[Fresh off the Press] La Ventana: Michelin Starred Catalan fare in Dempsey

Have you heard of the new La Ventana by Chef Carles Gaig in Dempsey Hill? Because it is an impressive operation with equally extraordinary accolades under its belt. Chef Gaig originally from Taberna d'en Gaig established in 1869, cleverly unifies tradition and innovation to create high quality cuisine that speaks to the heart; for doing so, his restaurant in the Horta district of Barcelona has been distinguished with a Michelin star since 1993.

In a private chat with Chef Gaig, who maintained an amicable grandfatherly-like mannerism, and abetted by the lovely Ms Nuria Gilbert (Chef Gaig's daughter) in translation purposes, we got to have an insight into the mind of this gifted yet humble chef.

Carles Gaig is clearly a old school romantic; translating his love for classical music into the conceptual build up of his menu. He believes in the power of good local produce and expressed his dissatisfaction at the arduous process of sourcing and sampling exemplary monk fish from around the region; that being said, the menu remains fluid till the desired quality of produce is found that complies with his critical standards. 'If the ingredient is good, it will speak for itself," says Chef Gaig, hence, do not expect to find kooky fusion dishes here, only authentic Catalonian fare with a true respect for its roots.

Rounding up the short interview, we kicked off the evening of merrymaking with a glass of Sangria at hand and left the fate of our stomachs to the capable hands of the kitchen.

It may be useful to imagine La Ventana as a pish-posh joint with stiff linen draped over the tables and an army of stemware perched precariously on table tops, but truth be told, it is non of that. Instead, La Ventana, set in a tranquil spot and surrounded by beautiful and lush greenery exudes the same fluidity even in its indoor vicinity. Clearly displaying Spanish hospitality, the colour palette varies across the board; muted grey cushioned chairs highlighted by dashes of exuberance through knick-knacks and those astounding serving plates that looked as if each one was sourced for one purpose only, that being to service that one dish it was bearing. 

From the Tapas Menu, we received a stunning Oyster Escabeche ($18 for 2). I enjoyed the pickled Gillardeau oyster, it's voluptuous, firm almost crunchy flesh pairing perfectly with the selection of baby vegetables and herbs that accompanied the dish. This delicately sweet morsel rounds off in a smack-down with a nutty finish, an aroma you would nurse in your mouth for as long a time before the next course sets in.

If you are sensible, you would have, and revel in the "Croquetas" and "Patatas Bravas" ($16.50 for 4; $12). Both these snacks are the best in any restaurant in Singapore at the moment.

Then there is the dainty pair of Chicken Wing Confit ($14 for 4); who would think of serving up chicken wings in a fine dining establishment? But hold up, these wings have been painstakingly deboned prior to being slow cooked till tender and yet preserving a slight crisp sear on the topside in addition to being basted by a rich sauce. 

Still, you are most likely killing time till the real deal comes along. Canelon since 1869 ($12), may from some angle, bare a resemblance to a shrivelled up male private part, but this 'not-so-pretty' looking plate is a definite must order at the establishment. Chef Gaig is the fourth generation in the family to prepare this dish, a traditional cannelloni stuffed with foie gras, beef and pork enveloped in a truffle cream sauce. Would you enjoy this? I believe, that's a rhetorical question given that this intensely flavoured package of fresh homemade pasta encasing such a smooth filling of ingredients left my poor heart in smithereens. I resigned to mopping up of that ambrosial black truffle cream with the aid of my spoon.

What sorcery is this?

This continues into the next course of Roasted Octopus ($38), a humble dish that hewed so closely with the rhythms of the Barcelona. Slow roasted octopus melts at the tips of your tongue too easily, dredge that through the line of smoked Spanish paprika for a bit of earthy heat. You might even want to finish off those swanky infused potatoes first, imbued with a smoky sweet sensation, this creamy rascals will leave you lusting for more. 

Except that you have to leave space for the Black Cod & Samfaina ($38), slow cooked black cod with Catalan style vegetable ragout  could well be the centrepiece of any Catalan family meal in larger portions. The hearty vegetable ragout stealing the limelight with a hot flush of spices.

If you thinking of skipping desserts at La Ventana, I would implore you to reconsider your decision. I am after all, in awe with the Catalan Creme Brulee ($18); the classic dessert is reinvented here with the custard in a feather-like espuma form, hiding a mysterious scoop of toffee ice cream and sitting over a bed of homemade lemon syrup. My partner finished his in a flash and proceeded to devour mine after recognising the all-too-familiar misty eyed, food coma look that I was donning after trudging through the meal.

Having thrown its grand opening party a mere 4 days ago, La Ventana proves to be a new kid on the block, kicking up a massive cloud of dust in the sleepy F&B saturated Dempsey region. With Chef Gaig's clear vision to resurrect many traditional Catalan recipes, this has struck a chord with Catalans and locals alike. So now, go ahead and get a taste of Barcelona, refined, right in the heart of Singapore.

Special thanks to La Ventana for the warm invitation and Cheg Gaig for hosting such an incredible meal.

La Ventana by Carles Gaig
16A Dempsey Road
t: 6479 0100

1 comment:

Babette said...

It all looks so incredibly good! Especially the octopus and the dessert.