Santi Santamaria opened his first restaurant “Can Fabes” with his wife 30 years ago at his own house – serving simple homemade dishes. A self-taught chef, he developed his own cuisine style during his 30 years of experience. His Catalan cuisine is said to be both basic and sophisticated.
Sadly, Santi Santamaria passed on after suffering a heart attack during a Marina Bay Sands Press Event earlier this year. Despite the setback, his daughter – Regina Santamaria - is working hard to continue Santi’s legacy as a chef who stuck by traditional cooking methods and natural ingredients (aka the chef who boldly spoke up against molecular gastronomy). Picture Source: http://blogs.wsj.com/scene/2011/02/17/the-unexpected-death-of-santi-santamaria/
Santi in Singapore aims to create a contemporary culinary experience – where Chef Santamaria’s Catalonian style is enhanced by the influence of different Asian cuisines. Santi is located at the “Prime Restaurant District” of The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands, Casino Level 2 – where many of the other celebrity restaurants are located. This area may not be the easiest to find if it is your first time there (Tip: Just take the lift that brings you up to where Waku Ghin, Hide Yamamoto are…).
Upon entering the restaurant, I was immediately greeted by a pig’s
head leg - no, this is not your typical pig leg but one that has been cured for 4 years! I was also told by the Maitre’D (Juan) that it took Santi 1 year to obtain green light from AVA to import to Singapore…
…YES, it is none other than JOSELITO’S Iberico Ham. I am no expert of cured ham but I was told that Joselito makes the best Iberic hams in the world.
The main dining area is bright and airy. Although the longish-rectangular area is not big, the full length glass windows does well in creating an illusion of spaciousness.
[Amuse Bouche] Gazpacho and Iberico Ham Bruschetta - we were very excited to try the Iberico ham in its natural form since it was not part of the tasting menu. The ham had a unique texture and tasted very good – however, it’s a pity I am not a huge fan of cured ham to be honest!
COLD PASTA with Sri Lankan crab, tomberry tomatoes and basil sauce – I thought this dish was very average – from experience, I am more easily impressed by appetizers so this pasta left me a little worried as I did not know what to expect of the remaining 8 courses.
SUMMER TRUFFLE AND KUROBUTA PORK SALAD with fresh almonds and pumpkin – this dish failed to impress either – the pork and truffles both did not manage to intrigue my palette. By this time, I was almost ready to lower my expectations….
CRUSTACREANS ” A LA PLANCHA” with Jerusalem artichoke and potato cream, grapes and organic carrots – THIS IS IT!! My palette was jolted awake by the freshness of the prawns – so sweet and succulent! I finally understood what it means when they say Santi places heavy emphasis on fresh ingredients. I was finally feeling excited and eager for the next dish.
CHINESE VEGETABLES “A LA COCOTTE” with iberic ham chips and black truffle – I really enjoyed the combination of Kai Lan with Black Truffles in butter emulsion with a hint of foie gras. A great fusion of eastern vegetables with western ingredients!
MARKET FISH (MauMau) with griolle mushrooms, lentil stew and champagne butter sauce – The catch of the day was Mau Mau from the shores of Malaysia. Fish was well prepared and I was very pleased with the sauce that binds the medley of mushrooms, baby squid and vegetables by the side.
SUCKLING PIG – This is one of Santi’s signature dish…it did not take us long to understand why – with the meat that succulent and skin that crispy…it is arguably one of the BEST around. The open secret to this dish: 17 hours in the oven at no more than 65 degrees.
MARINATED VENISON with artichoke ” a la barigoule” and radishes - This dish definitely tasted every bit as good as it looks (above) - the meat was tender and juicy and I really like the fact that Venison is not as ‘heavy’ as Beef.
SANTI CHEESE – Being blessed with a sweet tooth, I always choose dessert over cheese when it comes to the end of the meal. However, what’s great about the tasting menu at Santi is that it offers both! Juan introduced us to some of the cheeses available on the trolley – his recommendations ranged from soft and runny ones (Petit Nevat) to hard and crumbly ones (Mahon). I was surprised at how I enjoyed all the cheeses (except Valdeon) – this led me to make a mental note not to dismiss the idea of having cheese before/after any culinary experiences moving forward.
DESSERT TASTING (Passion Fruit Pavlova with White Chocolate & Pineapple Carpaccio, Almond Ice Cream, Frand Manier Sabayon) - This dessert tasting brought out a multitude of flavors and texture – some more delectable than others – specifically the pineapple carpaccio and almond ice cream which I enjoyed thoroughly.
PETIT FOURS (Chocolate Caramel, Vanilla Marshmallow, Raspberry Macaron, Opera Cake) – LOVED the Macaron…it certainly brought back memories of the dessert trolley @ Tru which I dearly miss.
The meal came complete with customized take-home menu and memento (for ladies only – contains 1 napkin ring, 1 box of fruit pastilles). Juan was also kind enough to throw in a bottle of Olive oil from spain for us – yayy!
Overall, the service was impeccable - they provided the right level of privacy and attention when needed.
We were particularly impressed by how proactive and helpful the Sommelier (Paco, above) was – knowing that we did not wish to drink too much (need to drive), he remained very eager to find the best wines that would compliment each of our dishes…
Paco found a work around by offering ‘a few drops’ of wine to go with each of our courses. The results of his intervention -
1) we were happy with the wine selections and felt it really enhanced each of the dishes
2) we managed to remain sober so we can drive
3) we were charged with a very reasonable price tag of $33++ per pax for a total of 6 different wines
Kudos to Paco who really took pride in making the best wine recommendations!
This is probably one of those posts which I feel neither words nor picture can do justice to the actual experience…but, if I really have to put the experience -
My 4.5-hour long dining experience at Santi definitely lived up to expectations – food was excellent and SERVICE WAS EXCEPTIONAL. This experience left little to wonder how Santi Santamaria managed to clinch a total of 7 Michelin Stars (for his 3 restaurants in Spain) during his reign.
Mr. Santamaria, your daughter has done well in continuing your legacy – be proud, be very proud.
Tel: +65 6688 8501 (Reservations Recommended)
Add: 10 Bayfront Avenue, #L2-03, Casino Level 2, Marina Bay Sands, Singapore
Opening Hours: Daily, 7pm – 10.30pm
Spend: $270++ Per Pax (Tasting Menu, excluding drinks which adds up to approx $70++ for Aperitif and Wine Pairing)