Coconuts Singapore. What’s the food like there, you ask? Well, the region straddles the border between France and Spain, with seven provinces in total from those two countries. As the food culture of France and Spain melds together, you can imagine how good everything gets. Basque Country is home to nearly 30 Michelin-starred restaurants, and the coastal city of San Sebastián is often considered to be one of the best places to eat in the world.
Simple and unpretentious, Basque cuisine is built around a handful of core ingredients that are native to the area: olive oil, salted cod, cured meats, peppers, anchovies, and cheese. The grilling culture is strong here — Basque Country is home to some of the finest grilling restaurants — and the new Telok Ayer joint seeks to highlight it. It just outfitted its kitchen with the Basque Grill, made by Josper, a Spanish brand that produces hybrid charcoal grill-ovens that are beloved by chefs worldwide.
And, it’s that shiny new tool that’s led to the inception of the restaurant’s new grill-based menu.
Priced at $98 per person (with a minimum of four people per table), Head Chef Aitor Jeronimo Orive’s five-course dinner tasting menu will take patrons through the hot and homely Basque flavor profile — one filled with rich sauces and expertly prepared meats. This set doesn’t include drinks, but diners can add the wine pairing option for another $65.
The meal kicks off with an assortment of small bites (including fancy pintxos and a lightly fried oyster), which is then followed by the delicious Mud Crab, an umami-heavy bowl of Sri Lankan crab cooked in its own juice, and placed in sweet tomato water with katsuobushi bonito flakes.
Enjoyed that hit of umami? Well, it goes into cosmic levels with the Kokotxas — large chunks of gelatinous de-salted cod get slathered in a creamy, collagen-heavy black garlic pil-pil sauce. How the sauce is made: Take the milky white traces left in a pan from cooked fish and emulsify that with garlic oil and guindillas peppers.
It’s an utter treat for anyone who loves intensely flavored sauces, but it might be on the heavy side for others.
Basque cuisine classic Txuleta makes an appearance, too. You can’t really have a Josper without grilling beef, after all. In lieu of young oxen, the dish highlights the more complex flavors of old cows (up to 18 years of age in extreme cases) and follows the traditional method of grilling Angus prime rib on charcoal. The result is a more flavorful cut of meat that’s charred on the outside, moist on the inside.
Providing the surf to that beefy turf is the Turbot, a simply cooked yet toothsome fish dish. The flatfish gets grilled entirely with little seasoning before the whole thing gets drizzled in the phenomenal pil-pil sauce that made its mark earlier.
Towards the end of the meal, the chef makes sure to cut through all that richness by serving up a cheese plate featuring slices of Basque favorites like Idiazabal, Murcia al Vino, and Valdeon cheese. Our advice: Ask for more bread and request just a little bit more of the pil-pil sauce, too, to pair with those bites of cheese. Can’t get enough of it.
Basque Kitchen by Aitor is at 97 Amoy St.
6224-2232. Mon-Fri 12:30am-2:30pm, 6:30pm-11pm; Sat 6:30pm-11:30pm.
MRT: Telok Ayer