Being hipsters, we have been to almost all tapas bars in Singapore and can safely say that Salt Tapas is doing something different. Instead of being edgy, raw, and industrial, it is decorated in a classy and contemporary style, with copper-colored lighting. The upbeat music might be a little loud, but should be good for lovers sitting near to each other. Instead of Spanish tapas, it serves an Australian version with a twist of Spanish.
Helming the kitchen is a new and young chef, Matthew Leighton, 25. With him comes a new menu that focuses on quality Australian produce and quality cooking.
If you’re thirsty, order the sangria, one of the tastiest we have had in Singapore, sweet and zesty. For nibbles, the pork sliders ($13) were excellent. Chiffonades of pickled cucumber and chilli gave the mini-burgers a crunchy texture, contrasting with the padded tenderness of the pulled pork. A creamy spicy mayo livened the dish, making it complex and fun. I wish this came in a big burger sized portion.
Even better was the barramundi ($32), a quinessential Australian ingredient (you see, we have been watching Australian cooking shows). Very fresh, it was roasted till the skin was crisp while the flesh remained tender. Fish are usually bland, so this dish came with a kickass tomato-chorizo sauce. There are different kinds of excessive saltiness, good and bad types, and in a good way, the extremely salty sauce complemented the fish flawlessly. The squid, that came with the fish, was a little too chewy, but shouldn’t detract from the umami-ness of the fish.
The lamb rump ($34 small, $64 large), however, was problematic. Everything on the plate–lamb, crumbed zucchini and salsa verde (a vegetable puree)–was perfect but didn’t come together nicely. Without a stench, the lamb was tender but needed salt badly. If you eat it with salsa verde, the mint overpowered the meat. The crumbed zucchini had a great batter (some cheese in the batter?) but might take some getting-used to as it was rather light and didn’t really went with rump.
For desserts, it was a hard choice between the mille-feuille ($12) and churros ($11), each with its strengths and shortcomings. The mille-feuille had a light and playful custard, just seductive enough for you to want more, and it came with a fragrant and sweet elderflower sorbet, but ultimately the puff pastry wasn’t crispy and airy enough.
I shy away from ordering churros because I used to buy 3 for US$1 from an illegal Mexican vendor at New York subway, and I don’t believe in paying so much for dough. But the sugar-dusted churros here took my breath away by its presentation: thicker and bigger than usual. Anything big is good, right? It was fluffier, lighter than normal churros, and came with chocolate syrup and freshly whipped cream. The cream was amazing. It was whipped with vanilla pod, which really added that something special. My eating companion said, “Oh, I’m eating the last one.”
I replied, “Go on. I already ate two.”
“YAY! I thought I had to share it with you. But I’d have, really, I’d have shared with you. Really! Believe me.” And he went on to finish all the chocolate syrup and whipped cream.
The next morning, after the tasting, I woke up, thinking of the barramundi, and it was the moment I knew I’d be back.
M-Th: 11.30am-10pm, drinks till 11.30pm.
F-Sat: 11.30am-10.30pm, drinks till 11.30pm
Sun: 11.30am-9pm, drinks till 10pm
Rating: 3.593/5 stars
PS: Thanks to Lily for the invite, and thanks to Ken and Matt for the hospitality.
Written by A. Nathanael Ho.