Despite being at Ann Siang Hill no longer, this fun, unique restaurant in Singapore run by Chef Jet Lo continues to charm with its Asian food, desserts and cocktails
Ding dong! This hip food fort is definitely not dead! Foodies feared the worst when Ding Dong announced its departure from Ann Siang Hill, but were quickly relieved upon hearing that the unorthodox, fusion-inclined Southeast Asian restaurant was simply moving to a new location at Amoy Street.
Head Chef Jet Lo continues to helm the kitchen, and in spite of its shifted setting, the restaurant retains the kitschy, campy charm diners love so well. The walls are familiarly lined with vintage posters teeming with cheeky nostalgia – from “Attack of the Chilli Padi Girls” to old-school “Godzilla”, and even Mad’s Alfred E. Neuman dressed in a Chinese God costume; I admired this as an ’80s classic by Pet Shop Boys hummed in the background. Cosy booths with floral-patterned chairs and tuckshop-teasing partitions, a row of toadstool chairs in warm hues facing the bar and open kitchen, a Happy Buddha statue sitting gleefully atop a firehose – all these tiny, thematic details add to the overall fun, playful, Asian-twisting aura that Ding Dong is known for, and it still nails it effortlessly.
Just like before, the menu is concise, focused, and meant for sharing, including both old and new dishes whipped up by Chef Jet. Starting with cold plates, I began with the Hokkaido scallop tartare with coconut, pickled ginger and sea grapes ($19); this was packed neatly together in a Nyonya kuih pie tee shell, turned black using charred bamboo shoots. Forget cutlery; you’re meant to pop the whole thing into your mouth and savour the sweet, spiced scallops with the sour pickled ginger, with the kuih pie tee shell adding a firm, contrasting crunch. The homemade rice noodle roll with pork sausage and bean sprout salad ($17) was a light, sweet, refreshing, Thai-Viet creation, but when eaten loosely, I felt, resembled a gravy-soaked chee cheong fun. And sashimi lovers shouldn’t neglect the hamachi sashimi ($18), served with a salty chilli relish, tropical green mango and a nutty betel leaf – it’s so juicy eaten together, you don’t even need any Japanese soy sauce.
Moving on to the small plates, the Thai basil quail ($19) is marinated in garlic, chilli padi, ABC sweet soy sauce and fish sauce, resulting in a strong, piquant sesame taste that will have you licking off the plate (figure of speech, just saying). And because it’s cooked sous vide for three hours, the meat is absolutely tender. Fans of foie gras will love Chef Jet’s rendition of the French classic: duck liver ($25) is laid atop sweet, toasted banana bread, with a sour, spicy layer of Korean kimchi slotted in between. As bizarre as this dish sounds, it makes total sense once the liver’s creaminess, kimchi’s chewiness, and bread’s crunchiness all come together. My favourite small plate, however, that left a pleasing tingle on my tongue, was none other than the five-spice lamb tongue with black pepper sauce ($17). Cooked sous vide for five hours and served in bite-sized cubes on wooden skewers (think exotic satay), this, I must say, is a perfect bar snack that’s rich and decadent, and packs a nice balance of salty and spicy once dipped in the sauce. You can eat these with pickled cucumber too if the taste of the offal is too gamey for you.
Ding Dong’s ‘bigger plates’ aptly impressed me in a big way, partially because I’m a big rice guzzler. The ayam masak merah (red cooked chicken, $22) and spiced braised Iberico pork with poached egg ($26) complemented my bowl of rice perfectly with their thick, flavourful gravies that you’d want to soak up with every grain. The latter, in particular, caught my attention, as it tasted slightly similar to a sup tulang, thickened once the runny egg was stirred in. The tenderness of the pork gets my praise, and the unusual jackfruit tempura added a sweet, crispy surprise. But if there’s one big plate you must try, I’d recommend the chargrill ocean trout with spiced quinoa and green mango salad ($24). The sauce applied had a tangy, tamarind taste, and the fish was cooked impeccably – think the softness of cod mixed with the buttery mouthfeel of salmon, swimming right up my alley.
Desserts and cocktails at the revamped Ding Dong are completely new, and if all you’re craving is a sweet treat or a bespoke tipple, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t stop by. What won me over was the caramelised pineapple tart with tonka bean ice cream ($19) – essentially a deconstructed pineapple tart with fibre cooked with gula Melaka, coconut cream and Szechuan pepper, served with a fun side of coconut rum pearls moulded with liquid nitrogen. And for cocktails – just ’cos I’m an anime geek – I couldn’t resist the Astroboy ($20) – vodka, green tea umeshu, port, lime, peychaud bitters and gomme. This packs a citrusy kick, while the matcha powder gradually thickens the texture and adds a hint of earthiness to the bevvie.
Granted, Ding Dong’s fare isn’t considered ‘cheap’ for Asian food, but it’s light-years away from a stuffy fine dining experience. From the prospect of munching on a lamb tongue, to noticing a cocktail called Drunken Mushrooms on the menu (next time, for sure), to being stared down by an Afro-sporting movie hero dubbed Milo Dino and hearing cheesy George Michael ballads from the kitchen; nothing about Ding Dong seems to take itself too seriously… all except the food, and that’s how it should be. Thankfully for its patrons, both old and new, Ding Dong has neither lost its sense of wonderment nor fun in its migration, and we’re certainly delighted it’s stayed that way.
Ding Dong, #01-02, 115 Amoy Street, Singapore 069935, p. 6557 0189. Open Mon-Fri 12pm-3pm, 6pm-12am, and Sat 6pm-12am, closed Sun.