Keong Saik’s hip izakaya
Does Singapore need another cocktail-slinging and sharing plates izakaya? If it's Neon Pigeon, our answer is yes. Keong Saik's in the headlines again for the new wave of openings on the once-sleazy street – and the Pigeon stands out so far for its all-rounded approach to a night out.
In a low-ceilinged room, rough concrete walls get the graffiti treatment by street artist ZERO. Wood and blackened metal chairs are comfy enough for the long haul, although the tables are a tad tiny for the many small plates that will eventually make up your meal. Despite a light pong of fried food in the air, there’s an underground party waiting to happen, what with the Pigeon’s bouncy indie house soundtrack and low-hanging lights.
Home in on the standing bar before you settle down for a meal. The barmen are bro-types and tend to exchange highly amusing bro-vations like, ‘Bro! That drink is sick!’ and ‘Bro! Don’t serve that drink to her, man! It's so good we've got to keep it for ourselves!' The drinks quite cleverly infuse jasmine tea, yuzu, cucumber and matcha syrup in the mix, but cocktails like the rum-based Amagumo ($18), with ume honey vinegar and ginger beer, and house-brand junmai daiginjo ($28/180ml) leave a lighter imprint on the tongue to be sipped with the food, served here in small and large plates. The dishes are playful but seemingly pricey. Maybe consider it their insurance for their no-service-charge policy.
The hot plate of gooey rice with house-smoked bacon chunks and scratchings, stirred into risotto-like consistency with a raw egg ($16/$30), is not for sharing – you'll want to keep all of the good stuff to yourself. Same goes for the unfortunately tiny serving of octopus slices with a smidge of cauliflower purée ($18/$34), slow-cooked to a melt-in-your-mouth texture you don't typically expect from the protein.
Seafood is the strong suit of Neon Pigeon's 'director of bird feed', Justin Hammond, formerly of Melbournian South-East Asian restaurant Gingerboy. Sesame- and soy-sauced grouper ($15/$28) is pan fried, yet retains its juicy and seaside character, while an assembly of hamachi slices with lightly seasoned soba ($16/$29)) is a clean start to the meal.
Meats don't fare as successfully. Our rack of smoked in-house baby back ribs ($18/$33) comes over-salted, the tsukune patty in the sliders ($10/$18) minced too finely that it's cooked out and dry. There is, however, redemption to be found in the yuzu-infused roasted bone marrow with furikake sprinkles ($18/$33). To counter the sometimes-strident seasoning, keep a plate of addictive furikake and sesame goma chilled cucumber sticks ($8/$15) on hand to reset the palate.
It's fascinating to see food issued out of the tiny kitchen here at such a quick clip. Hammond is helped on by restaurant owners Rohit Roopchand, Michael Goodman and Michael Mcnab on the floor – they do well to keep that hard-to-nail-down energy of the room exciting. Fly down and get your beaks around the food here, pronto.
|Venue name:||Neon Pigeon||Contact:|
#01-03 The Working Capitol
1 Keong Saik Rd
|Opening hours:||Mon-Sat 6pm-midnight|