Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Esquina at Jiak Chuan Street: Spanish Tapas by Carlos Montobbio

Esquina at Jiak Chuan Street has been one of the hottest place for modern tapas and innovative bites in Singapore. There have been some changes in staff but the addition of Executive Chef Carlos Montobbio sees the menu refreshed with Spanish flair and Asian inspiration.

His Oysters (S$7) make a tantalising start to the evening with the salty, tangy and umami notes dancing on the creaminess of the oyster.

Esquina's Spanish Omelette ($14) might prove comforting to some. It's confit onion, potato, olive oil caviar on a thin slice of crispy toast. It was pleasant but muted compared to the oyster and other dishes.

I loved the Spanish Nigiri ($6), a sushi impression cleverly made from bacalao brandade and bright red roasted bell pepper. The salted cod with garlic oil was an exquisite treat. The whole thing is such eye candy too.

One of the mainstays of Spanish tapas is the Grilled Spanish Octopus ($28). The octopus is first made tender from a sous vide bath, and then grilled for smoky finish. Jerusalem artichoke, burnt onion and oyster leaf finish the ensemble.

If you are a fan of small or game birds cooked medium rare, the Pigeon ($22) at Esquina should please you with its almost bloody pink centre. Pigeon (and poultry in general) is not quite my thing, so I enjoyed the sides more - the forest berries escabeche, burnt rosemary polenta and crisp shallots.

For a play on textures, try the Beef Cheeks ($18, two pieces) with sesame pickled cabbage, wrapped in a corn tortilla and served on baked bone marrow. This was gorgeous to behold and taste.

Out of the many excellent dishes, my favourite is the US "Family Reserve" Beef Ribeye ($38) with charred leeks and romesco, sprinkled with coarse sea salt. Seared expertly on the outside but with a medium rare centre, the beef was the perfect combination of juicy meat and browned edges.

The Saffron Paella ($24) surprised us with delightful bits of crispiness. You know how we love scraping the bottom of the claypot for the burnt parts? Well, at least I do. Those are the best parts. The paella also clearly had the benefit of a very good stock. Pan fried red snapper, chorizo and snow peas not only added more flavour but contrasting colour as well.

For dessert, you have to try the "BBC" dessert ($15): Banana, Beer and Caramel. It totally works. Also because Chef Carlos tried really hard to find the right beer for the beer ice cream. It paired really well with the creamed banana and caramel sauce.

Esquina is cosy and small; it's mostly counter seating in a tiny corner shophouse at Jiak Chuan Road. But come watch the chefs in action and be rewarded with conversation worthy nibbles.

16 Jiak Chuan Road
Singapore 089267
Tel: +65 6222-1616
Opening Hours:
Mon-Fri: 12pm - 230pm, 6pm - 1030pm
Sat: 6pm - 1030pm

Many thanks to Esquina for the invite.

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