Perform a quick Google search of ‘Catalunya’ and its affluent history, and you might just find yourself spiralling down a rabbit hole of its relevant politics, struggle for recognition, and proclaiming its language as an independent tongue. For one, it’s native language is not to be confused as a dialect of Spanish, but rather an evolved version of Latin. Against all odds, it is now spoken by more than 9 million people. As it has faced many hurdles to its claim for independence, the cuisine also sees a fervent battle for acknowledgement. Fortunately for Singapore, as a hodgepodge country of countless food, we have Restaurant Gaig at Stanley Street grace our shores, in hopes of educating our palate of true Catalan fare.
It’s no longer an infant in our F&B scene—having been around for several years now—but Restaurant Gaig is attempting to move with the times, by retaining nostalgia while embracing modernity in the dining sphere. The space is outfitted simply and cosy, with raucous chatter that stirs a heady mix of enthusiasm and brain fog in me. Nevertheless, I refuse to allow the uproarious ambience to distract me from my learning this evening.
What I tried
Fashioned similarly to gazpacho, Salmorejo Soup With Burrata Cheese and Jamón Ice Cream (S$17), the inclusion of jamón ice cream added a savoury depth to the bright, refreshing tomato soup. While gazpacho is traditionally made with raw vegetables, salmorejo is made with raw tomatoes and garlic, as well as bread, lending it a thicker, creamier texture. I cannot recall when the last time I had cold soup, but it certainly was a cooling welcome to the enlightening dinner ahead.
One that requires a learning curve is the Duck Foie Gras Terrine With Anchovies and Hazelnut Sablé (S$25.50), which by virtue of name, can prove to be intimidating to many. The marriage between foie gras terrine and anchovies started with the need to compromise—much like any fresh matrimonial union. The salt from the anchovies aided in smoothing over the notable pungency of foie gras, but over time, they gelled on the palate like a seasoned couple.
There’s little to fault in the hazelnut sablé, although its companionship with foie gras was much more tumultuous—the sablé lost its voice, only managing to stand its ground in short bursts.
As a self-professed salmon lover, I was anticipating the Smoked Salmon, Avocado Sauce, Tomato and Dill (S$22) especially. Best consumed in a single bite, it was certainly an alternative method of eating salmon.
The local Chinese spinach wrap illuminated the fatty dish with sweetness, just as much as the Feuille de Brick crisps contributed texture and airiness. My bias had me wishing the portion was larger, but, understandably, its delicateness would’ve been lost.
The most mysterious of the evening has to be Bomba de la Barceloneta With Brava Sauce and All-i-oli (S$15), a charcoal-black breaded potato sphere with spicy minced beef, served
with aioli and brava sauce. It was almost too exquisite to devour, but, of course, that is its true purpose. As I reluctantly ravaged it, the familiarity of bergedil struck me. I had to hold myself back from oversimplifying its stature any lower; it cannot be compared to our humble potato cake as each holds their own merits.
If I needed a jolt of reality, Restaurant Gaig surely delivered—partly in thanks to the immensely spicy brava sauce. My palate luxuriated in the velvety textures, but its fiery potency lingered far well into the next dish.
If tonight were an emotion, it’d be longing; there were a handful of dishes that I could only dream of having in larger servings. Just like the Tortilla de Camarones (S$12.50). Another one-bite offering that combined the best of flavours—salty, sweet, and savoury. Throw in a punch of crackle, and you’ve swept me off my feet. I could imagine myself hunkering down in front of the telly with a tub of these bad boys and never willing to share.
Not visually the most charming, the Veal Tongue Fricandó (S$20) kept me on my toes, considering I do love my fair share of beef tongue. I expected this to be much gamier than cow’s, and it didn’t disappoint. I experienced a brief flashback of childhood when my mum would cook stroganoff every now and then, of which I’d lap up with second or third helpings. This was like an “adult” version of my childhood fancy, punctuated by intricate woody notes and bouquet of trumpet mushrooms.
What made this dish even more captivating is its rich history; it originated from the French fricandeau. Meat, usually veal, is braised and served in its sauce. The recipe for the Catalan fricandó appeared in 1835 in a cookbook called ‘La Cuinera Catalana‘.
Looking every bit like an art installation is the Charcoal Grilled Octopus With Cauliflower Textures (S$32.50). It looks to me as if the Galician octopus magically landed itself stranded on the forest floor; no one knows how that was made possible, but everyone takes in the scene with awe. Trying not to overthink its presentation, I shift my focus on the mouthfeel of the octopus—one that’s both chewy and supple in equal measure.
This immaculate balance is owed to the octopus being submerged in Galician beer and steam-baked on low heat for seven hours. It is then removed from the beer, sliced, and charcoal-grilled in the Josper oven right before serving.
While I started out dinner seeking an education, I also took away a lesson in how not to oversimplify food. There were several instances where I reduced a complex, culturally intricate recipe and dumbed it down to childhood memories or street food, but I believe I should honour the long-standing traditions of cuisines I’m poorly versed in. And I’m sure I’m not the only one not adept in Catalan cuisine—a food culture yet to gain momentum abroad, much like its language.
If you’re planning to pay Restaurant Gaig a visit, come with not only an open appetite but a welcoming mind. Don’t be quick to brush off its familiar flavours as commonplace; strike up an inquisitive conversation with the staff surrounding its roots, and you’ll leave the place with a full belly and heightened sagacity.
Expected Damage: S$50 – S$80 per pax
Price: $ $ $
Our Rating: 4 / 5
16 Stanley Street, Singapore 068735
16 Stanley Street, Singapore 068735