La Ventana Tasting Session

July 27, 2015 Ivan Teh - RunningMan 0 Comments

La Ventana Tasting Session
16A Dempsey Road

Opening Hours:
Tue - Sun: 12pm - 3pm, 6pm - 11pm
Closed Mon



http://www.laventana.com.sg/

https://www.facebook.com/LaVentanaSG

This was an invited media review. I did not pay for the meal during the free hosted tasting session, but I did pay the standard price during subsequent visits.
Attended with representatives from The Arctic Star, Little Tiny Sun, and Chubby Botak Koala.



Delicious, Authentic, Memorable Catalan Fine Dining

(Ratings: On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 = Worst and 10 = Best)
Overall: 9
Ambience & Setting: 8
Food & Beverage: 9
Service: 9
Value for Money: 9
Budget about SGD $85 ++ per person.


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Opened in June 2015, the first thing I learnt about La Ventana is that it's distinctly Catalan cuisine, not Spanish cuisine. This distinction is important, because chef and the staff all hail from the Catalonia region, and they consider themselves an independent country not part of Spain, much like the complicated relationship between Taiwan and China. The pride they have in their homeland is evident at La Ventana, the ambience is fantastic, the service personal and professional, the food excellent.

La Ventana Entrance
La Ventana Entrance



Ambience at La Ventana is quaint and cozy, like a country style home. This intimate 80-seater (plus) restaurant is set within the lush greenery of Dempsey Hill, styled to resemble the Barcelona countryside. The comfortable, modern wooden and rattan furniture, bespoke decor of wine bottles and handcrafted Catalonia art plates, classical background music from Spain, and nautical colours of blue-green / turquoise, white, wood, and navy, is welcoming with a suitable atmosphere for long, slow meals. The fine silverware and artfully crafted, intricate dining plates (which change with each course served) are elegant and sophisticated in air, a true fine dining experience. There's areas for indoor dining, outdoor al-fresco dining, lawn dining, and even a private dining area! I understand the event lawn can even be used for live bands, or events such as weddings.

La Ventana Exterior
La Ventana Exterior


La Ventana Interior
La Ventana Interior



Service at La Ventana is personalised, efficient, and professional, as befits a fine dining restaurant. The kitchen team mostly hails from Barcelona and the Catalonia region, while the front of house staff hail from throughout Spain, or Singapore. No problems conversing in English or Spanish. There is an old-world, elegant sophistication to the service, staff will serve all the ladies first, followed by the gentlemen, then briefly introduce each dish and its history. Very knowledgable, I'm impressed. They also come around regularly to check on the progress of your meal, offer more drinks, or proactively enquire if they can clear empty / dirty plates. Staff can engage you in conversation, but as meals at La Ventana typically stretch up to 2 hours (or more), having suitable dining companions is a must.

La Ventana Outdoor Seating
La Ventana Outdoor Seating


La Ventana Indoor Seating
La Ventana Indoor Seating


La Ventana Private Seating
La Ventana Private Seating



Food at La Ventana is authentic Catalonia cuisine. Michelin-starred Chef Carles Gaig, of the famed Barcelona family restaurant Taberna d’en Gaig (which his family established in 1869), set up La Ventana, which is managed by his daughter Nuria Gibert, and her husband Chef Eduard Castellarnau. The classic recipes of Chef Carles Gaig at La Ventana reflect the influences of his family, including his mother and grandmother. Dishes are known to engage the senses; with colouful, intricate plating and presentation, aromatic fragrances of herbs and spices, textures which are perfectly executed and compliment, and tastes which are bold, full of flavour. Tapas portions are suitably small, while main course portions are large and could be shared. Prices reflect the high-end, fine dining status of La Ventana, budget about SGD $85 or more per person, for a meal here.

La Ventana Event Lawn
La Ventana Event Lawn


Cute Wine Cellar
Cute Wine Cellar



Complimentary Country Bread with Olive Oil is served at the start of each meal, as cooking and preparation times can be rather long, about 15 - 30 minutes or so. The bread is suitably crisp in the crust, and soft within, fragrant with the aroma of wheat fields. Good quality virgin olive oil as well, which is fragrant and delicious. Noticed they don't serve vinegar with this, although you can request for it.

Country Bread


Olive Oil



A classic Spanish fresh fruit and wine cocktail, the Red Wine Sangria (SGD $19) is a refreshing blend of house red wine, cointreau triple sec liqueur, martini rosso vermouth, orange juice, lemon juice, and peach juice. Top tasting notes of fruity orange and peach, followed by the mellowness of berries and oak. A house speciality, highly recommended!

Red Wine Sangria (SGD $19)



The Oyster Escabeche (SGD $18) features a large, fresh Gillardeau number 3 oyster, treated in a tart, sour, zesty, light marinade, alongside fresh micro herbs and vegetables. Incredibly pretty to look at, especially served within a plate resembling an oyster shell. The Gillardeau number 3 oyster is sourced from the Gillardeau family, a small but legendary family-run oyster farm in Bourcefranc-Le-Chapus, in the Poitou-Charentes region of France. This 3rd grade oyster is plump, luxurious, and creamy (said to be the best oyster in the world), as such, it's highly sought after by many Michelin star chefs, and served in the finest European restaurants. A divine single bite!

Oyster Escabeche (SGD $18)


Oyster Escabeche



With the Jamon Iberico De Bellota (SGD $26), thin slices of jamon iberico ham, packing a salty, savoury punch, compliment the sweet, juicy tomatoes, and the crisp, wafer-thin Catalan crystal bread. A delightful combination of bold tastes and textures, the gentlemen found this to be very appealing, voting it their favourite appetizer / tapas dish. Plating is clean and modern, like treasure within a little pocket. This ham is the highest grade of jamon iberico ham available in Spain, sourced from 100% acorn fed, free-range black Iberian pigs, which roam amongst the oak forests. Cured for 36 months, the marbling results in the jamon iberico ham taking on a smooth texture and rich taste. Slightly messy to consume, but so good!

Jamon Iberico De Bellota (SGD $26)


Jamon Iberico De Bellota



The ladies voted the Lobster Coca (SGD $19.80) as their favourite appetizer / tapas dish. A coca is a traditional, fine puff pastry from Catalonia, and it can be savoury or sweet, presented in either a closed, open, or plain style. It's usually associated with various holiday celebrations. Here, chef has presented an open, savoury coca, with a wafer-thin, crisp texture, topping it with aubergine / eggplant puree, roasted red bell peppers / capsicums, and chunks of fresh deshelled lobster meat. All 3 main ingredients are commonly used in the everyday kitchens of Catalonia. Unusual presentation, on a raised, vibrant red platform. There is a refreshing sweetness to this dish, despite its savoury status. Very good!

Lobster Coca (SGD $19.80)


Lobster Coca



My personal favourite of the evening was the Roasted Octopus (SGD $38). Served alongside herb infused waxy potatoes, and sprinkled with Spanish smoked paprika, the slow roasted octopus meat is tender, almost creamy in texture. Also known as Pulpo Gallego, this dish originated in the Galicia region of Spain, and the key to this straight forward, simple dish is the freshness of the octopus, as well as the chef's skill in timing during boiling to get it tender. As the traditional version can be rather bland, here, chef has chosen to coat it with a savoury, sweet gravy that lifts the entire dish, giving the succulent octopus a lot of flavour. Plated on a tree trunk pattern dish, which looks elegant. Loved it!

Roasted Octopus (SGD $38)


Roasted Octopus


Roasted Octopus



The Canelon Since 1869 (SGD $12) was the 1st dish ever created by chef's family, over 4 generations ago, when they first established their restaurant. The original, classic recipe has not changed in all these years, as in chef's words, "It's good enough". Featuring a traditional cannelloni (a baked cylindrical pasta covered in sauce), stuffed with foie gras, minced beef, minced pork, and soaked in truffle cream, the dish is savoury, meaty, creamy, luxurious, full of flavour, and utterly decadent. Simple, straight forward, clean plating, but rather messy to eat. The Canelon Since 1869 is chef's proudest dish, a true family legacy, and the dish he will first ask you about (if you order it). The fragrant aroma, and tender meat filling has rightly won many fans around the world, and is one of the signature dishes of La Ventana. While it wasn't our favourite dish, we all agreed that it's very good. Worth ordering!

Canelon Since 1869 (SGD $12)


Canelon Since 1869


Canelon Since 1869



The sommelier recommended I try the Red Wine - Tempranillo - Matsu El Picaro 2014 (SGD $21), which he said would pair well with the upcoming courses (it complimented exceedingly well). Noted that they served it professionally, letting you smell / taste the sample before pouring the rest of the glass. The Matsu El Picaro 2014, whose name means 'the rogue' or 'the rascal', is a youthful spirit which is produced in the vineyards around the town of Toro, Zamora province, in the Castile And Leon region of Spain. It's a Tempranillo red wine, which is made with an early ripening black grape variety, and has a full body with a deep vibrant colour. To create the Matsu El Picaro 2014, grapes are harvested from mature vines (of over 50 years), but aged for only 3 months in oak barrels, preserving the natural, sweet, fruity flavour.

The Red Wine - Tempranillo - Matsu El Picaro 2014 has a vivid, ruby red and deep purple colour in the glass, with an aroma of ripe blackberries, raspberries, dry spice, and subtle hints of fresh cocoa and forest leaves. The body is full, robust, refreshing, and smooth on the palate, with ripe tannins, a pleasant astringent mineral grip, and a mild acidity. Taste is fresh and sweet, primarily of berries (raspberry, blackberry, blueberry), and the complex, unique taste is pleasing. No surprise that it's won many fans! Its complexity also means it pairs well with a wide variety of dishes, including red meats (beef, lamb, pork, pigeon, kangaroo), tomato sauces / stews / soups, sharp cheeses (cheddar, blue, gouda, asiago, limburger), and even spicy food!

Red Wine - Tempranillo - Matsu El Picaro 2014 (SGD $21)


Red Wine - Tempranillo - Matsu El Picaro 2014



The Black Cod & Samfaina (SGD $38) features a fresh, flaky black cod fish, sourced from Alaska in the United States Of America, slow cooked for hours till tender. Served on a piquant bed of samfaina, a Catalonia style vegetable ragout / ratatouille made with vegetables popular in Barcelona, including aubergine / eggplant, zucchini, garlic, onions, bell peppers / capsicums, and porcini mushrooms, all stewed till soft in a fresh tomato sauce. Also known as Bacalao / Bacalla Amb Samfaina, the creative plating resembles a large leaf. However, I felt this was the weakest dish I had here. Don't get me wrong, it's a decent dish, but as the most average dish in the midst of excellent dishes, this was the most forgettable. Plus, I've had much better cod fish elsewhere.

Black Cod & Samfaina (SGD $38)


Black Cod & Samfaina



When I told my friends that I was going to eat Pigeon Paella (SGD $38), they joked that pigeons would attack me the next day in revenge. Fortunately, the pigeons in this dish are imported from France! Grilled till medium rare, the pigeon breast has a nice brown skin with a smoky aroma, and tender meat that resembles a steak in texture. Very good! The pigeon leg is cooked through, and resembles duck meat in texture, I found it to be dry, lacking moisture. Not so good. The fragrant carnaroli rice, often used in risotto dishes, is served in a large metal paella pan, flavoured with pigeon stock and porcini mushrooms, resulting in a savoury, smoky, sweet taste. The medium grain rice is soft in texture on the outside, yet retains a slight hint of firm bite inside. Overall, a novel, unique dish that is deliciously tasty, though the meat portions are a little small. In hindsight, I personally may not order this again, due to the small amount of meat to rice ratio. (Also, I have yet to be attacked by pigeons)

Pigeon Paella (SGD $38)


Pigeon Paella



I loved the Crispy Suckling Pig (SGD $38)! Featuring a large boneless slab of suckling pig, with tender and moist pork meat that isn't gamey in taste! Topped with a thin, crisp, savoury skin, which cracks beautifully. A tart, sour sweet strawberry salad is served alongside, and the sharpness of the vinaigrette pairs well with the savoury sweetness of the pork. Plating is clean and modern, with the square design offset by the gravy swoosh, and the diagonal plating of ingredients. The pork skin has a thin layer of fat, which is easily removed if you don't want it. Absolutely loved this dish, which left me wanting more! Highly recommended!

Crispy Suckling Pig (SGD $38)


Crispy Suckling Pig



The oddly named Our Catalan Creme Brulee (SGD $18) is a divine dessert! Every part of the traditional dessert is made from scratch. The light, airy espuma (foam) simply melts in the mouth, coating the palate with a pleasant caramel flavour that is light, not overpowering. The punchy sour lemon caramel at the base lends a tangy citrus flavour, mix it well together to give the dessert some zest! The cream custard base is light and refreshing, allowing you to taste the other components of this creme brulee. Finally, the ice cream toffee hidden within is like a buried treasure, lending a new depth of sweetness. Those who prefer something light may find this dessert cloying, despite the zesty citrus notes. The generous portion threatens to spill over the sides of the large glass it's presented in, but when you start, you can't stop, going back for spoon after spoon of this creamy, addictive creme brulee. Worth ordering for those with a sweet tooth!

Our Catalan Creme Brulee (SGD $18)


Our Catalan Creme Brulee



La Ventana Chef Eduard Casterllarnau came by to greet us, and ask for feedback on the meal. He speaks with pride about the food, and his family traditions. But I find myself thinking, would the general public of Singapore accept such classic, authentic Catalan food, unusual as it may be? Or would it eventually be toned down to suit local palates? The answer lies in the unknown future, but I hope standards remain as honest, true, and authentic as they do today, even if it means paying a premium for it.

With La Ventana Chef Eduard Casterllarnau



Overall, the combination of incredibly tasty, authentic Catalan cuisine, lovingly prepared with premium ingredients, served by friendly, efficient staff who make an effort to personalise the dining experience, all within a cozy, relaxing setting, makes every visit to La Ventana worthwhile. Well worth the top dollar it commands, my dining experience at La Ventana is, thus far, the most memorable meal I've had in 2015. I'll visit again for more.


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Update Jun-2016: Almost 1 year later, and I've finally returned to La Ventana. This time, to celebrate friends embarking on new journeys; new jobs, new studies, new life in other countries. I'm pleased to find that La Ventana has maintained its premium fine dining status, with ambience, service, and food as good as before. The authentic Catalonia cuisine (not Spanish cuisine) here remains as tasty, traditional, and beautifully plated as ever. Excellent!

Finally got to drink my favourite red wine again! The Red Wine - Tempranillo - Matsu El Picaro 2014 (SGD $84) is no longer being sold by the glass, but by the bottle. Still as roguish and youthful as ever! Wish I could find this more easily in Singapore!

Red Wine - Tempranillo - Matsu El Picaro 2014 (SGD $84)



If you're lucky (or unlucky, depending on how you see it) to be alone at the table, waiting for the rest of your friends to show up, staff will serve you the Breadsticks & Lentil Dip (SGD $ Complimentary). Crisp, frim breadsticks, fragrant with good flavour, paired with a thick, creamy, grainy lentil dip, which tastes very similar to the Mediterranean hummus dip. Good!

Breadsticks & Lentil Dip (SGD $ Complimentary)


Breadsticks & Lentil Dip



The Foie Gras Terrine Cookie (SGD $18) has a slab of rich, creamy smooth duck foie gras terrine, sandwiched between crisp, flaky puff pastry, topped with apple gel and blueberry gel. The sweet savoury flavour will appeal to most!

Foie Gras Terrine Cookie (SGD $18)


Foie Gras Terrine Cookie



The Surf & Turf Beef Meat Balls & Baby Calamari (SGD $18) feature tightly packed, savoury and moist beef meat balls, along with fresh, bouncy calamari squid, in a savoury salty, rich and meaty gravy. Decent enough, but not outstanding like other items on the menu.

Surf & Turf Beef Meat Balls & Baby Calamari (SGD $18)


Surf & Turf Beef Meat Balls & Baby Calamari



Everthing about the Jamon Iberico De Bellota (SGD $26) is the same as before, a testament to their excellent consistency in quality! Just as good!

Jamon Iberico De Bellota (SGD $26)


Jamon Iberico De Bellota



The Catalan Roasted Pularda (SGD $22 / $32) features either a whole or half pan-roasted Bresse chicken, in a savoury salty brown gravy, with tender prunes, sweet apricots, and crunchy pine nuts. The chicken itself is tender and moist, with savoury sweet flavour, and holds a unique appellation d'origine contrôlée (AOC) status. This means the chicken is a premium breed, sourced only from the region of Bresse, in Eastern France. It has been described as "the queen of poultry, the poultry of kings". Highly recommended!

Catalan Roasted Pularda (SGD $22 / $32)


Catalan Roasted Pularda



While the taste of the Pigeon Paella (SGD $39) is just as consistently good as before, they have increased the portion size, serving with 2 pigeons instead of just 1. And while the price has also increased by SGD $1, this dish is much more value for money now, I would order this again!

Pigeon Paella (SGD $39)


Pigeon Paella



The Squid Ink Paella (SGD $38) has fragrant carnaroli rice, infused with squid ink, giving it an earthy flavour with a hint of bitter taste at the finish. Sprinkled with fresh deshelled slipper lobster / crayfish meat, and fresh raw clams, the combination of sweet seafood and savoury earthy bitter paella rice is delicious. Love the slightly crunchy bits at the edges of the pan, and the moist center! Worth ordering!

Squid Ink Paella (SGD $38)


Squid Ink Paella



The Cheesecake (SGD $15) here features one of the smoothest, creamiest textures I've ever eaten in a cheesecake! With a fragrant light sweetness, the rich cream cheese mousse mixed with white chocolate sits on a buttery biscuit crumble base. Served with fresh seasonal berries (strawberry, blueberry, raspberry) on the side. So addictive, yet not heavy. Highly recommended!

Cheesecake (SGD $15)


Cheesecake



Inspired by the cocktail of the same name, the Cosmopolitan (SGD $14) dessert here features cubes of soft, vodka soaked sponge cake, and fruity sweet Mandarin orange sorbet, served in a sharp sour tart raspberry coulis, topped with creamy and light Cointreau foam, enhanced with zesty lime juice. This modern deconstructed dessert is pleasing, although the individual flavours are intense, eating everything together makes it palatable.

Cosmopolitan (SGD $14)


Cosmopolitan



Cheers to new journeys!

Us


Us



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Reserve a table now @ La Ventana









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