Esquina in Singapore, even though its been open about a year now, is still one of the toughest seats in town to secure. With no reservations it is nearly impossible to get a seat in this small, narrow, galley-style tapas bar. So it was a good thing that I went with fellow Singapore foodie and friend, Aun Koh of Chubby Hubby. Having been on the Singapore food scene now for decades, he was able to possibly pre-arrange a seat….but only possibly and only if we arrived around 6pm.
So at 5:45pm, as I sat in Singapore rush hour traffic willing my taxi to get there, I was terrified I was going to be the reason we wouldn’t get a seat. Luckily I made it and within moments we were seated at the bar to experience Jason Atherton’s take on tapas in Singapore. In fact, Atherton is the culinary director whereas Andrew Walsh is the executive chef. For those of you who might wonder what the distinction is…this means Chef Atherton creates the menu concept and Chef Walsh has the daunting task of bringing this to life every single day in the kitchen. As is the trend now Esquina features an open kitchen, so we got to see Chef Walsh first hand. We watched as he examined every dish, added the occasional flourish and generally ran this busy little kitchen with calm efficiency.
We started with the Ham Croquetas…which to be fair, are not a technically difficult dish. Nonetheless it is one of my tapas “go to” dishes and this one did not disappoint with the requisite juxtaposition of a crunchy outer and a creamy inner core. And we knew we had to try the Iberico Pork and Foie Gras Burger. It was a messy experience with all the goodness oozing out the sides - pretty much the way a burger should be, only this one in a whole other category as instead of sauce and oil oozing, it was foie gras.
I couldn’t resist ordering the Fried Quail Egg, Asparagus & Iberico Salad with Truffle Mayonnaise. There are 2 items I am generally powerless to resist in a dish and that is a dish with an unexpected egg somehow involved and also a dish with truffles. This may have been my favourite menu item of the evening.
Next up were the Salt & Pepper Squid with Black Ink Aioli and Gambas with Chili Garlic and Orzo Pasta. Tapas is simply not complete without prawns and squid, so these were really a non-neogitable part of the meal
While the desserts sounded amazing, we simply couldn’t bring ourselves to have another bite. As we slid off our stools at the bar, I was suddenly very glad that we dined so early because I needed a very long walk to process all the goodness in my belly.