Esquina played a pivotal role in my growth as a food blogger. I remember the exact emotions I felt when I ate the burger 3 years ago in 2012: from a grumpy I-didn’t-get-a-fucking-seat-on-my-ass (we stood at the crowded bar) to a blissful better-than-sex tears in my eyes. Although Esquina is opened by Michelin-starred chef Jason Atherton on paper, Andrew Walsh was the man in the kitchen. I remember being mesmerized by Walsh’s lightning-Donnie-Yen hands, fantasizing how he would make someone very happy with his quick hands.
Naturally, when Walsh left Esquina to open his own new restaurant, Cure, I obeyed the adage “follow the chef, not the restaurant.” No a la carte here, just set meals. The 4-course dinner ($95) and the lunch (2 courses $30, 3 courses $38) share similar dishes, which change monthly, so it’s better value to go for lunch.
Walsh is still best with small plates. Each bite-sized item on the small plate, disguised as amuse bouche, was better than the next. The inside of sweet corn croquette was unexpectedly smooth; the crispy crust so thin the molten couldn’t wait to explode in the mouth. The Galway Bay oyster paired with beef tartare on an oyster leaf tasted nothing like oyster nor beef, titillating both my tongue and brain. The chicken skin teriyaki was crackling, and I was pretty sure from its lightness, it was 0 calories.
The starter, asparagus on ricotta and comte, was a playful use of textures, cutting asparagus in different ways: shaved, chopped, diced. The super crunchy bits of fried buckwheat, which diamond-hard texture I normally detest because they would sneak into crevices of teeth, worked here, giving a spectrum of textures from smooth creaminess to oiliness to crunchiness to crispiness.
Normally, I’d think it’s a bad idea to pair delicate quail with pungent leeks, but in this dish, the mild sweetness of the bird was not overwhelmed by the pungency; rather the vegetable served to break the monotony and richness of the bird in garlic milk.
Menu description for dessert chocolate / orange / honeycomb usually means a block of solid chocolate. But of course Walsh doesn’t do “usual” and I, who will never learn, was surprised by the goo. I don’t understand chocolate-orange pairing, although I have been eating it since young, because I don’t think the two ingredients go well together at all. But Walsh very intelligently put tiny and few bits of roasted orange in the chocolate mousse so that the citrus perked up the dense but balanced chocolate, without interfering much with the taste. The not-sweet honeycomb provided texture, so there wasn’t a sugar rush. All in all, a bang to the end of a delightful meal.
The only thing that I didn’t like about the restaurant was that they added $1 to the bill as donation to Food Fund Singapore. Don’t get me wrong, I am not against charities. Last year, I donated $600 to various charities. But donations should always be voluntary and I’d like to check the background of the charity before donating. Cough *NKF saga*. If Cure truly wants to be philanthropic, then they should donate $1 for every set meal they serve from their own pockets, not the customers’.
But $1 will not come between me and delicious food. No newfangled gimmicks, no instagrammable food, no hipster concept, just plain o’ delicious food–so rare these days. The testimony of Walsh’s prowess is how he made me like the food despite my prejudice in the pairings. After paying $46 for lunch, I walked up to Walsh and introduced myself like a schoolgirl having a crush. I almost never say hi to chefs because (1) reviewers should remain anonymous for fair reviews, and (2) bloggers who introduce themselves are networking, and I don’t do networking. I did it this time out of admiration, and only after I had paid.
For the rest of the day, I felt so peaceful because of the comfort of such good food.
21 Keong Saik Rd, Singapore 089128
T: +65 91814066
Lunch: Th & Fri 12pm onwards
Dinner: M-Sat 6pm onwards
Written by A. Nathanael Ho.