My Little Spanish Place, Singapore

don’t know what took us so long to check this charming place in our neighbourhood out, but last night (i liked it so much that i decided i had to write about it pronto!) the tan family finally did tapas! and boy were our tummies glad that we finally got round to giving this cosy spanish restaurant at the row of shops after coronation plaza a try.

when we called to make a reservation that morning, we were told that they were fully booked and they could only offer us a table outside. but we went ahead with the booking anyway, and went¬†prepared in our absolute sunday best (shorts) to keep cool in the heat. turns out we were given a table inside when we arrived instead, so that was already a great start to the night ūüôā and given that its a cosy family-friendly neighbourhood set-up, we didn’t feel particularly awkward or underdressed for the meal.
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this picture was taken at 630pm when we just arrived and the crowd had yet to come. by 7ish, the place was full and people without reservations were either turned away or given tables outside.

i¬†was pleasantly surprised by the restaurant’s interior. it is tastefully decorated and the warm yellow lighting and cushioned seats with large pillows that line the side of the wall give it a nice homely feel, like you’re dining in someone’s traditional spanish home. not sure how clearly you can see it in this picture, but they also have a range of hams on display which is quite a feast for the (greedy) eyes. the menu is simple, but with a good range of dishes to cater to a myriad of preferences:
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for our party of 5 (grandma tan was over for the weekend), we ordered a few tapas to start, followed by 2 small pans of paella. the first tapas that was served to the table was the tortilla:
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tortla de patata con alioli – traditional spanish egg omelette with potatoes and onions, served with homemade aioli (4 pieces for $8)

said to be the national dish of spain, this was a good rendition of the traditional spanish tortilla. the omelette was fluffy and tasty with a thin crusty layer, and the potatoes were added to the mix in just the right amount such that it wasn’t too heavy. the onions also added a nice lift to the omelette and the aioli complemented the simplicity of the egg very well. my only qualm was that it could have been served warm/hot; not sure if its meant to be served completely lukewarm (it was bordering on room temperature).

next, we were served 2 tapas on a board – the garlic prawns (left) and fried chorizo (right):
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chorizo frito – fried chorizo (spicy spanish sausage) $16

the chorizo frito is what you see to the right of the serving board. we actually didn’t order this but were given it on the house when we informed the manager that this was not what we had ordered (we had ordered the clams with chorizo – see below) – A+++ for service (although the waitress who took our orders seemed a little unsure and we had to repeat things many times to her – to not much avail, it seems, given the wrong order?) didn’t find anything exceptional about this dish; the chorizo was extremely salty but good when taken with the accompanying bread (which was very good – crusty on the outside but soft inside, and served warm). considering it was fried, it was not too oily! but i don’t think i’d order this when i return unless i am a huge chorizo fan…

the garlic prawns on the other hand, are certainly worth mentioning: 
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gambas al ajillo (garlic prawns) –¬†fresh shrimp cooked in boiling olive oil with garlic and chilli pepper $16

i wasn’t too impressed with this dish when i first tried it, but soon came to appreciate it much more when i dipped the bread into the delicious sauce, which to me was the highlight of this tapas. the prawns themselves were fresh and cooked to perfect crunchiness. they were naturally sweet, but i felt that the sauce could have been infused into the prawns more; i felt like i was eating plain prawns with just some sauce coating it, a real waste because the sauce was very yummy! it was super fragrant and had a strong taste of prawns; best savoured¬†when bread is dipped into and completely soaked in it. we ended up asking for more bread so that we could lap up every drop of this prawn-y sauce. it was a tad on the heavy/oily side, but that didn’t bother me much.

next, we had the croquettes:
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croquetas – lightly-fried jamon-stuffed creamy croquettes $10

these little croquettes were little nuggets of happiness. i was all excited when i saw their perfectly golden-brown exterior, and was not in the least bit disappointed upon biting into it. the croquette filling was smooth and creamy, and oozed out once you bit through the light and crispy ‘skin’.
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the generous chunks of juicy jamon added texture and depth to the croquette and despite the cream, it remained light and made for a satisfying treat.

finally, we had the clams with chorizo:
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almejas con chorizo – fresh clams cooked in a chorizo-based broth $15

we thoroughly enjoyed this dish! it was a generous serving of clams (more than enough to go around for 5), and the sauce was extremely tasty while remaining light. it was tomato-based with small bits of chorizo that added texture and bite, and went very nicely with the fresh, plump and sweet clams. this was another sauce that we happily soaked up with bread.
moving on from the tapas to even greater things, we also ordered a serving of grilled squid:
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calamares rellenos a la plancha con cebolla y pimientos – whole grilled squid stuffed with caramelised onions and red peppers, grilled and drizzled with a sherry wine reduction $21
close-up of the stuffing:
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i really enjoyed this dish. it was a generous serving that is great for sharing, and the squid was fresh and grilled wonderfully. it retained the right amount of crunchiness and had a perfect subtly charred taste that was balanced by the sweetness of the caramelised onions and red peppers. the sherry wine reduction was very tasty and squeezing some lemon juice to go along with it lifted its taste, and kept it light and refreshing.
finally we were on to the paellas, which take 40-45 minutes to cook because they are made to order. we were told that each small pan serves 2-3 people, but upon seeing the serving size, i think its pretty generous and can probably serve 3-4 people especially if you have other food. for the 5 of us, we decided to go with ordering 2 different small paellas rather than 1 medium-sized paella. the first paella that we ordered was the house paella:

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paella de la casa – house paella $49 (small)

this was one amazing paella, definitely one of the better (if not the best) ones that i’ve tried in singapore. it was so wonderfully robust and full in its flavour, and the range of ingredients including mussels, chorizo, prawns, squid and chicken were generously added. it was extremely fragrant and the rice was cooked perfectly – not too dry and certainly not too wet. a little steeply priced, but i thought it was worth every penny for the ingredients added and its great taste; every grain of rice was infused with the fragrance of saffron and seafood. i would definitely order this the next time i visit. paella perfection in a pan! i daresay this was my favourite dish of the night.
the 2nd small pan of paella that we ordered was the squid ink paella:
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arroz negara – blank ink paella $44 (small)
this paella was very different from the house paella. it was good as well, but the hot favourite at the table that night was definitely the house paella. flavoured with black squid ink broth, and served with prawns and squid and a side of aioli, this was an interesting change from the usual paella. as with the house paella, the rice was moist and every grain was flavourful. the prawns had a wonderfully lightly-charred taste and a squeeze of some lemon lifted the taste of the dish such that it was easy to polish off yum yum. the aioli was an interesting addition that was nice but not particularly necessary. if slathered on too generously, the paella was at risk of becoming too heavy.
the paellas were certainly worth the 40-45 minute wait, which didn’t feel that long anyway, because we were kept more than happy and satisfied with the steady stream of well-timed tapas. they have a small but adequate selection of yummy-sounding spanish desserts including a chocolate tart, custard cream-type thing and of course churros! we were too stuffed for dessert, but i will definitely try some on my next visit.
i’m so glad that we finally tried this place out and my only regret is that we did not do so earlier! its so difficult to find good spanish food in singapore (and it tends to be quite overpriced), but for now this seems like its going to be one of my go-to places for delicious¬†tapas and paella. they also do brunch on weekends and that is something that i really want to try too. churros for breakfast/lunch/brunch? mmmm definitely…
My Little Spanish Place
619 Bukit Timah Road

Singapore 269720
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GRUB, Singapore

this place has been on my list of to-try places for the longest time, and i finally got the chance to check it out two weekends ago, yay!!! located smack in the middle of bishan park, grub is a real crowd magnet for its family-friendly environment and fun food offerings; the long wait on weekends is testament to its ever-growing popularity.

visited on a saturday afternoon around 1pm, and the place was packed! do not be deceived by the lack of a line in front of its doors (i eagerly quickened my pace thinking we’d gotten lucky and somehow evaded the crowds, but quickly learnt that that was pure wishful thinking), they run a system where you leave your number and they send you a text message when your table is ready.20140705_140513

there were about 15 groups in line ahead of us and the estimated waiting time was about 45 minutes, but hey, they say good things come to those who wait right? we did consider giving up and heading off to somewhere else, but i’m glad we¬†ultimately chose to wait – it wasn’t so bad with good company in the air-conditioned comfort of the car, armed with many photo-taking devices ūüėČ
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approximately 45 minutes later, we were sent a text and very excitedly leapt out of the car; good food awaited! it was a hot day (what’s new) and thankfully we were lucky enough to snag a table indoors:
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clearly excited

grub is¬†surrounded by greenery and bathed in natural light coming through the huge glass panels that surround the building on 3 sides. the indoor area is pretty spacious, and i like how the tables aren’t cramped together such that you can hear entire conversations going on at the table next to yours without even trying.20140705_140957

as for the outdoor area¬†however, i imagine it getting really really hot especially if you’re sitting there for an extended period of time on a typically muggy afternoon in sunny singapore. didn’t seem to deter these folks though:20140705_150510

they have an extensive food and drink menu and as you’ll see proudly proclaimed on it, at grub, they believe in i quote them, “eating responsibly”. this means cooking with ingredients which are as natural as possible, without adding any msg or artificial preservatives and flavourings. the meats they use come from pigs, cows and chickens which have been naturally fed and responsibly farmed, while their fish are caught in waters free from contamination and water-borne diseases. given the quality of the ingredients going into their food, i would say the dishes are very reasonably priced!
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among the 4 of us, we ordered the mentaiko fries, truffled egg cocotte, GRUB double cheeseburger, crispy fish burger and churros to share. service was pretty brisk given the crowd that day, and soon we had this yummy array of food before us:
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the first appetiser we ordered was the mentaiko fries.    20140705_141923
mentaiko fries – $9
don’t let the simplicity of its look fool you, these were some wonderfully¬†cooked chips, and the mentaiko aioli and nori seaweed that topped them made them pretty perfect! this was a nice change from the usual truffle or cheese fries options you get at most cafes these days. the mentaiko aioli was very tasty but remained light, and the nori seaweed added another dimension of texture to the mix. everything came together very nicely and we had every last bit of the mentaiko dip, using the other plain fries that came with the burgers to wipe the saucer of additional dip clean. almost every table at grub had at least one plate of this on the table, and we could see why.

the second item we chose from the appetiser menu was the truffled egg cocotte:20140705_141947
truffled egg cocotte with crispy parma ham & toasted foccacia – $7
this was a decent dish, but i probably wouldn’t order it again when i return because it was not particularly outstanding. it actually reminded me of the half-boiled eggs you get with your kaya toast sets at ya kun, just with truffle added and topped with a few slivers of crispy parma ham. let me show you a picture of what it looked like after mixing and you’ll get what i mean:20140705_143320sorry for the rather unappetising picture, but see what i mean now? ya kun eggs!!! (which are delicious, don’t get me wrong.)¬†i liked how the truffle taste was prominent and the combination of egg, ham and truffle was really good stuff. our only qualm was that the toasted foccacia provided was far from enough to be eaten with all the egg. we had at least half the ramekin of egg left after finishing all the focaccia, and ended up having to dunk our plain fries in it again.

as for the mains, we opted for the extremely popular crispy fish burger:20140705_141835
crispy fish burger: crumbed fish fillet, remoulade – $14
this was definitely one of the better fish burgers i’ve had in singapore, and we could all see why it is so popular among grub’s patrons. firstly the fish fillet was a very generous portion and secondly, it was crumbed and fried to perfection! the tasty batter coated the fish in just the right amount (nobody likes overly thick batter), keeping it light and allowing us to appreciate the freshness of the fish within. i would probably order this again when i return; it reminded me of my younger days (i make myself sound so old) where i would get the filet-o-fish at mcdonalds though of course this tastes far, far, far better. i guess you can say grub’s crispy fish burger is like filet-o-fish on serious steroids hahaha ūüėČ

a picture of the yummy fish that the glorious golden batter encased:
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we also ordered the double cheeseburger:
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GRUB double cheeseburger – double patty, double cheese, bacon – $18
for just $5 more than the regular cheeseburger, you get an additional patty, more cheese (mmmm…), and some bacon – why not make the upgrade? check out the cross-section:20140705_142905
this is the perfect burger for those of you with voracious appetites to feed. the cheeseburger was pretty good, but we all preferred the crispy fish burger. the patty was moist and tasty, remaining pink in the middle which i really appreciated. topped with bacon and coated in cheese, everything went well with the burger bun. i felt that it was a tad dry though, not in terms of the meat, but in terms of some kind of sauce that would bring everything together. perhaps if the cheese was meltier and hadn’t hardened as such, it would have played that role of tying everything together perfectly. besides that however, it is a really generous portion for its price, and i am sure it is a hot favourite with hungry men (stereotypes, i know…). also loved the addition of a gherkin!

oh and as you can see in the pictures, fries are served as a side with the burgers. like the mentaiko fries, they are cooked to perfection Рcrisp on the outside while fluffy inside and not overly oily, best eaten when first served as they are all warm and toasty and delicious.

finally, we ordered churros from the dessert portion of the menu, but had them served with all the rest of the food because we simply couldn’t wait to sink our teeth into them.¬†20140705_142117
churros with dark chocolate and tangy creme anglaise- $9
its not often that you find churros in singapore, and even more rare to find decent, let alone good churros! these though, were definitely the best churros i’ve had in singapore. they were of a thickness that i love (i have never been a fan of skinny churros), coated in just the right amount of sugar, crisp on the outside but amazingly soft and fluffy inside. alternating between dipping them in the dark chocolate and cream, i was very very pleased. if you’ve never had churros, grub is definitely the¬†place to give them a shot ūüôā
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we left grub full on food and friendship, happy from the satisfying meal and a great catch-up with fab friends we’ve known for 14 years! i’d definitely return to grub if i’m looking for a place with a different environment from the usual cafe in the middle of the urban jungle that is singapore. the only thing that would make me think twice about returning is the fact that they don’t take reservations and the almost 100% certainty (especially on weekends, maybe weekdays are better?) of having to queue/hang around bishan park aimlessly is a turn-off. not sure how long i’ll be able to stay away from those churros though… ūüėõ

GRUB
510, Ang Mo Kio Ave 1 (Bishan Park 1)
Singapore 569983

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sisters tan x sisters yeong finally together again!

PS. if you’re wondering where to park, parking is available at 2 carparks right by bishan park – note that 1 which is slightly further from grub has free parking, while the other which is right where grub is operates on a coupon parking system.