When I think about Dempsey Hill, I think about that winding road one has to take to enter said dining enclave. Each meander greets you with lush greenery that’s seemingly untouched—a rare sight in this urban jungle. Each glitzy car and well-dressed businessman affords us that coveted glimpse into how the other half lives. Well, my foray in the opulent hills of Dempsey is with MOONBOW—the new kid on the block serving modern European cuisine with a distinct Asian influence.
The kitchen is helmed by Chef Heman Tan, who is, by all Asian standards, a bonafide overachiever. On top of being a chef, Chef Heman is also an accomplished ceramist and triathlete. With Chef Heman wearing so many hats, I was curious to see how these other aspects influenced his cooking. Already famished from the day, I settled into the plush champagne-seats as the waiter brought the first course for dinner out.
What I tried
The meal at MOONBOW begins with a whimsy touch with a cotton candy ball with some edible flowers. Things follow in that same vein with the Garden of Escargot (S$23++). This one departs from the usual escargots smothered in garlic and butter to something more delicate with fresh micro cress and slivers of crispy sourdough toast.
Indeed, the truffle gelato was a creative play on temperatures; the warm escargot against the chilly truffle gelato was interesting and fun. Although I must say, the lychee pearls did seem a little excessive, but I appreciated their aesthetic value in the plate as I snapped a picture or two.
Oysters are always welcomed in my book. Moonbow Oyster Bay’s (S$10++ per piece) presentation was a pretty picture, but an excess of zingy yuzu granita, unfortunately, overshadowed those delicate Fine de Claire oysters.
This misstep was quickly saved by the Jerusalem Artichoke (S$25). Thick, creamy and emboldened with the richness of egg yolks and brininess of caviar, I declare that all artichokes should be served in this manner from now on.
Vegetables have become a new playground for chefs, and lately, I’m all about lesser-known vegetables. Here, the Heart of Palm (S$23) endeavours to do just that. This heart of palm is first sous vide then grilled and comes accompanied with a mesclun salad with balsamico that’s been aged three years in a fancy pipette and balsamic pearls.
Closely resembling the starchiness of tapioca but with a nuttier flavour, I did find myself warming up to this heart of palm with each bite. Still, I think it could have done without the extraneous pipette.
Cauliflower has undoubtedly taken the culinary world by storm as the latest ‘it’ vegetable. The Cauliflower Boom (S$25) attempts to celebrate the cauliflower in every way possible with cauliflower florets, dehydrated cauliflower, cauliflower couscous, and to top it off, a cauliflower purée.
With a vegetable as versatile as cauliflower, it is tempting to go all out and have your cauliflower in all its forms on a single plate. I acknowledge what MOONBOW is trying to achieve with this rather colourful dish, but there can be too much of a good thing.
I reckon just focusing on one presentation of cauliflower is good enough. Moreover, cauliflower does behave very much like a sponge, so being a little heavy-handed with the seasoning would do wonders too.
As confusing as the vegetables were, things seem to take a focus with the meats. Here, the handsome 4-day aged Tomahawk de Swine (S$68) lay beside a dollop of roasted garlic, caramelised lime and pineapple compote. It’s sweet and savoury glaze looks at you with a dangerous ‘come hither’ that you all but succumb to.
With a premium cut like this, you hope it’s treated right and thankfully, it is. The pork loin is tender beyond measure, barely requiring any effort from my fork at all. Bright tropical notes from the pineapple compote mingle with the pork’s fatty richness, making each bite an utter delight. It’s a hefty price tag but you get what you pay for.
Elsewhere, the Angus Beef Short Rib (S$68++) comes in a dramatic fashion in a glass jar with rosewood smoke swirling around the plate. It’s a piece of meat that has been grain-fed for 100 days, then slow-braised at 70 degrees for 10 hours. If it doesn’t cut like butter, then something is truly wrong.
Things seem to take a more experimental turn with the Black Silkie Poulet (S$38++). Inspired by Chef Heman’s pregnant wife’s cravings at the time, this one sees the humble black chicken elevated with a black garlic puree, béarnaise sauce, heirloom tomatoes, and even dusted with gold. Though, I must say, to have the foot of the chicken stick out so unabashedly at the side of my plate was a little odd, but I decided to have a bite before I judged it too harshly.
If you’ve ever had black chicken, you’ll know that it’s more flavorful than chicken. Here, the flavours are even more pronounced, with Chef Heman brining the bird first and then seasoning it with paprika and garlic.
The chicken was succulent and tender, which is always a promising sign. However, when combined with black garlic, béarnaise sauce and wolfberry mash, I found the flavours too mismatched and incongruent. I’d suggest you give this a miss and stick to other meat dishes.
At the end of the meal, I concluded that the dishes at MOONBOW might have taken too many left turns and lost themselves in their quest to distinguish themselves. The dishes, though well-intentioned, leaned too heavily on culinary theatrics and personal backstories.
Instead, MOONBOW would have done better with a more cohesive menu with more emphasis on flavour. I trust that given Chef Heman’s tenacity with his other ventures, the menu at MOONBOW will be further refined to live up to his other achievements.
Expected Damage: S$45 – S$99 per pax
Price: $ $
Our Rating: 2 / 5
Block 10 Dempsey Road, #01-21, Singapore 247700
Block 10 Dempsey Road, #01-21, Singapore 247700