Chef Jonathan Sparber - The Pelican Seafood Bar & Grill

Forget salt – most seafood dishes at The Pelican Seafood Bar & Grill are seasoned with… more seafood.

“I like to use jus from cooking mussels, crab, lobster and other seafood instead of salt – there’s more flavour and character,” explains the restaurant’s head chef, Jonathan Sparber (above), who’s been at The Pelican since June last year and recently directed its menu revamp.

It’s part of Sparber’s philosophy at The Pelican that seafood should be enjoyed with as little frills as possible – just a dash of jus or a little butter, or a simple sauce or dressing to balance the flavours. Case in point: the new menu’s raw bar offerings (oysters, brown crab, clams, prawns, scampi and tuna), which are very simply prepared – the scampi comes lightly torched, with butter and jus sauce, and the scallops are served raw with coriander oil and rice dressing.

The Pelican Raw Bar Scallop,-Scampi,-Tuna,-Trout-Roe-Brioche
Clockwise from top: torched scampi, torched tuna, trout roe brioche and raw scallops with shaken rice dressing

The rest of the menu follows suit, with light flavours and very little dairy additions. A crowd favourite, The Pelican Platter, simply features a selection of raw oysters and clams, and steamed whole lobster, crabs, prawns and mussels.

The Pelican Pan Fried Barramundi

Sparber’s own favourite, the Panfried Barramundi (above), comes with no heavy sauce or dressing – just pureed carrot and shallots. The chef explains that the slice is a cross-section of the fish. “This way, diners can experience the different textures across the belly, middle and side of the barramundi,” he says.

Another new creation, the roasted Glacier 51 Toothfish (below), is the fanciest thing on the menu by The Pelican’s minimalist standards – the smooth-fleshed, clean-tasting fish comes crusted with brioche breadcrumbs and served with saffron corn sauce.

The Pelican Glacier-51-Toothfish

But his passion for seafood goes a lot further than taste. Sustainability is a major concern when sourcing for ingredients at The Pelican. Toothfish is wild caught at a sustainability-certified Australian fishery, where fish stocks are constantly monitored, while barramundi comes from a local farm here. He’s even taken a few tuna dishes off The Pelican’s menu because it’s hard to get sustainable tuna here.

Environmental concerns aside, Sparber’s also a great source of seafood trivia of the kind that’s probably never occurred to you before. According to him, all large barramundi are female – the fish are all born male, and turn into females when they’re about 3 or 4 years old. “They’re also called ‘passion fish’,” says Sparber, and shares an Aboriginal folk tale about two lovers who run off to be together and throw themselves into the sea to escape being hunted down, becoming the first barramundi – the spines on the fish’s back are said to be the spears thrown at the lovers. Oh, and barramundi take two days to come out of rigor mortis – in the meantime, you’ve got yourself a conveniently edible 6kg club.

The Pelican Whoopie Pie

Do save space for dessert – the Whoopie Pie (above) is delicious (it’s like a giant chocolate macaron), and homemade ice cream comes in unusual and delicious flavours such as white wine and sour cream. This isn’t really surprising, since Sparber is an old hand at sweet treats (he was formerly the consulting resident chef at Janice Wong’s 2am:lab, a non-profit offshoot of her successful 2am:dessertbar).

So the next time you’re in the mood for great seafood and unconventional ice cream flavours (and possibly a chat about lobster gonads), get thee to The Pelican. #01-01 One Fullerton (tel: 6438-0400)


Like this? Oxwell & Co’s head chef Nick Scorpion is so dedicated to his craft, he actually went to jail for it.