Under the tutelage of the late three Michelin-starred chef Santi Santamaria for ten years, and after the eventual closure of Santi Restaurant at Marina Bay Sands, Chef Jose Alonso opens Binomio, focusing on northern Spanish cuisine, as well as from the La Rioja region. Chef Alonso has also worked at other Michelin-starred restaurants before Santi. In a way, eating at Binomio is eating at a Michelin-starred restaurant without paying cut-throat prices. In fact, Binomio is one of the best food we have eaten of late–this is the first restaurant this year to receive above 4/5 from us–but you wouldn’t suspect it from the classy but run-of-mill decor of the restaurant.
The 2-page menu is split into tapas, paella and mains.
The pulpo a la gallega ($28) is a warm octopus terrine but it wasn’t much like a terrine. Not that we are complaining because it was delicious. The edges of tentacles were charred beautifully and the smokiness was enhanced by “pimenton de la vera,” a paprika, but the middle was still firm. It sat on a bed of potato puree, which was so smooth that it could act as a dip. Although it was fantastic, we were looking for that eureka, elusive umami oomph.
That umami oomph–found it! The char-grilled pork belly ($29) was a burst of flavors but never oily. Although the flavor of pork belly was strong, the clams were still able to stand on its own, absorbed the saltiness of the pork yet adding its own natural seafood-sweetness. The cauliflower puree was so thin that we mixed it up with the meat, making the combination wonderfully complex but not complicated. The dish was drizzled with rostid sauce, or roasted sauce, that gave it a slightly smoky flavor.
If the pork belly was fantastic, the squid ink paella for two ($70) was divine. It came in a gigantic pan, the rice just a thin layer, topped with baby squid and clams, and visually so stunning. The taste was amazing: the best paella we had. The rice, done in a Spanish style, had a textural mixture of crunchiness and softness, and so rich. It tasted similar to our Chinese prawn-paste. The menu says that it has prawns and since we didn’t see any prawn, we suspected that the prawns were already blended into the rice. There was just a bit of chili oil to bring the entire dish together. There is a condiment of garlic mayonnaise, which was unnecessary for the already-perfect dish but it transfigured the taste, replacing the prawn-paste-ness to a creaminess.
After three such phenomenal dishes, the pan-fried cray fish ($32), wrapped with iberico pork, accompanied with potato trin chat (something like the Malay begedil), was disappointing. It wasn’t bad. It was ordinary but it was just that, as described in the menu, nothing more, nothing less.
It was my friend’s birthday, and they spelled her name correctly on a complimentary cake with 6 layers of mousse, including chocolate, dark chocolate and almond. This cake wasn’t on the menu, so we wondered where they conjured it. Still, it was rather delightful.
We also ordered a coco pina ($12), with bits of pineapple and coconut ice cream. Desserts are not their strongest suit–not much selection and not very interesting–but this one was passable.
The service was top-notched. Very attentive. Compliments to the angmoh male and female managers. For instance, after they showed us the beautiful paella, they asked us if we wanted to take photos first before helping us distribute. Or by the end of our mains, they took the initiative to bring out the birthday cake without me asking, and they truly gave my friend a surprise. Needless to say, our glasses of water were never empty. The toilet amenities, my friend said, were great too, including tampons.
This is an amazing experience that is hard to beat. If Singapore restaurants could have Michelin stars, Binomio deserves one. Including two glasses of rather affordable wine, we paid $225 for two.
Binomio Spanish Restaurante
20 Craig Road
#01-02 Craig Place
T: 6557 0547
Rating: 4.177/5 Michelin stars