Taking up the largest retail space in Tanjong Pagar Centre is none other than Pura Brasa by Josper, a Spanish restaurant that aims to introduce authentic Spanish cuisine at affordable prices.
Initially, I thought Josper was the name of a high-end restaurant and this being its sister concept. But as it turns out, Josper actually refers to a brand of charcoal ovens — the best in the world actually.
Capable of producing up to 400 degrees Celsius of heat, the 500kg cast iron oven imparts a pronounced smokiness to the food, which is used by many Michelin-starred restaurants around the world.
With a total of six restaurants in Spain (one can even seat up to a thousand guests), Singapore is Pura Brasa’s first branch overseas.
Boasting a warm and cosy interior, the ambience gave off a classy yet casual vibe. Perfect for an enjoyable family dinner or a catch-up session with friends over some wine and tapas.
At the corner of the restaurant, there’s even a round table against a backdrop of Spanish logs that seats 10 pax.
The extensive menu of over 50 items can be broken down into three approaches: individual mains, entrees for sharing and tapas. For this review, we went primarily with the signature entrees for sharing.
The first of two appetisers to start off our meal was the Spanish Breadstick with Asparagus and Pepper Dips (complimentary).
Brittle and crunchy, the breadstick went well with both the smoky and sweet pepper dip, as well as its asparagus counterpart, which had a more mellow flavour profile.
In comparison, the Crystal Bread with Tomato & Olive Oil ($6) was much more impressive. Upon my first bite, the flaky and crunchy bread almost ‘disintegrated’ in my mouth.
Together with sweet, slightly tart and full-bodied French tomato ‘jam’ and fragrant olive oil, this humble looking dish completely stole the thunder from the previous appetiser.
Absolutely delightful. If you come here, DO NOT leave without trying this.
Next up was the “Gazpachito” ($12), or tomato gazpacho. Incredibly refreshing, cool and sweet, this dish is traditionally eaten during the Spanish summers to beat the heat.
Despite being soaked in the soup, the croutons were still incredibly crunchy. As its presentation suggests, this chilled soup is best enjoyed as a shot.
Note: To commemorate its opening, this dish will be complimentary for a limited time.
Our first proper entree came in the form of the Grilled Octopus on “trinxat de la Cerdanya“, Carving Potatoes and Cabbage ($33) — a whole leg in fact. While I tend to shy away from octopus dishes because it tends to be tough and chewy when not executed right, this version blew all my doubts away.
With a pronounced smoky fragrance, every bite of the tentacle was incredibly tender with a nice yielding chew to it. Imported from Spain, it exuded a pleasant sweetness as well.
Arriving on a impressively long carving board, the Half-metre Spanish Pork Ribs ($35) was one of the best dishes of the day.
Essentially prepared via the increasingly popular reverse-sear method, this huge slab of ribs is first cooked at a very low temperature to ensure that the flesh is moist and juicy before being finished at 400 degrees to achieve a crispy smoky crust on the outside.
The result? A near perfect rendition of pork ribs that I’ve had anywhere. In fact, I daresay you’d be hard-pressed to find a better version of it in Singapore for the same portion, price and quality. Definitely a must-order.
The Cone of Grilled Chicken Wings with Straw Potatoes ($15) was fared well around the table too with its aroma from the charcoal and earthy black pepper.
The incredibly juicy and moist free-range chicken wings reminded me of a high quality version of its chalet barbecue counterpart — minus the charred bitterness if you’re a struggling pitmaster like me, of course.
While good on its own and great for kids, I recommend that you save your tummy space (and money) for the other incredible and uncommon offerings on the menu.
For the last entree of the day, we were served the Charcoal Seafood Paella by Josper ($28). Proudly hailed by the restaurant as the “best paella in Singapore”, we couldn’t leave without trying this for ourselves. And, boy it was incredible.
Every single grain of rice was perfectly al dente with a smoky fragrance and did well to absorb the rich seafood stock, which was simmered for six hours to extract every drop of umami. Scattered throughout the cast iron pan were chunks of tender cuttlefish and sweet, crunchy wild-caught prawns as well.
Unlike other places that might resort to using paella mixes and colouring to achieve the expected intense orange hue, the paella here is prepared with all-natural spices only; the orange colour comes from fresh tomatoes and red peppers.
Every aspect of this dish was well-executed, which resulted in an incredible burst of flavours with each spoonful. Talk about saving the best for last.
While I can’t definitively say it is the best paella in Singapore, I can confidently say that it is the best I’ve ever had the pleasure of tasting.
To round off our meal, we had the Chocolate Truffle in Puff Pastry ($8) for dessert. Sinking my teeth into one, the light crispy pastry broke apart to reveal a molten and gooey chocolate centre. Together with a light dusting of icing sugar, this dessert was rich and comforting.
However, I did find the mounds of whipped cream unnecessary. Some cold and creamy gelato would have made for a far better complement to the warm dessert.
Another signature dessert we tried was the Traditional Catalan Cream ($8), which is essentially the Spanish version of creme brulee. Rich and creamy just enough without being too jelak.
The generous sprinkling of cinnamon elevated what otherwise would have been a monotonous dish, and made for a strong punchy ending to our Spanish feast.
Overall, I absolutely loved the bold Spanish flavours on display and truly enjoyed my meal. It’s central location is definitely a boon as well.
For Spanish cuisine with high-quality ingredients, hearty portions and spot-on execution, look no further.
Expected damage: $25 – $40 per person