We need to admit we\’ve been pretty particular if we dine out.
We raise a disdainful eyebrow should a non-Japanese makes our sushi, and we get excited when a Thai chef is making our beef noodles or tom yam. We will not kick up a fuss if the non-Italian makes our pasta or pizza, but once it comes to Spanish food, we desire it manufactured by someone that can pronounce mar i muntanya (sea and mountain) which has a perfect Catalan twang.
Which is the reason La Pepa couldn\’t quite imbue confidence in us when we first entered into this low-key caf with Spanish tapas aspirations. Although it’s in hipster territory, the stripped-down look of an budget operation, as a result of the ill-made curtains leading to the restroom. The key kitchen is functional instead of edgy or design-forward, with plain wooden chairs and bar stools.
Yet, we can easily not feel more from home at La Pepa, which appears like a family-run entry although it’s not. That is because of the easy-going, not-at-all Spanish employees who have been unpolished but genuinely nice, and pleased to provide you with alone for as long as you wish to linger even if you include the only table at lunchtime.
Although we have been told there is certainly one local and a second Spanish chef with the food prep, we are almost certain these are lying because constant peeking in the kitchen did not give any hint of anybody with another passport.
(Also read: 7 Restaurants in Singapore That Will Suit your Mexican Craving for food)
We predict a roll call of pseudo-tapas in the event the Mushroom Croquetas (S$8) arrived – three panko-crusted croquettes stuffed with a mushroom-and-bechamel mixture that is firm, creamy and studded with minced mushroom to ensure that you have more flavour from your mushrooms than the cream. It\’s like eating undiluted cream of mushroom soup fried from a crust made crunchier with panko. It truly is Spanish tapas of a chef well-informed from the Singaporean taste profile – knowing full well we like crunch over soft crumb.
We learned later that this chef is local but helpful to act on FOC. What they have done is push out a recogniseable menu straight from Tapas 101, but it\’s stuff bigger obviously mastered.
So we got totally credible Pan con Tomate (S$10) – light-as-air baguette slices toasted till light and crisp all through. You obtain this satisfying shattering of crumbs infused with this kind of oil and crushed tomatoes. For an additional S$10, you are able to decide on a topping of Iberico bellota or smoked sardines. It is not competitive with Gaig’s version, but it is not bad.
The Spanish Tortilla (S$8) is a great disc of golden yellow that seems similar to a pancake waylaid by using a bicycle pump. It becomes an omelette by other nationality, pretty and puffy, intended to be slashed to show its creamy filling of barely-cooked egg, onions and potatoes. It truly is well-executed, although we certainly have never really been fans of onions in eggs.
We hope it is not a fluke, but La Pepa does that Spanish basic of grilled octopus (Pulpo a la Gallega, S$20) by using a simple flair that may put complacent Spanish-born chefs to shame. Texture-wise, it’s because happy space between rubbery and mushy – pliable and tender with just enough resilience, generously dusted with paprika, for a bed of chunky potato. It appears as if such a no-brainer, yet very few chefs here might get it right.
We are not swooning over its paella (S$26 to S$36), which often we picked the meat version above the seafood one. It may are actually an error. Ours was served inside of a little black paella pan that’s badly burned throughout the edges. There’s charred and there’s burnt – the next step to do this would have been a fire alarm.
It did not really impact the rice itself, that\’s infused in broth and studded with waste meat and bone, but it surely just lacked kick.
We also found later which the dessert chef comes from Argentina. Just about Spain but don\’t worry. She makes this dreamy, must-have dessert of homemade fresh milk curd served with honey and berries (Cuajada con Miel y Fruitas, S$12). It will be the only dessert worth having, for the reason that churros (S$10) were a pale type of anything they must be – blonde and crisp on the exterior, pale and pasty inside.
While you should n\’t have too high expectations of La Pepa – its repertoire is too limited and not exactly challenging – cheers for the little place that sticks as it will do well as well as being totally free of pretence. We\’re able to use really them.
This article first appeared on www.businesstimes.com.sg on November 17, 2017, with the headline “Honest Spanish tapas in homey cafe”.
(Also read: 8 Best Restaurants For Steak in Singapore)