SINGAPORE (THE BUSINESS TIMES) - When you have a name like Plentyfull, it's a natural invitation for you to say a lot of things about it. So we will. First, there is plenty of space. It's one of those new concept, multi-tasking eateries where you can have a meal and buy the ingredients for your next one at the little mini-grocery in front. Assuming your next meal is one of chips and hot-smoked salmon, followed by a goat's cheese platter and juice.
Lunch is a meal-in-a-bowl concept, but we are there for dinner because that is when it turns into a full-service restaurant. Even if you aren't sure where it is, just sniff the air and you won't miss it. There's something discriminatory about food smells. Why is it that we welcome the smells of bread and pastry or some really good barbecue. Yet when it's just regular cooking smells we complain and tell them to fix their exhaust systems. Plentyfull is one of those places with an abundance of food smells that initially draw you in upon first whiff and like a clingy person you've just met, refuses to leave and sticks to you, your hair, your clothes, everything.
The food has a pleasant healthy riff about it without being too hardcore. You've got fresh-pressed juices and smoothies and a cute teddy-bearish server comes trundling by with a trolley filled with glass-jarred tapas. There are smoked olives and salmon tartare (S$8) - the latter being little cubes of gravlax tossed with sour pomegranate seeds and raw onions. It's a nice try but a bit of a non-event.
We do enjoy the grilled flatbread (S$10) with really tasty nori butter that looks more like whipped rillette for its lard-like streaks in an umami-rich spread. The elderflower caramel is a sticky-sweet-vinegary syrup fleshed out with olive oil and it's also quite good. Unfortunately, there really isn't anything you can eat it with.
It could have been something we could nibble on with our starters - if we had a chance. Plentyfull has no sense of meal order, so just as we're about to tuck into the bread and the tofu/tempeh fries, all the dishes we order arrive at the same time. The servers don't seem at all perturbed. Having done their duty, they go back to kind of walking around the restaurant looking for other people who enjoy having their meals in an assembly line format.
9 Raffles Boulevard
#01-79/80 Millenia Walk
Tel: 6493 2997
Open Mon to Fri: 8am to 10pm; Sat and Sun: 10.30 to 10pm.
Hence, it's all we can do to try and eat everything before it gets cold. In our whirlwind mini buffet session, we manage to appreciate the idea behind the crisp tofu and fresh tempeh fries that you drizzle with kicap manis and dip into a potent sambal belacan that's made by someone who really understands shrimp paste.
While our warm flatbread gets steadily cold while retaining some of its chewy bite, the pan-fried crisp barramundi (S$26) gets our attention for its nicely seared edges and the savoury, slightly citrusy broth it sits in, with lots of green vegetables to round off this healthy entree.
We also like how tender the glazed Mangalica pork jowl is (S$28) with its buttery-soft flesh sitting on a not terribly appealing buckwheat and bacon porridge and grilled pineapple slices that taste like they've been left soaking in a dank T-shirt that has never experienced being dried in the sun. It is an interesting recoil moment, to say the least. Of course, we are masochistic enough to try another slice of pineapple just in case we got it wrong on the first bite. Recoil again.
To distract ourselves, the grilled Kin Yan (S$18) mushrooms are nice and meaty and come in a pleasing onion gravy for a savoury vegetarian plate.
Desserts are a selection of pastries from the display counter at the entrance. The Queen's Cake that we order appears slightly dishevelled from having been left in the chiller a little too long. If we'd been a day earlier, the freshness of the sponge layers, raspberry cream and bits of lychee might have come through better. But the solitary slice looks lonely and a little too squishy for our liking.
Plentyfull does display a good understanding of what healthy, honest cooking can be. But it's too big to really gather all the different elements into a cohesive whole. Until they do, Plentyfull comes up a little short.
WHAT OUR RATINGS MEAN
10: The ultimate dining experience
7-7.5: Good to very good
This article was first published on October 28, 2016.
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