[dropcap size=small]I[/dropcap]t’s a sign of the sheer depth of Singapore’s dining scene that you can eat tapas that’s as good as anything you might find anywhere in Spain. The fact that you’re eating it in the city’s old red-light district of Keong Saik makes the experience all the more surreal.

Esquina’s light-filled dining room on the upper level of the shophouse.

At the corner of the narrow Jiak Chuan Road is the ever popular Esquina. There are tables on the five-foot way outside and a 24-seater on the second floor, but the best seats in the house are at the high stools by the bar of the open kitchen, where you can watch head chef Carlos Montobbio and his young brigade cook up your meal.

After the more freewheeling style of his predecessor, Andy Walsh (who now runs Cure), Montobbio returns the kitchen closer to its roots as a Spanish tapas bar. The menu is compactly divided into snacks, soil (aka vegetables), sea and land. For the most part, the courses are bite-sized but they’re smartly executed with a touch of creativity.

Rectangular-shaped potato and black truffle “gratin” accompanied by iberico ham.

Munch on irresistible cubes of crispy potato “gratin” paired with black truffle shavings, iberico ham, a rich onion sauce, and organic egg yolk. And then move on to the signature suckling pig, which is a real stunner. Its skin roasted to the thinness and crispness of fresh parchment, both it and the underlying tender flesh yield to a gentle stab of the fork with a satisfying crackle. It’s all gone in three bites. Then comes an earthern bowl of sunshine – the signature saffron scented paella with sweet morsels of sea urchin and lobster along with crunchy snow peas, and golden dollops of saffron aioli.

Even if you’re full, order one of the desserts to round off on a sweet note. The BBC is a bravura mess of banana pudding, beer ice cream, and warm caramel sauce drizzled table-side. You will get spoonfuls of textures, cold and warm, yeasty bitters and smoked sweetness.

16 Jiak Chuan Road, S(089267)
T 6222-1616

The full list of Singapore’s Best at
G Restaurant Awards 2017.

All tastings conducted incognito with esteemed members of G’s Food Panel.