Search for the keywords “Catalan restaurant Singapore” over the internet and you’d most likely be directed to Restaurant Gaig – a casual eatery in Singapore’s CBD. To the uninitiated, Restaurant Gaig is not a local invention but is actually the local outpost of a Michelin-starred restaurant in Barcelona. The Singapore outlet is owned by the same family that owns the original one. Up until the current situation, the owner – Carles Gaig – would fly to Singapore almost quarterly to even bring some fresh produce to our shores. Perhaps, that partly explains why the eatery in quiet Stanley Street remains to be the most authentic Catalan restaurant in the country.
Restaurant Gaig has been in Singapore for more than three years now and despite the generally above-average reviews it has received since opening, the establishment has mostly been under the radar – perhaps reflecting the similar subdued qualities of the street it is located in. Stanley Street pales in comparison with neighboring Telok Ayer and Amoy in terms of buzz and foot traffic but recent dining outlets that have moved in such as Laut and Miznon is gradually changing that sleepy reputation.
Catalan cuisine is best described as surf and turf. In Spain, this is known as mar y montagna or mar i muntanya in Catalan. As the region occupies the eastern coast of the Iberian peninsula, one gets plenty of seafood (think: paella topped with plenty of squid and prawns) while the Pyrenees mountains to the north provide ideal grazing areas for livestock. Sometimes, one can find both meat and seafood – even in the same dish! In Restaurant Gaig, some recipes date back from the 19th century, with modifications done here and there to suit the local palate. As such, dishes are lighter and less salty as what one would find in Barcelona.
I started the dinner with Salmorejo Soup with Burrata Cheese and Jamon Ice Cream (S$17). The tomato-based soup shares many similarities with another Spanish soup – the gazpacho. However, salmorejo differs in that it has a greater concentration of tomato in its base than its more famous cousin. Traditionally, salmorejo is served with ham and eggs but here, Chef Marti has replaced the egg with burrata to emphasize the creaminess of the soup. The ham element is still there, but in Restaurant Gaig’s version, it comes in the form of ham ice cream. This adds a sweet element to the soup that is absent in the original version. Overall, I liked the sweet and sour contrast.
Among the starters, I enjoyed the Smoked Salmon, Avocado Sauce, Tomato and Dill (S$22) the best. I absolutely loved the contrast in textures here, with the feuille de Brick crisps providing an unexpected crunch as I bit to the tender salmon pieces wrapped in Chinese spinach. This was also my initiation to the restaurant’s love for using crispy biscuit-like pastries.
Catalan cuisine is of course not complete without having a spot of pate and the slab of Duck Foie Gras Terrine with Anchovies and Hazelnut Sable (S$25.50) immediately brought back memories of my lunches in Barcelona. The anchovies that topped the foie gras was new to me though, but the salty fish provided a bit of a balance to the sweetness of the terrine. Again, there was a cookie element here, this time made with hazelnuts and butter.
The Tortilla de Camarones (S$12.50) was my second favorite starter that evening. I was quite impressed by the thinness of the shrimp fritters. It was so thin that I feared it would break against the weight of the prawn as I picked it up. The crunch was heavenly. The lemon mayonnaise provided for a nice sour touch to the salted nature of the sakura ebi. I totally would not mind ordering a second piece on this, as I had a tasting portion consistent with the chef’s menu. A full ala carte serving on the other hand, has one big piece occupying an entire plate and is best shared.
One of the good value tapas at Restaurant Gaig is the Bomba de Barceloneta (S$15). Named as such because it resembles a bomb, it is actually a ball made with potatoes and stuffed with minced beef. This is one of the exceedingly few, if not the only, spicy dish in Restaurant Gaig’s menu. While there are a few elements going on here, the highlight was the excellent match between the minced beef and the fiery brava sauce. This is also one of the dishes where notable local adjustments were made. When Restaurant Gaig first opened, they only used 10 chili padi per 1 liter of brava sauce. The current version has 6x the amount of chili padi for the equal amount of brava sauce.
As mentioned previously, the local outlet of Restaurant Gaig does not have the same menu as the one in Barcelona but a dish they retained here in its original form is Gaig’s Traditional Cannelloni (S$16.50). The cylindrical pasta comes stuffed with beef and pork filling. The truffle cream sauce made the dish, in my opinion. While the pasta was already quite savory on its own with the meat filling, the sauce gave it that added fragrance. I happily finished off the sauce even after devouring my cannelloni.
I am not sure how locals in Singapore would think of it but I really recommend going for the Veal Tongue Fricando (S$20). Having come from a Hispanicized culture, I am quite used to eating beef tongue and I enjoy its soft texture. The veal tongue served at Restaurant Gaig is a bit firmer, probably reflecting a slightly higher proportion of lean meat. Again, it is the stew – flavored with different kinds of peppercorn and bay leaves that makes the dish. I also enjoyed the trumpet mushrooms that came with the tongue. The texture of the straw mushrooms reminded me a bit of black fungus.
Another dish that one finds in any Iberian meal is the pulpo or the octopus. In Restaurant Gaig, it comes as a Charcoal Grilled Octopus with Cauliflower Textures (S$32.50). This dish is every bit as photogenic as it is scrumptious. The octopus was tender – achieved by submerging it over Galician beer and steam baked over low heat for 7 hours. It is only charcoal-grilled after this long procedure.
The Pa amb oli i xocolata (S$15.50) is Restaurant’s Gaig take on a very traditional Catalan dessert. The most basic and traditional way is to have the chocolate as topping on an open-faced bread with a bit of olive oil sprinkled. In the outlet’s version, the dessert transforms into something more luxurious with 66% Valrhona dark chocolate ganache, olive ice cream and crispy chocolate bread. I am personally not a fan of chocolate but I could not help but finish the entire dessert. I liked the marvelous contrast between the cold and soft ice cream and the crispy chocolate bread bits.
As of this writing, Restaurang Gaig also has a chef’s menu featuring most of the same dishes I had, but with tasting portions. The chef’s menu is priced at S$108++.
16 Stanley Street
+65 6221 2134
Daily except Sunday – 12PM to 2PM, 6PM to 10PM