The "World's 50 Best" awards are a bit of a sham, but seeing that Singaporean Janice Wong had won Best Pastry Chef in 2013 & 2014 had me intrigued. Her restaurant, 2am:dessertbar, is tucked away behind and above a bar in Holland Village. Known for their beautiful, inventive, and delicious desserts, I decided it was something I shouldn't pass up. 2am opens at 3pm and closes at 2am, making it a fun late night stop for a cocktail and treat. Patricia and I opted to go at 4pm on a weekday because we're just that wild.
From the restaurant's website, I thought it was going to be dark and moody, with spotlights aiming down at the table, creating an air of theater and mystery. Instead, it was like pretty much any other restaurant. Even the music seemed slightly off; I had imagined the kind of music you might hear at a W Hotel would be playing, all helping to create a very cool experience.
With only two other tables taken when we arrived, we had our choice of seats. We ended up at the bar, right where the wall curve upwards.
Reviews of 2am constantly reference terrible service and I will wholeheartedly agree with that sentiment. The waiter did everything he could to avoid us, and when we finally got him at our table, it seemed like every request was a chore. I think if we had asked for one more thing (god forbid we want some water), his reaction would have been like this.
Service and ambiance aside, we decided we'd get three desserts to split. Aggravatingly, all three were brought out at the same time. If we had ordered two desserts, for one person, I can understand that; but you would think that when two people order three desserts, that they would space it or at least give us a heads up—especially when each dessert has parts that will melt. Instead of a leisurely mid-day meal, we had to scarf down all three desserts in a hurry so we could actually taste them.
The first dessert was [symple_highlight color="blue"]Purple[/symple_highlight]: purple potato puree, blackberry parfait, fruit leather, lavender marshmallows, fruits of the forest sorbet. It seems like a waste to put so much work into so many elements when it all ends up tasting the same. As the dish melted (very quickly), we both agreed that it all just sort of tasted like a berry sorbet. We tasted no lavender and no purple potato.
The [symple_highlight color="blue"]Hojicha Sesame[/symple_highlight] was the highlight of the desserts, namely because of the tofu parfait and hojicha custard. The tofu was dense and creamy, and when paired with the smoky hojicha, it was perfect. The dish should have focused on that and only that.
The right side of the plate had a pear vodka sorbet, what tasted like ginger jellies, and a mushroom crumble. I don't even understand this side of the plate. I didn't think the flavors added anything to the idea of hojicha and sesame, nor did I think they were particularly good. Not only that, but the crumble itself was chewy and stale. The left side of the plate was the best of the day; the right side was the worst.
Our final dessert was [symple_highlight color="blue"]Popcorn[/symple_highlight], a mix of sweet and salty with a very, very tart passionfruit sorbet. Ignoring the stale popcorn (I still don't know if we were supposed to eat it or not—we asked the waiter and he just kind of raised his eyebrows at us), this dish didn't work composed as it was. You had to smash it all up into a mess, melding the flavors together to get it to work.
It did nothing for me. It didn't evoke the taste of popcorn. All it did was taste like salty passionfruit.
Like many other people who have gone to 2am:dessertbar, I was hugely disappointed. The desserts are beautiful and complex, but all that work is wasted when it doesn't taste good. It's sort of like this famous Miss America contestant: she looks good, but that's about it. I thought this would be a no-brainer entry into my Best Desserts of 2015 list, but it won't be appearing there. Perhaps the 2am team should take notes from Bob Zugmaier and Sarah Blue about how to make a dessert that's both beautiful and delicious.