After a blighted soft opening in October that was marred by the exit of fêted Manila-based Spanish chef Juan Carlos de Terry, the Les Amis Group reworked Terry’s Singapore into La Taperia in the same rustic Spanish vein.
The moodily lit space – with terracotta tones, vibrant posters, rattan lamps and camo-green banquettes – remains unchanged, as does the terrace that overlooks Claymore Hill. The menu has been condensed into a tighter selection of dishes by executive chefs Ng Han Wei and Dalton Fong, previously from Les Amis’ Au Jardin and Bistro Du Vin respectively. And they’ve certainly made limonada out of lemons.
More than 15 tapas dishes ($14- $28) in hearty appetiser portions dominate the menu, so order conservatively. The classic gambas di ajillo ($18), served sizzling, brings the pong of oil to the table, along with six pale but plump local tiger prawns and satisfyingly crisp garlic chunks. But the fingers of suckling pig croquettas ($14), with silky pork bechamel and small chunks of Jamón Ibérico, calls to mind Chinese fried turnip cake.
More successful is the plate of juicy Momotaro tomatoes with generous shavings of umami bottarga ($14) that brings a cascade of flavour to the table, and the night’s special of Peruvian white asparagus ($18), which comes with a truffle-enriched beef jus, scrambled eggs and slices of Jamón Ibérico. This was the ultimate comforting breakfast in a terracotta low bowl. The lamb rib confit ($24), with a honey mustard-glazed outer surpasses neither the special nor the herb- and spice-marinated, charcoal-grilled Iberian pork presa ($24). The paprika-speckled loin is what we’ll lovingly call a bacon steak – it’s ham finished with a gleaming garnet, juicy inside and crisp outside.
Mains are a smaller offering: meats, paellas – try the squid ink seafood pan ($30/regular, $52/ large) – and seafood, including a turmeric-yellow bouillabaisse-like potion ($32) teeming with shrimp, clam, squid, scallop and rockfish. To pair with your meal, Les Amis’ provides six Spanish housepour wines reasonably priced between $11 and $16.
With friendly and knowledgeable service, good food, decent value and great atmosphere, Les Amis has clearly won the break up. Juan Carlos de who?
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