Situated along North Bridge Road outside Raffles City Shopping Centre, Salt Tapas & Bar by Luke Mangan is known for its modern style tapas with an Australian twist that uses fresh ingredients from around the world.
After being at the helm of the restaurant since its establishment, Chef Luke Mangan has recently handed over the reins of the kitchen at Salt Tapas & Bar to his protege, Chef Jake Kowalewski who has been with the Salt brand; working in its various restaurants before moving to Singapore in 2015 to work as a sous chef at Salt Grill & Sky Bar.
With over 10 years of experience in the kitchen, Chef Jake’s first steps have been to revamp the menu at Salt Tapas & Bar to reflect his own style of cooking. The new menu is a celebration of Chef Jake’s culinary philosophy that aims to create new and interesting dishes that are simple, rustic and approachable.
The interior of the restaurant was a sight to behold, truly capturing the essence of the Spanish vibe and manages to create that warm laid-back Aussie ambience, which makes for a relaxing meal with some friends. The use of brown brick walls and Spanish tiles contrast well against each other and is complemented by the antique warm lights.
With such a perfect setting, we were all set-up to enjoy the new dishes created by Chef Jake.
Cured Tuna ($17)
Our lunch was off to a bright start with the Australian yellow-fin tuna that is salt-cured for 40 minutes before being paired with fruity and zesty flavours from the lemon zest and oranges that are used in the dish. The supple fish is complemented by the crunch provided by the cucumber and puffed rice, giving the dish a dynamic texture.
White anchovy ($14)
Spain imported anchovies are placed over a bed of shredded red radish and coriander that decorated the sour dough bread spread with honey garlic. The dish has a perfectly balanced taste of both sweet and salty flavours, and the use of radish and parsley in this dish provided a nice crunchy freshness.
I’d recommend ordering a bespoke cocktail from the bar to have along along with this dish.
Scallop tartar ($19)
This innovative starter features diced Hokkaido scallops served with cute dollops of avocado puree, zesty lime bits, and tobiko roe, which are to be scooped up and eaten together with the squid ink prawn crackers.
The sweet fleshy scallops are enhanced by the creamy avocado and salty roe, and when combined with the robust umami cracker, this dish is definitely a show-stopper.
Warm vegetable salad ($17)
A true celebration of summer, the warm vegetable salad is new on the menu! It features a 62-degree hen’s egg that is plop in the middle of the bowl, served alongside grilled asparagus, braised white beans, beetroot, fresh peas and carrots. The simple ingredients are elevated by the sharp taste from the buttermilk and richness from the black truffle paste for a rich and creamy delight in your tummy.
It was truly delectable, with the contrast of earthy flavours from the beetroot and asparagus, along with the other naturally sweet taste from the caramelized onions and vegetables.
Italian meets Spanish with this dish. It is a real crowd-pleaser with the sour-dough acting as the perfect sponge to soak up all the goodness in this dish. The creamy textures provided by the Stracciatella cream and smoky flavours from the tomato jam are complimented by the mild bitterness of the basil oil and garlic in this dish.
Expecting it to be slightly warm and soupy, I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was chilled upon sinking my teeth into it. A refreshing pick-me-up to the start of the meal that’s ahead.
Char grilled prawns ($24)
This grand celebration of oceanic flavours features grilled tiger prawns that are paired with creamy labneh (greek yogurt), drizzled with chive oil and topped off with jamon iberico bits that have been fried to a crunch. The surprise factor in this dish is definitely the compressed melon sheets have been infused with vodka and a simple sugar syrup to give it that a bittersweet aftertaste.
However, I would have liked the prawns to be less overcooked, and more springy with each bite.
Slow cooked octopus ($27.50)
Tender octopus is served alongside saffron potato and pickled celery slices that are plated over a squid ink aioli sauce. The aioli elevates the freshness of the seafood, while the potatoes had a deep aroma that adds a nice softer bite for a more complete mouth-feel.
Wagyu rump cap 180g ($39)
This prime cut meat from the Ranger’s Valley in New South Wales takes centre stage with the help of a simple chimichurri sauce, made by blending together parsley, oregano, garlic, dried chilli, cabernet sauvignon vinegar and extra virgin olive oil.
The garlicky herbs help to make the dish feel less heavy on the palette, allowing you to sneak in a few more bites without feeling too sinful. The meat was cooked perfectly to medium-rare, easy to gnaw on without much jaw-work. The simple warm bread salad with cherry tomatoes provided a nice vinegar-ish contrast against the meaty flavours from the steak, which refreshes each bite.
Spanish style lamb kofta ($25)
Lamb meatballs marinated with a spice rub (paprika, oregano, parsley, mint, cumin, chilli flakes, garlic and black pepper) are char-grilled to perfection. The meat is still juicy and goes well with the lemon and mint yogurt for a creamy and light herb finish.
Pair it with the bright and fresh cous cous that contain pomegrenate seeds, pine nuts and tomatoes, which provided a contrasting sweetness and textures that is reminiscent of a Middle Eastern dish.
2016 licorice parfait ($14)
It was finally time for desserts, where we had the chance to try Chef Jake’s deconstructed take on Luke Mangan’s signature dessert. This dish really changed my perception of the black heavy flavoured licorice sweet.
With a dark and slightly bitter taste, the dish boasts a variety of textures with the licorice balancing out with the dark chocolate biscuit. While the sweeter, cleaner and sour flavours from the green apple slices, lime jelly and lime rinds ties it all together by balancing the tastes.
A Spanish tapas meal isn’t complete without some Churros. The churros served here have a slight tinge of citrus notes in the dough, as we were told that orange juice is added to the dough mix to give it a lighter texture. The churros are perfectly crisp on the outside and not too dense on the inside, just how it should be.
You could further enhance the sweetness of the churros with options of in-house made nutella, orange mamalade and vanilla chantily cream dips. Go ahead and double or triple dip, no one is judging. You can even try mixing the dips. Psst, mixing the in-house nutella and vanilla chantily cream blew our minds and taste buds.
The Australian by Luke Mangan ($18)
A really smooth and refreshing drink that accompanied us throughout the meal was The Australian. The looks of it reminded me of the bright golden sun set amidst its orangey-hue skies in the outback, not forgetting an earthy touch from the cinnamon stick, which also doubles as a stirrer.
This sweet cocktail that would reset the palates in between meals, the cinnamon and slight spice from the ginger adds a tiny punch with each sip. I’m pretty sure this would go down well with the ladies.
We are definitely impressed by Chef Jake’s creative ingenuity that truly showcases the bright and bold summer flavours. Can’t wait to return and try their other tapas dishes that will change in accordance to the seasonality and guaranteed freshness of the ingredients used in each dish.
Expected Damage: $50 – $80 per pax