Whether you’re looking for a cool spot to savour the amazing flavours of our region, or want the perfect place to bring visiting friends, Ding Dong on Ann Siang Hill is a winner, mama
One of the biggest issues I have when friends come to visit is finding a restaurant that lives up to our region’s amazing food reputation while still being…cool. Sure there are hundreds of hawker centers and food courts with delicious dishes, but what if I want something nicer that actually serves cocktails? And of course there are the fine diners at MBS along with stalwarts like Andre and Iggy’s, but those are more ‘special occasion’ than ‘fun night out’.
Ding Dong is the restaurant that fills that void, mama (quite splendidly, I might add). Owned by superstar chef Ryan Clift of Tippling Club and overseen by young Malaysian chef Jet Lo, Ding Dong aims to serve up the “rustic flavours of Southeast Asia” with Chef Clift’s “signature refinement”.
The result is a playful 3-story shophouse (you enter on the first, drink at the bar on the second, and dine on the third) on Ann Siang Hill that showcases classic favourites from Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia and beyond with a modern twist.
Ding Dong takes particular pride in its cocktails (highlights include the “Stylo Milo” – a playful spin on the childhood favourite that comes with Hakushu distillers reserve, green chartreuse and Milo concentrate – and the “Roti Kaya” with Kakubin, pandan syrup, gomme and coconut cream). Clearly a lot of thought has gone into the presentation of each cocktail (the Stylo Milo, for instance, comes in a crumpled green cup), and while they’re not designed to pair specifically with each dish, the food and cocktail menus are definitely meant to complement each other.
In a recent revamp, the restaurant has added nine new dishes to the already extensive menu. I got to sample 10 different mains and three desserts on a recent visit and found some of the new additions ranked among my favourites.
Namely, the ‘Nan Ru’ Pork Ribs ($17), which are marinated with red and white fermented tofu before being cooked sous vide for 12 hours and are served with a ginger, apricot and vinegar dipping sauce that is nothing short of delectable. The dish has wonderful aromatics from the fermented beancurd, while the kicky dipping sauce causes the fried meat to do a sparkly little dance on your tongue.
I also loved the Wagyu Beef Char Siew ($29), which comes with pickled papaya and cherry tomatoes. The ribs are slow cooked – for 48 hours! – and marinated in a special house-made char siew sauce, resulting in a super tender, slightly sweet (in a good way) mouthful that you absolutely want to eat in one bite.
Also interesting: the Carbon-battered Prawn Tempura with red curry marinade & soy wasabi mayo with calamansi ($16). I’m not a huge prawn fan, and they’re a bit strange to look at, but the tangy mayo definitely pushed them into the win column.
Ding Dong’s extensive menu features “Cold Plates”, “Small Plates” and “Bigger Plates”, and the highlight of the third group was the out-of-this-world Crispy Duck Curry with Cauliflower & Passion Fruit ($27). This is exactly the kind of dish you would give an out of town visitor to exemplify everything that is wonderful about Southeast Asian flavours: the oh-so fragrant curry includes house-made 5-spice powder, symphoniously marinating the duck for 12 hours with ingredients like bay leaf, coriander, cumin, ginger, lemongrass, turmeric and galangal. Add in the red and green chilis burnt to create chili paste, along with coconut milk and a duck fat cracker, and it’s a lip-smackingly delicious, super bright bowl of goodness (and yet it doesn’t look like much at all!).
We sampled three desserts, but they almost felt like an afterthought in comparison to the sparkly entrees and witty cocktails. My fave of the three was Frozen ‘Pulut Panggang’ with Pandan and Coconut ($13), a molecular gastronomy-style spin on a traditional Peranakan glutinous rice dish featuring fresh coconut, pandan jelly, puffed rice and gula Melaka. It’s served over dry ice and an undulating screen, atop a beautiful stone bowl that creates quite a show, though I think the dumpling would be just as delicious on a normal plate!
This was my first visit to Ding Dong after a few futile attempts on busy weekend evenings, but I’m happy to report that the restaurant has recently started taking online reservations. They also offer a wide range of dining options, from ordering a la carte, to leaving yourself in the chef’s hands with a selection of share plates for the table (priced at $56 per person / $68 with desserts), to a more extensive 6-course tasting menu ($80 per person). Paired with the dynamo cocktails, not to mention the lively neighbourhood atmosphere, it’s a pretty great place to show visitors all that Singapore has to offer. And as someone who just happens to love the flavours of Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam, I would happily dine there on my own as well!
Opening hours: Lunch Mon – Fri, 12 – 3pm; Dinner Mon – Sat, 6pm – 12am. Closed Sundays.
Ding Dong, 23 Ann Siang Road, Sngapore 069703, Tel: (+65) 6557 0189