[编辑 Editor 吕大人 英译 Translator 刘大人 摄影 Photographer 刘大人]
In our humble opinion, one of the most admirable things about our Spanish counterparts is their commitment to a good party. Like the Spanish, we Malaysians are equally blessed with holidays galore and a ton of festivals all over the country throughout the year. Still, we are envious of our friends from the Iberian Peninsula, with a celebration of sorts in every single city, town and village which gets all the townsfolk out on the streets partying with their neighbours. It’s no wonder we call Spain the land of fiestas or festivals!
Apart from a trip to Madrid and Barcelona a decade ago, our acquaintance with Spain is in a very real sense only superficial. Be it La Liga (football league), bullfighting, flamenco, Don Quixote (classic Spanish literature), Pablo Picasso (painter), Rafael Nadal (tennis), Fernando Alonso (F1) or fast fashion label Zara, there’s more to Spain than meets the eyes. Did you know, the last Wednesday in August also marks one of Spain’s messiest festival, a tomato-throwing spectacle we frequently watched on TV that draws more than ten of thousands of revellers each year? Held in Buñol, 40km west of Valencia since 1945, paella is traditionally eaten during La Tomatina, as there is a cooking contest just before the big event.
Held together by the passions for colourful parades and lively partying, Valencia’s festivals go above and beyond the typical definition of celebration. From the tomato-hurling La Tomatina to the blazing towers of Las Fallas and even a festival dedicated solely to Paella on 20 September, the city of Valencia will celebrate its most international dish with the rest of the world, sharing a recipe that marries age-old tradition, culture and culinary excellence.
Far more than just filling up, we would willingly go the distance for the pure love of excellent food. If you love food, and to experience a new country through its cuisine like us, you will be glad to know we need not fly across half the globe for a taste of Iberia, given the dearth of restaurants serving decent Spanish cuisine. In fact, we are now grateful that “una muestra de españa” is well within reach in Skudai since February 2019!
Yes, we Asians eat lots of carbs, and growing up in Malaysia, having a meal without rice does feel empty sometimes. Even chef-owner Thomas couldn’t resist the urge to include rice dishes, although his restaurants are serving western cuisines. “The only rice dishes in Western cuisine are Spanish Paella and Italian Rissoto,” Thomas chuckled. With the former being a rare commodity in JB, his choice became obvious.
Despite having his fingers in so many pies, Thomas remains a hands-on chef, restaurateur and entrepreneur, working tirelessly with his team to perfect their recipes to bring authentic Spanish flavours with a local twist. At the invitation of Thomas, our first experience in Paella was initiated with a festive-esque “cocktail” before a bevy of authentically-adjusted Spanish fare took over.
Now that we’re here, we wouldn’t pass up the chance to savour their signature Sangria for what will certainly be a swell Spanish fiesta! Made using a personal recipe from Lorraine (restaurant manager) with Spanish red wine Tempranillo and Cointreau as its base and flavoured with honey and maple syrup, sliced red apple, green apple and orange are also added and mixed in a decanter and let it rest for at least 4 hours before serving, giving this deep red concoction a pleasant little munch and flavour that has a medium body, but is nevertheless highly refreshing! ¡Salud! 🍷
Zesty Orange Salad
Our starter arrived in the form of delectable orange slices, mixed with raw onion rings, capsicum and parsley with lemon dressing. Many of our friends would probably cringe at the sight of this pile of raw, crunchy onions but trust us, the spicy bite has been tamed. Overall, this Zesty Orange Salad is bursting with refreshing onion goodness inside! FYI, studies have also shown that the phytochemicals in onions that scavenge free radicals may also reduce our risk of developing gastric ulcers, so let’s start onion-ing now!
Sopa de Mariscos + Homemade Cream of Mushroom Soup
The Sopa de Mariscos is the Spanish equivalent of our homemade seafood soup, which came with a substantial juicy prawn, fresh clams and mussels. Highly umami yet rich in flavour, we almost forgot to share it around with the plate firmly rooted in front of us. Perdón!
Probably a universal favourite and features on many menus in local restaurants as soup of the day, there’s just something about the creamy texture and mushroom bits that warm our heart. The Homemade Cream of Mushroom Soup has got their version of mushroom soup down pat, as the creamy soup with shitake, abalone, button mushroom and potato is well-blended, stew-like and everything that we like our mushroom soup to be.
Family (6 pieces combination topping of veggie, meat & seafood)
A mainstay dish in any Spanish restaurant, If you’re the type who enjoys bite-sized portion, the Family set comprising six pieces combination is a no-brainer. Feeling spoilt for choice, just take our cue to grab the prawn and salmon before the rest, though the remaining veggie, mushroom and meat options are also worth every penny and calories. After all, what’s not to love about having variety in a number of delicious small plates?
Plato de Fondo
Cooked to medium doneness and served on a bed of lightly grilled tomatoes, red onion, yellow capsicum, green olive and black olive, the sides were a bit charred, but the meat still retained its juices. With its flavours enhanced by drizzling in olive oil and lemon juice, the addition of dry parley paprika powder, aromatic chicken stock powder gave this simply grilled Spanish Smoky Salmon an exotic kick.
Fideua De Mariscos (2 person)
Keeping up with the Valencian theme, fideuá is a popular seafood dish originating from the coast of Valencia. A pasta lover’s answer to paella, these short, thin strands of artisan pasta noodles originated in the coastal town of Gandia were used instead of rice for this paella-like dish. Equally full of flavour but lighter without the rice, the Fideua De Mariscos here uses spaghetti instead to appeal to the local palettes with ingredients galore such as prawns, squid, clams, pimento, tomato, red capsicum and cooked in white wine. Seriously, our portion for two looks like it could feed three or four easily!
Paella De Mariscos (served in pan, 2 person)
Rice was first introduced to Spain more than a thousand years ago and, ever since, the grains have been ingrained in its culinary identity. Probably Spain’s most misunderstood dish, paella is meant to show off the rice itself and usually cooked uncovered in a flavorful stock while highlighting a few unique ingredients. In Spain, a wet paella is not ideal, but it is not necessarily a failure. The Spanish do cook wet kinds of rice dishes, but they just don’t call them paella.
Unlike the usual paella which tends to be drier, Thomas’s take on this Paella De Mariscos is slightly wetter. Cooked using short-grain BOMBA rice and infused with fresh prawn, clams, squids, tomato, pimento, green pepper and hot paprika, each grain of rice was doused in the soulful white wine braise beckoned to be devoured. Each spoonful had us digging for seconds without hesitation, but despite being moist, the dish still had a crusty bottom layer or “Valencian caviar”, which tasted like the bottom-of-the-pot rice that we love in clay pot rice. Exquisito!
Set lunch – Pork Chop
Looking for a power lunch with limited time to spare? Then you simply can’t go wrong with these set lunches, and the Pork Chop was seasoned right, lean yet tender enough, retaining its tasty juices and accompanied with a great sauce! What makes this set lunch even more “powerful” is the mind-blowing price of only RM9.90! Gracia divina!
Chocoflan Impossible Cake + Churros (Set of 6 pcs)
At this point, we were pretty stuffed, but you know everybody has a second stomach for dessert. As a churros lover, this was a definite choice for a sweet ending to our meal. Warm and crispy on the outside but soft and fluffy on the inside, the Churros were generously coated with cinnamon and just the right amount sugar. We also recommend dipping them in the dark chocolate sauce for that extra oomph.
Originated from Mexico, the Chocoflan Impossible Cake is like no other cake we have ever enjoyed. What really intrigued us is the unthinkable fact that choco flan defies the culinary logic by inverting its layers during the baking process, magic huh? The pan goes into the oven layered with caramel, then chocolate cake, then flan but later comes out with the flan and chocolate layers reversed! A dense, rich chocolate cake stacked with creamy vanilla flan, dripping with a delicate layer of sticky caramel sauce basically leave us “impossible” to open our mouths 😂.
Not to mention, Lorrine can also recommend diners the best wines to pair with their dishes, and we’ve heard there’re plans to create special dishes to keep the menu exciting on a regular basis, and provide an excellent opportunity for everyone to learn about pairing different types of wine with food on their upper floors.
There’s a reason fiesta is one of the best-known words in Spain as life itself is a fiesta there, and everyone seems to be invited. Add food and Paella to the mix, we have extra cause for celebration, even in JB! Until then, hasta la próxima vez. 👋
📍 20 & 22, Jalan Pendekar 13, Taman Ungku Tun Aminah, 81300 Skudai, Johor Bahru, Johor
📞 +6019-710 5566
🕙 Daily from 11:30am to 11:00pm
💻 Paella Spanish
🍽️ NO PORK, NO LARD