Spanish Flavours in Orchard
As some people will attest, it can be difficult to find good Spanish food in the Orchard Road area. On a couple of occasions when I was chatting about Spanish food in Singapore generally with friends, the restaurant FOC PIM PAM came up a few times for its high quality tapas but somehow I never did manage to check it out. So when the Law Society offered the opportunity to visit this restaurant for a food review, I could not pass it up.
Hidden in a quaint spot between Orchard Hotel and Delfi Orchard, FOC PIM PAM can be difficult to find. My friend and I entered and found ourselves in a restaurant with a vibrant interior dotted with gigantes y cabezudos (Spanish large head figurines). The interior was coloured in various shades of red, amber and green. We were attended to by a waiter by the name of Justin, who swiftly ushered us to a table by the window.
Justin then gave us a detailed account of the origins of the PIM PAM restaurant chain, which includes its flagship branch at Hong Kong Street and another one in Sentosa. The origins of the restaurant’s name were also explained in detail: FOC means fire in the Catalan language and PIM PAM means quick and easy in Spanish. The fire signifies food being grilled over the fire and PIM PAM represents the nature of such food.
There were three separate menus for food, beverages and wines – for good reason. The restaurant boasts a staggering selection of over 200 types of sherry and wine (in Justin’s words: “we are seeking to be the hub of Southeast Asia for sherry”), various quirky cocktails and creative gin mixes. We were also made aware of the existence of a vibrant Spanish gin and tonic culture that the restaurant sought to uphold. Suffice to say, we could not wait to sample some of their drinks.
Of course, we cannot forget the food, the backbone of any decent restaurant. Naturally, I was inclined to enquire about the much ballyhooed tapas. We were told that the average patron eats 2-3 tapas as starters so we used that as a benchmark for our ordering. You will be spoilt for choice in terms of selection, whether in terms of appetisers, paella, tapas, mains or desserts. The suckling pig seemed an amazing option as well but we did not order it in order to sample a larger variety of food. And to their credit, the waiting time for food and drinks was brief.
First up for us were the fresh burrata and octopus and pork belly tapas. The smooth creamy burrata was accompanied by slivers of iberico ham, a small tinge of picadillo and baby spinach. The burrata combination was fresh and light, a good choice for a starter. My friend loved this and I am certain it will be a hit with other cheese lovers. As for the octopus and pork belly, it was my personal favourite. The dish was a mix of delectable potato froth, chewy oily pork belly goodness and crunchy octopus. Leave your guilt at the door and indulge.
Our drinks arrived with the iberico ham ‘joselito’, tomato bread and patatas bravas. Patatas bravas is a classic Spanish dish where potato cubes or strips, as in FOC’s case, are fried in oil before being drizzled with aioli or a spicy tomato sauce and came heavily recommended from Justin as a best-seller. His recommendation was by and large vindicated – the potato was relatively crisp and the sauces served to augment the flavour of the potato. A unique take on chips, in my opinion. Moving on to the iberico ham, the serving is fairly small and it might be overly salty for some. The tomato bread however provides a good compliment, adding a touch of coolness to the savouriness of the ham.
For those who appreciate a spot of alcohol with their Spanish cuisine, you could do a lot worse than the iron ball and gin mare cocktails. Iron ball is a creative mix of lemongrass, tarragon, pineapple and some East Imperial Burma Tonic while gin mare, the drink that is purportedly more Spanish in origin, has gin mare rosemary and orange zest, mixed with 1724 Tonic Water. Both drinks were immensely refreshing and enjoyable.
Next up for us were the croquettas, seafood paella and king crab sliders. The croquettas were winners in my book. FOC has a selection of 4 flavours (ham, mushroom, crab and spinach & pine nuts) and it is perhaps a mild regret that we did not get to try every flavour. We sampled both the ham and mushroom ones and they were excellent. It felt like we were ingesting cream of mushroom or ham soup, encased within those light crisp potato shells.
We did face a difficult choice on whether to try the seafood or squid ink paella, having stole glances at both from other tables and coming to the conclusion that both looked amazing. We ultimately decided to go with the former. The paella came in a rectangular flat pan and was dotted with luscious soft scallops, fresh prawns and nuggets of cuttlefish. Filled with crunch, it tasted as good as it looked although it was a tad on the heavy side. The sauce also plays a huge role in elevating the richness of the paella, being the painstaking product of several hours’ brewing of prawn shells and fish bones.
King crab sliders were succulent and juicy and the crab did have some bite. It also comes with a sprinkling of crunchy tempura seaweed chips. Grab them if you are a seafood lover.
We decided to share a main as we had already tried a considerable number of tapas. The barramundi was distinctly average so in my opinion, it is not a must have. We did note though that the cheese sauce added a sweet and slightly buttery taste to the fish and we enjoyed the pumpkin gnocchis which were essentially pocket-sized dumplings of pumpkin essence.
To round off a satisfying meal, our desserts were served. For dessert lovers like myself, desserts can make or break a good meal. We decided on choco tacos and lemon lemoncello meringue and boy, were they good. The choco tacos are like a mini party in your mouth, with bits of chocolate, strawberry and pistacchio bursting through the seams of cookie. It is also hard to go wrong with the meringue, which was just the right intermingling of sweet and sour with a creamy vanilla undertone. The desserts were also appropriately paired with an exquisite glass of sherry and an excellent whiskey cocktail (Penicillium), both of which did not disappoint.
It would be remiss of me not to mention that the food we tried might be considerably pricey, given the serving size of the tapas in particular. In their defense though, they are more affordable than their other branches in Sentosa and Hong Kong Street. The food is also unreservedly good quality Spanish fare that warrants a second visit. In a country replete with restaurants, FOC PIM PAM is arguably a hidden gem.
FOC PIM PAM
442 Orchard Road, 01-29
T: +65 6100 4242