I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: tapas may have lost its charm in Singapore but great food, no matter the cuisine type or its mode of delivery, will never go out of fashion. The proof exists in Jiak Chuan Road at the still-bustling Esquina, now six years old, helmed by executive chef, Carlos Montobbio.
A Barcelona native who paid his dues at rated Spanish restaurants including El Celler de Can Roca (3 stars), Zuberoa (2 stars) and Cinc Sentits (1 star) before he left for Antidote, Singapore, where he drew attention for his then avant garde cuisine, Montobbio has been packing them in with his deft delivery of Spanish and Catalan flavours with a contemporary flair since 2015.
For OCBC Gastronomic Adventures, Montobbio has curated a special nine-course menu for lunch and dinner showcasing the special OCBC-only dish of Fricando. Up until now unavailable in Singapore, it’s essentially a traditional Catalan dish of oyster blade beef stewed for long hours with onions in a sherry wine broth infused with moixernons, a Catalan mushroom that grows in the wild, so that the stew develops a bold and sweet flavour with a distinctive umami. Luckily for OCBC Cardmembers, Montobbio recently arranged for a special delivery of this highly elusive dried Catalan mushrooms for this limited-time-only menu, without which the stew would be missing its characteristic savoury flavour. Instead of oyster blade, Montobbio uses wagyu cheek that he sears first then slow-cooks for 48 hours with the same ingredients in the recipe. The resulting meat, which cuts like butter, arrives in a thick, mellow and rich sauce, alongside chives-flecked steamed bomba rice. Yes, it’s unusual to have plain bomba rice in Spain but that’s exactly how the chef’s mother serves it at home. If you want a taste of Montobbio’s favourite beef stew dish, you’d want to put Fricando on your to-eat list.
Also on the OCBC menu is Pork Jowl, a standout dish of melt-in-the-mouth fatty Dingley Dell pork jowl with a layer of crisp skin flecked with togarashi spice flakes. While it tastes perfectly well on its own, Montobbio offers an alternative spicy and smoky dimension by way of an accompanying chipotle mayo dip so that you have the option of tasting more than mere transcendental fats. The accompanying sliced pickled pear and cider vinegar help to cut any hint of cloy, not that you’ll sense it. Mostly, pork lovers deem such fatty pork God-sent.
Vegetables, like the Grilled Sucrine Lettuce, also get the kiss of life in the hands of Montobbio. The bijou Romaine lettuce from Spain boasts thick and fleshy leaves with splotches of char from time spent in the Josper grill. It arrives on a puddle of herbed yoghurt with crunchy macadamia nuts, yielding a melding of flavours that are sweet, refreshing, smoky and buttery all at once.
But your first bite of greatness should arrive during the first course, a trio of snacks headlined by a an open-faced sandwich of toasted pan de cristal, a crisp and airy bread imported from Spain, rubbed with Crimean Black tomatoes from Spain and topped with marbled folds of 5J Iberico ham. If you’ve never tried Iberico ham by 5J, a Spanish ham artisan that dates back to 1879 and which is widely considered to be Spain’s “national treasure”, this encounter promises to be love at first bite.
Esquina offers a special OCBC Gastronomic Adventures menu at both lunch and dinner (S$108++ for nine courses) from 21st March 2018 to 20th June 2018 for OCBC Cardmembers. VOYAGE Cardmembers are entitled to purchase a bottle of Gramona Argent Blanc de Blancs Gran Reserva 2011, Montobbio’s favourite cava, at S$158 instead of the usual price S$198. Find out more about OCBC’s exclusively curated menus at ocbc.com/gastronomy.
16 Jiak Chuan Road, Singapore 089 267; +65-6222 1616; esquina.com.sg
This post is presented to you in partnership with OCBC.