If Singapore has been following the trend of New York (food truck, cupcakes, frozen yogurt, and tapas), then the next big thing is likely to be Latino food. Not counting the established Mexican restaurants, there has been a proliferation of Latin American restaurants in recent one or two years. For instance, a halal Latin American restaurant, J’s; Latino-inspired Miami food, Lucky 13; Mexican fastfood from USA, Baja Fresh; chill-out bars, Senor Tacos, Mex Out and El Rocho’s; and even a buffet in Nerd Headquarters, Latin Quarter. But Sur, Spanish for “south,” is more like a transition from tapas to Latino food. It has some small-bites and some huge mains.
It is run by chef-owner Alejandro Luna who is Peruvian-Venezuelan and used to work at Marina Bay Sands as a pastry chef. He is assisted by his friend Vitelio Reyes, Venezuelan who worked at Trump Hotel Collection.
We started off with two cocktails, Pisco Sour ($17, Barsol pisco, egg white, lemon, Angostura bitters) and Cube Libre ($16, Santa Teresa Reserva rum, coke, Angostura bitters, lime). I don’t really like sour things so I was taken by surprise that I loved the cocktails, which were very well-balanced. With such delightful cocktails, our expectations rose.
But unfortunately, we thought everything was average or subpar. The best dish was chorizo carupanero ($18, pictured above), a small pot of rice consisting spicy pork sausage, sauteed bell peppers, and cheese (Queso Fresco). It was strange that chorizo was sausage in this dish because our impression of chorizo is that it is flatter, bigger in diameter, and more compact like the Chinese lap-cheong. The dish had a beany aftertaste, reminiscent of Mexican food, with a hint of spiciness (curry powder?). It was homely food, but really, nothing spectacular.
The arepita ($8 each) are deep-fried buns, the size of a baby’s palm, easily gone in two bites and priced too expensively. You can choose the stuffing and we picked rumbera (pork loin & gouda cheese), which was too dry, and shredded beef stew & gouda cheese. Somehow, both pork and beef-stew tasted like Ayam’s brand tuna: the pork was tuna in water, dry on its own; and beef-stew was tuna in chili oil. Pork was bad; beef was average.
The ceviches are said to be the specialty of the restaurant and they were not too bad but rather pricy like the rest of the items. We went for the degustation ($28), which allowed us to pick 3 out of 6 of the ceviches on the menu. They arrived in palm-sized bowls but there was quite a bit of meat in each bowl. The ceviche de camaron (shrimp, passionfruit leche de tigra) tasted citrusy-mango-y, rather like a Thai dish. Ms Atas liked the Pulpo (octopus) in a spicy sauce while I preferred refreshing and cool Ahi tuna with watermelon. The ceviches were pleasant at best but didn’t impressed us like Esquina and El Rocho’s did.
As a final blow to our lackluster dinner, the main course, plato parilla ($30), was extremely value-for-money, consisting large pieces of steak, pork chop, chicken breast, pork & blood sausage, and fried yucca. But it was also the worst dish we had: bland for all the meats and chicken was undercooked and tough. Only the side dish, a very tough sweet plantain ($7), could rival the meat for the worst dish award.
The industrial chic decor with raw cement table-tops and floor is too passe and the open kitchen doesn’t have good ventilation so your clothes may smell. The open kitchen is placed wrongly. We sat at the bar counter, where there are refrigerators of ingredients while the kitchen is further behind, unseen. It should be the other way round, that the kitchen should be at the bar counter and the refrigerators hidden. We also had a problem: why industrial chic? Where were the Latino flavors? There wasn’t individuality in the decor.
The only ameliorating factor is the service. Water was refilled promptly. Servers were polite and attentive and could give recommendations but they mistakenly doubled our bill. We spent $155 for two but they charged us a bill of $310. I have no doubt that it was unintentional but still, there should be caution.
This experience wasn’t a positive one. The food was subpar and overpriced; the decor was run-of-the-mill without any distinguishing marks to tell us it is a Latino restaurant. Only the service was fine.
13 North Canal Rd #01-01 Singapore 048826
T: 6222 2897
closed on Sat Lunch and Sun.
Rating: 2.688/5 stars
PS: Thanks, Ms Atas, for the treat!
Written by A. Nathanael Ho.