Ever had that feeling of breaking through the television screen, donning Tula’s shoes to be part of the Zorba dance in My Big Fat Greek Wedding? Those desires can now very nearly be fulfilled if you are in Singapore at Esmirada @ Orchard. Nestled at the far corner of Singapore’s bustling artery, Orchard Road, lies a famous restaurant exuding Mediterranean charm. No doubt it took me some time to find this place as it was right at the edge of Orchard Road and as most shoplots were not numbered it was not easy for a person unfamiliar with their surroundings. But once there, I was warmly greeted by my host for the afternoon, Francesca. The brightly painted blue entrance was reminiscent of the shores of the Mediterranean sea, enough to brighten up your day and look forward to the surprises inside.
As I took my first steps inside the restaurant, I was immediately transported to a rustic eatery on the isles of the Mediterranean Sea. A large and modern restaurant that still has been able to maintain its soul and homely feel; an atmosphere akin to most restaurants across Greece and the islands in the Mediterranean sea. Each wall had its own personal identity, some a shade of olive green, some a bright hue of tangerine orange while the rest were made of jagged stone to stir up a visual appetite. Large paintings depicting the Mediterranean culture adorned the walls, while sharing space with their rather stupendous wine collection. In short, the walls summarized the Mediterranean way of life; music, dance, wine and food.
There was some seating outdoors for those who want to enjoy a relatively short dry spell in Singapore. However, the ambiance inside prompted me to opt to sit indoors. It makes you feel as if you are away from a busy metropolis and dining in a European village.
The menu had all the Mediterranean delicacies to tantalize any palate; from Turkish and Greek soups to salads, pastas, paellas, charcoal oven meat skewers to the more famous Moussakas and Paellas. In short, it was an epicurean fantasy. I let Francesca order for the table and as the food began to arrive, it was as if she had read my mind. Everything that I had my heart set on was now in front of my eyes, waiting to be eaten.
Mussels have been my weakness since my college days in London. A large pot of Tasmanian mussels weighing about 500gms was placed in front of me. Francesca had ordered the Special mussels that were soaked in a garlic herb butter sauce. The aromas that emanated from the cauldron like pot were enough to invoke my sense. It came with a large loaf of french bread. The trick to eating the mussels; use the shell as a spoon to scoop the sauce and then eat it with the mussel itself; whereas the remaining sauce can be eaten with the loaf of bread. The mussels were cooked perfectly and the sauce was just delicious; light and flavorful. In fact I had to stop myself from dunking the bread into the sauce for the fear of overeating before I tried the rest of the food. Hence, I resorted to eating the sauce with my spoon. Could not let such delicious food go to waste.
As I was enjoying my tryst with the garlic herb butter sauce, a subtle whiff of charcoal cooked meat distracted me. Placed in front of me was a large skewer with lamb chops, roasted onions and eggplants. I had to quickly take a picture before I devoured the whole thing, hence giving Francesca no time to move out of the frame. It came with yoghurt and tomato based sauces as well as a baked potato. But to me, they were all just attached paraphernalia; the succulent lamb chops were good on their own. Soft with a hint of charcoal, the lamb chops were heaven. They were cooked in a special charcoal oven which enhanced its taste as well as cooked it to perfection. To be honest, I did not touch the sauces and baked potato, the full flavors of the lamb chops could only be enjoyed if eaten on its own.
The conversation flowed smoothly as the cold glass of Sangria; fruity with the right amount of punch for the afternoon. As I complimented the food, the specialty of Esmirada @ Orchard made its way to our table; Paella Valencia. Saffron infused rice with copious amounts of seafood and chicken. Perfectly cooked rice, still brisk, with hints of saffron made this paella a treat. By the end of the meal I was so full but again kept picking at the mussels, squid and fish pieces in the paella; sin to waste such good food.
Good food and a great atmosphere was complemented by the foot-tapping tunes of the Mediterranean. The light and airy music was enhanced by a mixture of ethnic instruments that added a voluminous timbre to the sound. Hence, it is a popular spot for ladies night outs; mood-tickling music, ambrosial cuisine and exquisite drinks. Not to mention the traditional of Zorba that takes place everyday at 9pm. Take part in smashing plates for good luck and reenact a scene from My Big Fat Greek Wedding. A truly delightful experience, one that I would happily revisit on my next trip to Singapore.