Friday, 28 February 2014
Element at Amara Hotel in Singapore - Spanish Flare at The Basque Element.
I was invited by Bing to a tasting session at Element in Amara Hotel, Singapore.
Stepping into the Element from the hotel lobby, we were greeted by Element's international buffet. The long line of beautifully presented Japanese cuisine, Spanish dishes, fresh seafood, various local favourites, desserts and many more was hard to resist.
Heeding Bing's advice, I permitted myself only one piece each of the above. These ocean fresh seafood not just whetted my appetite for the evening - they made me think of going back to Element every day since. No kidding.
I had to pull myself away as our real business of the evening was to taste the Spanish component in the Element - The Basque Element which serves a selection of authentic Spanish ala carte dishes.
But wait, there was another distraction before we got down to business. I've to thank Nicole for this. As Nicole is well known for her trademark chicken wings obsession, we couldn't really start until her craving was satisfied.
Fortunately, Element has The Individualist Element which features flexible dining with something to satisfy almost any food cravings. From Thanying, Bing brought this Stuffed Chicken Wings (SGD18) for Nicole.
Needless to say, Nicole enjoyed this over-sized golden brown chicken wings stuffed with juicy pork mince. Nicole doesn't like skinny chicken wings, she said a few times :D
I liked these plump wings very much too.
Seafood and chicken wings out of the way, finally it's time for real business.
Chef de Cuisine Mikel is the man in charge at The Basque Element. Mikel arrived from Spain just a couple of months ago. At age 22, the biggest influence on Mikel's cooking is.... not surprisingly, his mum! So, if you like to sample authentic Spanish cuisine unadulterated and not tuned to local palates, try it now at The Basque Element, before Mikel succumbs to local preferences :D
Bing started us off with Pantumaca (SGD15 two pieces).
It was a very good start! I love that thin savoury Iberico ham slice on top of a crusty toast, balanced with fresh juicy and sweet pulpy grated tomato. For this Pantumaca, Mikel used premium 27 months aged Iberico ham.
Next was the Brocheta de Champinon con Salsa Oporto (SGD15 2 pieces). The mushroom brochette in Oporto sauce consists of spongy mushrooms drenched with a savoury sweet syrupy sauce.
The look of this dish reminded me of this cheeky iconic image (and thus, betrayed my vintage).
The famous Rolling Stones logo.
It's actually a Basque classic named Pimientos del Piquillo Rellenos de Bacalao (SGD12). I can imagine the meticulous work put into making this dish. Cod fish meat is grounded into a fine paste mixed with creamy bechamel sauce and carefully stuffed into a sheath of thin soft Piquillo pepper (capsicum).
The soft cod fish stuffed pepper was savoury and sweet. This was one of my favourites of the evening.
Tortilla de patata SGD10
This tortilla de patata (SGD10) is a thick omelette with slightly charred egg wrapping chopped potatoes and onions. The omelette had that distinctive homely flavour and aroma of "melted" potatoes and onions. It has limited snob appeal but just sweet and savoury wholesome goodness - I like, very much.
Sopa de pescado SGD16
This dish of Basque fish soup cooked with oven roasted bread has an interesting story. Back when the Iberian countries (Spain and Portugal) ruled the seas, their sailing ships went on long voyages. As expected, some of the bread on the ships turned bad during the long voyages.
As supplies were precious, food was never thrown away. The bad bread were broken, mixed with fish and made into a savoury stew which turned out to be uber delicious and became a comfort staple. Of course, the modern day version uses baked bread instead of mouldy bread.
The thick full bodied fish and bread stew is a Must Try for soup lovers.
Marmitako de Atun or Basque tuna stew with potato and pepper (SGD28). This is such a homely dish, I imagine it will connect especially well with Spanish/ Portuguese expatriates and tourists. The tuna is pinkish as Mikel took care to make sure that the cubes of tuna were just nearly done, thus retaining most of the fish's natural flavours for our enjoyment.
Calamares con Salsa Tartara SGD18
The fried squid rings were soft and bouncy like savoury marshmallows. The batter was soft, according to Spanish preference, unlike the crispy version commonly found here in Singapore. I didn't use the tartar sauce much as I like to enjoy the natural flavours of the fresh squid.
And, finally the Main Course.
Cochinillo Asado or traditional roast suckling pig (SGD88 serves 3 persons).
The skin was thin and crackly. There was little, if any fat.
The meat was tender and felt creamy with smokey flavour.
The roasted suckling pig paired with the savoury brown sauce and the house blended Amara sauce. The Thai inspired Amara sauce was surprisingly versatile. It's savoury spiciness perks up anything that it is paired with - I liked it a lot.
Gazpacho de fresas con brocheta de frutas
Cold Strawberry Soup with Fruit Brochette (SGD9) which is a puree of blended strawberries, tomatoes and garlic served cold. The ladies in our group liked the tangy, sweet and garlicky notes a lot.
Copa de gelatina de miel, yogur y intxaursalsa SGD9
Not very photogenic but this honey jelly yogurt with walnut cream (SGD9) was my favourite dessert of the evening. In the nutty creamy yogurt there were blobs of sweet honey jellies that felt like a very soft kind of those balls in Taiwanese bubble tea - nice!
The Basque Element at the Element at Amara Hotel - I like to visit again.
Restaurant name: Element at Amara Hotel
Address: 165, Tanjong Pagar Road / 100 Tras Street, Singapore
Hours: Sun - Thurs/ Public Holiday: 11:00am to 1:00am | Fri, Sat, Eve of Public Holiday: 11:00am to 2:00am
Date visited: 19 Feb 2014
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