Sizzling Spanish tapas: Don Quijote, Esquina, Loco Spanish Tapas Bar, Sabio Tapas Bar & Restaurant & Sol Tasca
JASSMIN PETER and SHALINI RAGU put some of the Lion City's top tapas bars to the test...
Don Quijote has for the past six years been the place of choice for many homesick Spaniards craving traditional Iberian fare. Owner Ken Lim has a passion for Spanish food and visits Spain regularly to keep abreast of the culture and food, which is evident in Don Quijote’s extensive menu. Whet your appetite by starting with simple yet delectable cold tapas such as the crab, scallop and avocado dip served with toasties and the garlic bread topped with freshly chopped tomatoes and thinly sliced Jamón Serrano (dry-cured Spanish ham). The broken eggs sautéed with chorizo and potato wedges is a favourite in Madrid and worth a try while our favourites were the tenderloin steak cubes served with blue cheese – seriously yummy – and the hearty oxtail stew with vegetables. Don Quijote is one of the few Spanish restaurants offering three different sizes of paella so you can have one by yourself or choose to share a bigger pan. Try the paella valenciana, cooked to perfection with seafood, chicken pieces and rice in saffron stock. Pair your meal with the refreshing white Sangria filled with juicy fruit – the best we’ve tasted so far – or choose from 100 different kinds of labels including more than 35 varieties of whisky, ten different vodkas, eight types of beer and six kinds of rum. 7 Dempsey Road, #01-02. Tel: 6476 2811, www.don-quijote-restaurants.com
Gordon Ramsay's protégé and Michelin star chef Jason Atherton leads the culinary direction for Esquina. Opened just three months ago but already bustling with life, Esquina marries modern tapas cuisine with an old-school, rustic setting, studded with antique lamps, ceiling fans, portraits and other vintage crafts. Watch your dishes come to life as you sit in front of an open concept kitchen and interact with the Chef as he prepares your dish or choose to dine al fresco. Highlights include the ham croquetas which ooze cheese with every mouthful and the bite-sized and juicy Iberico pork and foie gras burger. The succulent Madagascar gambas (prawns), served in chilli garlic sauce with soft orzo pasta stole the show - even an aversion towards prawns won't spare you from falling in love with this dish! Esquina seats just 35 and has a no reservation policy, so head there early to clinch a good spot. 16 Jiak Chuan Lane. www.esquina.com.sg
Located along the bustling Boat Quay strip along the Singapore riverfront, Loco Spanish Tapas Bar is a great chill out place only made better with tasty Sangria and delightful tapas. Dishes highly recommended and didn’t disappoint include rack of lamb spiced with garlic and aromatic herbs, beef tenderloin cubes sautéed in olive oil and garlic and the gambas al ajillo, shrimps sautéed in garlic and olive oil. For a paella fix, try the signature valenciana slow cooked with chorizo, chicken, seafood, and vegetables in the Chef’s secret homemade broth – it gets tastier with every bite. Happy hour is from 5pm to 8pm and free tapas are served with every beer order. 48 Boat Quay. Tel: 6535 2841, www.locotapas.sg
Sabio Tapas Bar & Restaurant adds to the charm of Duxton Hill with its colourful, authentic Spanish motif and equally vibrant menu. Perch at the bar counter to pick from an array of well-presented cold tapas – a practice common at tapas bars around Spain. The chewy stuffed baby squid drizzled with olive oil and the light, refreshing gazpacho (tomato soup) make for the perfect starters while the spicy anchovies dipped in vinegar and served with crisp bread is rather addictive! Not to be outdone, the equally delectable hot tapas include fiery sausage coated in red wine and crispy croquettes stuffed with potatoes and manchego cheese. All dishes are served in attractive ceramic pots and as an acknowledgement to the origins of the tapas dining experience, all alcoholic drinks come with a tiny dish filled with some tapas placed on top of the glass. Notably missing was the paella – ubiquitous in most Spanish menu – which we are hoping Sabio will introduce at some point. 5 Duxton Hill. www.sabio.sg
Tucked beneath the Esplanade Bridge, Sol Tasca is a great spot for al-fresco dining and relaxing. The newly revamped menu has kept signature favourites such as the patatas bravas, crispy Desiree potatoes with roasted garlic aioli and spicy tomato sauce, and the paella valenciana, and has also introduced a variety of tapas worth indulging in. Must-try dishes include the salteados de setas, mushrooms sautéed with sherry and topped with grated manchego cheese, the conjonudo – quail eggs and chorizo stew perched on toast – and the gambas al ajilo, fresh prawns cooked with garlic and smoked paprika in olive oil. Meat lovers are sure to enjoy the heartening oxtail braised in Spanish red and tomato. And make room for dessert as the light and crispy Churros are served with luxurious hazelnut chocolate sauce and arguably one of the best in Singapore. 3 Fullerton Road, #01-04. Tel: 6533 8913, www.sol-group.com.sg
Posted April 2012