I don’t know about you, but I’ve always loved a hidden gem, and even more so when it’s a hideaway for a chill out session accompanied with drinks, tapas and your friends. I can already imagine, sitting under the blanket of stars, shining bright like a diamond (oh-hoo), having a HTHT (heart-to-heart-talk, where were you if you don’t already know this mushy term), while drowning your sorrows in the good food and drinks.
Being very much patronized by backpackers in the area (Little India / Bugis) would suggest that the prices are at least somewhat reasonable. I’ve always dreamed of having a rooftop, alfresco area for my (again, dream) house, decked with wooden furnishings. It’s pure romantic and laid back, to say the least. Here at Zsofi Tapas Bar, they not only have that to offer to you, they have lately heard the other side of the request and expanded a little, with Zsofi Kitchen (indoors, air-conditioned), satisfying your stomach to a fuller extent with their entrées and main courses.
What I like about this ground-floor air-conditioned area is its intimacy. I don’t usually like low-ceiling restaurants, except when it’s small. Because that makes it cozy, comfortable and like you’ve booked the entire restaurant.
Chris, is the owner and passion driving this Spanish Tapas Bar & Kitchen. He, has traveled to all corners of Spain for food-tastings, trying to figure out how authentic Spanish food tastes like, and to bring these knowledge back to impart to his vital kitchen staff. To me, this is the most apt face for perfection and attention to detail.
Even though this is a invited tasting session, I have got to say that I am genuinely impressed in entirety. From it having the ability to transport you away from the crowd right along Dunlop Street, to having food that is mainly touched up with top-class olive oil and fine sea salt (two of my favorite condiments) to the quality of the food, I know I will be back with my friends. In this post, after tasting almost the entire of the Zsofi Kitchen Menu, I am going to feature the best of the food here at the Kitchen – 5 Entrées, 2 Main Courses and 1 Dessert (in no particular order). If you stick close to these, rest assured you’ll not go too far wrong.
(1a) Spanish Padrón Peppers (Pimiento de Padrón) ($12++) :: It really isn’t that hot, trust me. But of course, I’m speaking for people who can at least take mild spiciness. It is one of my favorite dishes in the whole meal. You can taste the sea salt flakes, and because it’s sea salt and not the normal kitchen salt (you can taste the difference, it goes perfectly well with the peppers. It also doesn’t have the overly raw smell and taste. Good muncher.
(1b) Do-It-Yourself Bread Basket / Pan con tomate ($8++) :: So Chris was in a very small dining establishment in Spain when he discovered this. I personally loved it. Instead of them doing it for you, you (1) pick up a piece of bread, (2) rub a piece of raw garlic on the surface of the bread (heaviness of garlic taste depends on your preference), and complete the process by (3) rubbing the Roma tomato over it. I’d recommend step 3 to be done sparingly so as not to cover the garlic touch. Way too fun and interactive. Pst, they are actually looking at providing this free-of-charge (ie. like restaurants offering a bread basket before meal). Let’s keep our fingers crossed!
(1c) Grilled Asparagus / Espárragos ($12++) :: Sprinkled with sea salt flakes and topped with their homemade Romesco pepper sauce, this largest Asparagus found in the markets is a record-breaking Asparagus. How so? I’ve never liked Asparagus, but I found myself eating sticks after sticks of it, very possibly because it doesn’t have the strong Asparagus pungent smell, and the stem (the hardest part to swallow for ordinary Asparagus) wasn’t half as bad. I was glad. They’ve successfully made the green a very flavorful one.
(1d) Grilled Seafood Salad ($23++) :: It is a very simple dish done to good complexity. You can expect to see a generous portion of grilled squid and prawn on the bed of garden salad. Why I like it is because it is well-marinated, fresh, and needs no extra condiments to spice things up.
(1e) Free-range, Acorn-fed Ham (Cured for 36 months) (Jamón Ibérico de Bellota) ($35++) :: If you are well-versed in this field / go search it up, you’d know that this is the highest quality of dry-cured uncooked ham – the ham that comes from Black Iberian Pig. Not only that, it is being cured for a much longer period of time than ordinary. The price is reflective of its quality, and I thoroughly enjoyed this piece of gastronomical delight.
(2a) Seafood Platter (serves 2) (Combinado Mixta Marisco a la Plancha) ($69++) :: The a la plancha way of cooking is such that the flattop grilling / metal plate grilling happened. The grilling heat doesn’t from side-to-side, but in a radial, circular way, making the grilling process a more even one. My favorite of the platter has to be the razor clams. It is very adequately flavored, while still retaining a hint of its raw seafood smell (what is having seafood without smelling the sea right). The grilled lobster on the hand, was disappointing though. It was on the dry and tough side. The fish of the day would do better with heavier marination as well. Nevertheless, I like that it is served with the above rarely seen complimentary condiments.
2(b) Secreto Ibérico ($35++) :: Tender. Quality. Quantifiable. Well-marinated. Dubbed as the ‘Wagyu Beef’ of Pork, you ought to give this a go if you are a meat lover like I am. I was savoring every bit of it and afraid of it running out. Ohho.
3(a) Churros con Chocolate ($12++) :: What’s a Spanish meal without completing it with Churros? What more with chocolate dip. Ooolala. The churros are chopped to this length to better soak in the moderately sweet chocolate sauce. Further, I like it this way for the ease of savoring. It’s served slightly warm, and I like that it’s a very comfortable ending to the meal – one of the better-tasting churros around.
After a hearty meal on the ground floor, you have the option of adjourning to the by-then-already dark and windy rooftop for a drink or two. You might not want to have too heavy a meal before, because depending on how many and what drinks you and your team order, free tapas are dished out for you as well. Once again, a perfect venue to run the night out.
Zsofi Tapas Bar is also up to hold a big party of people for you. Reservations are welcomed for a big group of 20 – 40 at the rooftop alfresco area. It’s not so much a place to get drunk, though. No, not that extreme.
Special gratitude to Yong En and the Orbital Group Asia team, and Chris and the Zsofi Tapas Bar team for the hospitality and hosting the invited tasting event.
Address: 68 Dunlop Street
Telephone: 6297 5875 (Reservations accepted)
Opening Hours: 5pm – 1am (Mon – Thurs); 5pm – 2am (Fri & Sat); 5pm – 11pm (Sun)