Elevated and eclectic Southeast Asian specialist Ding Dong has moved to a new, smaller space and changed over 70% of its menu. Was it worth the move?
Few restaurants in Singapore do more to stay current and ahead of trends than Ding Dong, a modern take on Southeast Asian cuisine (we called it “street food, elevated” when we dined there last year) that’s recently moved to new digs on Amoy Street and introduced a new menu.
The new space is a fair bit cosier than the cavernous 3-storey shophouse it formerly occupied on Ann Siang Hill – 45 seats vs. the old 80 – but the result is a vibe that feels more focused and coherent. The playful, colourful décor is perfectly reflective of the zany and adventurous menu, with bright white tiled floors, red and turquoise furniture, and a full wall of Canto-retro (Cantro?) movie posters (seriously, how have I never seen From Harlem to Hong Kong?!).
There’s also an open kitchen and curved counter seating so you can watch whiz kid chef/mad scienstist Jet Lo at work. The bartenders get pretty cray as well – Ding Dong has actually introduced an all-new cocktail menu. Among the zany highlights are Drunken Mushrooms (cognac, shitake, lemon, egg white, gomme and aromatic bitters); Tradewind (picture above, with gin, roasted barley, citrus, cream, egg white, soda, and gomme) and a holdover from the old restaurant, the ever-popular Ding Dong Daiquiri (white rum, cherry eau de view, raspbeery, lychee, and lime in a playful takeaway cup).
Aside from the Drunken Mushroom, most of the drinks I tried were on the very sweet side. Another unifying factor? They are all STRONG, man! Like a kung fu punch to the senses. Don’t worry, though – the restaurant also offers an extremely thoughtful and interesting wine list, with lots of bottles from Spain, France, and lesser known areas of New Zealand and Australia.
A full 70% of the food items are also new (I was sad to hear the delicious 48-hour Beef Cheek Rendang was put out to pasture, a casualty of the newer, more compact kitchen). That said I was pleasantly intrigued by the bright new dishes I got to try, including the Yellowtail Sashimi from Japan, which Chef Lo has put his Southeast Asian spin upon with a betel leaf, green mango and delicious chili relish. I found the dish surprisingly tangy and satisfyingly bright.
Another highlight from the cold plates portion of the menu was the Homemade rice noodle roll with pork sausage and bean sprouts salad, a Vietnamese-style dish that felt very much in Ding Dong’s wheelhouse as a street food gussied up for restaurant consumption. This is the perfect dish for lunchtime – tasty, textured, and satisfying, without being too heavy.
With cold plates, small plates, and bigger plates, Ding Dong’s menu is definitely geared toward sharing. A dish from the small plates menu had the distinction of perhaps being the strangest thing I’ve ever eaten (that’s exactly what I wrote down in my tasting notes!), and yet it totally worked: Homemade toasted banana bread with duck liver and kimchi.
Bear with me, mamas; this one looks a bit odd and sounds even stranger, but the spicy kimchi and banana puree balance each other’s flavors out nicely, and the texture of the soft foie gras and the slightly crunchy banana bread go equally well together. The dish has a lot of depth, and the rollercoaster of flavors was totally enjoyable. As one of my dining companions pointed out, “This is Chef Lo at his mad scientist best. Just go with it.”
On the big plates front, my hands-down fave was the Chargrilled ocean trout with spiced quinoa and green mango salad, which had a nice crunchiness from the quinoa and well-balanced flavors thanks to notes of tamarind and dark soya sauce. I also liked the Ayam masak merah (red cooked chicken_ with cucumber salad and onion puree, which was tender and mild. I found myself wanting to slater the chicken in the moreish onion puree.
Ding Dong’s dessert menu is also all new, which worked for me as I was underwhelmed by the desserts last time around. I can happily report that the reboot has done them good: the Chocolate madness – featuring chocolate cream and custard, sponge cake, chocolate sorbet, and chocolate “soil” – is playful with a variety of inventive textures, but also tasty and not too heavy, which can be a common pratfall for chocolate desserts. I also liked the Banana fighter with nata de coco chutney: a golden banana cooked confit style and coated with French pastry crunch, then wrapped in edible rice paper and deep-fried until golden brown. This one was deeply satisfying and not overly busy, which was the issue I had with the signature Mango Sago with pomelo.
If you never visited Ding Dong in its former location, mama, I’d very much encourage you to check out its new home on hip Amoy Street. Chef Lo is one of the most daring and inventive young chefs working in Singapore today, and dining at Ding Dong is always an adventure (in a good way).
Opening hours: Lunch Mon – Fri, 12pm – 3pm; Dinner Mon – Sat, 6pm – 12am. Closed Sundays.
Set lunch valid Monday to Friday includes two dishes for $30++, three dishes (including dessert) for $40++, and $10 extra for a glass of wine or Suntory premium malt.
Ding Dong, 115 Amoy Street, #01-02, Singapore 069935