SINGAPORE - Fans of FOC tapas bar in Hongkong Street looking for similar fare outside the CBD area will be happy to know there is now a FOC Sentosa.
Opened late last month in what looks like a purpose-built, two-storey structure at the edge of Tanjong Beach, it boasts a resort-like atmosphere with a view of the sea - quite unlike the windowless restaurant in town.
The only similarity to the original FOC would be the giant papier mache heads that stare at diners from shelves around the dining area.
The main dining room occupies half the ground floor, a long and narrow space that runs alongside a semi-open kitchen. There is more seating upstairs, but that appears reserved for private events. An annexe building houses a bar.
In the evening, it is a tranquil spot for romantic dinners, but in the day - especially on weekends - it is bright and breezy, a feeling accentuated by the activity-filled beach.
110 Tanjong Beach Walk, Sentosa, tel: 6100-1102
Open: Tuesdays to Fridays, 11.30am to 11pm (last kitchen order at 9.30pm, 10pm on Friday); Saturdays and Sundays, 9.30am to 11pm (last kitchen order at 10pm, 9.30pm on Sunday). Closed on Mondays
Food: 3.5 stars
Service: 4/5 stars
Ambience: 3.5/5 stars
Price: Budget from $70 a person, without drinks
The menu is similar to the one in the downtown FOC, which is Spanish tapas with an original touch, but with a focus on seafood.
I ate at the Sentosa offshoot twice, first on a weekday evening and then for lunch last Sunday. The first experience left me with mixed feelings, but things were brighter when I returned. A dish I ordered on both visits - Octopus Galician Style ($22) - was much better the second time.
The difference was a distinct taste of basil the first time that overwhelmed the other ingredients. This was odd because it was absent when I ordered the dish again. Instead, the octopus tentacles were seasoned with just olive oil and paprika.
The tentacles were tender and had a nice balance of spice and smokiness. And I loved the crushed boiled potatoes, dressed in aromatic olive oil, that accompanied them.
Basil also dominated another dish I ate at dinner, Clams In "Marinera" Sauce ($18), which would have been fine if it had not robbed the shellfish of its natural sweetness.
The Steamed Mussels With "Bouillabaisse" ($16) I ate for lunch were so much better. The blue mussels were tiny, but packed tight with sweet, tender meat.
It was a generous serving too, enough for two as a starter.
At the table, the server squirted a white foam from a cream whipper into the pot - a secret recipe, she said. Whatever it contained, the foam quickly blended into the broth, giving it a delicious flavour of shellfish.
Cold tapas is a good idea for the current hot weather and I'd recommend the King Crab Cannelloni ($22), which comprised shredded crabmeat rolled in thinly sliced zucchini and topped with diced tomato. It was refreshing and a delicious appetiser.
For the mains, I would recommend a paella, especially the Squid Ink Paella (from $40 for two people). The flavourful rice was studded with bits of squid, which provided a nice chewy texture. Pieces of lightly grilled scallop and prawns were placed on top and stood out prettily against the inky rice.
From the selection of meats among the mains, I tried the Baby Lamb Rack ($48). It was cooked just right, with the meat tender and juicy. The flavour was a tad too mild for me, but would please those who do not like gamey meat.
There are items I do not recommend though. Among them, Cauliflower With Pickles And Manchego ($16). The chunk of cauliflower covered in browned cheese looked very impressive when I spotted it at the next table, which was why I ordered it. But it was underseasoned and the manchego cheese was hardly detectable. It was not only bland, but also cost as much as the mussels. So skip it, I say.
Among the desserts, I'd also suggest skipping the Rum Baba ($14), which was dense and chewy.
The Gin & Tonic Lime ($10) was more successful. It looked pretty, with a ball of gin and tonic sorbet covered in a thin layer of green lime sorbet. Cut into wedges, they looked like slices of lime.
Not only do they look good for Instagram, but they also provide a lovely and refreshing end to the meal.
•Follow Wong Ah Yoke on Twitter @STahyoke
•The Sunday Times paid for its meals at the eateries reviewed here.