SINGAPORE RESTAURANT

Bilbao Restaurant & Gastrobar

Update (3 June 2011): Since this review was written, we’ve returned to Bilbao several times (what can we say, we love their terrace and are big fans of Estrella beer…) and have noticed a significant improvement across the board. Whether this was in response to our original review we don’t know; perhaps they just had teething issues in their first few months. In any event, this is clearly now a far better restaurant than we gave them credit for on our first visit. With that in mind, we’ve provisionally revised our rating from one to three stars. We plan to return for a full re-review very soon. But one of the advantages of our online site is that we can reflect changes in the market more rapidly than we can in print; so expect to see more updates like this (and not always for the better!) soon.

With a classy wood-and-glass-paneled façade and elegant soft-lit interior, Bilbao restaurant & Gastrobar looked promising. Absolutely ravenous when we got there, our eyes went straight to the tapas on the menu and we went on an ordering spree: Txistorra a la sidra, Basque sausages stewed in cider ($9), paella mixta, saffron rice dish with meat and seafood ($10), cochinillo roll, slow-roasted suckling pig rolled in crispy skin ($15), de champinón y jamón moruno, mushrooms and jamón ($6), calamares en su tinta, squid cooked in its own ink ($12), pulpo a la Gallega, octopus in the Galician style ($4), Jamón Ibérico 40g, thinly sliced cured ham ($20), patatas bravas, fried potatoes with spicy tomato sauce ($6) and langostinos al ajillo, shrimp with garlic ($9). We couldn’t believe our taste buds as we sampled each dish—every single one of them either unspeakably mediocre or a safety hazard. Notably, the Basque sausages were too salty and lacked a firm bite; while the paella and the seafood in it was dry and bland (and where was the saffron?). The shrimp with garlic cried out for some salt and actual garlic flavor; and the skin on the roasted suckling pig was a disappointment both in its lack of taste and siggy texture. But the octopus cooked Galician style was the one dish which we had the most issue with: It was so rubbery that after chewing for a good five minutes, we gave up and had to spit it out—we feared that if we swallowed, we would choke. The rest of the dishes fared only marginally better, and we found ourselves relying on the poorly fried potatoes for some fragment of satisfaction. That said, the service is decent if a tad soft-spoken—we were straining to hear what the wait staff were saying. And if you want to booze up, they have a number of happy hour deals, which include two-for-one drinks noon-midnight from Mon-Wed, and 5-8pm Thu-Sat. Still, tapas are what you come to a Spanish restaurant for, and what we tried here really missed the mark.

The buzz: The newest tenant of TripleOne Somerset, which brings an unmistakable Spanish flair to the place.

The vibe: Well, it really depends on which space you’re in (they have three). Indoors, you can pick from the main dining room or gastrobar. Our pick is their terrace—a large alfresco space that gets boisterous in the evenings. We reckon on cool evenings with a gentle breeze, the only way to go is outside.

The food: Nibblers will appreciate the tapas such as piquillods rellenos de langostino, roasted red peppers stuffed with shrimp ($9), chorizo Bilbao a la sidra, smoky Spanish sausages stewed in cider (also $9) and paella mixta, saffron-scented rice with meat and seafood ($10). You can even order a plate of Spanish cheeses with quince paste ($22) or jamón ibérico ($20) to share. For those looking for something more substantial, bacalao al pil-pil con jamón y langostinos, salted cod fish with prawns ($28) or Cochinillo de Segova, roasted baby piglet done Segova-style ($50) should do the trick.

Why you’ll be back: It’s hard to find an eatery with a terrace that’s as yet untouched by scores of punters and SPGs along the main drag of Orchard Road. Bilbao provides a nice respite from the bustle of the city, plus you can pick up some Spanish food products or bottles of wine at their retail store right next door.

Venue Details
Address: Bilbao Restaurant & Gastrobar, #02-16 TripleOne Somerset, 111 Somerset Rd., Singapore, 238164 Singapore
Phone: 6737-0150
Website: www.bilbao.sg
Area: Orchard
Cuisine: Spanish
Price Range: $$
Opening hours: Tue-Sat 5pm-midnight; Sun noon-6pm
Nearest trainSomerset
Alfresco, Parking available: at TripleOne Somerset
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