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Restaurant review: Sabio, Chit’s, Verve and Taratara in Singapore

A Frenchman, an Italian and a Spaniard decided to open a restaurant. No, that’s not the start of a joke – it’s the basis of this roundup of new and noteworthy places guaranteed to tickle your taste buds. And just to be sure we had something for everyone, we threw in a family-friendly spot on the beach.

Sabio is an authentic taste of Spain with some of the best tapas in Singapore 

Sabio Tapas Bar and Restaurant

5 Duxton Hill

6223 4645

Finally, somewhere with atmosphere! Sabio, which recently opened in Duxton Hill is a slice of España so tiny you may blink and miss it as you walk past.

The extensive tapas menu of both hot and cold items, including a special jamón section, features some refreshingly different dishes and high quality ingredients imported from Spain. A mouth-watering platter of cold meats including serrano ham, Iberico ham, lomo and chorizo with Manchego cheese is excellent ($150 grams, $25).  Patata alliolo ($8) is a staple done well; bocadillos ($10) are mini-sandwiches of jamón, Manchego and roasted capsicum, tasty and delightfully elegant; and the saltiness of the bacalao (salted cod loin, $18) is interesting. They all make for tasty accompaniments to our drinks.

Sangria ($10) is served in the original style, with a “tapas” (meaning covering), a small dish to protect the drink and line the stomach; in our case a plate of miniature quail’s eggs and slivers of jamón and gherkin – a very nice touch.

After your Spanish immersion, you may want to take a little piece back home with you. Buy one of their assortment of jars of pimientos and other Spanish goodies, or if you’re very cheeky you could swipe a drink coaster or two. You’ll see what I mean if you check them out; arty, very cool and they have a new addition every month. (Not that we’re condoning that sort of behaviour, of course.)

The word “taratata” is a light-hearted and hard-to-translate French retort that means something like “and whatever” 

Bistro Taratata

35 A Keong Saik Road

6221 4506

www.taratata.sg

This, the latest addition to Keong Saik Road, is a Parisian-style eatery serving everyday French food mixed in with dishes that are nothing short of fine dining masterpieces – not just in taste but also in presentation.

The rustic escargots and mushroom cassoulet is an interesting way to serve up snails, their earthy flavours complemented by the mushrooms and balanced with the tomatoes, herbs and butter. The delicate prawn and avocado salad with raspberry vinaigrette and a hearty duck salad with warm goat’s cheese were our choice from the seven starters on the prix fixe lunch menu; at $32, it is shockingly good value for this calibre, choice and quantity of food.

For mains: a sumptuous fillet of cod, gold-flecked on the outside, with wilted spinach, sautéed potatoes and al dente vegetables so pretty that I pause and smile at my plate. Onglet grillé is a cut of beef commonly served in Parisian bistrots, and to ensure tenderness we are advised to order it more underdone than we’d normally have it. The suggestion pays off, the steak is quite rare, but delicious coupled with green Madagascan peppercorns and served with fries.

We haven’t even got to the dessert, but I’m already sold. It arrives to exclamations of appreciation; a giant profiterole swimming in a lake of heady chocolate sauce, filled with vanilla ice-cream and topped with flaked almonds ($15 from the à la carte menu). From the set menu, the exotic fruit and sherbet is quite stunning and the crème brûlée is an elegantly thin custard base with a satisfyingly crackly top.

Incidentally, the word “taratata” is a light-hearted and hard-to-translate French retort that means something like “and whatever”. There’s nothing trivial about this place, however. The atmosphere is easygoing, but these guys are serious and my hunch is once the foodies find out about this spot they’ll be practising their best French accents to get a booking. You heard it here first.

What you don’t finish you’ll want to take home for later 

Verve Pizzeria @ One-North
11 Slim Barracks Rise
6776 0665
www.verve.sg

When a restaurant wins a loyal and regular following, it’s sometimes not because of its astonishing food, a particularly stunning view or an amazing wine list. Often, it’s because the food is reliably good, the staff are friendly and the atmosphere is relaxing. And that’s exactly where Verve excels. Instead of kitsch Italian flags and red gingham tablecloths, the place is furnished with smooth wooden tables topped with paper-mat menus in a pleasant, clean and stylish environment. 

To start, the beau and I recommend the beef tenderloin carpaccio ($14), succulent and perfectly seared slices on a bed of salad, and the coriander fish cakes ($16), given a kick with a spicy salsa dip. Feel confident about washing it all down with a glass of the house Chianti or pinot grigio ($12), as both are very drinkable.

Before your main course arrives, try a small lemon tart gelato ($12). A slightly unorthodox moment to be picking up the dessert spoon, but this is the best palate-cleanser in Singapore. A new batch is made at the restaurant each week using fresh ingredients and a lot of Italian know-how, so it’s sweet, bitter and refreshing all at once.

Fill up with the Enzo pizza ($24) topped with duck, Japanese cucumber and spring onions – what you don’t finish you’ll want to take home for later. Or go with the pasta semplice ($18) a combination of roasted garlic, sundried tomatoes, pine nuts and pasta (pick from fettucine, linguine, penne or spaghetti) tossed in olive oil and dressed with parmesan – another simple thing done right.

Those spoonfuls of gelato will have got taste buds yearning for the full portion, so indulge them with another flavour. The beau abandons his fervent devotion to vanilla; he sinks his spoon into the Bailey’s gelato and repeats with vigour. Look out for the new Verve outlet at Marina Bay Sands!

Never mind the planes overhead, enjoy the sea views and breeze 

Chit’s Bar & Restaurant

11 Changi Coast Walk, NSRCC Seasport Centre

6214 9165

Tanah Merah Sailing Club and the old Alice’s have been transformed into an Indonesian restaurant called Gurame and a casual waterside bar and restaurant called Chit’s. Decking has been built out over the sand for an elevated view of the ships moored offshore and the planes coming into Changi Airport. (But they’re not as loud as you might expect.)

Popular on weekends with East Coast cyclists, it’s also very child-friendly; bring a ball for the youngsters to kick around the lawn area. The menu is relaxed dining, with “day & night munchies” – sandwiches, soups, salads, burgers, pizza and pasta as well as local favourites.

We are always on the lookout for the ultimate beachside beef burger and fish and chips, so ordered these and were more than pleased with the quality. The fish was dory – a lovely, moist piece in a crispy batter, the best I have had in a long time. The burger was a homemade patty on a lightly toasted sesame bun with salad; I’ll try it with bacon and cheese next time.

Moreish chicken wings were done local style: marinated and then deep-fried. Another winner was the spicy chicken pizza, a crispy base generously topped with Cajun chicken, onions, capsicum, chilli flakes and cheese. Just a bit of spice – yum!

With a bottle of Marlborough sauvignon blanc at $60, two varieties of beer on tap, eight international bottled beers plus Magners cider, you can settle in for the afternoon to watch the planes come in, and the sun go down. Tip: It’s best to book on the weekends.

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