I bought us the ‘eat Singapore’ book last Christmas as a way to encourage us to try out 12 different restaurants which might otherwise have missed our radar. As an aside, I’d highly recommend it; not only inspiration for your date night dinners but also a free main course in each of the featured restaurants. Anyway, a little slow off the mark to get going, we are now working our way alphabetically through them and reached B. B is for ‘Bam!’, a Spanish-Japanese fusion of a restaurant on Tras Street in Singapore.
You’ll see on their website that they describe themselves as “Almost certainly Singapore’s first and only Tapas & Sake Gastro bar” – I’d guess not just Singapore’s first? So yes really, Spanish plus Japanese. Sounds bizarre (and one might argue not actually that appealing) but it absolutely works!
Firstly it’s a great space; not that obvious from the outside, and understated and industrial yet welcoming inside. As you step in you are drawn into the buzz of the (almost obligatory these days) open kitchen, surrounded by counter seats, and the head chef and team giving you a nod and a smile of greeting. We were at a table in the dining space next door, still with a large bar and a great vibe; it was a Saturday night and was a full house. We didn’t do what we were ‘supposed to do’ since we weren’t in the mood for the restaurant’s signature sakes (next time) and so opted for wine instead, but the charming waiter helped us choose a slightly different and very tasty Spanish white (they have a great wine list with plenty of Spanish choices) which we tucked into as we perused the menu.
On the food front there are 2 choices, either the Omakase where you are in the hands of the chef to craft and bring you a meal of their choosing. Or the more ‘traditional’ option of a la carte. We saw some things we specifically fancied on the a la carte menu so went down this route. Overall the food was delicious, with high quality ingredients and a clever Japanese twist. However it was certainly on the fine-dining side of portion control ,and very light on carbohydrates, so don’t expect the sort of tapas ‘stodginess’ of the Spanish variety!
On the a la carte menu there are starters, ‘mid course’, main courses and desserts. It felt a bit much and would have ended up being a little pricey to go for all 4, so to start with we decided to share a starter and a mid-course. We went for the Baby Leek Tempura and the Duck Dumplings in foie gras broth, and to share both dishes. First the Leek tempura came to the table, and there were 2 plates, each beautifully presented. We were a little confused since we had ordered only one to share, but seeing that they were pretty small we let it roll. It was delicious, soft mild leek encased in hot crisp and light batter, sprinkled with fine shavings of bonito which just added little spikes of saltiness, and a creamy sesame sauce to dip them in. Off to a great start. Next the brought over the duck dumplings. Again, 2 plates, and this was a decent size – 2 beautiful almost translucent dumplings, encasing soft rich slow cooked duck, and floating in a light broth that was so deep and indulgent in foie gras flavour – I have no idea how they infused it. A few edamame beans, small squares of radish and finely sliced ginger added freshness. This was the star dish of the night.
On to the mains and Chris ordered a special, the leg of suckling pig, whilst I went for the rabbit shoulder. Chris was definitely the winner here; a whole little leg arrived, with unbelievably crispy thin skin, under which was the softest, sweetest pork which almost melted in the mouth. When we chatted with the chef later he let us know that he imports his suckling pig from China. After extensive research all over Europe and Asia, this supplier he has found delivers the best. It was really delicious. However, that is all it was. Essentially a pig leg on a plate! There were a few green beans and some delicious deeply flavoured sauces. But it was crying out for the freshness of a side dish or some carbohydrate, to cut through the protein. My rabbit suffered from the same issue, with minimal garnishes not sides, and not only that but the shoulder itself was very small; there is not much meat on one rabbit! And so whilst it was tasty and tender, with a great Japanese twist of flavour with a sauce made from Yuzukosho (a paste made from chili peppers, yuzu peel and salt, which is then allowed to ferment), it certainly was not substantial enough and fell short of being a complete dish with just a couple of token carrots to go with it.
Since we were still certainly not full, we went for a dessert each too. And again Chris came out tops. He chose the Orange & Mascarpone which consisted of blood orange sherbet, chunks of soft muscovado sponge, and sprinkled with touches of burnt orange and freeze dried orange. It was light, fresh and delicious. I went for the Guanaja Cremeaux which was described as steamed brownie with hazelnut, coffee and caramel. It sounded indulgent and naughty and rich. But again, it was just a little too fancy and on the small side to fit that description! It was visually stunning, and all tasted delicious, but the brownie which I thought was going to be the star of the dish was a tiny square hidden on the bottom of the plate.
Throughout the whole meal the service was impeccable. And we had the little ‘extras’ now to be expected at fine dining restaurants; a little pre-starter was a gazpacho with an Asian twist, and to close off the meal we were brought little choc ices which can only be described as frozen ferrero rocher on a stick. Both very welcome additions.
And the high point of the service was revealed when the bill came. We were preparing ourselves on how to address the fact that we had ordered just 1 starter and 1 mid-course to share, but had been brought 4 plates of food. Yet when we looked at the bill we had absolutely only been charged for what we ordered. What a high quality move, that the waiter had listened to us that we were going to share these dishes and had already saved us the effort of having to divide them, and not ruined the gorgeous presentation by giving us our own personal portions. A lovely touch!
So we left very happy, our only criticism was not having the option of side dishes to balance out the proteins of the main courses. At Bam! fusion really works, not only in terms of the flavours and ingredients mixing Spanish with Japanese, but with the overall concept. The food quality, service and little touches all akin with fine dining make it feel like a special place, yet with the laid-back atmosphere of a tapas bar or izakaya. A winning combination.
Bam! 38 Tras Street, Singapore