Catalunya is reputed to be the best Spanish restaurant in all of Singapore. I've heard so much raved about it, and was eager to see whether it lived up to the hype.
The glass-domed restaurant perched over the water's edge is reflective of its namesake being flanked by the Mediterranean Sea. A tip is to arrive for dinner before the sun sets, the glass enclosure allows for an expansive view to catch the dazzling rays of the setting sun; it's the perfect way to round off the evening and kickstart a memorable dinner. Notwithstanding the foregoing, the restaurant isn't quite my idea of a date-night spot. With downtempo clubby music reverberating off the walls, it was difficult carrying on a decent conversation without having to yell over one another. Catalunya is more of those sexy, chill-out cocktail places that would be great for large groups of friends who are comfortable shouting at each other without getting pissed off. It was a blessing in disguise then, that I was dining with a whole bunch of boisterous, loud-mouthed lawyers.
As for the food, just about every dish was a slamdunk. The food was convivial and full of soul, but ultra refined, with an exquisite finesse I'd never seen in Spanish food. Unsurprisingly, food this good comes at a price, and a hefty one at that. Budget about $150-$200 per person to be satisfactorily sated.
Service was just as excellent. Professional and efficient but without the stuffiness of such fine-dining establishments. I especially loved our smiley upbeat waiter, who took the time to explain every dish, and gave the best recommendations.
So is it Singapore's best Spanish restaurant? Oh it's an unequivocal and enthusiastic yes!
No Spanish meal is replete without tapas; we ordered the Croquetas de Jamon ($15), crisp breadcrumbed rolls filled with potato mash, melted cheese and bits of jamon. Aromatic, moist and lipsmackingly good, I wanted more of these heavenly morsels.
The Calamares ($18), a bunch of squid fries served in a kitschy wire basket, was firmer than what we're typically used to, but still tender. A lemon zest-tinged aioli served alongside as a dip.
The Chorizo Y Estrellados ($18), a classic Spanish starter of scrambled eggs with chorizo and fried potatoes, was superb as well. The juxtaposition of the salty fatty chorizo, fluffy eggs and herbed potatoes made for an addictive but nuanced appetizer.
Onto the mains, we ordered primarily from the seafood menu. We'd be remiss if we didn't order seafood because Catalan cuisine, a subset of Mediterranean cuisine, is seafood-based. The best of the lot, Lobster Rice ($80), was insanely delicious. Robust shellfish stock created a complexity that fleeted between the rich and balanced. We wiped up every last delicious grain of this.
They were very accommodating to particular dietary constrains, and whipped up an off-menu item, a Vegetarian Risotto ($35), a variant of the lobster rice above. This was no less delicious than the lobster version, with the sweetness of vegetables infused into every fat grain of risotto.
The Grilled Mediterranean Red Prawn ($85) were small but boasted an incredible sweetness. These were simply adorned with garlic crisps, olive oil and parsley, leaving the spotlight to shine on the freshness of the prawns.
The Catch of the Day, a Grilled Wild Seabass ($45), was sparkling fresh and cooked to a moist flaky perfection. The only gripe was that this was overly salted. We kept drinking water to counter the potential water retention.
Some of the meat-lovers had to have this, the New Zealand Txeluton ($155/kg) a hulking luscious ribeye. You can't quite tell from the picture, but this was 1 whole kilogram of full-bodied scrumptiousness, done medium rare for maximum juiciness. Rwar!
Cocktails here at Catalunya are highly recommended; we got a Jug of their Red Sangria ($127.44), which tempered the sweet fruitiness of the berries with the potency of a robust red wine.
82 Collyer Quay
The Fullerton Pavilion
Tel: 6534 0886
Open daily from 12noon to 2am