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Sunday, 26 July 2015

[Invited Tasting] Dinner at La Ventana @ Dempsey

16A Dempsey Road, Singapore 247695
Tel: 6479 0100

La Ventana finally comes to Asia, well, Singapore, specifically. This esteemed Spanish restaurant by Michelin-starred Chef Carles Gaig, who came from a family of generations of cooks since 1869.  Because of Carles' desire to preserve the family tradition of good Catalonian cooking, we now have the (immense) pleasure of indulging in authentic Catalonian dishes here at La Ventana Singapore.

Situated at trendy Dempsey Hill and surrounded by lush greenery, La Ventana Restaurant exudes Catalonion charms inside out - from the Spanish handcrafted ornaments inside, to the romantic great outdoors.

By the way, do you know that Carles developed his own sense of cooking, engages all five senses when preparing his dishes, and listens to classical music for inspiration? It makes me want to engage all five senses when I get to taste the dishes later, too...

Anyway, this was an invited tasting session hosted by the lovely Joanna, who gave us a brief tour around the picturesque surroundings of La Ventana to kickstart the tasting session.  We passed by the almost-enchanting alfresco dining areas, said hi to the friendly chefs in their glass-panelled kitchen, and glimpsed the beauty of the wine cellar (house!)

Well, the eyes have feasted, and the ears have heard the amazing story of Carles and La Ventana, so now the nose, tongue and fingers ought to get busy too. This crispy Country bread with fluffy interior, served with olive dip, was the perfect beginning of a tasteful night ahead.

When one thinks of Spanish cuisine, the Tapas are inevitable delicacies to be had. We started with a very lovely Oyster "Escabeche" (SGD$18.00), translated into 'fresh oysters'. This darling was a tease in the mouth - superbly buoyant, with a slight crunch to the juicy flesh, and tasty. It goes down so smoothly, one could easily imagine having a dozen of these oysters.

Next, Jamón Ibérico "de Bellota" (SGD$26.00) - 100% acorn-fed Iberico ham on Catalan bread with tomato. The wafer-thin slice of iberico ham was well-flavoured but not overly-salty; paired beautifully with the crackling slice of crystal bread, making this tapas appetite-whetting.

The Lobster "Coca" (SGD$19.80) stole its way into my heart with 3 generous pieces of springy, sweet-fleshed lobster placed delicately on puff pastry, lined with stripes of eggplant purée and roasted capsicums. It looked like a piece of art; and the contrasting flavours complemented each other well.

Following that, the Roasted Octopus (SGD$38.00 usually, as a main course, served with infused potatoes and Spanish smoked Paprika).  In all my years of eating octopus and loving its chewy flesh, never have I imagined that octopus could be this tender and soft in texture before!  The flesh here is akin to suede - smooth, but not utterly, and had the bounciness of huge Hokkaido scallops; amongst the tangy flavours, the spiciness of Paprikas stood out marvelously. I would definitely order this again when I return.

Next, the signature “Canelón” since 1869  (SGD$12.00) - traditional cannelloni (pasta) stuffed with foie gras, beef, pork and truffle cream. If the ingredients sound overwhelming, consisting of so many different types of meat into one - fret not. The meat filling is utterly palatable and succulent, disintegrating beautifully in the mouth easily, filling the palate with a delicious pulp of meat and sapid truffle aroma.  It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out why this is the star of the menu for years.

The Crispy Suckling Pig (SGD$38.00) with strawberry salad lives up to its name clearly. Upon contact with the teeth, the crackling skin crumbles to tender boneless pork; surprisingly delicate and well-moistened in texture. The savoury flavour was countered playfully by the slightly-tarty strawberry salad, adding a refreshing touch. The five senses screamed for more, so I know this would be something I'd return for as well.

Black Cod and "Samfaina" (SGD$38.00) - slow-cooked black cod with Catalan-style vegetable ragout was comprised of butter-smooth fish made flavourful by the vegetable ragout sitting as the base. Usually my favorite dish in most European restaurants, I regret to say that this dish failed to make a positive impression on me; the flesh was not flakey enough and flavour was weak.

Another palate pleaser was served next - Pigeon Paella (SGD$38.00) - carnaroli rice with Porcini mushrooms and pigeon.  As paella goes, this dish had a heavier flavour (mushrooms, in this case); yet unlike the usual paella I've tasted, this rice pasta dish was well-moistened; the rice not as distinctively grainy, creating a smooth texture. The French pigeon comprised both the "drumstick" portion - grilled to a smokey deliciousness; while the "breast" portions were almost half-cooked, being reddish in hue, and incredibly tender, bouncy in texture. This is a must-have, because of its scrumptiousness, and because it is a unique dish probably not found elsewhere.

The Catalan "Crème Brûlée"  (SGD$18.00) held its own very well, nothing like the conventional creme brulee with its break-through caramel layer. This beautiful dessert is made from scratch, from the melty espuma to the toffee ice-cream to the lemon caramel at the base. The result was a fluffy delight bringing out the best of caramel's sweetness against citrusy tones; every bite was light, tantalising, and refreshing - the perfect finalé to a wonderful dinner.

Gin Tonic in a huge Bowl-Glass

Orange Juice

Red Wine Sangria



Amaretto Sour - served in a very tiny glass

Spanish Red Wine

Of course, between the mouthfuls of "gracias" and "bueno" I managed to choke out, there were drinks to mention too. While all the cocktails were perfectly concocted, and the wine was full-bodied, going well with most of the dishes, the Sangrias here are the specialty too - served with slices of fresh fruits and tasting fabulously delicious.

One of the best tasting sessions, with memorable dishes to take home and recommend to friends, for sure - thank you, La Ventana, for the invite and Joanna for the wonderful hosting. I will certainly be back, and this time, I would sit outdoors in the picturesque settings of lush greenery and glowing candlelights.

p.s. thank you IvanTeh for the extension.

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