The gastronomic inquisitiveness of Club Street diners has long been challenged. Savvy stalwarts like Cugini and Beaujolais know their booze-loving clientele, and serve up straightforward cuisines that take all guesswork out of a hearty, al fresco dinner.
Little wonder then, that one of our favourite casual dining hangouts, Pluck, has also recently tweaked its menu to keep up. Atas-Modern-European-tapas-cum-multi-component-nosh-cum-hipster-bar is now quite simply, a Southeast Asian diner.
Simple, however, doesn’t mean no-brainer. This is where Head Chef Brandon Teo’s culinary versatility, sharpened with stints at Esquina, Jaan and Keong Saik Snacks, are put to good use. In fact, it’s a whirlwind Asian tour that can be had for cheap at Pluck, washed down with Happy Hour Corona.
First stop – Vietnam. Fried corn on sesame crackers ($12), otherwise known as Bap Xao, keeps things texturally exciting with toasted pine nuts and dried shrimp in the mix. Thai-style fried chicken ($15) is laced slyly with fragrant curry powder and the heat sneaks up on you faster than you can say “sawadee”. Thumbs up, too, for a crackling chicken skin.
Salted egg mania also hits Pluck, in a decadent lobster-scallop-shrimp roll ($28) dripping with salted egg and seaweed butter. Hands down obscene. But nothing can be more godly than the pink beef cheeks nestled within a casserole of yellow Biryani ($19) – a long braise for 24 hours brings out rich, deep flavours, upended only by that potent chilli paste you want to smear on your morning toast on a Koh Samui holiday.
Local favourites such as Popiah ($12) and Chilli Crab ($16), however, lack that oomph factor. The Popiah’s jicama is so laden with juices that it loses much crunch, nothing worth paying $12 for. The Chilli Crab dip is bog-standard, okay as a dish to taste in a Singaporean cooking school, but Chef Brandon can definitely do a little more to make it his own.
Also, saltiness and spiciness are almost as loud on Pluck’s dishes as the blaring music playing left, right and centre on Club Street, perhaps there to milk you for that extra pint of beer. Halved quail eggs, sliced green chillis, wobbly egg yolks, alfafa sprouts and pine nuts are like models at a cheap runway show, making far too many individual appearances.
Now that Chef Brandon has made his food at Pluck more accessible, we’re hoping that he continues to refine his new dishes. A few more weeks of road closures and weekend debaucheries should be sufficient to give this revamped concept a second try.
Pluck is located at 90 Club Street, Singapore 069458, p. 6225 8286. Open Mon-Thu 11am-12am, Fri 11am-1am, Sat 5pm-1am. Closed Sun.
Updated 23 March 2016.
Top Image: Popiah