Years after being left in a derelict state, Alkaff Mansion (circa 1918) has been spruced up by the 1-Group with the upper deck now housing the reincarnated Spanish restaurant Una and its ground floor space converted into a pintxo bar named TXA. A tiny Wildseed kitchen also caters to an alfresco dining area with pint-sized tables and chairs for kids.
Designed much like a Basque Country pintxo bar that inspires it, TXA’s dining room has a stately presence with a semi-circular bar taking centrestage at its heart and original Alkaff Mansion floral floor tiles that hark back to its bygone days. Dispensing cocktails and, off course, ciders and txakoli that the Basque country is known for, the bar also offers limited counter seats for diners willing to catch a slice of the counter-side cooking action by young female chefs Marta Elvira Segalés and Silvana Pascual Romero, both graduates of the Basque Culinary Centre.
Just like in the Basque Country, the bar proffers a buffet of ready-made pintxos (Basque word for skewered snacks) displayed at the counter for diners to help themselves to. To start, an emptied olive stuffed with orange zest-flecked vermouth jelly ($2.90) readies your palate for the positive assault of flavours. Sweetness is to be found in abundance in the boquerones (fresh anchovies marinated in vinegar and olive oil) served in a stack with piquillo cream, sauteed onions, green and red bell pepper and sundried black olive. For creaminess, you can’t do better than the open toast with a generous ooze of blitzed Roquefort cream nuanced with a dose of acidity from the apple jam and walnuts ($4.90). But perhaps most representative of the pintxos experience is the pintxo igeldo ($6.90), which offers a briny whiff of the sea thanks to the canned tuna and anchovies held in place by a toothpick together with a chunk of tomato confit and piparra (a semi-sweet long green pepper from the Basque Country).
But the experience at TXA is by no means limited to picking and choosing tapas from a buffet, many items – some excellent – are available exclusively from the a la carte menu. From the Al Momento (pintxos prepared on the spot) menu, you could have all eight cooked-to-order items as The Pintxos Experience ($55) or, as we prefer, order select items a la carte. If you have space for just one indulgence, get the Txangurro a la Donostiarra ($14 for 2 pax to share), flower crab shell stuffed with shredded meat from the same crab that’s been sauteed with caramelised sofrito, then grilled in the salamander with flour and seafood stock. It’s much like eating a crab bisque, only a few notches better. The iberico cracker ($5) is also a snack of beauty – paper-thin sheets of iberico cracker sandwiched with smoked cod roe – probably the crispiest and most intense-tasting sandwich money can buy. Or should you crave a shot of protein, red wine-stewed beef cheek on an airy blanket of potato foam topped with caramelized apple cubes is our meat of choice, not that there are many meat options.
Still hungry? From the Racciones menu, one of our favourites is the fried padron peppers with sea salt ($12, +$3 to add Jamon iberico de belotta 5J) – smoky, earthy and somewhat nutty, the 5G is not necessary but who ever says no to Iberico jamon? And would you decline savoury black squid ink doughnuts ($22 for 5 pieces)? A unique offering, in Singapore at least, the squid and squid ink mixture is blitzed with onions and bell pepper, moulded, battered and deep fried so that each bite yields a mildly sweet, light and doughy crunch. A must-try, we reckon.
There is only one way to end your meal here and that’s the La Vina-style cheesecake ($4.90). If you’re wondering if this has a molten centre, it does not. But this also means that it is much closer in terms of flavour and texture to the San Sebastian cheesecake that is taking the city by storm.