Bold flavours and no gimmicky twists
CLUB Street is really hopping these days, with shops and offices making way for more bars and restaurants.
But the focus of these new eateries seems to be more on attracting the drinking crowd, while the food has been lacklustre.
Pluck is an exception. The three-month-old eatery, which offers a menu of small bites and sharing plates, is a little late to the game. Dozens of similar establishments have opened here in the past two years, and the market, I feel, is already saturated.
Still, Pluck is noteworthy because the food is good. And unlike most of the other tapas-style eateries, where the chefs are Caucasian, Singaporean Brandon Teo is in charge of the stoves.
The alumnus of the now-defunct Keong Saik Snacks is someone to watch. His cooking is confident and his flavours are bold - which puts him on a par with many better-known foreign kitchen talent. What I also like about his style is that he does not get gimmicky with twists on local dishes.
Even when he uses a local ingredient such as chilli crab paste in a dish of Tiger Prawn, 62 Deg C Egg, Chilli Puree ($29), it is not to call attention to any clever take on the "national dish". It is simply because the sweet-sour-spicy paste works really well with the meaty baked prawn and soft egg.
The deep-fried mantou (Chinese buns), served on the side with some sea salt, are also really good.
Teo's dishes all comprise multiple components, each contributing a different flavour or texture.
An example is the Roasted Mushrooms, Aubergine, Hazelnuts ($18), in which three types of roasted mushroom - shimeiji, button and king oyster - display very different characteristics. Add the soft aubergine puree and crunchy nuts, and you get a vegetarian dish that no one can fault for being boring.
My favourite is the Clams Ginger Broth & Pork Belly ($16). The idea of combining clams and pork belly is original, and makes sense as the meat adds depth to the clam juices in the broth.
The slices of pork belly are first marinated and toasted so they have the texture of bak kwa and do not taste oily. They provide variety to what would otherwise be a simple clam broth, and in a very good way.
The Whole Grilled Squid, Saffron Rice & Potato Dashi ($22) is good too, with the squid cooked perfectly and the red wine potato dashi emulsion tasty enough. But I wonder why there is such an emphasis on it being a whole squid when the tentacles are missing from the dish.
I have no complaints, however, about the Pork Neck, Roasted Chestnuts, Sweet Potato & Caramelised Pears ($22). The meat is succulent and flavourful, and the sweet potato, pear and chestnut all make good matches.
The Wagyu Skirt ($46 for 400g) is not as enjoyable. Skirt is a tough cut that requires considerable chewing. But wagyu gets its flavour mostly from the fat, which is absent in a lean cut such as this.
If I have to chew so hard, I'd rather have a slice of grass-fed beef - the South American breeds are good and cheap - and be rewarded with better meat flavour.
90 Club Street, tel: 6225-8286
9am to midnight (Monday to Thursday), 10am to 1am (Friday), 5pm to 1am (Saturday). Closed on Sunday.
Budget from $70 a person