While Tapas 39 might be in the Duxton hill area, it resides away from the main crowd of restaurants in a quieter cluster of the region.
The place itself can house approximately 25 people, there is an open bar at the front of the restaurant with wooden tables parked outside the storefront. The interior of the restaurant is especially delightful, natural sunlight falls through the glass ceiling. It can be a bit blinding in the afternoon, but the overall decor of royal and tiffany blue comes off rather grand.
I love how they have managed to achieve a sense of class without trying too hard – there is manufactured pretentiousness and legit prestige that one-tracked woodwork cannot buy. The ambience is professional without being too emotionally distant, I think it would make a great place to bring clients.
We started off the meal with the hangover ($10), carbonated water with a telegraph cucumber that tasted really grassy. I think it was created with the intention of being a palate cleanser but the citrus slant would have been preferred with drinks like these. The idea is endearing, a good idea effort to craft something for the non-alcoholics.
The iced latte is ridiculously good. I find most lattes (those as cafes especially) choose to drown their espresso shot with some Greenfield fresh milk and pass it off as a latte. The roast here is nuttier with a consistency that does not come off too thick that it masks the espresso’s flavor. The coffee here itself is worth coming for.
The prices stated here are all ala-carte, hence they can come off rather pricey. However, there is a 5 tapas for $60 deal so try to bring at least a smaller group of your friends if you do come down to visit.
Next was the pan seared scallop with pork jowl, truffle parsnip puree ($16). It was everything I would have wished for, the scallop was fat and sweet, a hint of truffle to tease the differences between the scallop and pork further. The parsnip puree, a finishing touch to all the different elements- it was a very well thought out dish with brilliant execution.
The sea urchin au gratin with champagne ($20) was rather underwhelming. You hear a lot of fancy ingredients in it and expect a lot. However, the taste of sea urchin was completely overshadowed by potato. It had a slightly creamy albeit starchy consistency that was very comforting.
The uni itself does comes through as an after-taste but the purist in me would have preferred something a shade or two stronger. The resulting mix came off like a starchy cheese really, it was fresh but not as tantalizing as expected.
Octopus, chorizo oil & Ikura and mashed potatos ($42) was the best, and if anything should be their Tapas signature. It is served similar to a sashimi style with a kiss of ikura and chrizo. I love the marriage between the Spanish and Japanese traditions; the chorizo oil is just enough to slightly flavor the octopus, masking the freshwater taste that stains the palate – that way the freshness of the octopus is at its optimum. A job very well-done.
The Squid ink with acqurello rice & Sicillian red prawn ($23) was very inviting. The fancy acqurello rice passed itself off as a grainier risotto, personally I found it nothing too amazing to shout about.
Flavor-wise, it was rather medicore like a cheesy baked rice. The red prawn was exceptionally flavorful, albeit I wish I had more. Throughout the dishes, Tapas 39 consistently stood out for the optimum freshness of its seafood.
The Gourmet Pizza ($15) was a very simple dish; a doughy crust with a splash of soft cheese and aged ham sitting on top. It had a very homely, humble taste given the simple nature of the dish. I would prefer it as a appetizer to start off the meal – good for sharing with friends over drinks. Maybe not something particularly special that you would go out of the way to order it at a place in Duxton Hill but enough to serve its purpose as a slightly higher grade Pizza.
Sadly, the lamb skewer, mint cous cos and muhammara sauce ($25) was very unevenly seasoned. It had a kick of spice going towards the end of the stick. The meat itself is very tender and very fresh. Sadly, the cous cous and muhammara was not enough to elevate the taste of the excellent lamb. It was too subtle.
The pay off in terms of taste was decent; just not deserving enough to spend given the other range of options available. The previous dishes really set the Tapas 39 standard high for this one.
We finished our mains with the Iberian pork burger, piquillo pepper, apple and cardamom alioli ($23). This time – as a burger, I like how because the meat patty was just lightly seasoned, it did not come off too greasy so the taste of the fresh meat itself could shine right through. Buns were fried to a light crisp and the alioli provided a slight zest to the dish. This one gets a thumbs up from me.
Just to sweeten the meal, we had a dessert, aptly named, the Petit Four – they comprised petite cubes of Mojito marshmallow and Tatelette with chocolate ganache, raspberry and its jelly with lemon salt. In this bite size, no one can ever refuse them. We were completely smitten, particularly with the Mojito marshmallow for its delicate texture and simplicity.
Tapas 39 does try to cater to a different crowd but it comes off very sincere and unpretentious – which subtracting my personal bias is very surprising of a membership club. This is something quite amiss with the foodie scene here really. Poised, stature without coming off as too much. The food here can definitely be improved but the ambience and decent standard to the food is enough to win me back for a repeat visit. Not to forget the great coffee and drinks. Bring a date, a client or even family , I promise you the Tapas dining experience will be worth your while.
Estimated Damage: $60 – $80 per pax
Tapas 39: Club 39, 39 Duxton Hill Singapore 089617 | Tel: 6221 4235 | Website| Opening hours: 11.30am to midnight daily.