Singapore

Esquina, Singapore

Located along Jiak Chuan road(which I had never heard of prior to this visit) in Chinatown, Esquina is probably a place where you would least expect to find a Spanish tapas bar. The place is headed by Andrew Welsh, who followed Jason Atherton(Culinary director) from the UK over to Singapore to set up Esquina; Jason Atherton, incidentally, was the first British chef to complete a stage at El Bulli in 1998, its something I would list on my CV as well, but in truth, Esquina doesn’t serve up molecular cuisine, so don’t go there expecting tapas that will foam and blow up in your face.

The website states that the restaurant opens at 6:00pm, I arrived at 6:05pm, only to be told that the indoor portion of the restaurant had been completely filled out, and we would have to wait for about 1.5 hours for a seat at the bar. We could, however, dine outside if we wanted to. I did not come to a tapas bar to eat at anywhere other than the bar, so I ordered a sangria and decided to wait it out. After about 40 minutes, a waitress came out to offer us a table inside(not at the bar), but having already waited so long, we decided we would continue waiting. At the 1 hour mark, we finally managed to get a seat at the bar, albeit one right at the edge, away from all the kitchen action. The bar is very elongated and sits maybe…14 – 16 people, the chefs are saturated at the center and slightly towards one end of the bar, the other end, where I was, was where the drinks were being made.

Le comptoir

   

Sangria (with sangria foam)

All the components of the meal which contained sangria (total of 3) were nicely made, it had strong hints of citrus that made the wine seem lighter than it actually was, even under the sweltering singapore heat, when my sangria was warm, it still tasted pretty good. This would be the only ‘molecular’ portion of the whole meal, but this sangria foam made sense, the foam packed quite a lot of flavor, so it wasn’t like the drink ended up having to carry the foam through. A similar concept to the ‘Gin Fizz’ aperitif served at El Bulli. My one gripe was that although the foam improved the overall aesthetic of the dish, what’s the point putting a foam on top if you’re going to provide a straw? Good

           

Salt and pepper squid, black ink aioli

This was easily the best dish of the night. Squid was expertly cooked, had a light crisp coat that gave way to a meaty interior with good bite, tentacles were extra crisp and provided a natural contrast in texture. The real star of the show was the black ink aioli, the perfect consistency for dipping, or in my case, dragging the squid though delicious black sludge, hitting all the right spots: the creaminess, richness from the egg yolks, the kick of garlic, the refreshing zing of lemon, the unctuous mouthfeel, with a briny taste from the black ink that always lingered in the background but never intruded on the key flavors. I could have a lot of this. Good

         

Scallop ceviche and radish salsa

This was touted as the best ceviche in Singapore by Appetite magazine. Although it was a good ceviche, it was nothing mind blowing like the magazine seemed to suggest. Props to the restaurant for getting using really good produce, the scallops were very fresh and had a complex natural sweetness, this balanced out well with the acidity in the vinaigrette. Contrast in textures between the soft ceviche and crunchy radish was lovely. Also liked that the dish was served at the right temperature, cold enough to be refreshing, but not too cold so that the flavors were muddled and couldn’t pop. Okay-good

           

Ox cheek oloroso, mash, caper, bacon, bonemarrow crumbs

The ox cheek is braised in oloroso, which is a kind of sherry. The ox cheek was a little dry on the inside and it was tough to look past that; overall the dish also needed more sauce because whatever glaze was on the ox cheek was getting pulled into the mash. It was just a dry, dry dish in general, the bonemarrow helped a little, but nothing really stood out for me. Okay

            

Iberico pork and foie gras burger

The foie and iberico burger was the biggest disappointment of the night. For the record, Iberico pork and foie gras are 2 of my favorite ingredients, so I was prepared to fall in love with this. The main issue I had was that I couldn’t taste the foie in the burger at all. If I’m going to consume those foie gras calories, I better damn well taste the foie gras. The iberico patty was just too strong in flavor and overpowered the foie, plus the patty wasn’t particularly juicy anyway. Ironically, the best component of the dish was the bun, which had a nice crust and soft, fluffy center. Who raves about the bun when talking about a burger? Bad

             

Sangria ice cream (Given free as a pre-dessert)

I had expected this to be more sorbet like, regardless, it had a strong sangria flavor and a wonderful richness from the cream. Good

             

Pistachio cake, sangria jam, vanilla ice cream

The pistachio cake had a good, moist consistency, but didn’t carry a very strong pistachio flavor. The vanilla ice cream was surprisingly well made, very strong vanilla flavor, nice creamy texture without being cloying on the tongue. The sangria jam worked well with the ice cream, its a pity the pistachio flavor was pushed back into the background. Okay

I quite like Esquina, the quality of food being put out is high, the chefs have a clear vision for the food and aren’t trying to do too much. I wouldn’t exactly call it “authentic” by Spanish standards, but if the food is delicious, who really cares?

Service was hit or miss during the night, because of the logistical nature of the restaurant, it can be quite difficult to flag down a waiter or waitress, plus some of them are not very attentive to begin with. The chefs do not really mingle with the customers, even those who are sitting at the counter right in front of them(which I found surprising consider that would be how many Spanish tapas bars work), so don’t expect a very personal experience from the place. Prices are high for what you are getting, most plates of food will cost approximately $25 on the average, and I’d say the average diner can finish 2-3 plates of food with dessert, and therefore the bill will easily run up to about $80. All in all, if you are willing look past all the faults I’ve listed, rest assured that the food is reliable and you’ll have a tasty meal at Esquina.

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Singapore

Jaan, Singapore

Potato Croquet

The croquet had a cheesy center with a sesame crust. I would have thought that the nutty-ness of the sesame would compliment the cheese quite well, but strangely, I didn’t quite enjoy the combination, plus I found the croquet a little bit too dense, might be a personal preference, but I like my amuse’s light. Bad

    

Smoked eel and pickled apples

My favourite amuse of the meal, the eel was tender and soft, the oily fish being the perfect vehicle to carry the strong smoky flavour, the apple gelee cut into the oiliness off the fish and strong smoky aroma, cleansing your palate at the same time as well. Well thought out amuse. Good

   

Rye crisps with lentil hummus, chestnut

The lentil hummus didn’t have as smooth a consistency as normal hummus, which made it a little hard to ‘spread’ onto the crisps, but the whole lentils incorporated into the hummus was a nice touch. The addition of chestnuts also gave the hummus a slightly sweet, slightly nutty aroma that paired nicely with the rye crisps. Okay

    

Cep sabayon w wild mushroom tea

A very intensely flavoured cep sabayon is the last amuse before the prix fixe dishes actually start appearing. It was impressive how much the naturally intensely flavoured cep really shone though, but it might have been too much of a good thing because by the end of that tiny cup, I really needed some water. It lacked some acidity to cut the richness of the dish, and this was alot richer than the smoked eel. I actually liked the dish but I think it is a wrong choice for an amuse bouche. Incidentally, this is the same cup Heston uses for his hot and cold tea. Okay

   

Landes foie gras – Foie gras panna cotta, Pedro Jimenez sherry,dried fruit chutney

I actually have no notes on this so I dont think this was my dish (This meal was some time ago)

   

Tourteau crab – Kohlrabi, bergamot, radish, ‘krystal’ caviar

My favourite dish of the meal. The tourteau crab was very fresh and well cooked, paired with the bergamot orange gelee; citrus and crab made for an incredible combination of flavours, the tiny spheres of caviar released bursts of briny flavour to give the crab and the whole dish a link back to its natural source. Radishes added a nice crunch to an otherwise soft dish. Good

   

Iberian black pork – Confit belly, braised cheek, grilled rib, trotter caillette, wild chantenay carrot, pickled grey shallots, roasted Cep mushroom

As delicious as this sounds, the only real standout in the dish was the belly- skin that crisped as you bit into it, meat and fat that your teeth could glide through with ease, I think to date, it is the best pork belly Ive had in Singapore, the rest of the dish was fairly mediocre. The trotter and the rib were decent, but the cheek had a glaze that was over reduced for me, it left a very gummy and sticky texture in the mouth. The choice of the other components was good, the carrots and ceps provided a earthy-ness that paired naturally with the pork, and the shallots cut the richness of the overall dish, without leaving too much acidity on the tongue. Okay

   

Choconuts ‘grand cru’ – Sable Breton Nyangbo choc mousse, guanja ice cream and macadamia nuts

Hardly an exciting dessert, chocolate and nuts rarely inspires but rarely ever goes wrong. I would guess that the coconut shavings are a play on the ‘nuts’ theme of the dish, but they actually added quite a nice contrast in texture to the dish. Looking at my picture now, Im not sure why my guanja chocolate ice cream has a mini thumb print on it. The components tasted alot better when eaten together, rather than separately; but overall, merely an updated presentation of a classic combination of flavours. Okay

   

Petites – Caramel sweet, Caramel marshmallow, choc truffle, madeline, Smoked rosemary ice cream

Everything was okay, Caramel sweet was a little tough to eat and should probably have been served with the bill. Caramel marshmellow was a little too sweet but the dark chocolate balanced that well. The smoked rosemary ice cream was served quite whimsically(lollipop?) but could have done with a stronger and more robust rosemary flavor. Okay

Andre has left huge shoes to fill at Jaan, and while I don’t sound particularly fond of alot of the dishes here, I actually had quite a nice dining experience. My main gripe was that the waiters(at least the ones that served me) didn’t have a very good grasp of English, which made it very difficult for me to note down every component of the dishes.

The view at Jaan has got to be one of the best I’ve ever been to, its a quiet restaurant that would be befitting for a special occasion, I will even go as far as to say that the view alone is worth having a meal at Jaan(probably lunch though). Although its hard to judge a restaurant based on a 3 course lunch, the food here just isn’t stellar. I like the direction of the food, alot of the it is whimsical and somewhat entertaining, with top marks going to the presentation of each plate, but the flavours don’t really ‘pop’, nothing really makes you sit up and take notice, those dishes with strong flavour seemed to lack some balance, and others were just one note. There were flashes of brilliance like the Torteau crab dish, which I can see appearing in a Michelin starred restaurant, so I do believe the kitchen is more than capable of putting out great food.

It should also be noted that there was a pre-dessert course: Blackberry gelee, vanilla panna cotta, bay leaf espuma that I didn’t take any photos of, but I believe it is the one listed in this blog, I enjoyed it more than the choconuts dessert and I would have given it a Good.

Spain

Rafa’s, Spain

Note: I have only uploaded some of the dishes that we had during the meal, the photoset isn’t complete.

Rafa’s came under my radar after an episode of Bourdain’s ‘Decoding Ferran Adria’. Ferran Adria actually mentioned that Rafa’s is his favourite restaurant, and if its good enough for the best chef in the world, it’s definitely good enough for me. Actually having a meal at Rafa’s isn’t all that simple, after spending a lot of time researching on the internet, I found out that the best way is by following these steps:

1) Call a week in advance to get your reservation

2) Call on the day of your reservation, to make sure that the restaurant is going to be open on that day, because if the catch for that day isn’t up to Rafas standards, he won’t open the restaurant

3) Print a blown up map of the exact location of Rafas, as well as the address. Because if you don’t, you are not going to be able to find the place

As you can see, Rafa’s has no discernible signboard that actually gives you an indication that you’ve reached Rafa’s, if this is your first time here. Set in the quaint neighbourhood of Roses, 5 minutes away from the beach, the fact that this is Ferran Adria’s favourite restaurant goes to show that the best chefs in the world love to eat comfortably on the regular basis.

Rafa’s serves only seafood, but not just any seafood, the freshest they can get their hands on; meaning that a few hours prior to your meal, everything you ate was still alive.

Snails

The first dish we had at Rafa’s, testament to their mantra on the quality and freshness of seafood, this was, indeed, very fresh. It had a good natural sweetness, and a nice bite. Okay

Sea Cucumber

This was actually the first time I had come into contact with a white sea cucumber of this variety, apparently found off the coast of Spain, make no mistake, this isn’t the kind of sea cucumber that is served at Asian restaurants, this was a revelation for everyone at the table. It was so meaty, juicy, and crunchy, it had the consistency similar to that of a bamboo clam, but much softer. Rafa’s doesnt use a lot of fancy cooking techniques, its mainly olive oil, salt, and then it goes on the grill, letting the seafood speak for itself. This was one of the best things I’ve ever had. Incidentally, we had the same kind of sea cucumber at El Bulli the following night, but all of us preferred the Rafa’s version.  Superb

Squid

How do you follow up that amazing sea cucumber dish? With a dish that’s just as good, if not better. I knew that I wouldn’t be uploading the full set of photos from Rafa’s, because all the mains we had were fish, but this, to me, is the crux of this blog post. If you ever come to Rafa’s, and you can only order one item, this is the one to get. This is everything a squid can, and should be; grilled to absolute perfection,  drizzled with the highest quality olive oil, and seasoned with a little salt, only then, do you treat an ingredient of this quality, with the respect it deserves. The legs grilled till they had a nice char to them, you get a crunch with every bite, the body so juicy, so succulent, and those aren’t normally words you’ll associate with squid. No herbs, no garlic, because that would have taken away from the natural flavour of the squid, sometimes less is definitely more. This was actually served as a starter at Rafa’s, but we saw someone having a huge plate of this, and nothing else. Superb

The highlight of the meal at Rafa’s is supposed to be the fish, and we had fish, a lot of fish, so much fish that I can’t even remember most of what we had, which obviously doesn’t do justice to the dishes we had. Each fish was simply cooked, again, olive oil and a little salt, maybe a little garlic. Good

And guess who we spotted? Albert Adria, who as the creative director and pasty chef at El Bulli up untill 2008, also, brother of Ferran Adria DUH

This was truly, one of the most memorable meals I’ve had. And look, no Michelin stars. Rafa is clearly a chef to cares deeply about the quality of the food he serves to his customers, and you taste it in everything you at at his restaurant. If there is one comment that I can leave you with, it’s that if you have a reservation at El Bulli, Rafa’s is just as important a place to visit when you’re in Roses.

Singapore

Wild Rocket, Singapore

Tempura Chilli Crab

This is such a good idea, that could have been executed a little better. The tempura batter was a little too soggy when it arrived and wasn’t as crisp as I would have liked. There were no issues with the chilli sauce, however, it was slightly thicker than the regular sauce used in chilli crab, which is good because thats what the dish called for. Okay

Kueh Pi tee

I don’t remember much about this, but it had a lot of mushrooms, and a dollop of creme fraiche (I think), interesting. Okay

Crab Salad

The crab used was very sweet, but there was a severe lack of acid in the salad, and it tasted somewhat bland. Bad

Consomme with Fish

Fish was very nicely cooked, melt in your mouth tender, but consomme was tasteless. Okay

Salmon Carpaccio

I loved this dish in concept, I loved the idea of breaking an egg over the salmon, but this dish was so severely underseasoned, that we were rationing the few tiny spheres of caviar to spread among the dish, because they were the only component of the dish that actually brought a salty component to your palate. Bad

Paste with shrimp

I dont remember much about this dish either, but I found it pretty dry. Okay

Ragu

Very meaty and satisfying, full of umami and very well seasoned, plus I was very grateful that there wasn’t too much sauce on the plate. Good

Grilled fish with chye poh

Once again, a perfectly cooked fish, had a nice color on the outside, but had a moist interior. I loved that chye poh was used to flavour the dish, it balanced out the delicate flavours of the dish brilliantly. Good

Fish with curry sauce

I’m not going to pretend like I remember what this dish tasted like.

Lightly grilled wagyu

This was actually perfectly cooked in my opinion,  simply seasoned with a little salt and pepper. Good

Molten Chocolate cake

Wasn’t anything to shout about, but that is a gigantic scoop of ice cream.

Coffee + Condensed milk Tart with ice cream

This isn’t a combination that was new to me, it had all the familiar nuances, but it was presented in a new form. The coffee had a pretty strong kick, and the condensed milk kept the sweetness of the dish subtle and never overpowering. Very Good

I have to say, first and foremost, that I have a lot of respect for Willin Low, the head chef at Wild Rocket. In fact, I have a lot of respect for any self taught chef that runs a restaurant. When chefs go through formal culinary training, they are often told that there are certain rules that cannot be broken, then there are those who go out and break those rules; the thing is, self taught chefs are often unaware that these rules exist to begin with, this makes them think outside the box. From the meal I had at Wild Rocket, I was happy that the dishes were familiar, yet new to me as the same time; the word ‘fusion’ has a very bad rep in many peoples minds, mainly because so many people do it badly. There are problems with execution for some of the dishes served at Wild Rocket, but the ideas behind the dishes are flawless. I do believe that there is an avenue for high end Singaporean cuisine, and Wild Rocket looks to be moving in that direction, for very reasonable prices. Wild Rocket is definitely worth trying out if you’re looking for something fresh, with a touch of Singaporean flair.

Singapore

The White Rabbit, Singapore

Roasted root winter vegetables serverd with poached egg and truffle vinaigrette

Vegetables were nicely roasted, and well seasoned. The egg however, was completely overcooked and even the thinnest sliver of a truffle failed to save the dish. Bad

Chestnut and sweet onion soup served with trompette mushrooms and gruyere croutons

This dish looks like death, just looking at it now makes me depressed.I’ve personally never had chestnuts in french onion soup, and found it to be a weird combination of textures and flavours, but after 3-4 more scoops, I started to warm up to it and it slowly began to work for me. The subtle sweetness of the chestnut went really well with the french onion soup. Okay (And that isnt a couton)

Grilled vegetable pasta sauteed with garlic and flambeed with vodka

Mediocre, boring, unimaginative. Bad


Chestnut stuffed farm chicken served with carrot puree, cabbage, bacon and thyme jus.
 

My favourite dish of the meal, chicken was very very nicely cooked(Sous vide?), puree was delicious. My sister mentioned that the first component of the dish she ate was the cabbage with bacon bits, and that overpowered everything on the plate. I felt that the dish worked when everything was eaten together though, and since Im the one writing this, Very good


Profiteroles with ice cream and chocolate sauce

The whole dish was overwhelmingly sweet, they had used a good quality chocolate, but should have gone with a darker option. Bad

White chocolate an coconut panna cotta served with a salad of pineapples and mangoes



Panna Cotta was a lot more heavy than I thought it would be. Some of the pineapple cubes were cut too close to the rind and were very tough to chew. Okay



The menu we had was actually part of Restaurant Week. Singapore, and its tough to judge a restaurant based on a menu that isn’t representative of their “signature” dishes, but all the dishes were incredibly unimaginative apart from the chicken, and the meal was disappointing.

Singapore

Gunther’s, Singapore

Steamed green asparagus, sauce Hollandaise

Only tried a little, dish had good flavours and was nicely seasoned, but I felt the asparagus was cooked a little too long and didnt have enough bite. Okay

Consommé, ravioli of foie gras

Consomme was tasteless, foie ravioli was very bad, the texture and flavour of the foie was lost in the ravioli, and the combination the two just didn’t together. Bad

Egg sunny side up, roasted Portabello mushrooms

Mushroom was nicely roasted, had good flavour and bite, egg was a tad overdone for my liking- the white was slightly too rubbery. Okay

Gunther’s creation: Lamb Stew

Easily the best dish of the meal. Lamb stew was excellent, lamb falling-off-the-metaphorical-bone-tender but the lamb-y taste was not lost in the rich sauce. Pureed potatos added a nice balance to the rich stew, and this was a dish where a stark contrast of textures wasn’t necessary, the stew and the fine potato purée just worked well together. Very good

Warm angel hair pasta, tiger prawns

Prawns were fresh and had good flavour, no issues with the pasta either, but I wish the sauce had been slightly thicker because I had a hard time trying to coat the pasta in sauce, which is something that irks me. Good

Braised Bone Marrow, Toast, Sauce Bordelaise

Toast could have been sliced a little bit thicker. Bordelaise sauce was nice, but there could have been a little more on the plate. Marrow was nicely cooked; there was salt, pepper and chives on the side of the plate, but Im usually lazy during lunch, and I dont particularly like seasoning my own food. Okay

Mango Sorbet

Very intensely flavoured, to the point where it was a little on the heavy side for a sorbet; I loved this for its simplicity, its not very imaginative to turn a mango into a mango sorbet, but when you have fresh, high quality ingredients, they don’t need to be messed around with too much; if you use good mangoes, you’re going to get a good sorbet. Let the ingredients speak for themselves. Good

Coffee

Petit Fours

What a depressing looking plate of food

2 were okay, 1 was good, 1 was bad

I had heard a lot of good things about Gunther’s prior to this meal, and I had high expectations coming into the meal. I wasn’t disappointed, the quality of food served at Gunther’s, is very high; strong flavours are present in almost every dish, but they work well together and never clash. It’s nice to see a restaurant that thinks actually takes the effort to think about the dishes they serve, how each flavour component will amalgamate with one another, the textures present in each dish, how the dish looks to the diner. Service got a little bit sluggish, and we had to wait a little too long between each dish being served, but I will definitely return to Gunther’s for their dinner tasting menu soon.

Singapore

Iggy’s, Singapore

45th in the world

I was very excited when I found out that Singapore had a restaurant in the top 50 best restaurants list. There is a lot of good food in Singapore, and there are many exciting new restaurants that are making the culinary world sit up and take notice, I do think Michelin will have to come in over the next few years. With all these in mind, Iggy’s was right at the top of my list, after returning to Singapore.


Amuse bouche of I can’t remember what.

Salmon biscuit hors d’oeuvres

Lovely presentation for the 2nd amuse. Salmon was very fresh and the biscuit has a pleasantly crumbly texture that went very with the salmon, creme fraiche added a nice tinge of acid to the dish. Good

Vegatable Garden

Asparagus, beetroot carrot, mustard

This dish didnt work on paper, but taste wise, the components all came together, a lot of earthy tones in the dish, but no single flavour profile seemed to pop, or stand out, everything was somewhat muddled in the background. Okay

Sanma

Wild Rice, Olive, Thyme

The best dish of the night. The fish was perfectly cooked, nicely grilled to the point where it had a sufficient hint of smoky flavour, while still being moist. Flavours were subtle and clean. Good

Cappellini

Zucchini, smoked mullet roe

These were flavours that I like, I love roe incorporated into pasta, but the smoked mullet roe was the main “savoury” component of the dish, and it did not have a strong enough flavour to season the dish and bring it to life, overall this mad the dish taste very underseasoned and was on the borderline of being bland, Bad

Lobster
Oats, gizzard, Fennel
Once again, another underseasoned dish, meat was slightly overcooked as well. Bad

Tomato And Tomato Soda

The tomato slice didnt do much for me, I appreciate that its a very fresh, juicy, and sweet tomato, served a thte right temperature, but Im just not that big a tomato person. The tomato soda(Tomato Water + Soda Siphon?), on the other hand, was interesting. The soda element seemed to cut the saltiness of the tomato and there was actually a slight tinge of sweetness on the tongue after drinking the soda. Refreshing and quirky. Okay

Wagyu

Lady’s fingers, trumpet mushroom, tapenade

A nicely cooked piece of wagyu beef, completely undone by a lack of seasoning, once again. The vegetables and beef was nicely cooked, but you kept on eating, waititng for the dish to come to life, but it never did. Okay

Feijoa

Gin, Lime

I remember nothing about this dish

Chocolate

coconut, basil, milk, pandan

I cant remember too much about this either. I remember being impressed with the taste of the dish, but wishing that there was more depth, texture wise. Okay

Petit fours(one?)

Lemon, banana, pop rocks

Surpringly, the meal ended with fairly strong flavours. Very interesting texture when you bite into into pastry and a mixture and banana and lemon flavour explodes on your tongue, and before you even realised what has happened, you realise that there are pop rocks going off in your mouth, ahh, the nostalgia. Good

I had really high hopes for Iggy’s, and I really wanted to like it, but the meal was generally quite pedestrian; there were issues with seasoning for some dishes, but most of it was nicely cooked. The main issue was that none of flavours really popped, no dish really wow-ed me or made me sit up and take notice, the entire meal seemed to be a monotone. I’m sure I will return to iggy’s in the future, and I hope the dishes will be more exciting, Its nice to see a restaurant take risks with their menu, try to be innovative and do something special, it doesn’t always work out, but thats what it takes for a restaurant to become great.