Spanish food has always resonated with me. The passion and sensuality of this people have left a distinct mark on their cuisine which is replete with rich flavours and heady spices. As such, it was with much glee that I paid 6 month old My Little Spanish Place - a stone's throw from my home - a visit.
I knew I was in for a remarkably authentic taste of
As advised, we swiftly placed our paella order with a few choices from the array of tapas to tide us over till it arrived. The Tortilla de Patata con Alioli ($6) came highly recommended as
Croquetas ($6 for 3) arrived next in quick succession, chunks of Jamon ham according the smooth, creamy croquette filling with depth and flavour.
Next on the list was Gambas al Ajillo ($12.90), shrimp in garlic and white wine. The rather firm, thoroughly-cooked shrimp were perhaps an indicator of how the Spanish like their seafood a little more done than what I'm used to. The sauce could've had a stronger note of garlic pungency but was good nonetheless.
The Albondigas ($10.50) were arguably the tapas show-stealer. The three meatballs were magnificently massive! Excellently constructed to strike a textural balance between meaty solidity and tenderness, they were absolutely juicy despite being laudably lean. If that was not enough, they were coated in a thick, hearty tomato sauce with lovely herby accents.
Completing our round of Tapas were Filetes Russos con Pimientoy Mahon ($9.50); mini burgers composed of Russian filets, bell peppers and Mahon according to an heirloom Spanish recipe. The burgers’ elegant size belied extremely satisfying, compact patties that were superbly juicy and possessing a divine trinity of rich cheesiness, intense beefiness and smoky char.
To my dismay the house paella was unavailable due to a shortage of crucial chorizo (likely warranting a second visit), so we settled for the equally popular Paella Arroz Negra ($39 for 2 pax). The rich, pungent Umami of squid ink was absorbed magnificently by moist rice cooked to al dente, individual and separate grains. The raven mass studded with the odd squid ring and crowned with large, sweet shrimp was a sight to behold. A squeeze of lemon juice accords the paella with burst a citrus life that refreshes the palate and renders the sizable portion manageable with a clean finish. The base of the cast iron pan was free of any burnt grains and I was glad I did not have to contend with the typical unpleasant bitter tang usually associated with this dish.
Complementing our paella were two unusual sangrias. Familiar with the traditional red sangria by now, I was intrigued by the White Wine Sangria ($10.90) which proved very fruity and extremely light.
Emboldened, I tried the Cova Sangria ($12.90) and fell in love with this sparkly alcopop. With a little more weight than the white, it had a robust tartness and a floral-citrus twist which - together with its sparkle - gave the impression of a playful party drink.
Sworn off carbohydrates; one of my dining partners started off with the Salmorejo ($7.50), a creamy yet sour variation of Gazpacho cold soup brimming with chopped hard-boiled eggs and flavourful jamon ham for an interesting result.
He followed this with Pinchos Morunos ($19); well-spiced, smoky barbecued pork skewers that were gorgeous with the sweet heat of pepper pickles.
We simply could not resist trying a dessert or two despite being quite full so we ordered a pair to share. The Crema Catalana ($7) turned out to be a lighter, less eggy crème brûlée with a delicate yet refreshing infusion of lemon and orange. The crisp caramelised sugar crust was wonderfully paper-thin and barely-there.
The best was truly left for last in the form of Leche Frita ($8) or fried milk. Crisp fritters oozing with rich custard and dusted liberally with cinnamon were paired with airy whipped cream for a decadent result. It is no surprise that this centuries-old recipe has stood the test of time, it looks beautiful too!