Reminiscent smoky goodness

JUST RIGHT: The Galician Octopus at 63Celsius is tender, and the smokiness from the charcoal is nicely balanced with the paprika sauce.


    Feb 24, 2014

    Reminiscent smoky goodness

    63Celsius, by Foodbar Dada's Joseph Wong, serves some tasty dishes cooked in a Josper Grill, giving these a smokiness

    IF YOU miss Mr Joseph Wong's Foodbar Dada, the tapas joint in Robertson Quay that closed down last year, he has come back with a new eatery with a similar concept.

    But 63Celsius, located on the ground floor of Asia Square Tower 2, is also different in many ways.

    He opened it with a different partner and it occupies a much bigger space. Instead of Foodbar Dada's narrow premises that could fit in only a short row of counter seats and a table at the back, the new place has big and small tables in both its indoor dining area and an outdoor square. And there are three rows of indoor counter seats.

    The new outlet opens all day, and serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. It doubles as a cafe in the day - its name, in fact, refers to what it considers the perfect temperature for a cup of milk-based coffee.

    At lunchtime, it serves a menu of full-sized pastas, salads and main courses, as well as tapas. But only tapas are available after lunch.

    Unless you work in the area, however, it is not advisable to fight with the Shenton Way lunchtime crowd, so dinner is a better time to check out this eatery, which opened in December.

    Like Foodbar Dada, a number of the dishes are cooked in a Josper Grill, a charcoal oven that gives food cooked in it a smoky flavour. But the dishes are totally different.

    If asked to compare, I would say I prefer the cooking of Foodbar Dada chef Manuel Valero Ruiz, who is now at Moosehead Kitchen-Bar. But 63Celsius' chef, Rodrigo Guerrero, does have some good dishes too.

    There is the Black Squid Ink Croquettes ($15), for example. Inspired by the Spanish ham croquette, its thin coat of crispy, golden crumbs covers a creamy filling of ink-flavoured bechamel. It is lighter than most croquettes I have eaten and dissolves easily after mere seconds inside the mouth.

    The Josper Grilled 63Signature Baby Squid In Enoki Egg Nest ($12) pleases the eye and the palate. A soft-boiled egg is served in what looks like a bird's nest, under which is a bed of grilled baby squids. The hay-like strands forming the nest are actually enoki mushrooms grilled browned. Stirred up with the egg and squid, it forms a delicious mix of flavours.

    What would make the dish even better, perhaps, is if the baby squid is crisper - for a better contrast of textures.

    I have no complaints, however, about the texture of the Galician Octopus ($22). It is tender and the smokiness from the charcoal is nicely balanced with the paprika sauce drizzled over it.

    The mashed potato under the octopus rounds off the dish very nicely too.

    The Josper Grilled Asparagus With Goat Cheese And Tomato Jam ($18) can do with slightly stronger flavours from both the cheese and the jam. Even the olive oil "snow" sprinkled on top does not add much to the dish. The work is instead left to strips of salty, aromatic Spanish ham draped over the asparagus.

    Still, the asparagus spears are thick, tender and sweet, so it is perhaps just as well that they are allowed to take centre stage.

    However, other dishes do not shine, including a rather flat Josper Grilled Fish With Romesco Pistachio ($25). And the Josper Grilled USDA Rib Eye (200g) With Piquillo Peppers ($33) arrives a little too underdone to pass off as medium rare, though it continues to cook and eventually gets to the right doneness.

    As for whether 63 deg C is indeed the best temperature for milk coffee, I have yet to put that to the test. Coffee at dinnertime, you see, keeps me up the whole night.

    The Sunday Times paid for its meals at the eateries reviewed.