Malaysian Chef Jet Lo, of restaurant Ding Dong’s fame in Singapore visited Shanghai to participate in a 3 day pop up menu at Ginger by the Park. I managed to book a lunch slot to try out some of chef Lo’s signature dishes along with desserts by Chef Kim Melvin of The Commune Social fame.
To be honest, being Singaporean myself, I have not heard of Ding Dong, even though I’ve been keeping myself updated with the Singaporean food scene through various Singaporean food blogs. That said, I was certainly curious when I heard about Chef Jet Lo because I am a Singaporean myself, with my Singaporean restaurant in Shanghai called Hello Miss Dong.
Unfortunately to my dismay, they were out of the wagyu char siew dish that day, and had substituted it for a braised iberico pork dish.
Hokkaido Scallop Tartare, coconut and chilli
This starter was served on classic enamel plates that many of us Singaporeans grew up eating with. The scallops were contained in these black colored wafer cups, I’m guessing colored from squid ink.
Biting into them, the cups crumbled easily, giving way to the sweet flavours of the raw scallops, accented with the pickled ginger strips. The sea grapes provided abit of crunch, but added little to the flavours.
Regrettably, I did not detected the presence of coconut in the dish.
As a starter, the dish did it’s job very well by opening the palate and left us wanting for more.
Foie Gras, Banana Bread & Kimchi
Starter number two was foie gras on top of mini banana bread cup cakes with a slice of kimchi between the two. Kudos to Chef Jet Lo for pairing banana bread and foie gras together. Never would I have thought that the two components would go so well with each other.
Unfortunately, the flavour of the banana bread was about 90% of the entire dish, with the foie gras providing more of a rich mouth-feel instead of shining as the star. The single leaf of kimchi was too weak, and again, drowned by the banana flavours of the bread. I felt that this dish required more refinement in the quantity of the components, and is a classic example of a dish that needed more balancing.
Spiced Braised Iberico Pork Collar, Jackfruit Tempura, Poached Egg
This dish came in the form of almost a soup, and was served with a small side of rice. To be honest, I was half glad when we found out that our wagyu char siu main was substituted for this, because Rachel Gouk of CityWeekend had told me that this was her favourite dish on the dinner menu.
The jackfruit tempura was quite a stroke of genius, and was the first time I’ve experienced a fruit being used in a tempura. The jackfruit’s flavour seemed to have been accented in the process, and shone through in the greasy but crisp texture.
The pork was obviously of good quality with good amounts of lean and fatty meat.
The egg was perfectly poached, mine was more solid like a sous vide egg, whilst my friend’s was runny.
The flavour of the broth/sauce was quite mild, with subtle notes of star anise and cinnamon in a light, seemingly soy-based braising sauce.
All that said, I felt the dish was a little bit confused. Don’t get me wrong, all the components which I had mentioned were perfectly cooked and surely, made of top notch ingredients; They simply did not come together well, as a dish.
Ladling the soup over the rice didn’t work because it wasn’t a gravy, and I ended up placing my rice into the dish, making it some sort of a soup-rice type of dish.
The egg, jackfruit and pork and soup simply didn’t complement each other. Flavours were very mild, I felt the dish needed more reduction to become a gravy/sauce, at the same time concentrating the flavours more.
Miso Yoghurt, Caramelized Banana with Almond Ice Cream
People who know me, know well that I am not a desserts person. But let it be known, that the only desserts that I have consistently enjoyed, are those that came from the hands of Kim Melvin (The Commune Social).
Miso, Bananas, Almonds… sounded like an immunity challenge from Master Chef, but chef Melvin’s dessert truly blew me away.
Interestingly, I was comparing this dessert with the foie gras and banana bread dish from earlier as they sported similar sweet and salty flavours. Whilst I wasn’t entirely filled when we reached the dessert course, I knew that I will be sufficiently filled afterwards because it was a very hearty bowl.
The miso yoghurt was actually saltier than I had expected it to be, but a scoop of the almond ice cream and a bite of the caramelized bananas balanced everything off, and suddenly, all the seemingly mis-matched ingredients, just, clicked.
The paper-thin caramel wafers provided an extra dimension of textures and sweetness to the mix, and before you knew it, I was taking in the salty-sweet dessert spoonful after spoonful until the plate was clean, and I was full. Bravo.
FYI, one of my favourite desserts of all time is the peanut butter and raspberry dessert by Chef Melvin at The Commune Social.
So that’s that for my experience of this pop up event. It was certainly novel and a change from the regular programming. 238rmb was not a cheap deal, but a fair price for food from two chefs at the top of their game. I suspect I probably might have enjoyed the wagyu char siu dish from Chef Jet Lo more than the pork dish. Hopefully, he decides to move to Shanghai or I will simply have to visit Ding Dong in Singapore to find out. It is certainly exciting to see more chefs from Singapore following in the foot steps of Chef Willin Low.