Not long ago I accompanied my friend Karen to a tasting at UNA, featuring home-styled Mediterranean flavours from Spain, Italy and France – each dish reflecting the specialties of each region, and presented with Chef Jean-Philippe Patruno’s honest approach to the aromas and essences of his multi-cultural heritage. Formerly 1-Rochester, UNA offers alfresco dining amidst lush garden on the ground floor and indoor air-conditioned tapas bar on the second floor. While the surrounding was laid back and generally quite chill, the food was a mix of hit and misses for me.
I found myself enjoying the two starters much more so than the main entrees. The first starter – Scallops a la Plancha, Veal Cheeks, Iberico Ham Crisp – was a delectable stew and the veal cheeks easily came apart with a fork, it just melted in the mouth. Even the scallops were pillowy and set of a nice ocean flavor against the meatiness. As I bit into this, I realized I have the habit of (and like) dousing stews such as this one with hot sauce as it helps to cut the meaty flavor and rounds out the stew’s richness with a spicy sour kick. The more I tucked into this starter, the more my palate was missing that hot sauce boost and I soon felt like this was an incomplete experience for me. Meanwhile, the second starter – Slow-cooked Octopus – was memorably tender and the accompanying sweet tomato sauce was a great flavor pairing, enhancing the overall experience of this dish.
Unfortunately the main entrees didn’t resonate much with me. The paella-like Fideua was a good effort and generously packed with seafood; one order can easily satisfy 3-4 people. However, it was lacking a certain robustness to me and fell short of an oomph. It didn’t shine or sing for me, aside from the punctuated shrimp-y base flavor, there wasn’t much else in this dish that stood out for me. I think it’s missing something that could brighten the flavor. Similarly, the Arroz Negro with Crispy Fried Baby Squid was a reasonable juxtaposition of textures – creamy risotto with crunchy crispy deep fried something, what could go wrong with that? – but again, I felt like it could use something additional to elevate the dish further. I don’t know what exactly… Something surprising, like an acute jolt of flavor contrast of some kind that’d slam the tastebuds and hit all the right spots. Or maybe even something as simple as salt. Lemon salt?
The bar fared better as UNA reinterpreted classic Bloody Mary as one of its signature cocktails, the UNA Tomate. I enjoyed that tremendously, along with the house pour of Malacapa Rioja – a fine Spanish red. The true star of the evening for me was when dessert arrived to the table, namely the Churros. Crispy exterior coupled with silky soft interior, these hardly greasy churros were TO. DIE. FOR.
They were so good I had to ask Chef Patruno for his tips and tricks on how to recreate them. You see, I had failed at an attempt to make churros about a month back; let’s just say it was as tough as tires and I had made quite a mess in my kitchen too which left me bitching and cursing at the end of it, swearing off churros and yet determined to get it right. Chef Patruno graciously shared his technique, ie. rest the gluten and add eggs to the recipe, which I followed and am happy to report that my second attempt making churros came out somewhat decent – although not yet perfect and so I will continue practising.
UNA’s churros had set the bar for me, that’s it man. I’m ruined. They were absolutely sensational and I’d totally go back to UNA to have this again. Incidentally, someone recently made a random yet startlingly accurate observation that I don’t gravitate towards chocolate desserts – unlike most girls. Not as often as how most girls are expected to anyway. So I have no comment on the Bitter Chocolate Ice Cream that was part of our dessert, but according to Karen it was good and she enjoyed it.
Scallops a la Plancha, Veal Cheeks, Iberico Ham Crisp (S$28 small, S$38 large)
Slow-cooked Octopus, Sweet Tomato Fondue (S$21 small, S$31 large)
UNA Tomate: Vodka, Sherry, Roasted & Seasoned Mediterranean Tomatoes
Champs de Fraise: Strawberry Infused Cognac, Fresh Lemon Juice, Sparkling Wine
Seafood Fideua (Spanish Noodle Paella)
Arroz Negro, Crispy Fried Baby Squid (S$28 small, S$38 large)
House red: Malacapa Rioja 2011, Spain (S$14 glass, S$70 bottle)
Churros Con Chocolat (S$14)
Bitter Chocolat Ice Cream (S$18)
UNA at One Rochester
1 Rochester Park
(+65) 6773 0070