Mon - Fri: 12:00 - 14:30
Mon - Fri: 18:00 - 22:30
Sat: 18:00 - 23:00
A former protégé of Gordon Ramsay and Michelin-starred chef, Jason Atherton collaborates with local hotelier Loh Lik Peng to launch Esquina. This intimate dining space is inspired by Atherton's passion for Spanish culture, and boasts a menu of delicately created Spanish platters.
Chinatown appears to be undergoing a European cuisine renaissance of sorts, with a bumper crop of brasseries and bistros rooting in the charming conserved shop houses dotted throughout the precinct.
The latest to debut is a tapas bar aptly named Esquina (meaning corner in Spanish), for the narrow strip of corner space it occupies at the intersection of Jiak Chuan Road and Teck Lim Road. A joint effort between boutique hotel guru Loh Lik Peng and Gordon Ramsay’s former protégé at Maze Restaurant, Jason Atherton, Esquina is certainly a welcomed addition to the rapidly-expanding crop of celebrity chef restaurants in our city state.
But with merely 15 seats – or stools, to be precise – cramped-up against an L-shaped metallic counter top that frames an open kitchen, Esquina defies all preconceptions of what you might expect of a celebrity chef restaurant. To wit, reservations are not allowed here; guests queue as early as 5.30pm to secure a bum space by the counter, yet others resign themselves to fate and join the throngs of stand-and-eat crowd. Perhaps not the most comfortable dining room in town but it’s precisely this cool and casual vibe about Esquina that’s propelled it to the ranks of the hottest tapas bar in town.
And it doesn’t hurt that the seafood-heavy tapas menu – crafted by Atherton and executed by his protégé, Andrew Walsh – is not authentically Spanish. Don’t get me wrong; you can still have your plate of Spanish omelette or slivers of iberico Belotta with a glass of Sangria, but with Atherton’s London lineage, the menu has been spiked with proliferations of cosmopolitan poises that are, quite frankly, a welcome deviation from the norm.
At Esquina, luscious hunks of halved scallops ($17) are served as ceviche with minced radish in a chives-flecked, yuzu-scented olive oil dressing while the mound of sesame seed-studded tuna tartare ($17.50) embraces an Asian-style, umami-packed shoyu sauce with chilli bits. Even the fork-tender aged rib eye ($22.50) is not spared Atherton’s anointed pairing, this time with a generous drizzle of an intense garlic and parsley-accented chimichurri sauce.
Still hungry? We suggest twin servings of mini foie gras burger ($25) stacked with savoury iberico ham slices and smoked pulled shoulder. Alternatively, make room for Atherton’s hearty dessert of Sangria-poached plum, raspberry, strawberry and pear ($12) rained over with almond crumbles in an intensely sweet PX (Pedro Ximénez) wine sauce.
Not that you need to be told, but like all celebrity chef restaurants, we should not expect to see Atherton doing his culinary swagger behind the counter top. But for the wallet-friendly tapas fare so deftly executed by Walsh, there is reason enough to make a beeline for Esquina.
Food was boring and everything tasted kinda bland.
Crispy chicken skin was ok. Churros was ... ok. Burgers were nice but kinda slimy. No spice or zing to anything. Fish dish was better. Did not like the fact they charged $6.50 for water. No cocktail menu either :(