Mallow represents the forefront of a wave of innovative socially-conscious plant-based dining and drinking that’s enveloping Singapore.
My first course at Mallow, for all intents and purposes, looked like what a resourceful castaway may have foraged for food on a deserted island. Appropriately-named Wild Wraps, these were seemingly random nuts and greens set on wild pepper leaves that were even scrounged from Mallow’s immediate surroundings.
They were delicious.
Welcome to Mallow’s version of sustainable, plant-forward dining, part of a new gastronomic wave that’s slowly but surely entering into Singapore’s culinary consciousness.
Mallow is the third and final iteration of Janice Wong’s seasonal pocket bar concept 50Fifty, following pop-ups by private dining duo Sidedoor and the now-defunct cocktail bar IBHQ Singapore. The brainchild of Christina Rasmussen and Sasha Wijidessa, this pocket gastrobar puts together modern plant-forward dining with cocktails to match.
They have the background for it. Culinary Institute of America-trained Danish-American Rasmussen spent years at Copenhagen’s award-winning Noma, where she not only learned how to forage but to turn those finds into creations that propelled the cutting-edge restaurant into gastronomic stardom. Her partner, Wijidessa, attained her mixology chops at pioneering experimental cocktail bar Operation Dagger. Wijidessa later moved to Copenhagen to head drinks research for Empirical Spirits, where she’s still their brand ambassador for Asia.
The largely plant-based creations at Mallow – both culinary and cocktail – rely on both traditional and contemporary techniques that put flavour front and centre. Curing, pickling, and fermentation, in particular. And the use of shio koji, for example, the traditional Japanese seasoning of a fermented mix of salt, koji-infused rice and water that’s just beginning to take the culinary world by storm.
Here it’s put to good effect, used to add complexity in dishes such as Modo. This is a pesto dip made with capsicum, but the shio koji gives it a very moreish umami savouriness that has one reaching for more.
There’s Tartlet Tears, a beautifully assembled savoury tart made with kombu and kohlrabi, with oyster leaf for a briny addition. Shrooms! on the other hand is a delectable ravioli served in a broth simmered from mirepoix and charred leeks. The mushroom filling in the pasta parcel explodes the mouth with flavour, while the piquant tang of pickled onion brings everything together.
We really like that Mallow’s concept of a plant-forward cuisine doesn’t revolve around the liberal use of plant-based meat alternatives.
As for cocktails, Wijidessa puts together a very experimental drinks list. Many of which are made using Empirical Spirits, but of course. They are all nuanced and layered; expect sweetness, sourness, savouriness, and even bitterness, sometimes all in a single sip.
Juicy Fruit is lightly fizzy and fruity, a cocktail take on a pet-nat. Likewise with That Easy, a similarly refreshing cocktail that comes with mysteriously alluring notes from the use of sumac and red rice yeast.
Then there’s the oddball King Mushroom. This wildly liberal twist on a Manhattan is a most savoury and earthy number, concocted with king oyster mushroom, whisky and sherry. But our favourite has to be the bizarre Orange Julius; made with Empirical Spirits’ Ayuuk along with orange, apricot, and egg yolk. It tastes wholly like its namesake juice drink.
Yes, egg yolk. Unlike (too many) other plant-based dining concepts, Mallow isn’t overly preachy about ethical consumerism. Rasmussen and Wijidessa are more than happy to share with you their ethos, but won’t lambast you if you’re more agnostic with your dining choices.
And that for us – aside from its flavour-forward grub and drinks – is what truly sets Mallow apart. We won’t be ditching eating meat any time soon, but Mallow is a more than acceptable step into the whole new world of conscious dining.
Address 1 Nanson Road, #02-07, InterContinental Singapore, Robertson Quay, Singapore 238909 (Google Maps link)
Opening Hours 4pm to 12mn on Wednesdays to Sundays; closed on Mondays and Tuesdays
Tel (65) 8626 0775