, wasabi, avocado puree and marinaded cucumber, dusted with Japanese chilli powder  – a surprising, refreshing combination of textures. Scallops are a signature ingredient at Pollen, says Buchan, who’s created over 20 raw scallop dishes for the menu since the restaurant opened three years ago. “I leave them raw because they’re so good on their own,” he tells me when I ask hopefully if he’s planning to put seared scallops on the menu. “It would be sacrilege to cook them.”

Pollen Roasted-Rump-of-Lamb
The roast lamb, served with asparagus, is super tender.
Pollen Roasted-Cod-and-New-Season-Morels
If you love fish, the hake will be your undoing.

The roasted hake follows, then the roasted lamb, both sourced from New Zealand. The hake is firm and succulent; the lamb surprisingly tender. Buchanan allows the natural textures and flavours of both to stand out – no heavy sauces or overpowering seasonings to dull the taste buds, just mild vegetables (broccoli and asparagus), whole and pureed.

Dessert is another marvel: creme Catalan (top of the page – the Spanish version of creme brûlée) with torched sugar, dehydrated vanilla sponge, freeze-dried strawberry, aerated pistachio sponge, fresh strawberries and raspberries, and basil tarragon sorbet. Watch the pastry chef prepare it: seeing this little forest of sweets come together is half the fun. (Another fun fact: Desserts at Pollen are typically deconstructions of popular treats like apple tart and black forest cake.)

The Culinary Constellation menu is only available until July 31, so make your reservations ASAP. Tip: Bring a shawl or cardigan – the restaurant is in the Flower Dome at Gardens by the Bay, which is climate-controlled to be cool enough for temperate blooms, so nights can get pretty chilly.

At $160++ per person, $300++ with wine pairings. Pollen is at #01-09, 18 Marina Gardens Drive (6604-9988).

Pollen Lower-level-1

If you like this, check out Stellar’s desserts – every one is like a work of art