very surprisingly good, even great, tapas at this restaurant hidden away in dempsey road. I’m really surprised by this place, and it might just be my new favorite spanish. rustic plates here differentiate it from the more refined dining at una (the other spanish restaurant high up on my list), and the ambiance is more friend-friendly than the latter’s date-friendly vibe.
my first visit here was on a tasting, and we returned two weeks later to verify if the food really was that good on a more regular basis – and it most definitely is.
we ordered almost literally the same thing at the second visit as the first – both for quality control (you can thank thehungrybunny for this scientific effort) and just because the dishes were so damn good.
like our first starter of these prawns (gambas al ajillo), heavy on the garlic, caramelised till sweet. the prawns were meaty, tender and fresh – a harbinger of good things to come.
but even those were absolutely nothing, NOTHING, compared to the utterly delicious, sweet, large, and meaty clams steamed in white wine and broth. so much unlike the withered, puny samples you often get in restaurants, these were plump and juicy, full of that mysterious clam sweetness.
these were unavailable on our second visit, and they don’t seem to be on the menu – I highly recommend asking for them (and showing a long face if you don’t get them).
they also have a wicked way with squid (chipirón), serving it to us in three delicious ways here: spicy garlic, battered, and cooked in its own ink. I absolutely LOVE squid – just be careful that the first style packs a decent (spicy) punch. I couldn’t pick a favorite here.
the only dishes I was less than enamoured with (but which I would eat again if someone else wanted it) were the so-called broken eggs (huevos estrellados), a wet scramble with potatoes and chorizo that was just a tad saltier than it ought to be (though very flavorful), and the roast suckling pig (asado de cochinillo espanol).
in general, I’m not a big fan of the spanish roast pig, which tends to be on the gamier (‘porky’, as my mother would put it) side. but this was much better than the version I ate at catalunya, positively tender and juicy, with a skin that was properly golden and crunchy (almost like as though they had cooked it separately). it’s still slightly porky here, but inoffensively so, and I do think that flavor a fundamental characteristic of the dish.
remember too, that the suckling pig needs to be preordered at least 2 days in advance.
I have also concluded, that while a noodle paella is more unique , I prefer the rice version by far. cooked here in squid ink and dotted with small shrimp and squid pieces, the fideuá negra has is al dente, with a crispy top and bottom.
it’s not a bad option, but the loaded paella especial Don Quijote™ is far better. essentially a kitchen sink of rice topped with almost every type of seafood you could want (we got an additional lobster on ours!), the rice is crispy at the bottom but tender and well-seasoned throughout, and the seafood all cooked to perfection.
I was bursting after both meals, but very happily so. fantastic cooking, and while it gets a little busy and difficult to get attention, the place is good for a long, full meal with friends.
Block 7 Dempsey Road, #01-02
tel +65 6476 2811
$$.5: 35ish onward
thanks to hungrygowhere and don quijote for the first meal here!