When three Michelin starred chef Santi Santamaria passed away suddenly of a heart attack in his restaurant, Santi at MBS, he left behind two proteges in Singapore: Jose Alonso who opened Tapas Club and Binomio which was on our Best Restaurants in Singapore 2013; and Daniel Chavez who started Ola Cocina Del Mar at MBFC and Tono Cevicheria, which is on our list for Best Restaurants in 2017. Given our penchant for Spanish cuisine and what a wonderful time we had at Tono, we can no longer put off going to Ola.
The casual, homely setting with paintings adorning every inch of the wall is a misrepresentation of the prices on the menu. For instance, their paellas start from $42++. “How big is your paella?” I asked a server.
He replied, “About the size of a small plate.”
“WHAT? ARE YOU SERIOUS?” Chiobu blurted. The server laughed.
Price aside, the food is amazing, orgasmic at times. Gambas (6 pcs, $25) consists of tiger prawns doused in roasted garlic oil and dried chilli: great flavours. The raw fish in ceviche ($29) is marinated with lime, chilli, coriander, and red onion; and accompanied by a sweet potato puree. Not bad, but we prefer the one at Tono.
This is perhaps the second or third time I have eaten calamari ($26) as baby calamari. It is super tasty, and probably the best I have had. Szechuan peppercorn is sprinkled on it as it sits on a bed of coriander aioli and pomelo.
Pulpo ($28) is disgusting… disgustingly good. HOW CAN ANYTHING TASTE SO GOOD? The grilled Spanish octopus has a nice batter on the surface that cracks easily into the tenderest meat. It comes with spicy hummus and ham chips. ORDER THIS.
The arroz al horno ($42) is indeed very small, too small. But it is explosive in taste. The Iberico pork rice is done Valencian style with sausages, roasted garlic, and tomatoes.
Another stellar dish: charcoal grilled wagyu ribeye ($58) with a marbling of 5. It’s strange that they didn’t ask us how we wanted our steak done but whatever, it’s superb. Nicely charred on the surface, and super tender, with juices invading your mouth as you chew.
The charcoal grilled Iberico pork ($45) that is stacked on smoke pumpkin puree is just ok. It gets cold very quickly which isn’t great for any fatty food.
The chef-d’oeuvre, suckling pig (leg $66), is STUNNING. When you break the skin, a loud crack reverberates. The orange caramel and sweet-and-sour sauce undercut the greasiness of the meat, which is fat and moist.
If we must cavil, it is that most dishes come across as heavy and oily. By the end of the meal, our lips were quite moisturised.
Like the mains, the desserts are small and expensive but, like the mains, they are of the highest standards. The pistachio and semolina cake (above, $16) comes with a vivifying blood orange, well balanced between tartness and sweetness. The frambuesa (not pictured, $16) is a raspberry mousse, which is almost cake-like, and a nice yogurt sorbet. If you only get one dessert, go for the pistachio cake.
This is fantastic meal, made even more uplifting when the humble chef goes around every table greeting the patrons before and after the meal. We paid $410 for 5 persons or about $82 each. Too bad our list for Best Restaurants in 2017 is already published. I know 2017 hasn’t even ended yet, but I have an inkling Ola will make it to Best Restaurants 2018 list.
Ola Cocina Del Mar
Marina Bay Financial Centre Tower 3, #01-06 12 Marina Boulevard Singapore 018982
tel: +65 6604 7050
M-F 11.30am–2pm, M–Sat 5.30pm–10pm
You may be interested in…
–Gaig Restaurant, Stanley Street: Offshoot of Barcelona’s Michelin-starred Restaurant With 150 Years of History, Serving Catalan Classics
–Pura Brasa, Tanjong Pagar Centre: Spanish Restaurant Created by THE Josper Grill Company
–Alma by Juan Amador, Goodwood Park Hotel: Excellent Juan Michelin-Starred Modern Spanish Restaurant in Singapore
–FOC Sentosa: Will Probably Be On “Best Restaurants of 2017”
Written by A. Nathanael Ho.