1. Bodega Y Tapas
SINGAPORE’S BEST TAPAS
Spanish chef Roberto Hernandez’s artful, frequently updated menu of authentic Iberian confections at this atmospheric, often-packed split-room eatery on the lip of Orchard Road remains consistently in a class of its own, comfortably qualifying as the best in town. The emphasis on fresh, well-sourced ingredients was made clear right from the get-go: sautéed beef arrived as beautifully lean chunks of tenderloin with firm button mushrooms in a dark, rich sherry gravy. No less of a triumph was the tender, precision-cooked duck breast with dried apricots slathered in a sharp, tangy Martini sauce and the traditional, spicy paprika-flavoured octopus served on a thick slab of pan-seared potato. Full marks.
Bodega Y Tapas, #01-29 Orchard Hotel, 442 Orchard Road (6735 3476, www.esmirada.com). MRT: Orchard.
2. Zsofi Tapas Bar
No catch, no con: this hip, low-key attic-style Little India stalwart favoured by Dunlop Street’s flashpackers and after-workers offers a free order of tapas from its dozen-strong, mainly vegetarian menu with every drink. Highlights from the list include the montaditos de pimientos con brie, mushroom- and brie-topped slithers of toasted bread with tender chunks of roasted red pepper; patatas bravas, few in number but adequately rich and crispy; and the cool, Andalucían-style gazpacho rojo. If the cost of the freebies is adsorbed in the price of the drinks, then it’s well hidden. The usual lager suspects are on draught (Tiger, Heineken); a decent wine list and surprisingly comprehensive selection of bottled Belgium beers (Chimay, Duvel) are all fairly priced, and keep the alfresco terrace busy most nights of the week.
Zsofi Tapas Bar, 68 Dunlop Street (9825 5792, www.tapasbar.com.sg). MRT: Little India.
Despite a huge, somewhat anonymous setting on a south-facing shoulder of VivoCity, there’s no denying the food quality and presentation at this well-staffed, very reasonable tapas and paella specialist. The menu is derivative of tapas standards but is generally well executed. Calamares a la plancha was a notable triumph, the tender pieces of grilled squid served in a rich balsamic sauce, sweetly tempered with cherry tomatoes and finely sliced asparagus; pan-fried chorizo with olive oil was nondescript but serviceable, with the albóndigas, beef meatballs in tangy tomato sauce, rather more memorable.
Serenity, #01-98/99 VivoCity, 1 HarbourFront Walk (6376 8185, www.serenity.com.sg). MRT: HarbourFront.
4. The Tapas Tree
Chain joints don’t tend to bother many ‘best of…’ lists, but happily this lively, ever-popular trio of Spanish specialists – now with outposts in Changi Village, Clarke Quay and One Fullerton – manages to sidestep the pratfalls common to outlets of a similar ilk with its warm decor, peppy service and generous portions of classic Spanish fare. Patatas bravas come with a spicy romesco sauce; the nicely salted calamares fritos were chewy and arrived with a hefty dollop of zesty garlic aioli; the sautéed mussels were big and meaty, with a rich, herb-flecked spicy tomato sauce. Further down the menu the kitchen deviates from cliché and shows flair: try the braised duck breast in orange sauce or the baked scallops in saffron sauce, both standout winners.
The Tapas Tree, 3D River Valley Road, #01-08 Clarke Quay; Block 5 Changi Village Road; 3 Fullerton Road #01-04 (6837 2938, www.thetapastree.com).
5. Don Quijote
Squirrelled away in the depths of Bukit Timah's badlands, this informal yet sophisticated neighbourhood paella-tapas joint has won an increasingly loyal following since opening in early 2009 for its classic, no-nonsense Spanish offerings. Fresh shellfish in various guises are the mainstay of the pared-down menu: clams in garlic, finely chopped onion and house-made white-wine sauce were a bargain at $13, with the bacon-accompanied, oven-baked whole scallops also a hit. Less impressive were the measly tenderloin cubes, although their attendant blue-cheese sauce made a handy dip for the complimentary bread (incidentally, the only place on this list to offer it). Skip dessert and head to the immensely popular ice-cream parlour Udders next door for a large scoop of lychee martini or rum and raisin ($5.90). Both outlets are well worth the schlep.
Don Quijote, 17 Lorong Kilat (6465 1811, www.don-quijote-restaurants.com).