The question on my mind that night: Can a chef trained in French culinary techniques cook Spanish tapas?
Due to rising rent, the stalwart of French cuisine Au Jardin, under Les Amis Group, made the decision to cease operations. Les Amis then opens La Taperia and that’s how head chef Ng Wei Han went from French fine dining to Spanish tapas.
Piquillo pepper stuffed with tuna and anchovy remoulade ($16)
In many ways, Spanish and French cuisines are opposites: traditional Spanish food is simple, down-to-earth, using olive oil and garlic, whereas French food is rich, refined, using many thick, creamy sauces.
Seafood croquetas ($15)
But like a certain professor who switched her specialization from 18th to 19th century, and won a prestigious book award for her latter work, because good research practice is universal, then, similarly, aren’t basic culinary skills, good taste, and creativity universal across cuisines?
For Chef Ng, I found his traditional Spanish dishes ordinary. The seafood croquetas ($15) were croquetas, the squid ink seafood paella ($32/$56, above) was paella. Delicious, but undistinguished, and without sparkle.
But in dishes where sparks of creativity ignited, and when they were dependent on sauces, the magic appeared. Instead of the usual chunks of potato, huevos patatas ($18, above) had strips of crisps elevating the homely dish. The charcoal-grilled lamb ($25, below), glazed heavily with a honey mustard sauce, was one of the best dishes I ate this year, so umami, tender, and sweet that we ignored the greasiness.
Chocolate marquise ($14)
On the whole, Chef Ng’s French food was more adroit, packing more surprises, although his Spanish food was also competent, albeit carefully, tentatively. I also wondered if Les Amis is late into the Spanish tapas craze circa 2012, when everyone already has their favorite Spanish restaurant. Nevertheless everything was done right at La Taperia: excellent service, good food, extensive Spanish alcohol, good pricing, and a classy setting, great for dates and groups after work. In short, La Taperia possesses all the trademarks of an excellent restaurant.
1 Scotts Road, Shaw Centre #02-10/11 Singapore 228208
T: +65 6737 8336
Lunch: Daily 12-3pm
Dinner: Sun-W 6.30-11pm,
Th-Sat & PH Eve 6.30pm-1am
Written by A. Nathanael Ho.
This is an invited tasting.