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Over the last decade, chef Pang Kok Keong has established a following for his French macarons and pastries at the Les Amis Group’s Canelé. Yet he’s always harboured dreams of helming a series of bakery-bistro concepts. The first fruits of Pang’s labours with his Sugar Daddy Group have arrived in the form of his New York-style Pique Nique. Plough through the throng of Takashimaya shoppers, and you will be greeted by raw wooden floors and whitewashed showcases displaying classic American sweets like brownies and red velvet cake; inside, mismatched wooden chairs and stools, brownstone walls and black steel-framed windows make the space feel like a Manhattan loft conversion.
We started with the Maryland Salad ($10.50), full of fresh butter lettuce, cucumber, cherry tomatoes, sliced boiled egg and – impressively – freshly picked crabmeat. All this was tossed in a piquant white-wine lemon dressing that lightly swathed each ingredient. Every mouthful was full of zesty, bright flavours. Our waiter recommended the Normandy Burger ($13), fattened with slices of Fuji apple, thick slices of tomatoes, lettuce and melted blue cheese. The massive burger weighed in at almost 500g and came with a mound of crisp, golden-skinned French fries that had been lightly tossed in salt.
We requested the burger medium rare, but were apologetically told that the kitchen only serves patties cooked medium or medium-well, because they were – gasp! – pre-made and frozen in the central kitchen. Although it’s an admission they perhaps shouldn’t be making so freely, we appreciated the honesty. But it didn’t make up for the dry, bland meat that did no justice to the soft, lightly toasted white buns it sat between.
The Whoopie Pies ($1.80-$2 each) were also a disappointment. We expected the traditional American part-cake-part-cookie to arrive filled with a creamy filling, but instead got flat, cakey discs that resembled dried-out muffin tops and sandwiched a synthetic-tasting, marshmallowy frosting. Although the skinny slice of Red Velvet Cake ($7) could have stopped traffic with its radioactive shade of vermilion, it won us over in the taste stakes. It was moist, open-crumbed and tender, with just the right amount of luscious and not-too-sweet cream-cheese frosting.
Apparently you get what you pay for: prices are on the low side, so we weren’t shocked when the bill arrived. But the savings you make come at the expense of so-so food. Yasmine Chen
Main courses $7.50-$16.
Ngee Ann City Tower A B1-01
391A Orchard Road
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