pollen, gardens by the bay

[complimentary amuse bouche] charcoal cracker, smoked salmon, taramasalata; chicken liver parfait, beetroot jelly

sourdough, onion butter, leek oil

[à la carte] jamon

[early dinner tasting] cured mackerel, saffron brandade, dill oil

[seven-course degustation] red prawn tartare, tomato

[seven-course degustation] crab, butternut squash, sage ricotta

[early dinner tasting] braised pork belly, crab bisque, quail egg, apple

[seven-course degustation] salmon, ikura, green apple

[early dinner tasting] red bass, buttermilk, kale, cauliflower

[seven-course degustation] duck, pear, anise jus

[à la carte] tarte tatin

[early dinner tasting] rhubarb, earl grey ice cream

technically proficient – but as my clever friend puts it, soul-less.

you get the keen sense that there is something missing here at pollen. take the restaurant – beautiful, but with an ambiance that falls short of the exclusivity it seems to want to exude (and edges far too close to pretentiousness). the food, too, makes you wonder about the chasm between imagination and execution – there are a great many components that I have no doubt are the result of excruciating effort and exhausting manipulations, but they sit together without heart.

we shared both the five-course early dinner tasting and the seven-course degustation menus, and you might like to know that the cooking was consistent (and really, quite skilled) though of course the more expensive menu presents fancier ingredients. I’m not sure any of the dishes really wowed me, although the cherry-looking chicken liver confection was light and tasty (and I don’t even like liver), and the supposedly-vaunted tarte tatin is worth a try if you’ve still got space.

I’ve nearly grown out of this poncy manner of eating, and this meal hasn’t convinced me otherwise. it might be a nice place to bring some out-of-town friends that want something fancy after going through our beautiful gardens, but I’ll point you the direction of the altogether more impressive majestic bay instead.