SINGAPORE (THE NEW PAPER) - It is not difficult to get tapas in Singapore. From authentic to inspired, there are many options. So, for me, the overall experience counts.
Tapas Club has the right combination - lively music and atmosphere, Spanish accents all round and inexpensive tapas and beers. Dishes are between $9.90 and $25, the beers from $4.50, while wines start from $35.
One of the latest tenants at Orchard Central, Tapas Club is appropriately located above Spanish fashion label Desigual's street-level boutique.
As you step in, the music moves you. The jovial service continues the seduction and when you get to the table, the food and alcohol will get you.
There are many items to try, but I recommend going with the most traditional ones because the restaurant does them very well.
It is a common tapas item, but the Patatas Bravas ($9.90) is special. Tapas Club's brava sauce is intense, but the alioli cools it down.
I was taken aback by how pale the Gambas al Ajillo ($12.90) was, but it is no less robust. Again, this is an easily available item at tapas restaurants. This version works well enough, but it is not ground-breaking.
The Carrillera de Ternera Con Idiazabal ($12.90) - beef cheek stewed in a red wine sauce and served with Idiazabal cheese cream from northern Spain's Basque Country - is worth trying. The meat is tender and packed with flavours and the cheese adds a creaminess.
As expected, the paella is great. For me, the Paella de Chorizo ($25) is a pan of love.
Is there such a thing as a perfect version of a dish? We all have the versions we like. I like mine moist but with crunch.
At Tapas Club, the paella grains are separated but united in flavours. It is cooked in chicken stock with saffron, chicken and sweet paprika, and the iberico chorizo adds a touch of savouriness.
The Fideua Negra ($25) is a must-try too. The squid ink permeates the noodle paella, and it is deep and satisfying. The cuttlefish is nice but unnecessary - just the fideua itself would be good.
02-13 to 15 Orchard Central, 181 Orchard Road; tel: 3163-7577; open: noon to 3pm (Mondays to Fridays), 6 to 11pm (Mondays to Thursdays), 6pm to midnight (Fridays), noon to midnight (Saturdays), noon to 11pm (Sundays)