A little late to arrive on the small plates scene but for the stellar cast, a noteworthy addition nonetheless, FOC (which means fire in Catalan) is the latest incarnation of former Foodbar Dada chef, Jordi Noguera, with one Michelin-starred Barcelona consulting chef, Nandu Jubany, and former Catalunya mixologist, Dario Knox.
|The inner mirrored dining room overhung with “giant head” lamps|
You can’t miss its glistening plate glass door at Hongkong Street, which leads into dim lit digs illuminated by a mélange of quirky lamps crafted from wine decanters and pepper grinders. Pick from a choice of counter seats, banquettes or, further indoors, high stools set in a mirrored inner dining room overhung with “giant head” lamps (similar “giant head” installations are also found in the main dining area tucked high above the counter).
Befitting its Spanish lineage, the menu by Noguera is small plates, headlined by Josper oven-grilled fare (hence the moniker FOC, or fire) prepared with both classical and modern approaches.
|The dizzyingly aromatic smoked olive oil ice cream with “gazpacho” of watermelon and peppers|
|These mushroom croquettes are set apart from the lot with intensely savoury button mushrooms within|
|Black Mediterranean “paella” enriched with garlic mayonnaise|
Standouts from the menu include the dizzyingly aromatic smoked olive oil ice cream served with a “gazpacho” (S$12) of watermelon and red capsicum as well as rarely seen mushroom croquettes (S$8 for 4 pieces) set apart from the formulaic lot with intensely savoury button mushrooms within. Whilst we are not fans of wet paella, Noguera’s shallow pan of seafood-crowned black Mediterranean risotto-like “paella” enriched with garlic mayonnaise (S$22) is second only to Binomio’s solid rendition, notwithstanding the absence of socarrat.
Need more recommendations? Try the Hokkaido grilled scallops (S$16 for 2 pieces) crowned with homemade soy “caviar” (actually sago marinated briefly in soy) served in a pool of lip-smacking bonito stock.
The pork dishes range from decent to good.
|Cauliflower puree sandwiched between pork skin/belly and pork meat|
|Crispy pork taco|
Cauliflower puree sandwiched between a tile of luscious skin-on belly fat and its pork meat (S$14 for 4 pieces) passes muster until you try to tackle the tough suckling pig-like skin that fails to cut. The crispy pork taco (S$14 for 2 pieces), on the other hand, scores for its delicately pulled pork meat encased in deep-fried taco stuffed with a riot of pea shoots.
|“Coca” with anchovies, peppers and eggplant|
On paper, “coca” topped with anchovies, charcoal grilled peppers and eggplant (S$16) with a spherical Idiazabal cheese sounds absolutely mouthwatering but the stack fails to live up to its umami bomb hype (perhaps due to seasoning mishaps).
|Grilled “chuleton” ribeye steak|
Our biggest beef is ironically with the grilled “chuleton” ribeye steak (S$35++, 150g) that arrives sans a layer of smoky char that one would expect from the meat’s encounter with the fiery Josper oven.
Hopefully, when some of these teething kinks are ironed out, the fire will be set ablaze and FOC will be the bright spark that it set out to be.
Till then, Knox’s lengthy list of pocket-friendly cocktails (mostly priced under S$20++) may prove to give 28 Hong Kong Street a run for its money.
40 Hongkong Street Singapore 059 579 | + 65 6100 4040 | focrestaurant.com
© Evelyn Chen 2013
Please note that the reviews published on this blog are sometimes hosted. I am under no obligation to review every restaurant I’ve visited. If I do, the reviews are 100% my own.