Friday, June 22, 2018

FOC PIM PAM: Spanish Tapas Bar & Restaurant at Orchard

Good Spanish food is hard to find in Singapore. No matter what you say, it just isn't the same as eating in the country itself. The produce, the vibe, and the service: it's best experienced in Spain. But with places like FOC PIM PAM, we can get a taste of Barcelonan bodega buzz.

Starting with the food!

Witness the magnificent Ibérico Secreto Pork & Mushroom Paella (above, S$33). Let me first say that I am not a fan of European rice dishes. But this paella blew me away. It's the richly infused flavours of mushrooms (ceps, button and oyster) and whatever magical stock they've conjured up using chicken and pork trotters; like a spell, it pulls you in and just makes you reach for more. The special cut Ibérico pork topping the rice is marvellously tender too.

Prawns ‘Al Ajillo’
My favourite dish is probably the Prawns ‘Al Ajillo’ (S$22) - Argentinian prawns generously pan-fried with sliced garlic, chilli, olive oil, salt and sweet paprika, all coddling atop a ratte potato espuma. This is a dish unapologetically bursting with flavours. Have it as a tapas (S$13) or main (S$22).

Fresh Burrata (crispy Ibérico Ham, ‘Picadillo’, baby spinach)
Fresh Burrata (S$22): Creamy Italian burrata cheese jazzed up with a picadillo of chopped sun-dried tomatoes, preserved piparra peppers, mint, pine nuts and extra virgin olive oil. Refreshingly good!

Patatas Bravas
Patatas Bravas (S$6 Tapas; S$10 Main): deep-fried potato millefeuille! Crispy thin layers of potato - these are so much better than fries! I would halve or omit the overly rich aioli and salsa brava on top. They actually take away from the experience.

Half Suckling Pig
The Half Suckling Pig (2.5kg, S$130) comes with dramatic presentation - it will be chopped up tableside by a waiter using a plate.

Half Suckling Pig
This can easily feed 3-4 pax. The suckling pig comes from Segovia about 3 to 6 weeks old. It is first sous vide cooked for juicy tenderness, and then roasted for crackling skin.

Ibérico Cold Cuts Platter
Iberico Cold Cuts Platter (S$13 half/ S$24 full; tapas menu): From the tapas bar, you can nibble on acorn fed Spanish Jamon Ibérico Pork Loin 'Lomo', 'Salchichon' sausage, Chorizo and bread sticks.

So those are all my favourites here. The other dishes were a bit more hit and miss.

Leek Salad & White Asparagus Salad
Leek Salad & White Asparagus Salad (S$16): dressed with a butter-soy cream, rocket leaves and anchovies; it's pleasant enough but not memorable.

Pim Pam Croquetas
PIM PAM Croquetas (S$10-S$12 for 4pcs; main menu): Various choices of filling include ham, mushroom, crab, spinach & pine nuts. These are easy to eat but disappear too quickly. 

FOC Pig Tripe Stew
FOC Pig Tripe Stew (S$12): this is a medley of so many good things - beef tripe, pig ears, trotters, head skin, cheek and pork belly chopped into small pieces, and cooked with white wine and sofrito. There's chorizo and chickpeas too adding bulk and flavour. Comforting though it was, it just fell a little short of wow. Maybe it's just me; I'm not big on tomato-based anything.

Tomato Tartare
And yet...the FOC Tomato Tartare (S$19 Main Menu) left a positive impression. It's a party of confit tomatoes, chopped Morrocan caper berries, mustard mayonnaise, pickles, shallots and salt. The tomato ice cream adds some sweetness to balance the tart. I'd have this over beef tartare any day.

Chocolate Forest
The Chocolate Forest (S$16) looks like a modern designer dessert. Chocolate ice cream, leaves and soil nestles amidst pistachio sponge, raspberries and crispy hazelnuts. Providing some contrast is white chocolate passionfruit jelly and yoghurt custard. Squeeze the pipette of Arbequina extra virgin olive oil for that  Spanish touch.

Other desserts are simpler.

Lemon Lemoncello
The Lemon Lemoncello (S$12) should prove a good palate cleanser after all the heavy dishes. The limoncello sorbet sits atop burnt meringue, garnished with fresh mint and lime zest.

Spanish ‘Torrija’
The Spanish ‘Torrija’ (S$10) is a traditional Spanish french toast with housemade vanilla ice cream. Portion looks small but it really is quite filling.

And of course Spanish dessert would be incomplete without churros.

Churros - White Chocolate Coated
They have a white chocolate covered one studded with freeze-dried strawberries.

Churros - Classic
But I much prefer the classic. It's good on its own even without the chocolate sauce.

FOC PIM PAM (which means ‘quick and easy’ in Spanish) recently underwent a refurbishment. It now sports a more sophisticated palette of blacks and greys with timber finishes and metal accents. Partition walls, display shelves, pillars and counter tops flow in sleek curves, at once unifying the different spaces as well as defining them.

The Tapas Bar, Main Dining Room, Private Dining Room, Bar and Terrace present unique alcoves for diners seeking different experiences, be it a quick meal on their own, feasting with the family or casual drinks with friends.

You can look forward to a pared down, yet varied selection of casual tapas at the Tapas Bar and Terrace to a full and comprehensive menu at the Main Dining Room; and for special occasions and events in the Private Dining Room, a
customised menu conceived by the culinary team.

Outside, the takeaway counter has been transformed into the Bar. Here you can try 16 different cocktails for whatever mood you're in. FOC PIM PAM also boasts the widest collection of Sherries in Southeast Asia, sourced from sherry bodegas and boutique producers from different regions of Spain. Enjoy it by the glass (S$12) or bottle (S$60).

Gin cocktails from FOC PIM PAM
The Spanish love their gin & tonic, so appropriately there is a heady array of 17 gins paired with tonic water and garnishes, served Spanish style. There is also a wine list with 150 labels.

Interestingly, FOC PIM PAM carries a variety of retail products for customers to enjoy at home. Spanish wines, olive oils, preserved vegetables, snacks, salsas, acorn fed Ibérico cold cuts, premium canned seafood popular in Spain such as cockles and mussels, can be picked up at the restaurant or ordered online.

Cockles in Brine
Espinaler Premium Cockles (S$28/115g) in Brine. They taste more like clams than the blood cockles that we know. Not for the light of wallet, but certainly Spanish food aficionados will be glad you can get these here.

These Les Peperetes Preserved Percebe (Goose Barnacles) from Galicia would be quite the conversation starter but they are not on the menu yet. Let's hope these can come in soon. I had the Japanese version called kamenote. How amazing that the same bizarre creature is appreciated across cultures!

At any rate, FOC PIM PAM is a pretty cool place to chill out at. It's at the laid-back corner of Orchard Road near Orchard Hotel. While I've not been to Spain (yet), I'd happily come back here for the food and the easy-going vibe.

442 Orchard Road #01-29
Singapore 238879
Tel: +65 61004242

Opening Hours:
Mon-Thu: 12pm - 3pm, 5pm - 11pm
Fri-Sat: 12pm - 3pm, 5pm - 1am
Sun: 12pm - 3pm, 5pm - 11pm

Many thanks to FOC PIM PAM for the invitation.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Visiting Penang for the first time? Must-See Attractions!

Many Singaporeans love traveling to exotic and far-flung locales, so much so that we sometimes forget the gems nearby. For instance, the laid back yet culturally bustling island of Penang, Malaysia. Besides being a food paradise, this island is full of places to explore and must-see attractions. If you've never been to Penang, here are some places and activities you can see and do that are perfect for all ages.

Enjoy the beautiful view at Penang Hill

Being the first colonial hill station developed in Peninsular Malaysia, this hill compromises Western Hill, Bukit Laksamana, Tiger Hill, Flagstaff Hill and Government Hill. Penang Hill is set 891m above Penang’s capital and it is generally 5 degrees cooler than Georgetown. Breathe in the fresh air and enjoy the island’s breeze on this hill. Not only that, you also get a panoramic view of the northern coast and Georgetown City.

Pray at Kek Lok Si Temple

Kek Lok Si Temple is jaw-droppingly awesome. This massive complex, the largest Buddhist temple in Malaysia, totally requires time to explore. With Georgetown city as the backdrop, this temple is every photographer’s dream, thanks to its unique architecture. Do make sure you go up there on foot so you don’t miss the tortoise pond.

Enjoy Nature at Penang National Park

Everyone knows that Penang is a food heaven, but once you are done eating, visiting the Penang National Park is the great way to burn calories and to view Penang from the sea. All the way from Monkey beach to the lighthouse and Pantai Kerachut, there are many stops along the way for you to catch your breath and enjoy the beautiful view. If you are looking for a quiet beach to just relax without the noise from the crowd, you should totally visit Pantai Kerachut, one of the hidden gems in Penang.

Explore the fascinating street art

When you are in Penang, make sure you check out all the hidden murals in Armenian Street. From murals of cats to kids on a bicycle, do ensure you find all. Easier way for you to move around the street is to rent a bicycle and ride around this heritage site for the perfect photo opportunity. You can get a map of each mural’s location for the shops nearby.

Enjoying the sunset at Chew Jetty

Chew Jetty is among the last of floating villages in Penang. Wandering along the Chew Jetty is really interesting. The residents have turned it into a little shopping area which is very enterprising given the space or lack of it. When the sunset comes, this jetty becomes a beautiful picturesque view. A must see when visiting Penang.

Dare yourself at The Top at Komtar

If you love an adrenaline rush, check out the new attractions at THE TOP at Komtar. Get your heart racing at the Rainbow Skywalk, a semi-circle glass path that is built just several meters out of the building. The Open Deck will leave you amazed while you enjoy a spectacular view and experience of being amongst the clouds.

Apart from the things above, there are many more activities that can be done in Penang, making this your trip of a lifetime. Don’t miss out your chance to visit Penang when you visit Malaysia. For cheaper flight deals, you can always check out Traveloka Malaysia. They have great deals for flights from Singapore to Penang and to everywhere else you would like to go. Make sure to check them out.

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