The Tapas Series: Esquina

  • Add: 16 Jiak Chuan Rd
  • Phone: 6222 1616 (they do not take reservations)
  • Opening Hours: Weekdays (12pm-3pm, 6pm-11pm), Saturdays (6pm-11pm), Sundays (Closed)
  • Website: http://esquina.com.sg/

Over the past 3 months, I have been finding myself at Spanish tapas eateries all around Singapore. I figured it might be interesting to have a mini series going on Valeebelly covering these places I have been.

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To be honest, tapas ain’t really my cup of tea. I am for hearty + wholesome meals while tapas (especially in Singapore) tends towards a haute cuisine (for Singaporeans: quality-but-“jiak buey ba”-unless-you-empty-out-your-bank-account kinda meal). That being said, I was excited about trying them all for the first time.

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My visit to Esquina was proudly sponsored by the Taipei Boot Camp Mates (a.k.a fish and nlq) as part 2 of a belated birthday treat ( I was fed to the brim by friends during my birthday month – thanks to all you sweets 🙂 The bill came up to a $150 ( I peeked) for the dishes that I would report on below. Note that Esquina doesn’t charge their diners any service fee.

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I did a little research on the history of Tapas. So, the rough story goes like this (of course, you should know by now that the setting of the story is Spain eh): The original tapas were actually slices of bread/meat used to cover the top of sherry glasses. This was to prevent fruit flies from being attracted to the sweet alcohol beneath. The meat was usually ham/chorizo and as you know, they can get quite salty. This made the customers well, thirstier and what do they do? They ordered more alcohol. Tadah! The smart tavern owners must have seen the correlation between alcohol sales and the pieces of bread/ham/chorizo and this led to a whole branch of Spanish culinary goodness to grow. (Disclaimer: my ‘little research’ just meant that i wiki-ed it 🙂

Esquina (spanish for “corner”) is housed in a , well no surprises there, corner colonial shop house at Jiak Chuan St (Duxton Hill Neighbourhood). The charming white-washed exterior gives way to a very industralized interior as we entered the doors. This had very much to do with the row of heavy metal bar stools lining the entire counter that fringes the open kitchen centrepiece. I was really happy to have those counter seats as that meant I could enjoy some food art going on right before my very eyes. I wasn’t too enthusiastic about the chairs though, they were really really uncomfortable. Its honestly a ploy to get people out of there as soon as they can so that they can improve on their turnover rate. Seats here are really limited, I cannot emphasize on that enough.

The restaurant was a joint project by Jason Atherton (London’s Pollen St Social) and Loh Lik Peng (Jing, Cocotte, New Majestic Hotel). The daily shows however, are run by Andrew Walsh (who has stints at Michelin starred restaurants around the world ). He runs a tight ship at Esquina from what I witness in the (un)comfort of my chair. The apprentices and sous chefs were all under his watchful eye and if there was something he didn’t quite like about the plating, he would send it back to be redone.

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Now, on to the food:

Barbeque Roasted Corn ($5): Great for nibbling. It kept our jaws occupied while waiting for NLQ to arrive. If you don’t need some munchies to stall time, i suggest you skip this.

Sangria ($13.50): A really unique sangria. Not the watery fluid ones we are used to. This reminded me of a milkshake, which is kinda cool and refreshing!

IMG_5411 Ham Croquetas ($10): A little pricey @ $10 for just 2 balls. Filled with creamy bechamel and bits of ham. I found it a little salty + creamy for my liking.  Better to place your money on another bet.

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Tomato Bread ($8): Easily one of my favourite dish here. I i know, its the simplest and one of the cheapest, but the tomato paste blend is so good. It wasn’t too watery either. The bread was nicely toasted too.

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Scallop Ceviche, Radish Salsa, Soya & Yuzu Ponzu ($23): This is one of those dishes where you don’t exactly know where to start from because it looks so painstakingly plated by the chefs that you don’t want to risk destroying it. It was too tempting (scallops is my weak point) and demolished it I did.

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Special dish of the day: My memory fails me but I believe it was called Curry Puff. I am not into/anti foie gras and I would pass this.

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Sauteed Gambas, Chilli Garlic, Potato Dumplings, Bisque Sauce ($23): MUST TRY. The flavours of the shrimp, pasta and the bisque sauce + speckles of Chilli Garlic went really really well together. To me, this was as ‘wholesome’ as tapas could get at Esquina.

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Spanish Breakfast ($19): Another enjoyable dish. Slow cooked egg was poached to perfection. Bravas sauce coated the Iberico ham + potato combi really well.

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Cookies & Cream, Condensed Milk Ice Cream, Air Chocolate, Choc Chip Cookie ($12): Skip this. Nothing to shout about and not worth the $12 at all. Everything was just too over-saccharined.

IMG_5440Sangria Ice Cream: Its complimentary with every dessert order. So take it of course 😉 Nice and creamy. If you like the Sangria drink, you would also want to end your dinner with this little cone of goodness.

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Here are some tips:

  • You can’t book. so your best shot at it is to be a kiasu Singaporean and appear at the front door by 630pm (latest – for dinner that is). I warned ya!
  • Ask for a seat at the counter if you love to witness the hive of activity in Esquina’s kitchen.
  • Ladies, no short skirts please. Those counter stools…they are pretty to look at but not comfy, at all.

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