It is not all fine dining at three-Michelin star chef Santi Santamaria’s new restaurant “Santi” at Marina Bay Sands. On Friday, the maestro himself unveiled the introduction of his new tapas bar and lounge featuring an all new tapas menu with delights of his creation of Mediterranean cuisine.
Tapas, definied as a wide variety of appetizers or snacks in Spanish cuisine is part and parcel of any good bar visited in Spain. It is an accompaniment to the drinks served up at the bar and made so for a more casual and informal setting between diners. And a variety of tapas served up together can even make a full meal, except that every dish is in miniature portions meant to tickle the appetite and even tantalize the senses.
Pair that exquisite Spanish tapas experience with the hand of Chef Santi Santamaria and I believe that what we would receive is an exquisite living memory of his imagination and the wholesome simplicity of dishes which he strives to achieve.
This is perhaps the more invocating appetizer I have ever encountered. Ever.
Labelled as Assorted of Iberic Charcuterie Platter with “Pa amb tornaquet”, this is one dish whose impression on me will be one that will last a lifetime. Iberic Charcuterie is Iberico ham which Spain is a main producer. Made in majority from the black Iberian pigs, the ham is thinly shaved before served. Pa Amb Tornaquet means bread with tomato brushed over and seasoned with olive oil and salt.
And Santi perfected it. The ham is delightfully fatty enough and the glaze of olive oil accentuates the creaminess, salty texture and smoothness of the meat. Contrast that experience with the toasted Pa Amb Tornaquet and what you get is a medley of flavours, textures and an all round delightfulness.
I was so glad there were two pieces. You could hear the whole table going “mmmmm”
The Gazpacho with Crab is one of Santi’s specialties. Gazpacho, a Spanish tomato-based soup with olive oil and fresh almonds is used in combination with flakes of crab in this dish. Smooth, slightly chilled, with a robust yet light tomato flavour that is slightly nutty, this was very light and refreshing. But be it with all soups that have meat in it, I only discovered the crab flakes at the end.
Octopus Plancha was the fourth tapas served up. Presented with a minute serving of blanched peppers and a glaze of warm orange sauce, the octopus itself was surprisingly not tough at all. To what we gathered from Santi, the octopus was “well beaten till tender” before cook. The magic trick. Yes.
The Mushroom Confit didn’t do much to my palate. It was just grilled chunks of mushrooms that I feel could do with a more robust sprinkling of flavouring. Though you might just appreciate the slightly earthy tastes and meaty textures nonetheless.
Up comes the next platter of Tapas. Quail with Foie Gras Escabeche. Little words but plenty of pleasure. The quail was beautifully roasted giving that crisp perfection yet with a meaty tender bite. The foie gras itself was very light and the contrast given by the pieces of sweet golden raisin was a palate pleaser.
Norwegian lobster makes a presence here. The Langoustine with Sofrito and Migas was very fresh and crisp. And the tender meat when paired with the fried crumbs provided excellent textural contrasts. The base of tomato and garlic sauteed in olive oil to form the sofrito added hints of savoury umami flavours at the end.
Razor Clam Stew was decently fresh with a light aftertaste that bodes a remarkable bite of nuts in the gravy. The sprinkling of seasoned seaweed accentuated the flavours with sea saltiness of different levels.
I discovered that Tapas is not all savoury snacks or appetizers but can also be chilled sweet dishes to sum up the entire experience. Japanese Peaces with Hibiscus Granite was the final presentation of the day. Served up in a martini glass, the peaches were without doubt sweet and firm to the bite with the essence of hibiscus enshrouding the pieces of fruit with a floral scent and slightly tart sweetness. Refreshing.
The introduction of the Tapas menu and the Tapas Bar and Lounge at Santi opens up even more options for diners. One can sit back and relax with a wide range of wines to go hand in hand with the Catalan appetizers. There are currently two tapas set menus for now but more is expected in the future. If appetizers were always these good, I won’t mind having an entire meal of side dishes and little knick knacks but of course with the finesse and creativity of a master chef.
Many thanks to Debra Wang, Director Corporate Communications, Val Chua, Manager Corporate Communications, and Venetia Chung, Corporate Communications, Marina Bay Sands for the invitation. It was a pleasure meeting Chef Santi Santamaria and his daughter Regina Santamaria. Thank you Chef Santamaria and Regina for hosting the session.
Marina Bay Sands
10 Bayfront Avenue
Reservations : 6688 8501
Opening Hours Tapas Bar : 6.30pm-11.00pm
Dinner Hours : 7.00pm- 10.30pm