Flavors of Spain in Singapore
Singapore, is a place that, despite its diminutive size, represents a true melting pot of cultures, religions, languages and gastronomy. It is therefore not surprising that this culturally diverse city-state is always open to new flavors, aromas and culinary adventures. More than one Michelin-star Spanish chef has found a "home away from home" for his cuisine in far-away Singapore. We are talking of course about acclaimed Spanish chefs Nandu Jubany and Carles Gaig
Text: Adrienne Smith/®ICEX
FOC is on fire
With its bold, pop-inspired, colorful decor, Nandu Jubany's FOC Restaurant is, in its own words, "a buzzy, interactive experience, a vibrant Spanish affair in the heart of Singapore with stunning food and outstanding cocktails". And with a name that means "fire" in Catalan, that description doesn't seem far off.
Nandu Jubany is, of course, best known in culinary circles as the chef/owner of one-Michelin–starred restaurant Can Jubany, which opened in 1995 in a charming farmhouse in the Catalan countryside in Calldetenes, receiving its star only three years later. But his experience as a chef has also touched on diverse projects like the Harvard "Science & Cooking" course, consulting for various hotels, and opening different restaurant projects throughout Catalonia.
In any case, what is abundantly clear is that FOC Restaurant in Singapore has a personality of its own. Opened by Jubany in collaboration with Spanish chef Jordi Noguera and award-winning mixologist Dario Knox, FOC is both slightly irreverent – think motorcycles around the ceiling, pepper-grinder bar chandeliers, a hopping cocktail bar and a bustling open kitchen – and, in a word, fun. Even so, it embodies the same commitment to quality, seasonal ingredients; authentic flavors, and innovative takes on both traditional and modern cuisine, that have made a name for Nandu Jubany in both Spain and beyond.
The menu, which is designed to be shared amongst friends "tapas style," features traditional Catalan and other regional Spanish dishes with a contemporary twist like Huevos estrellados with Spanish chorizo, fried padron peppers; mushroom, chicken or ham croquettes; Ibérico ham; Patatas bravas "FOC Style" with spicy sauce and garlic mayonnaise; Pa amb tomàquet (tomato-rubbed bread), and different cocas (typical Catalan flatbread). Not surprisingly, there are also a number of more sophisticated offerings including Watermelon gazpacho with smoked olive oil ice cream, Black Mediterranean squid ink paella; Suckling Pig terrine with poached onion ice cream and celeriac purée; Grilled Ibérico pork ribs and smoked pumpkin purée; and Confit duck with escabeche, pears and orange chutney. In short, this enticing, varied and ample menu is sure to leave happy diners with no doubt in their minds that FOC is an authentic ambassador for the flavors and cuisine of Catalonia in Singapore.
A family affair with Carles Gaig
The same can be said for popular Spanish chef Carles Gaig's new Gaig Restaurant Singapore, which is located just a short walk from FOC, also in the city center.
Like Nandu Jubany, Carles Gaig is a well-known chef whose cuisine is synonymous with quality, Catalonian gastronomy – an achievement that earned his Barcelona restaurant, Gaig, a Michelin star way back in 1993. For this chef, whose family has been in the restaurant business since 1869, cooking is in the blood, and his family continues to be an integral part of the culinary tradition at Gaig: his partner in both life and the business is his wife, Fina Navarro; his daughters are also involved.
The same quality carries over to the new Gaig outpost in Singapore. This friendly and casual eatery not only gives diners an opportunity to taste traditional flavors of Spain by way of tapas, paellas and classic Catalonian stews like Shrimp all-i-pebre, but it also introduces them to excellent Spanish products like Llonganissa from Vic, Lomo Ibérico de bellota, Ibérico bellota ham and more, as well as seasonal products that the chef hand-carries from Spain to Singapore on his frequent visits. This October, for example, Gaig brought boletus (porcini mushrooms) on a trip to Singapore to introduce some new dishes to the menu, as well as host (and cook) a special six-course tasting menu paired with wines from important Spanish winery Gramona.
Other culinary stars that you might find at Gaig Singapore include the Pluma Ibérica (pork) and mushroom paella, Beef tripe with chickpeas, chorizo and potatoes; Whole oven-roasted suckling pig; Pan-roasted mackerel Bilbaina style; Carabinero prawn tartare; Charcoal grilled octopus, cauliflower puree and fried kale; and of course Gaig's traditional cannelloni. The latter, which is stuffed with roasted pork, beef and foie gras, and smothered in truffle cream, is a 150-year-old Gaig family recipe. The restaurant's atmosphere is cozy and inviting, decorated with white walls, neutral tones, wood and wicker. And like FOC, it appears to have seamlessly blended into the culinary landscape of multicultural Singapore – pleasing palates, sating veteran Spanish food lovers, and opening new eyes to the wonders of this country's excellent gastronomy.