Esquina (Singapore) by Jason Atherto

Setting 

The open-concept kitchen @ Esquina

Chinatown appears to be undergoing a European cuisine renaissance of sorts, with a bumper crop of brasseries and bistros rooting in charming conserved shop houses dotted throughout the precinct.

The latest to debut is a tapas bar aptly named Esquina (meaning corner in Spanish), for the narrow strip of corner space it occupies at the intersection of Jiak Chuan Road and Teck Lim Road. A joint effort between boutique hotel guru, Loh Lik Peng, and Gordon Ramsay’s former protégé at Maze Restaurant, Jason Atherton, Esquina is certainly a welcomed addition to the rapidly-expanding crop of celebrity chef restaurants in our city state. 
  

But with merely 15 seats – or stools, to be precise – cramped-up against an L-shaped metallic counter top that frames an open kitchen, Esquina defies all preconceptions of what you might expect of a celebrity chef restaurant. To wit, reservations are not allowed here; guests queue as early as 5.30pm to secure a bum space by the counter, yet others resign themselves to fate and join the throngs of stand-and-eat crowd. Perhaps not the most comfortable dining room in town but it’s precisely this cool and casual vibe about Esquina that’s propelled it to the ranks of the hottest tapas bar in town.

What to expect

And it doesn’t hurt that the seafood-heavy tapas menu – crafted by Atherton and executed by his protégé, Andrew Walsh – is not authentically Spanish. Don’t get us wrong; you can still have your plate of Spanish omelette or slivers of iberico Belotta with a glass of Sangria, but with Atherton’s London lineage, the menu has been spiked with proliferations of cosmopolitan poises that are, quite frankly, a welcome deviation from the norm.

Scallop ceviche

Aged rib eye @ Esquina

 At Esquina, luscious hunks of halved scallops ($25) are served as ceviche with minced radish in a chives-flecked, yuzu-scented olive oil dressing and even the fork-tender Cape Grim rib eye ($42 for 180g) is not spared Atherton’s anointed pairing, this time with a generous drizzle of an intense garlic and parsley-accented chimichurri sauce. 

Still hungry? We suggest twin servings of mini foie gras burger ($28) stacked with savoury iberico ham slices and smoked pulled pork shoulder.

Not that you need to be told, but like all celebrity chef restaurants, we should not expect to see Atherton doing his culinary swagger behind the counter top. But for the wallet-friendly tapas fare so deftly executed by Walsh, there is reason enough to make a beeline for Esquina.

Esquina | 16 Jiak Chuan Lane | 65-6222 1616 | http://www.esquina.com.sg

Rating: 23.5/30


This article first published in inSing.com

You may also like Singapore’s best tapas bars / small plates restaurants.


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