Note: Sometimes I am struck by one dish, or visit a restaurant alone and so will order just one dish; Bite-by-Bite will be where I review the dishes I’ve had. I might follow up with a full review of the restaurant later, so do keep an eye out!
Ah, Bukit Timah – there’s nothing like visiting one’s high school neighbourhood to make someone feel old, even if the changes have been surprisingly limited. Sure, there no longer is a Tenderfresh at Coronation Plaza, but fried chicken is bad for health anyway so fair enough. But I’m here for something new, I suppose, and when I pass The Missing Pan – a lovely mix of bakery and restaurant, connected by elevator – something on the menu catches my eye.
Eggs Benedict with Cured Salmon. Sure, I’ll read the menu to make it look like I’m considering all my options, but it’s all a facade – I’m already sold. And yet, thinking back on it now… I’m troubled.
You know a dish is classic when it spawns an entire family of dishes, each with its own name, and Eggs Benedict is definitely in that category. So the ham-topped classic is Eggs Benedict; Eggs Florentine has spinach instead, and replacing the ham with salmon technically makes this Eggs Hemingway or Royale. But you know what the Bard said: rose, name, sweet. What The Missing Pan serves certainly looks sweet.
The salmon is generously sliced, suffused with dill and salt which draws out its own richness and makes it firm and slightly chewy. The eggs are poached just about right, and just look at the hollandaise, how it clings without congealing. My favourite touches, though, are the small things. The brioche is spread with a tangy sauce with capers in it, little bites of salt and floral aroma (capers are, after all, flower buds). The ikura on the egg adds flavour, while the ebiko on the salmon adds crunch. The specks of chives on the hollandaise give a subtle pungency to the whole assembly.
So… if it’s all so good in itself, why am I troubled?
Well, let’s consider the original form of Eggs Benedict: it’s an English muffin, with poached egg, hollandaise and ham or bacon. And it works precisely because it’s that simple, because the components are brightly contrasted but each add something to the dish – chewy muffin, tangy sauce, soft egg, savoury meat.
It’s a simple meal, is my point; it’s the crisp white shirt of breakfast, which is why it’s got so many variations. But it is also possible to overload anything, even a crisp white shirt, and I think this is what’s happened here. Every component is better than what an original Eggs Benedict would offer – and at some point, we started to have too much of a good thing.
I was quite glad about the generous servings because it allowed me to pick apart the dish and taste each ingredient to see how good it was. But when you take the whole thing together, as it is meant to be eaten, you quickly get a hierarchy of flavours – each of which covers the other instead of adding to it.
The yolk soaks into the brioche, but between the butter in the brioche, the butter on top of it, and that sour spread, I can’t taste egg. The hollandaise sauce is rich and tangy in itself, but the chives scattered on it cover everything with their fragrance. So it goes – butter beats yolk, chives beat butter, and on top of everything is the lovely, distinct salmony flavour that reduces everything else to mouthfeel. I didn’t even realise there were capers in the spread, actually, until near the end.
It’s a bit of a pity, really, especially because the food is good. Perhaps next time I come – and I think there will be a next time – I’ll try something with a shorter ingredient list.
The Missing Pan, 619D Bukit Timah Road