Old is gold at La Taperia

Old is gold at La Taperia

The change from Terry's Singapore to La Taperia is the fastest restaurant name change I have seen. After all, the Spanish restaurant opened only on Oct 1 as a joint venture between Les Amis Group and chef Juan Carlos de Terry, a Spaniard living in Manila who owns four Terry's restaurants there.

But the chef has pulled out of the venture as the restaurant here is more modern compared with his traditional outlets back home - though it still looks pretty staid to me - and some ingredients he insists on could not be found in Singapore.

He might have found the look more stylish than he expected, but the cooking at the Singapore restaurant is pretty old-fashioned. The menu is a pared-down version of what he offers at his Manila restaurants and the dishes were based on his recipes, although he says the Singapore eatery wants to localise Spanish food.

I dined at Terry's Singapore twice before its name change, once on opening day when chef de Terry was present and last week after he left. On both occasions, the food tasted pretty much the same. It is old-style Spanish, quite unlike what you find in other tapas bars which offer more modern interpretations of the cooking. This means it is a little less refined and even coming across as stodgy at times. But old-fashioned need not be bad and some of the dishes here taste pretty good.

Local chefs Ng Wei Han and Dalton Fong now headline the restaurant. And they do a decent job.

Tapas I recommend include classics such as Gambas Al Ajillo ($16), prawns served sizzling in olive oil with lots of diced garlic and a bit of chilli pepper to add a touch of spice. The prawns are big, which make them a tad tougher than their smaller cousins, but are still crunchy and sweet. And it is hard to resist the aromatic pieces of fried garlic floating on the oil.

I like the Champinones Con Jamon Al Ajillo ($14) too. These are mushrooms sauteed with sliced garlic and bits of Serrano ham in olive oil and topped with a half-cooked organic egg. Mixed together, they provide a nice range of textures and flavours.

The Almejas A La Marinera or Clams Marinera ($18), however, turns out disappointing. The clams are plump and fresh, but taste oddly bland when they should be sweet. Even the dry sherry, paprika and garlic they are cooked with do not provide much flavour.

This article was first published on October 12, 2014.
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