Our team goes undercover to suss out the latest and most talked about restaurants in town
The cuisine is firmly and traditionally Spanish, while the location is rooted beautifully in a handsomely refurbished colonial bungalow in Singapore. The service however, could have been lost in translation.
Four-month-old La Ventana, boasting a full house when we dropped by on a Tuesday night, comes across as strangely incomplete. The a la carte menu and wine list, same for both lunch and dinner, were presented on a few grubby pieces of stapled A4 paper. The table setting felt plain, with paper-thin, tiny napkins barely serving as a placemat. A fair number of waitstaff, along with kitchen hands, are from Spain, but they don’t exude the sunny warmth that you might wish for a restaurant with such welcoming, robust flavours – or high-end prices.
One item caught our eye immediately: a traditional cannelloni ($12 per piece) stuffed with foie gras, beef and pork with truffle cream – a recipe since 1869. That’s the year Carles Gaig’s family opened their restaurant Taberna de’n Gaig in Barcelona. Carles took over the reins of the Taberna in the 1970s and led it to garner its Michelin star in 1993.
While Carles continues to run his original restaurant, now known as Restaurant Gaig, Ventana is run by his daughter Nuria Gibert and son-in-law chef Eduard Casterllarnau. The outpost in Singapore, the first venture in Asia, describes itself as a “tapas-centric restaurant featuring [the chef’s] famous take on classic Catalan market fare”.
To share, we had Jamon Iberico on Catalan crystal bread ($26) – a simple Catalan dish and staple of tapas bars across the country. The savory ham was pleasantly unctuous as it should be; the bread was crusty and light with crushed tomatoes providing sweetness, tanginess and moisture.
Classic tapas fare of patatas bravas ($12, fried potato cubes) and Spanish-style omelette with potatoes and onion ($14) were pleasant but the latter under-salted. A glass of red wine sangria ($19) packed a bigger alcohol boost than most watered down versions in town, and its boldness suited the cuisine well.
The paella and fideua (noodle) dishes we sampled on two visits were delicious flavour wise but none delivered socarrat, the crispy caramelised crust. If you can live without it, the pigeon paella ($38) and fideua ($38) were respectively woodsy and richly seafood-flavoured although the latter does not contain very much seafood per se. Keep a lookout on specials as we were impressed by the head-turning lobster caldereta ($98), two lobster halves on a bed of carnaroli rice stewed in a rich broth and served in a huge casserole (feeds 2-3). Any questions you might have about the food, for instance the difference between paella and caldereta, is best saved for Google as the staff don’t care much for explanations.
The meats fared well: crispy suckling pig ($38) had a thin crackling, served with strawberries in balsamic vinegar for a tangy counterpoint. The medium-rare Josper roasted 200-day grain fed Angus beef chateaubriand ($58, 220g) was unusually well marbled (and flavourful) for the cut. If deciding between Catalan Crème Brûlée ($15) and Deconstructed Mojito Cocktail ($18), we say opt for the former – it comes in a martini glass layered with caramel on the bottom, creamy espuma and toffee ice cream in the middle, and a burnish of burnt sugar on top. Like La Ventana itself, the experience is layered – you have to dig deeper for the sweetness. #01-01, 16A Dempsey Road. Tel: 6479 0100
Average dinner bill for two, with drinks: $250
Must-tries: Canelón since 1869, with a subtle but enjoyable foie gras flavour; pigeon paella, woodsy and aromatic with garlic
Book a table at La Ventana with Chope.