Food picks: Hip and good

Neon Pigeon, an izakaya in Keong Saik Road, is the sort of place I try to avoid. It sounds hip, too hip. But curiosity gets the better of me.

Well, thank goodness it does, because my friends and I have an excellent meal there. Better yet, the vibe is friendly, the cocktails good and the food has the sort of focused flavours that we approve of.

So many restaurants try to do borderless food, mixing and matching Japanese, Korean, Chinese and South- east Asian cuisines with whatever else catches their fancy. Often, the flavours are muddled, muted and lacklustre.

Neon Pigeon gets it all right. It starts with Chilled Cucumber ($8 for small), phenomenally crisp and cold, as the batons of cucumber should be. The sesame sauce is full of umami, with more coming from the topping of sesame seeds, nori and chilli peanuts.

Marinated Hamachi ($16) has a fresh vibe with shiso and ponzu. Ume somen reminds me that it is spring.

I suspect the Smoked Pork Buns ($11) are inspired by those at Momofuku in New York, but no matter. Again, the flavours are focused. The hoisin sauce gets a tart note from umeboshi and pickled daikon and ginger balance out the richness of the pork.

The yuzu kosho marmalade that comes with the Chicken Liver Mousse ($16, below) is inspired, as is the crunchy cereal topping on the creamy mousse. Spicy and sweet, creamy and crunchy, the flavours and textures come at you full-on and they're glorious.

In the same way, crunchy furikake contrasts with mellow, gooey marrow in Roasted Bone Marrow ($18, left).

Because we need our vegetables, we also order Crispy Brussels Sprouts ($12) - bitter and sweet, and the pieces of mirin-glazed bacon don't hurt.

The only problem, really, is figuring out what to order. We like pretty much everything, which is rare, especially among picky eaters.

All the dishes come in small or large servings, which allow a small group to sample more things in small portions, while also catering to larger groups.

I am already planning my next meal there. That I cannot say of many new restaurants I have been to this year.

Where: Neon Pigeon, 01-03, 1 Keong Saik Road

MRT: Outram Park

Open: 6pm - midnight (Mon - Sat)

Tel: 6222-3623 (bookings for parties of eight & larger only)

This article was first published on April 17, 2015.
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