A collaborative effort between Loh Lik Peng’s Unlisted Collection and restaurateur Jason Atherton, Esquina was one of the pioneers of the small plates revolution back in 2011. When we heard of Chef Andrew Walsh’s departure (he left to open his very own restaurant, Cure, around the corner at Keong Saik), we waited in anticipation for his replacement.
Well, say hello to Esquina’s new Head Chef, Carlos Montobbio.
Chef Carlos Montobbio
This young chef – only 28! – was born in Barcelona and came to Singapore a few years ago to Fairmont Singapore’s Anti:dote bar with a resume of stints in Michelin-starred kitchens like El Celler de Can Roca and Zuberoa in Spain. And if you love his inventive bar snacks at Anti:dote, you’ll definitely love the new dishes he’s come up with for Esquina.
Starting with the Snacks section of the menu, seafood dominates and seems to be Montobbio’s strong suit; the Spanish Nigiri ($6) sees a tuna-like strip of roasted bell pepper atop bacalao brandade (a rich, creamy emulsion of salted cod, potatoes, and olive oil), roasted bell pepper and the Oyster ($7) with salmon roe gets an Asian lift from the jalapeno ponzu and pickled ginger flower.
Grilled Spanish Octopus
In between bites of the firm, slender Sardines ($18) and savoury grilled zucchini from the sea category, the accompanying roasted bell pepper sorbet is a welcome breath of cold, fresh air that enlivens the palate throughout the dish. Deliciously charred and chewy, we highly recommend the Grilled Spanish octopus ($28), complemented by burnt onions and Jerusalem artichokes.
Our Land dish of US Family Reserve Beef Ribeye ($38) with charred leeks and romesco (a Spanish nut and pepper sauce) was probably the only dish that lacked imagination. What you see, is simply what you’ll get.
Only have space for one from the Soil section? Go for the pickled Beetroot ($12). Plated with truffle-kissed burrata, raspberries, and smoked walnuts, it’s zingy, earthy, and truffle-y – all the flavours we love!
If you’re wondering what was retained from the old menu, look to the saffron Paella ($24) with pan-fried red snapper, chorizo, and snow peas, as well as the Spanish Omelette ($6), a fluffy egg-and-potato pancake sandwiched between crispy bread and olive oil caviar.
Four years on, the portions at Esquina have not increased in size and neither have they swopped their iron cradle of seats out for something more comfortable. Yet, we would come back for more of Montobbio’s magic in Esquina’s tiny kitchen and so should you.
Top Image: Oyster