Salt Tapas & Bar
252 North Bridge Road
#01-22A Raffles City Shopping Centre
Salt Tapas & Bar is Sydney-based chef Luke Mangan’s second venture in Singapore. The marble-topped bar and Spanish tiles could have come right out of a little tapas bar in Spain.
The food is a fusion of Spanish, North African, Italian and modern Australian and was ably served by the friendly staff – although there were rather a lot of them. We loved the roasted garlic flat bread with romesco ($6). Oysters in chickpea cumin batter with tzatziki ($5 each) came next, followed by a tasty selection of charcuterie: German salami ($9), lamb bresaola ($12) and Parma prosciutto ($10). Hubby particularly enjoyed the unusual baked bone marrow with shiitake duxelles, Parmesan and air-dried olives ($13). Next up were arancini of wild mushroom and leek with Taleggio, green goddess dressing ($9) and delicious roasted pumpkin with dukkah, Spanish blue cheese, caramelised pear and walnuts ($12) that had a North African zing.
I’m not a fan of raw fish but was pleasantly surprised by the tuna tartare ($19) with wasabi mayo. The crisp, soft-shell prawns with chilli and garlic aioli ($15) were really tasty although a bit too salty. Very tender charcoal grilled aged rib of beef ($29) was next and came with chimichurri – a tasty, red pepper-based sauce.
The desserts were a feast for the eyes. Roasted figs with candied ginger and baklava ($13) had its sweetness tempered by a tangy yoghurt sorbet. The gooey hot chocolate tart, caramelised banana, salted caramel ice cream ($14) was the standout dessert for us.
For drinks, Luke’s martini The Australian ($16) certainly packs a punch. The Luke Mangan Sangria ($17/glass) is light and fruity while Shirley’s Sangria ($17/glass) is a stronger, sweeter version due to the addition of cherry juice.
Even on a Monday evening this place was practically full. Sit outside or at one of the long bar tables by the window and watch the comings and goings at Raffles Hotel opposite.
You’ll love it if: You like modern Australian fusion cuisine.
You’ll hate it if: You’re looking for very traditional Spanish-style tapas.
Must-try dish: Charcoal grilled aged rib of beef, with chimichurri.
Onion Restaurant & Bar
791 Bukit Timah Road #01-01
As a food enthusiast (okay, a glutton), I keep an eagle eye on the comings and goings of restaurants in the area where I live – Bukit Timah Road near Sixth Avenue. When Greek restaurant Blu opened next door, it was a godsend. The Cavern, on the other hand, was mostly dismal and has recently been replaced (by the promising-looking Outpost 903 GastroBar).
Onion is another new kid on the block; it’s a suburban gem with an open kitchen and friendly staff serving quality seafood and tapas. The freshly shucked Saint-Vaast oysters, from a seasonal menu of French and Canadian varieties, were the best I’ve had in ages. That’s why, after an interlude of robust French onion soup, I ordered them again (told you I was a glutton), this time sautéed in sparkling white wine and served in the shell with a red onion dressing.
The name of the restaurant isn’t arbitrary: onions appear with regularity on the menu, in crispy deep-fried rings with the signature mini-burgers and as a sweet, buttery cake beneath a pan-fried fillet of salmon. But you needn’t worry if you’re not a fan. My partner hates the things more than a vampire hates garlic, yet proclaimed her meal of smoked octopus salad, shredded duck confit and roasted lamb rack a triumph.
The wine list warrants exploration and includes some very high-end Old World (Bordeaux reds) and New World (Aussie Grange) drops, though we were more than content with a generously poured Chilean sauvignon blanc for $10. The latter is the house wine, and you can order a glass of it and three tapas dishes for just $23.80. Good deal.
You’ll love it if: Tapas, oysters and wine are words dear to your heart.
You’ll hate it if: You’re a Mediterraneophobe.
Must-try dish: Duck confit on mushroom stew.
I omitted the fact that we were going to a vegetarian restaurant when I invited the beau to join me for dinner at Beets. His perception of vegetarian food, like many South African men (who classify chicken as a vegetable) is that it’s grey in colour and tastes like rubber. He glared at the tofu burger on the menu with a look that screamed “Sacrilege!”
However, if any restaurant was going to change this belief, Beets was the one to do it. I ordered a brie salad ($18) to share as a starter; I figured if anything was going to warm him up to vegetarianism, gooey cheese housed in filo pastry was the dish to do it. And it did – he melted; a wistful, satisfied sigh accompanied the first bite, followed by a sip of cabernet sauvignon.
Having lived in the Middle East, we couldn’t resist the falafel ($17) – a chickpea and garden pea patty that is significantly less greasy than its traditional counterpart, served with tahini and snow pea tendrils.
Breaded Portobello mushrooms stuffed with caviar aubergine and wilted spinach and peperonata ($23) proved a clear winner.
The service was friendly though a tad too persistent, but this was preferable to being neglected. As a non-vegetarian, Beets wouldn’t be my first choice for dinner, but it’s perfect for a light lunch in a relaxed setting.
You’ll love it if: You appreciate inventive vegetarian menus.
You’ll hate it if: You’re a traditionalist who feels that a meal isn’t a meal
Must-try dish: Portobello mushrooms.
Preparazzi Bar Gourmet
29 Boon Tat Street
It’s interesting to note that Preparazzi was launched after the owner won the shop space rent-free for a year in an entrepreneur’s competition. Chef-owner Jeremy, who runs a gourmet catering business of the same name, says of his “accidental” venture into the restaurant scene: “Now people can come in to try our menus!”
We started with salmon terrine ($14), an innovative mix of smoked salmon, potato, beetroot, carrot and egg and Preparazzi’s classy spin on the traditional seafood otak otak ($14): cube-shaped, prepared au gratin and served with crostini.
If you cut the skin and fat off the roast pork with spicy caramel apples ($30), you’re doing it wrong. We loved popping the crispy pork cubes into our mouths. After that heavenly dish, the angel hair pasta with scallops ($28) paled a little in comparison. However, the braised beef cheek with rendang sauce ($34) was delightfully tender.
Rounding off the meal was the cheekily named C-cup warm chocolate cake with chocolate ice cream ($16), oozing chocolate lava.
The lunch menu is completely different from the dinner menu and most mains are
priced at $15. If that doesn’t tempt you, I don’t know what will.
You’ll love it if: You like dishes with a touch of local flavour.
You’ll hate it if: You are bad with directions – it took us a while to locate the place.
Must-try dish: Roast pork with spicy caramel apples.