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

DurianDelivery.com.sg – Quality, Honest Durian Delivery Service!

I love durians. I know how sinful they can be, with all that divine bitter-sweetness, creamy and luscious flesh, and an aroma that has divided the Singaporean community into two camps. But I always have a problem finding good durians to savour in the comfort of home. If it’s not due to the age-old dilemma of finding a transport option that is durian friendly, or the challenges of the (sometimes) dishonest sales tactic of the neighbourhood durian seller, I am often left with a, more often than not, lacklustre selection of the King of Fruits.

Step in www.duriandelivery.com.sg . Although the name suggests that it is simply a delivery service from a durian store somewhere in Singapore, that is not the case for Durian Delivery. Instead, Durian Delivery focusses on an e-commerce model, where durians are ordered and sent straight from the farm to your table the very next day. For customers who wish to have durians delivered on the same day, that option is also available – either at a a) flexible time throughout the day or  b) a 2-hour delivery  turnaround (think something like Durians on Amazon Prime!). Of course, the delivery fees vary with each tier. But for the impatient (i.e. me), sometimes that is the best option.

Variety and Price

Further, Durian Delivery prides themselves on fair, transparent prices listed on the website. You will be informed of the general price/kg of the durian sold, and each box is priced very, very competitively. Durians are sold in dehusked vacuum sealed portions of 400g and 800g (i.e. 2x 400g boxes) – where 800g of dehusked durian is generally the yield of a 3.5kg durian fruit. I weighed each box that arrived, and each averaged 400g. So what this means is that you are guaranteed the amount of durians you pay for! I have many a bad experience buying a $30-40 durian, only to find the yield within disappointing. (side note: I recalled paying $15 for a Red Prawn durian to only find 3 seeds within).

Old Tree MSW Durian

Durian Delivery currently carries 3 varieties: 

  • Hand-Picked Old Tree Mao Shan Wang Durian (TSW, Pahang AAA+) [$15.6/kg of the whole durian fruit]
  • Mao Shan Wang (MSW) [$12.5/kg of the whole durian fruit]
  • Red Prawn [$8.8/kg of the whole durian fruit]

Due to the bumper season this July 2018, prices have fallen across board. And the prices stated here are accurate as 22 July 2018.

Regular Mao Shan Wang

Quality

And what about the quality? I received both the Old Tree MSW and the regular MSW. And both were superb!! I was supremely impressed with the freshness and quality of each seed savoured. The MSW carried its own weight with buttery textures and a rich mouth of creamy sweetness. But it is the Old Tree MSW that impressed me even further for its depth and complexity in flavour. The bitter sweet tones simply shouted “majestic”! This will definitely not be my last time time ordering from Durian Delivery! And judging by the reviews found on their website, I am not alone in my assessment that Durian Delivery has certainly found its niche in the market. Durian Delivery also promises a 100% money back guarantee for unripe/sour/watery durians received, with either a full refund or durian replacement. This is durian service modernised. I have to say, for all the regular durian stores out there, get ready to be disrupted!

I have few other comments. I will order again from Durian Delivery!

Thank you Durian Delivery for the durians.

Durian Delivery
www.duriandelivery.com.sg 

Delivery options:
– 2 hour delivery
– same day delivery
– next day delivery
Free delivery for orders above $120

En Sushi: Satisfying Your Japanese Cravings Affordably

With the Japanese food craze that hit Singapore showing no signs of abating, I think we can safely conclude that this penchant is here to stay. Indeed, when my Japanese friends from university visit you and are amazed by the sheer amount of Japanese food available in Singapore, you know something is up.

The problem though, is that when you get so used to Japanese cuisine, you develop cravings. Yes, days when you think to yourself: “I need some raw fish. And mentaiko. And sushi.” But with Japanese food being anything but cheap, what do you do when you get these cravings regularly?

You go to En Sushi.

Conveniently located in town next to Rendezvous Hotel, this little place is within strolling distance of not one, not two, but three MRT stations: Dhoby Ghaut (on the North South Line), Bras Basah (on the Circle Line), and Bencoolen (on the Downtown Line). How’s that for immediate gratification wherever you are in Singapore?

But we don’t go to Japanese places for their accessibility. We go there to eat, and that’s the meat of this review (excuse the bad pun!) En Sushi delivers tasty Japanese food at very very reasonable prices. It’s not like eating in Japan, but given how wallet-friendly this is, I might find reason to reduce the frequency of my trips up north!

If onsen tamago is good and onsen tamago with ikura is better, then what kind of heaven is onsen tamago with ikura and uni?

Beginning with appetisers, the Uni Ikura Onsen Tamago was quite a joy. Onsen tamago is good, onsen tamago with ikura is better, onsen tamago with ikura and uni is heaven. The ingredients were fresh, and the flavours mixed well with just a hint of soy sauce to help add that umami kick. I’d eat this quickly though: onsen tamago is temperature-sensitive, so as it warms up to room temperature (it’s served cold), it does lose a bit of its glory.

Thinly-sliced, but thick on flavour. Mentaiko is always a joy and goes well with the hotate’s (scallop) texture.

Another noteworthy starter is the Hotate Mentai Aburi. Thinly-sliced scallop carpaccio lightly blow-torched and then dressed with the spicy mentaiko sauce, this is one good mix of flavour and texture. I only intended to have one slice and leave the rest to my dining companions, but this dish is surprisingly more-ish and you’ll find yourself picking up slice after slice whilst engaged in conversation.

Century egg and tofu: a classic dish, but reinvented in a glorious way.

Rounding up our trio of starters, I thought the Pitan Tofu was quite something to try. Served chawanmushi-style in a small bowl, the distinctive century egg flavour was well-balanced by the tofu without being overpowering, make it a good start to the meal. Easy to finish by yourself too, remember to leave some for your friends!

On to the mains, then.


Sashimi: Decent, but at this price point, sashimi is sashimi is sashimi.

Since one major draw of Japanese food is sashimi, I’ll talk about the various dishes all at once. En Sushi serves reasonably decent sashimi platters, but I thought that would be something easily gotten elsewhere. If you are in the mood for it, get it, but I thought I’d save my stomach for other things that are even better here…

…what’s that you say? Bara chirashi dons?!


Oh, that colour. It makes my heart beat really fast. And my stomach growls.

In my undergraduate days in Japan, I loved bara chirashi dons. I mean, what’s not to like about them? Fish and rice, a simple dish but ah, such soul food. And I have many good memories of running to my neighbourhood 500 yen (525, then 540 yen to be precise, they always didn’t factor sales tax in their advertising copy) chirashi don place. Now, this isn’t quite 540 yen, but at $10.90++, it’s pretty damn close. This is where I put down all pretence of being a food snob (oh the fish must be divine and the colour must be just right) and begin calculating how many bowls of bara chirashi don I can afford to eat each week. I’ve found my new go-to for dreary days when I need a pick-me-up that doesn’t break the bank.


You want an upgrade? Here you go.

Some days you want more fish, and you want bigger slices of fish. Right then, En Sushi’s got a premium chirashi don too. That should satisfy you.

I have to squeeze in a mention here though, for a dish that also counts as soul food for me. Chicken katsu curry pasta. You’ve probably eaten each of the components separately, but trust me when I say that eating them all together is like having a warm snuggly blanket around you on a cold rainy day. This is going to be comfort food for me, and I totally didn’t see it coming.


Aburi salmon with either unagi, soft shell crab or fried ebi. Ooh.

Finally, we’ll talk about rolls. No, not your stop, drop and roll fire prevention ones. I meant the maki rolls. I enjoyed the aburi salmon maki rolls: they came in three varieties, with unagi, fried ebi, and soft shell crab in their interiors. If you can only order one, get the soft shell crab, or the fried ebi! I enjoyed the difference in textures: the soft shell crab provided a wonderful crunch while the aburi salmon provided a lovely dollop of flavour. Unagi was good too, but I thought the lack of contrast meant that the unagi didn’t get to shine as much as it could. If you’re an unagi fan though, go with your heart (and tastebuds).

With all that, I was rather satisfied. I will admit that nothing about En Sushi’s food, location, or ambience is spectacularly stand out: I’ve had better elsewhere. But what these guys manage to do, is to combine all of that into a great package, with an unbeatable price. That in itself is what determines whether I come back or not, since for the same amount of money, I get a huge assortment of dishes to choose from that are all guaranteed to keep me happy. I will give them the highest compliment that a reviewer can pay them: I will come back to dine on my own dime. And the best part? I know I can go anytime I feel like it, because it really is that wallet-friendly.

Thank you En Sushi for the invitation.
This post was written by Lan Yingjie

En Sushi
#01-02

Income@Prinsep
30 Prinsep Street
Singapore 188647

Reservations: 6253 1426

Experience Exquisite Cantonese Cuisine this Lunar New Year at Cassia, Capella Singapore!

When I first dined at Cassia over at Capella Singapore just slightly over a month ago, I was heartened by the depth of flavour and elegance found in each dish. Imagine my delight when I was back at Cassia to experience their Lunar New Year delicacies. Indeed, I’m most happy to say that they are well worth the visit if you are looking for a luxurious reunion dinner to celebrate the occasion!

Continue reading “Experience Exquisite Cantonese Cuisine this Lunar New Year at Cassia, Capella Singapore!”