Hola Spanish Cuisine

Hola Spanish Cuisine

Featuring Catalunya Singapore, Esquina, FOC Restaurant, FOC PIM PAM, OLA Cocina del Mar, Olivia Restaurant & Lounge, La Tapería (Shaw House), Milagro Spanish Restaurant, Gaig, Binomio
Veronica Phua
Veronica Phua

From the Chef’s Selection section of the menu, we chose this satisfying plateful of fresh, large, plump and juicy shellfish in a tasty broth. The small pieces of chewy chorizo were on the sweet side (I was reminded of “bak kwa” or “lap cheong”) and that influenced the overall taste profile.

After some deliberation, the sharing item I decided we needed in our lives was a Spanish-meets-Korean creation of a whole rack of Iberico pork ribs (General Manager Irene was extremely proficient in deboning it) to be eaten Korean-style. So we wrapped chunks of the smoky, fork-tender, sweet and tangy glazed BBQ meat in lettuce, then piled on mint leaves, cilantro, onion and cucumber to add a refreshing herbaceousness. Loved it!

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With black truffles, Ibérico ham and oozy buffalo mozzarella squished between lightly crunchy toasted white bread, this is best eaten piping hot.

(Invited tasting)
So you can get a taste of Michelin-starred @CarlesAbellánChef’s Barcelonian concept, prepared by Head Chef @carolinchiii and her team. Along with a few other members, she had travelled to Spain, to train with Chef Abellán in Barcelona during the pre-opening phase.

One of the standouts from the meal was the Spanish Tortilla "Mallorcan Style” ($12++). This cute little omelette is something we’d definitely repeat it on a return visit. Creamy-soft in the middle and packed with confit potatoes, caramelised onions and chorizo, it’s also crowned with aioli and chorizo oil for boosted tastiness. A flavourbomb for sure!

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(Invited Tasting)
Situated on Amoy Street, @kulto.sg is co-owned by Executive @chef_alonso who was previously at Santi in MBS, Restaurant Andre and Binomio. So although the vibe is smart-casual, it is crystal clear there is a lot of finesse in their Spanish cuisine because everything we had was really very delicious.
@bang90 the Manager welcomed us with a glass of Spanish red - it was delightfully fruity and easy-to-drink, and one of the many labels the restaurant imports from Spain themselves. In fact, they make up about 80% of the wine list. If you want to buy a few to take home, just browse at the mini retail corner right by the entrance.
I decided to order a few tapas before moving on to the bigger dishes and they were excellent. First, a half-portion (usual is 4 pcs for $14) of Crab Croquettes with their housemade special chilli crab sauce. Very crunchy on the outside, the generous filling was a divine crab and bechamel mix that packed a spicy punch.
The second #tapas, which happens to be a new addition to the menu, was an impeccably-balanced creation of Japanese Uni, Ikura and Ensaladilla (Spanish potato salad) on crunchy toast ($24 for 4pcs).
Also new, the Iberico Pork Carpaccio ($20) had an Asian touch by way of soya sauce in the vinaigrette dressing and topping of crunchy “wonton” skin. They worked surprisingly well.
I like my vegetables so I asked for a half portion of the Roasted Australian Cauliflower. It was still very large though and I thought the tahini, toasted hazelnuts and touch of chilli brought out its juicy, naturally sweet best.
We had our minds well and truly blown by the calamari. Somehow I thought we would be getting the usual crunchy-fried Calamari but oh my goodness (and I don’t mean any disrespect to that style) but it was nothing like it. From the perfect length of time on the charcoal grill to the accompanying squid ink aioli and roasted garlic purée, everything about Kulto’s Spanish squid contributed to its magnificence. A must-order! ($22)
While I watched Sous Chef @w.e.i.99 prepare their popular Squid Ink Paella for us, Chef Alonso shared that their stoves are from Spain and they are designed specifically for paella. He went on to say that they strive to use as much ingredients and produce from Europe as possible to ensure their food is more authentic. @huatkaliao and I enjoyed every bite of the umami maximus of that pan of rice decked out in mussels, clams, squid and aioli ($38).
For our meat, I took Bang’s recommendation and picked the Charcoal-grilled Iberico Pluma ($32). Smoky, tender and juicy, the fat-laced pork had the loveliest earthy company of porcini mushrooms in sautéed and purée forms. Not a typical pairing but it worked like a dream.
I LOVED my choice of dessert - the Whisky Cake ($14). Bang splashed on some Nikka (a whisky produced in Japan) upon serving it, and thus elevated the extremely fresh tasting vanilla-perfumed sponge and chantilly cream cake to otherworldliness. Coupled with the crunchiness from the toasted almond slices scattered all over, I was on cloud nine with every spoonful. This is a MUST-ORDER when you visit. Having said that, I was told the Kulto Cheesecake ($12) made with Manchego cheese is a hot favourite with customers too so if you have tummy space, do go for both.

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H O S T E D
Group Executive Chef @juanjocarrillochef of FOC Restaurants wants us to be acquainted with other Spanish rice dishes besides Paella. Enter the NEW “Juicy Rice” or “Arroz Caldoso” of Catalunya.
Shown above is a stunning rendition starring a Boston Lobster ($68++). There’s no denying it is a showstopper. Due to a rich broth derived from lobster heads and sofritto (simmered mixed vegetables), it is immensely flavourful. I love that the grains of rice stay pretty much al dente and aren’t reduced to a mush.
As for how many people this pan can feed, well, it depends on the number of other items ordered. I reckon it is suitable for two substantial servings or four tasting portions. You can also pay to add extra lobster if you like.

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T R E A T
Thanks to Poovan from the FOC Group, an awe-inspiring spread was delivered to my family and I last weekend. Comprising of an assortment from the FOC Group’s central kitchen (it materialised to tackle takeaways during this Circuit Breaker), we got to indulge in the best of @foc_restaurant, @foc_sentosa and @foc_pimpam, collectively named as their “Mediterranean Brunch”.

Many of my must-haves whenever I dine at FOC restaurant formed part of this meal, for eg. the Black Squid Ink Paella which happened to travel very well and tasted good even when not piping hot. Do slather it with their housemade aioli for extra oomph.

Also proving satisfying were the #tapas of soft Beef Meatballs in a slightly spicy, tangy tomato sauce, Mushroom Croquettas (these benefited from a short spell in the oven) and Tomato Bread (the elements were packed separately to ensure the bread remained crunchy till we were ready to eat).

The two mains of Pan-seared Catch-Of-The-Day and Roasted French Chicken with “Panadera” Potatoes were flawlessly executed. We enjoyed the former for its freshness and “Salsa Verde”, and the latter for its vibrant herb-rich marinade and juiciness. I thought they both went rather well with the Roasted Cauliflower.

The fact that FOC does pizzas was something new to me. Hearty in design, theirs featured a thick crust topped with “Ratatouille”, Pork Sausages and Brie Cheese, qualifying it as a meal in itself.

Dessert was a mini feast of crunchy cinnamon-and-sugar coated #Churros with 3 kinds of dipping sauce (dark chocolate, caramel and tiramisu cream) and a duo of utterly divine FOC Swiss Roll Cakes. Don’t ask me if the caramelised egg yolk and vanilla sponge filled with cream, or the black chocolate ganache with mirror glaze was better because I was torn between them.

To wash all that food down, Poovan packed a bottle of FOC Sangria Bubbles and “Chocolate Reverse Manhattan” FOCtails by @ethan_jeong. In the basket with them was yet another thoughtful gift of Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

If you feel the urge to splurge, FOC’s special “Mediterranean Brunch” is worth considering. Available Fridays to Sundays, it feeds 4 to 6 pax and can be delivered for FREE islandwide. Do tap on the link in @focrestaurant’s bio on Instagram to order or find out more.

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One of the dishes my friend Angeline and I enjoyed at @olacocinadelmar was the new “OLA” Paella.
Depending on your choice of seafood to go on the saffron-cooked rice, the price changes. So the Boston lobster version is $52++ while the tiger prawns is $38++. We picked the latter and were pleased with the sweetness of the fresh large prawns. They came ready peeled for ease of eating too - something I appreciated.
Love how the creamy herb aioli and sweet cherry tomatoes made the fragrant grains of rice pop even more.

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Think of this as “Surf & Turf” X “Steak & Frites” gone luxe as the tenderloin tartare is given a blanket of Avruga caviar, and is served with fried potato chips and French fries. Enlivened by the briny pops of the well-known caviar substitute and the salty, crunchy cooked potatoes, each bite of the softly-chewy raw beef transforms into something a lot more flavourful and interesting in the mouth.

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Like Sir David Attenborough discovering a new sub-species of an animal, coming upon this cheesecake was just as intriguing for me. It defied existing categorisations of cheesecake that I knew of, and had me pondering in wonder as I gobbled bite after bite with gusto.
The filling, a secret blend of cheeses including blue, walked the fine line between two states of matter. Uncut, it behaved - cordoned neatly within the buttery crust (which tasted fine but had me wishing it was slightly less thick at the edges) but slicing unleashed it. Caramelised glaze notwithstanding, the brazenly creamy and pungent tide oozed its way to freedom, forcing hands to swift spooning action so nothing was wasted.

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If you had eaten the suckling pig at Catalunya before it closed, you will find this familiar as the chef-owner of Olivia was from there. And there is no doubt he knows a thing or two about cooking a little piglet to the pinnacle of tastiness.
Very thin and shatteringly crisp of skin, yet so moist and tender within, this is compulsory to order for those of you who relish pork.

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I don’t know if it’s because I was starving by the time I arrived here for dinner but good golly, did that Dry-aged Galician Beef taste like heaven!
Incredibly soft and silky from having been marinated for 45 days, it hides the kind of flavourfulness that makes one gasps and eyelids flutter.
I can’t think of anything better to lay it on than the crusty grilled tomato bread.
Advance apologies to whomever I am dining with at Olivia Restaurant next. I won’t be playing nice and sharing this that’s for sure 😂😂😂

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