Alegria – A Latin American Feast
Back then in the 1960s, the Keong Saik area was a red-light district with many brothels run by secret societies. In present times, it is home to some of the most vibrant eateries and bars in Singapore. The conservation shophouses give the vicinity its distinctive character. Alegria Singapore opened recently in 22 April 2021 at 18 Teck Lim Road, adding to the mix of dining spots in Keong Saik by serving up unconventional cuisine that is an amalgamation of Latin American, European and Asian culinary styles. Hence when the Singapore Law Gazette was given an opportunity to review Alegria, I knew that I could not pass up this chance.
By way of an introduction, Alegria Singapore is the fourth branch and the first international outpost under its umbrella management group, Grupo Alegria. Indeed, Alegria stays true to its genesis as the first sangria bar in Manila and it is worth noting that renowned Filipino actress Dimples Romano is one of the co-owners of Alegria Singapore. At Alegria, traditional meets the modern in a nuanced and sophisticated approach to fusion. Primarily inspired by Latin cuisine, mixed with a dash of modern Asian flavours and informed by an arsenal of traditional European techniques, Alegria derives inspiration from cosmopolitan influences while ensuring that the flavour and texture remains undeniably local.
The name Alegria, derived from the Portuguese word for “joy” or “happiness”, encapsulates the quintessence of Grupo Alegria’s themes which are namely vibrance, lightness, and joy. The eye-catching murals and a visually striking bar complete the welcoming ambiance and lively atmosphere of Alegria Singapore. We loved the speakeasy gangster-vibes of the bar area and sleek and playful décor of the interior. The graffiti-art murals transports visitors to the urban areas of Chile or Argentina.
As Alegria is renowned for its cocktails, we ordered a selection to try. These cocktails are handcrafted in-house by Alegria. One of the signature cocktails that we tried was the Senor Monanez which comprises gin, spiced lavender tincture, peach, lemon, mint. This is inspired by Alegria’s founder and executive chef Charles Montanez. This is a refreshing tipple that is smooth on the palate and complements the multitude of flavours served at Alegria. We felt that the presentation of the cocktails was certainly colourful and befitting of the Latin American theme. Another cocktail that we tried was the Romana this is a purple cocktail concocted with gin, dragonfruit tincture, peach, lemon, soda.
The taco selection is definitely worth checking out with its smorgasbord of different flavours from around the Asian region. The shells are soft and freshly made inhouse using raw corn and then extracting the juices which is then turned it into a tortilla. We tried the Koreana which is one of their more popular choices. This is served as a taco with prawn in a squid ink batter topped with ssamjang aioli and kimchi. However, we preferred the other taco that we tried which was a vegetarian option known as Bruxelas which comprises brussel sprouts, mint, chilli, tamarind sauce and rice puffs. The tacos are an exotic fusion of complex flavours and textures that explode in your mouth with every morsel taken.
As for the appetisers, we had the Colifor which is roasted cauliflower served with almond raisin chimichurri and cauliflower puree. Other than the Colifor, one of the recommendations was the Elote which is the classic Mexican street food comprising grilled corn on the cob slathered with cilantro crema and chicharron. We preferred the Elote to the Colifor as we found the sauce for the Elote to be heavier on the palate.
For our main course, we had the Pulpo which is the open-flame grilled octopus, paired with pickled ancho potatoes, muscovado bacon crumble and house-styled sambal sauce. We thought that this was not an easy dish to master, and it needs to either be cooked very quickly or for a long time to avoid that rubbery texture. In this case, the octopus was almost seared to perfection and superbly executed. The accompanying sambal was punchy and clearly a tribute to our local flavours.
The dessert selection of Alegria also did not fail to disappoint us. The taho cheesecake played homage to the Filipino soybean drink. Other than the taho cheesecake we had the churros which we soft on the inside, crisp on the outside and coated with cinnamon sugar. The churros are served with Alegria’s homemade dulce de leche which is caramelized milk and is prepared by slowly heating sugar and milk for several hours.
Each of the abovementioned dishes is unique in taste and gives you a different dimension compared to anything similar that you may have eaten. We thought that the warm hospitality of service crew also surpassed our expectations. Overall, we would say that the food is colourful and mouth-watering, and we would certainly be back to try more dishes.