Authentic Tastes of Spain at Tapas Club!

Cerveza!’ I say as I attempt to practise my pronunciation for Tania, our Spanish host.

‘No!’ she laughs. ‘It’s ceerrth-veza!’

Certh-th-veza!’

‘No!’ she laughs again.

Beer from Spain: Estrella Galicia ($9.50 a pint).

Behind me, some musicians are playing a live flamenco version of Frank Sinatra’s ‘My Way’. In front of me is a spread of tapas that our table of eight have been sharing. I have been happily gobbling up the final piece on every plate that people always seem reluctant to grab. I am learning about the tastes of Spain with every bite I take between sips of Red Wine Sangria ($12 a glass).

I am at Tapas Club’s newest outlet at VivoCity, which has been open for a couple of months. Helmed by executive chefs Jose Alonso and Manuel Berganza (who received a Michelin star at previous restaurant Andanada in New York City and was recently seen competing on the Netflix cooking competition The Final Table), Tapas Club has provided yet another venue where you can bring your friends and family to enjoy hallmarks of Spanish cuisine.

Croquetas de Jamón

Our dinner opens with an inviting starter plate of Croquetas: small crispy nuggets filled with a soft creamy bechamel sauce. I’m told that Spaniards believe that the best version of croquetas is always their own madre’s. Tapas Club offers two variants: with squid ink ($9.90), or with ham ($11.90). I attempt to cut it to create a tantalising photo, but the fritter collapses without protest under the gentle skewering of my fork. It’s just better to eat this whole so that all the creamy filling only bursts out in your mouth.

Bocata de Calamares

A dish that will be comfortably delicious for Singaporean palates would be the Bocata de Calamares ($10.90). Baby squid with some chili sauce and garlic aioli is sandwiched between two halves of a brioche bun. The whole mini-burger is easily consumed in one bite, and is reminiscent of chili crab and mantou.

Piquillos Rellenos

The Piquillos Rellenos ($12.90) combine the sweet softness of roasted peppers with the minced beef stuffed inside. Although deep-fried, the outer batter has already softened from the gravy poured over it. With the same bechamel sauce found in the croquetas mixed together with the minced beef stuffing, this tapas is juicy, sweet, and savoury.

Cojonudos

A popular staple on food crawls to bars in Spain is the Cojonudos ($13.90), a new dish to the Tapas Club menu. It is the essential pintxo: a cute sunny-side up quail egg (with finely cut scallions) on top of a small cut of salty chorizo, resting on equally-sized toast. Providing a quick dose of delicious saltiness, this is understandably a popular pairing with beer. The Berenjena con miel ($9.90) is another pleasing bar-type snack: thin slices of eggplant fried crisp and drizzled liberally with honey for added sweetness.

Berenjena con miel

Pulpo a la Brasa

The Pulpo a la Brasa ($24) is a speciality hailing from Northwest Spain. The boiled-then-grilled octopus is lightly seasoned with red pimenton powder served alongside their homemade garlic aioli and a long and chunky piece of asparagus. Made in this way, each piece of octopus embodies a range of textures: slight resistance on the initial bite, but as you keep chewing, the meat easily softens and spreads around a mild piquancy.

Cerdo Iberico

One cannot visit a Spanish tapas place without ordering their iberico pork. The famed variant of Spanish origin is popular among meat connoisseurs, for good reason: it’s highly fatty, promising a melt-in-your-mouth goodness. At Tapas Club, their Cerdo Iberico ($24) is given a light touch of heat under the grill to just brown the surface while the meat is still rare and tender. If you prefer your pork less pinkish, the kitchen can easily cook it longer on your request.

Arroz Negro

The star of every communal Spanish fiesta has to be the paella. Tapas Club offers a few versions, but our host, Tania, wanted us to try their Arroz Negro ($26). Literally meaning ‘black rice’, it’s a paella that has been stained as dark as the paella pan it was cooked on by squid ink. The ink has also given the rice the rich umami flavour that squid ink always does. A few dollops of the signature garlic aioli and green streaks of chickpea puree add more colour and cream to the rice. Juicy clams still in their shells are also added on top, for our enjoyment. Cooking on a paella pan has resulted in each grain has acquiring a charred taste on the edges, while the body remains creamy and smooth. I desperately wanted to polish off the pan, but I was very satiated at this point. And there was still dessert!

Mousse de queso con frutos rojos

A dessert unique to Tapas Club is the Mousse de queso con frutos rojos ($10), which, to put it simply, is a deconstructed cheesecake. The expected elements of cheesecake — the cheese mousse, biscuit crust, with some added flair of caramel sauce and strawberry jam — are disassembled and rearranged on your plate in the artistic manner that Michelin-starred chefs are wont to do.

Torrija

You can also try something very cultural: the Torrija ($10), a Spanish-style French toast (hmm, shouldn’t it then be called Spanish toast?) that is especially popular in Spain during Holy Week. The bread is freshly toasted, but is soaked and doused in milk and topped with vanilla ice-cream just before serving. It’s just like a sweet, fluffy soufflé. Enjoy it quickly! l It’s at its most beautiful state in the first few minutes before it cools down into sogginess.

Churros

Or you could go for something familiar and reliable, like Churros ($9), served with chocolate sauce. As we joked at the table, this is the youtiao of Spain: crispy, oily dough fritters you can dip in anything. If you want your churros with something other than chocolate, you could check out the churro café next door, Chulove, which shares owners with Tapas Club.

For someone like me who has never been to Europe, I am thankful that Tapas Club has brought the joy of convivial Spanish dining right to our doorstep. And with this new Tapas Club outlet at VivoCity, authentic and well-priced Spanish cuisine is now more available than ever.

Thank you Tapas Club for the invitation. Food photography by James Hii.

Tapas Club Orchard Central
181 Orchard Road
#02-13
Orchard Central
Singapore 238896

Tapas Club Vivocity
1 Harbourfront Walk

#01-98
Vivocity
Singapore 098585

Reservations

Jamie’s Italian Celebrates Christmas 2018 with Semi-Buffet & Set Lunches!

When I received an invitation to an early Christmas party at Jamie’s Italian, I could not have been more excited. I had a lot of fun at my previous visit to Jamie’s Italian for their pizza-making party, so I knew from prior experience that Jamie’s Italian hosted fantastic food parties. I looked forward to sampling the dishes that would be found on Jamie’s Italian upcoming seasonal menus.

The party kicked off with a cooking demonstration by head chef Ashley Lim. His first dish was the Pan-Roasted Norwegian Salmon. It was a treat seeing a professional chef take us through his process of pan-frying the salmon, making the sauce, and plating it in front of our eyes.

Chef Ashley Lim teaching us how to cook Christmas dishes offered at Jamie’s Italian.

He also showed us how to cook Lobster Ravioli, a dish resplendent with mussels and tomatoes. This delectable pasta will be available on their New Year’s Day Set Lunch.

Lobster Ravioli.

Main courses you will find on the Christmas Day Lunch Semi-buffet and New Year’s Day Lunch Semi-buffet were served in the style of hors d’oeuvres, neatly arranged on planks, with flagged skewers to pick them up with. It was not only well-presented, but also delicious; the Norwegian salmon was fresh and sweet. I loved it so much I ate three pieces.

Pan Roasted Norwegian Salmon.

Another tasty item from the lunch semi-buffets was the Tomahawk Pork Chop. Meaty and well-marinated, there was also a juxtaposition of texture with a piece of crispy crackling on top. The last meat I got to try was the Festive Roast Chicken. Like the others, the meat was cooked just right, full of juice and flavour.

Tomahawk Pork Chop.

A popular favourite of the night (also on the lunch semi-buffets) was the Truffle Porcini Arancini, a battered ball with a risotto filling served on fonduta.

Tomahawk Pork Chop, cut and served on a plank in bite-sized morsels.

Truffled Porcini Arancini.

No dinner party is complete without desserts. Jamie’s Italian had two great choices for us to try: Gennaro’s Tiramisu, and a sweet and Sticky Toffee Pudding. Both were lovely desserts, but I personally favoured the tiramisu, grabbing two portions.

Gennaro’s Tiramisu.

The last activity of the night was a plank-decorating competition. Three contestants had to arrange the best-looking plank filled with sliced cheese, meats, fruits, and dip in five minutes. The winner would get a Jamie’s Italian Christmas Hamper (worth $300-600++) filled with premium kitchen ingredients and Jamie Oliver’s cookbook.

The prize hamper for the winner of the plank decorating competition.

Chef Ashley gave us an example of a professionally plated board, and also introduced us to ‘music bread’, a pastry so-named because the sound it makes when it cracks was musical (kind of).

Chef Ashley arranging his plank.

My plus one for the night, Derek, was one of the contestants. With Jamie Oliver’s visage behind him, he put together a beautiful plank.

Derek arranging his plank with a bit of help from Chef Ashley.

Although he didn’t end up winning the competition, Derek was proud of his creation, and so was I.

Derek, proud of his plank.

At the end of the day, we enjoyed the delightful menu we had been given for the night. We look forward to Christmas when everyone will get to enjoy the treats that Jamie’s Italian has in store.

Thank you Jamie’s Italian for the invitation!

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Jamie’s Italian
1 Harbourfront Walk,
#1-165-167
VivoCity,
Singapore 098585

Semi-buffet

*The Christmas Day and New Year’s Day Lunch Semi-buffet is available from 11am to 3.30pm at *$100++ per adult and $50++ per child (12 years old and below). For every paying adult, one child gets to dine on a Jamie’s Italian kid’s meal for free. The New Year’s Eve Set Dinner is available from 6pm at $148++ per person.

Set lunch

*The Christmas and New Year’s Day Set Lunch is available from 11.30am to 3.30pm at *$80++ per person. For every paying adult, one child (12 years and below) gets to dine on a Jamie’s Italian kid’s meal for free. The New Year’s Eve Set Dinner is available from 6pm at $148++ per person.

** Add on free-flow house red and white wines, Prosecco, draft beer and soft drinks at an additional $45++ per person.*

Hampers

You can also order a range of Christmas hampers: The Epic Jamie’s Italian Hamper ($300+) with wines, beers and more; the Indulgent Jamie’s Italian Hamper ($350+) offers gourmet goods such as “Sorensina” Pecorino Romano and Grated Mullet Bottarga; the Great Jamie’s Hamper ($600+) boasts a black olive pâté spread, balsamic vinegar from Modena, a bottle of Prosecco, and a Jamie Cooks Italy cookbook. Orders can be sent in to enquiries@jamiesitalian.sg between 19 November 2018 and 6 January 2019.

A Lunar New Year Away From The Bustle, Only At Tamarind Hill!

With Chinese New Year nearly upon us, many restaurants will be offering special Lunar New Year menus featuring seasonal dishes usually eaten at this time of the year. One of these restaurants will be Tamarind Hill, owned by the luxury hospitality chain Samadhi Retreats. To get to it, you’ll have to drive (or take a long walk) deep inside Labrador Nature Reserve, where the forest will part to uncover a bungalow that looks like it was built in the colonial era for the residence of a British official. That’s not far off from the mark; it started as Labrador Villa, the residence of George John Mansfield, a British shipping magnate. But in 2018, it’s now a fine dining restaurant specialising in Thai and Shan cuisine.

Continue reading “A Lunar New Year Away From The Bustle, Only At Tamarind Hill!”

Buono Trattoria: Casual Italian Cuisine at a Perfect Price Point

Nestled in Basement Two of Vivocity, Buono Trattoria will not attract much attention at first glance. The restaurant, while brightly lit, is plainly designed. Neither is this a place where you will linger. With low partitions, the noise from the busy thoroughfare outside the restaurant filters in easily.

But Buono Trattoria is saved by its quick service, good food, and reasonable prices. It is not fine dining, but individuals and groups looking for a fuss-free, unpretentious, and delicious meal will probably leave satisfied. Most dishes are priced between 5 to 15 dollars.

I also find the option to customise your own pastas and pizzas to be an attractive feature of this restaurant (more on that below). Families with children would probably find Buono Trattoria a fun place to dine at.

I begin my meal with the Cream of Mushroom Soup ($5++). Portioned decently, flavoured evenly, and with just the right consistency, Buono Trattoria’s mushroom soup passes my taste test for its price.

I also like the Frittura Di Calamari ($12++; tasting portions depicted). The calamari rings are fried in an appetising golden colour, and I find the fried squid fresh and firm to the bite. The rings are also infused with sweet paprika and fresh herbs, making them highly addictive with each bite.

The Chicken Wings (6pcs) ($8++; tasting portions depicted) are similarly flavourful, and are rightfully deserving of its claim as a “best-seller”. While I think the spice-coated chicken wings and drumlets could be larger, I am happy with the price-to-quality-flavour ratio.

Customize your own Pastas and Pizzas!

Buono Trattoria serves good pasta. The Linguine Chicken & Pesto ($12++) has a pleasantly distinctive nutty flavour, thanks to its home-made pesto cream sauce. The Baked Porcini Mushrooms Ravioli ($12++) is also a standout dish because of its delicious homemade beef bolognaise, use of three types of cheeses and flavourful mushrooms. I am not usually a fan of ravioli because it has the potential to be overly starchy. But Buono Trattoria’s rendition contains a good ratio of filling to dumpling skin.

The restaurant offers you the opportunity to create your own pasta, from $9++ onwards. You choose from three pasta types (Spaghetti, Penne and Linguine) and three sauces (Aglio Olio, Pomodoro or Cream). To complete your customised order, you select at least two toppings from the vegetables, dairy/meat and seafood categories.

This customisation option is available for pizzas too. From $10++ onwards, you mix and match fresh toppings comprising vegetables, dairy/meat and seafood, to go with Buono Trattoria’s signature pizza crust. The restaurant produces its dough in small batches and hand-kneads it.

Buono Trattoria’s pizzas come in two sizes – an 8-inch version which is good for up to two people, and a 12-inch size which can feed four people. Unfortunately, I find the crust on my 8-inch Hawaiian pizza ($15++) a little hard, though the rest of the pizza is fine. There are better pizzas elsewhere, but at this price point, I can’t really complain.

Affordable desserts where the magic happens

I am most excited for desserts, with each ranging between $5-8. Buono Trattoria’s Panna Cotta ($5++) is an example of the magic that can happen when cream and mango puree are expertly combined. Though the middle-aged couple at the next table grouse about the sweetness of the panna cotta, I have no issue with it.

While Buono Trattoria is not a cosy place for dinner, it is a good place for families and friends to adjourn to after a long day of shopping at the mall. The restaurant works because it is casual, convivial, and serves high-quality fare at wallet-friendly prices. I would make a return visit if I am in the area and am seeking a quick and affordable dining place with friends, before adjourning to one of the attractions in the vicinity.

Thank you, Buono Trattoria, for the invitation.

Buono Trattoria
1 Harbourfront Walk
#B2-27 & 27A
Vivocity
Singapore 

Reservations: 6358 2582
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Opens Daily
11am to 10pm

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