Esmirada - 442 Orchard Road, #01-29 The Orchard Hotel
I'm not one to judge a book by its cover but I knew I was in for a treat when I stepped into this gorgeous lamp lit, stone-tiled Mediterranean eatery and wine bar.
Esmirada at The Orchard Hotel is able to bring elegance to rusticity with its lovely beaten-copper menus and tables of aged wood.
The $18.90 2-course set lunch or $22.50 with dessert is arguably one of the best around with an excellent selection. My dining partner and I opted for the former and supplemented a little. My first course was a delicious Potato Corbasi, a hearty potato, onion and cabbage soup of Turkish origin that is richly flavoured with Paprika. Its sweet warmth was just the thing to whet my appetite.
The soup was divine when mopped up with robustly garlicky and generously buttery Garlic Bread, served as an entire baguette.
Ever conscious of her svelte figure, my dining partner went for a salad of Feta, Lettuce, Tomatoes, Onions, Cucumbers and Bell Peppers with Oregano Dressing. The crisp vegetables and plump, sweet tomatoes were gorgeously presented and were good if nothing magical.
In the mood for meat, I went with Pan-Roasted Lamb Steak in Rosemary Wine Sauce with Potato Wedges and Ratatouille for my main. Done rarer than what I'm used to for a medium rare, the lamb was superbly tender and juicy with a subtle ovinity beneath layers of cloaking herbs. The red wine sauce was a tad bitter but the ratatouille was magnificent and not too sour as I've come to typically expect. The natural, crisp and unadorned wedges were just the thing to soak up any drippings.
I paired this with a recommended Merlot-Shiraz ($13) blend that was deliciously fruity and tannin-free with a wonderful floral bouquet.
My friend chose the Grilled Swordfish with Grilled Salsa Vegetables and Saffron Rice and - while pleased - was not quite as impressed as I was with mine. The firm fish had good char for smokiness but the vegetables and rice it had for a stage were unremarkable.
This was paired with a Riesling ($13) that she found not quite to her taste either for it was quite sweet, bordering on the sugar of a dessert wine.