There's a little diner with just 16 seats hidden within the quiet Kensington Square. It’s so low-key that you might just walk past it without taking a second glance. But that means missing out on Allium, a one-month-old restaurant helmed by chef Dillion Ng, the man behind the now-defunct GastroSmiths and The Humble Loaf. His latest venture is an environmentally conscious one: produce comes from sustainable sources, beef is used minimally, and vegetables are plentiful in the brunch menu.
“What would you recommend?” We ask the waitstaff. “Everything,” he replies, after taking a moment to consider. He goes on to explain that the adjacent table is occupied by his family. They ordered almost everything on the menu, and their plates have been wiped clean. That sets us up with high expectations when served with the forest mushroom and charred rosemary soup ($14). The base, thinner and runnier than what we’re used to, makes up for its lack of creaminess with body and depth. It’s a hint that the chef’s talent lies in his ability to make simplicity shine. And it’s a theory proven when the highlight of the meal arrives.
A humble bowl of congee ($18), is often deemed too plain and unsurprising to command a place on a restaurant menu. But here, it’s a layered production, naturally sweetened by zucchini and chayote squash, and fortified with umami-rich kelp and vegetable stock. A sprinkling of pine nuts, and the accompanying side of lotus root kinpira, suffused with the nutty aroma of sesame oil, adds a pleasant crunch to the smooth gruel.
Similarly, the fenugreek white wine curry ($20) places its trust in fresh produce. Okra, thin French green beans, and beancurd are left to stew in a potent slurry, slick with spiciness that lingers on the tongue. When the heat gets unbearable, temper it with sips of the fresh strawberry and kaffir lime cooler ($5) – through a wheat straw, of course – or cool down with the roasted almond and Medjool date milk ($6).
Even if you’re stuffed at the end of the meal, don’t skip over the sourdough waffles ($15) that are so airy and light, they slip easily from fork to mouth. That’s the appeal of Allium. It doesn’t blow you away with flamboyance and showmanship. It impresses with deceptively simple, well-thought-out dishes that unfold as you reach for another mouthful – until you realise that just like the table next door, you've finished your meal and your plates are clean.
Time Out Singapore reviews anonymously and pays for all meals. Read our restaurant review policy here.
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