Joining the restaurant this year, Wilson pushes the limits with each dish he presents, even including a roasted duck head as part of the meal.
Although the garden themed tourist attraction that Pollen is housed in could, at times, come across as gimmicky and mainstream, the food at the restaurant is anything but. Labelled by executive chef Michael Wilson as ‘modern interpretive’, the cuisine refuses to be categorised and is a show of his artistry and fearless experimentation.
With culinary experience across various countries and a Michelin star from his tenure at The Phénix Eatery and Bar in Shanghai, his dishes are influenced by the sights, smells and tastes he has encountered along the way.
He’s part of the new team at the restaurant, including general manager, Ashwan Suppiah, formerly from Basque Kitchen by Aitor. Despite Circuit Breaker disrupting their original relaunch plans, they used the extra time to refine the menu as well as manually sandpapering and painting the furniture.
Wilson starts us off with four amuse bouche offerings. Two standouts are the Watermelon Ravioli and Shepard’s Pie, both reminiscent of Mediterranean cuisine. Wrapped in a sweet watermelon fruit leather made by drying watermelon purée, the ravioli is filled with pistachios and taramasalata, a Greek cod roe dip that imparts a lemony, savoury goodness to the bite.
And while shepherd’s pie is commonly regarded as a hearty comfort food, Wilson presents a version that is rarer, in more ways than one. Instead of the usual layers of cooked meat covered with mashed potato, his reiteration is made with spiced lamb tartare in a red capsicum tart shell then topped with Pecorino Romano, just like a classic yemista or stuffed peppers.
The first of our two cold appetisers is the Ebro Delta Smoked Eel that draws from the journey an eel takes from river to table. Chunks of smoked eel are seasoned with house-made seaweed vinegar gel that complements the mild tasting fish.
The sea succulents represent the foliage present in the marine habitat the eels typically live in –shallow waters with a sandy or muddy bottom – and its briny flavour profile is reminiscent of the ocean. Lastly, the squid ink net cracker atop is made to mirror the way the protein is caught; the final step before ending up as part of our dinner menu.
Next came the Lettuce Gazpacho, essentially a cold soup made with blended lettuce and cucumber, and the ‘greenest’ dish by far. Departing from the traditional gazpacho that is topped with stale bread, textural variety here is provided by whey granita and chunks of Australian spanner crab. Be warned: a dusting of espelette pepper gives the icy soup an unexpected kick.
After noticing just how much people loved photographing their food for social media, Wilson decided to create a dish so provocative that it is almost guaranteed a post. Enter the Duck Neck and Foie Gras Sausage: a roasted duck head with its neck stuffed with foie gras sausage. The squeamish might want to avert their eyes.
Going by his philosophy of minimising food waste, Wilson uses the often ignored duck neck by first deboning then stuffing with a mix of pork, its own meat and cubes of foie gras. Baked in the oven, the fowl’s skin is crisp and gives a nice contrast to the moreish filling within. Seared duck breast that’s been aged for seven days is also served alongside the sausage with a drizzle of charred duck jus.
Like the cuisine, the restaurant carries an equally intriguing selection of wines from lesser-known winemaking regions such as Alain Graillot Syrocco Rouge Maroc 2017 from Atlas Mountains in Morocco and Chateau Musar 2012 from Bekaa Valley in Lebanon.
Also in the lineup is the Spanish Viña Tondonia Rosé Gran Reserva 2009, a rosé that is produced only under exceptional conditions every eight to 10 years. It is what Suppiah calls his ‘celebratory bottle’ to be opened when Pollen earns its first Michelin star.
Pollen is located at 18 Marina Gardens Drive, 01-09 Flower Dome, Singapore 018953.