SINGAPORE - (THE BUSINESS TIMES) Disclaimer: I dislike raw bars. I've never understood the concept of them in Singapore, no more than I understand why nudists need to be naked outside their own homes. Unless you have something impeccable to show, some things are best kept in water tanks or loose-fitting clothes.
The Pelican Seafood Bar & Grill has just launched its "raw" bar as a means of refreshing the eatery which first opened in 2012 after 12 years as the Pierside Kitchen - both under the umbrella of the Big Idea group.
Incidentally, Big Idea - a merger of the F&B operators which run the likes of Marmalade Pantry, Fat Cow and Bedrock Bar & Grill - recently sold a majority stake to Far East Organisation and is gearing up to open more restaurants under its new setup.
We say "raw" because most of the stuff on the menu - crab, lobster, shrimp - are already cooked and simply displayed on ice. Oysters, some scallops and a selection of trout and salmon roe are raw but weirdly, not displayed. Maybe "cold" bar might be more accurate.
THE PELICAN SEAFOOD BAR & GRILL
#01-01 One Fullerton, 1 Fullerton Road
Tel: 6438 0400
Open for lunch and dinner Mon to Sat: 12pm to 3pm (until 6pm on Sat); 6pm to 11pm
Even so, while you can understand the allure of abundant seafoood on ice at all-you-can-eat buffets, it's a little harder to accept them priced on an a la carte basis.
When it comes to change, there's merit in going all the way, rather than in half measures. It's something Pelican could keep in mind given its very limited range on offer. Maybe there's more on weekends, but it doesn't seem fair to discriminate between weekday and weekend diners.
It goes back to the question of why pre-cook seafood in the first place, when you can keep your stuff fresh and prepare it only when someone orders it.
Suffice to say then, rubbery steamed clams with "Mary Rose" (according to our server) sauce on the side (S$18) doesn't please, especially when chewing isn't enough to break down these ornery critters dipped in a thousand-island- meets-garlic-aioli Marie Rose sauce.
Neither does the chilled poached lobster (S$18), even if the dry claw meat looks pretty surrounded by dots of Marie Rose and Bland Jane (tastes like pureed avocado and olive) sauces. Scallops in "shaken rice dressing" (S$18) fare slightly better in a mildly citrusy/sake dressing.
When the food comes hot, it's more palatable, if you discount the watery cream of potato soup with a stodgy cake of polenta topped with (cold) mussels (S$18).
It must cost more to fire up the stove though - we have to cough up S$45 for an exotic Patagonian toothfish, which tastes rather like cod and comes with a homey breadcrumb crust and a sweet creamy corn sauce. And S$35 for a basic burger - a juicy hand-chopped beef patty between a plain bun.
Still, it helps to provide a much needed warmth to the stomach.
We know it's not easy to keep coming up with fresh concepts to stay ahead of the competition, but Pelican could really use a rethink (or at least reupholster its stained banquette seats) of its tired, touristy visage.
There was a time when One Fullerton was one of the hottest spots in town. It could use a good, if not better, idea to get its groove back.
This article was first published on June 1, 2015.
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