Tapas mania sets in Singapore
CALL it what you will, the trend of eating food in bite-sized portions shows no signs of abating, going by the number of newly opened tapas restaurants here.
My Little Spanish Place @ Boat Quay
54 Boat Quay
Opening hours: Mon to Fri (including PH), noon - 2.30pm, 5pm - midnight Sat, 5pm - midnight. Closed on Sun.
Home-style Spanish fare is not easily found in Singapore, at least when compared with some of its more popular European cousins. So fans of the cuisine would be glad to know that the owners of My Little Spanish Place in Bukit Timah have recently opened a similar concept in a more central location, just along the Singapore River.
The 60-seater restaurant is run by chef Maria Sevillano from Salamanca, Spain, and Edward Esmero from the Philippines, and features a new menu with dishes inspired by the Balearic Islands - an archipelago just off Eastern Spain.
"We opened My Little Tapas Bar about one year ago at Club Street, so it's more a drinking place, while Bukit Timah is more a restaurant. Here, we wanted to have a mix of both places - you can have lunch or dinner but also a nice al fresco for informal dishes," explains chef Sevillano.
Some of the new signature dishes include a Fideua Verde ($38 for small, $66 for large), which is similar to paella but uses short noodles instead of Bomba rice and is cooked in a special in-house herb blend, and the Secreto Iberico ($28), which is seared Iberico pork smoked with applewood and marinated with thyme and garlic.
Of course, like any good Spanish restaurant, My Little Spanish Place @ Boat Quay also has a range of popular traditional Spanish tapas items such as the Coca de Pimientos y Anchoas ($16), which is a Catalan flatbread toast with onions, peppers, anchovies and Manchego cheese, the Gambas al Ajillo ($16), comprising garlic prawns cooked in olive oil and chilli pepper, as well as the Pulpo de la Casa ($36 per 100g), where a grilled octopus leg is seasoned with pimenton, sea salt and olive oil.
28 Ann Siang Road
Opening hours: Mon to Thurs, 5pm - 1am, Fri to Sat, 5pm - 2am. Closed on Sun.
With a name like Tiger's Milk, what else could the rooftop bar and grill at The Club Hotel specialise in but Peruvian cuisine? After all, the term refers to the sour citrus-based marinade that is part of ceviche - the Latin American classic.
Their menu comes from a consultant chef Hajime Kasuga, who was born and bred in Lima, Peru. He explains that "Peruvian food is a very exciting Latin American cuisine with influences from Spain, Africa and Asia" where the "elements of these different cuisines' flavours and textures come together".
Some of the small plates available include marinated green and black olives soaked in olive oil with fresh rosemary ($9) and hearts of palm, which is the core of the cabbage palm tree tossed with diced tomatoes, parmesan and lemon juice ($14).
They also feature several types of ceviches: a classic seabass with red onions and burnt corn ($14), tiger prawn with mangoes and jalapenos ($16), and king oyster mushroom with sliced asparagus ($12).
Grilled items on the menu, such as the octopus and chorizo with salsa criolla and sweet potato ($24) and lamb hearts ($16), which according to the chef are traditionally prepared with beef instead as a street delicacy in Peru, are cooked over an open parilla grill (Argentinian grill) and served in sharing portions.
Tiger's Milk is run by the owners of Harry's International, who thought it was the perfect time to introduce Peruvian food to Singaporeans as they are getting more well-travelled and adventurous.
237 South Bridge Road
Opening hours: Tues to Sat, 5pm - midnight
For the owners of Cato, the main mission is no-frills dining. That is why the menu at their eight-week-old eatery in Chinatown serves mostly simple tapas that are easy to share over drinks and conversation.
Dash Nalin, who is the main culinary brain behind the operation and one of seven business partners, chose to serve modern Asian cuisine at their two-storey establishment simply because he wanted the food to be as local and relatable as possible.
For example, their selection of tapas includes deep-fried chicken bits that are cooked cereal prawn-style with oats ($14), mussels in tom yam, curry, or garlic sauce with fries ($18), and their best-selling crispy baby squid covered in a Thai-style glaze and toasted seaweed ($12).
This is served both upstairs and downstairs, but best complements the drinks available at the bar on the second floor, where diners can select from a range of over 60 small-batch craft beers and spirits from around the world.
On the other hand, the more serious diner can eat in the restaurant space on the first floor, picking from seven main dishes such as the duck leg confit with braised potatoes and french beans ($24), the tom yum prawn risotto ($24), and the pork rillettes burger, served with a sunny side up and fries ($22).
"I think the idea of tapas is for a group of people to get together and order a variety of things. What people are looking for is a good night out with friends, having fun and being loud without having to bother about a really complicated kind of menu," says Mr Nalin.
"Of course, we want to do food that's really good, but sometimes people just want something to nibble on."
THE BUSINESS TIMES