Rio Tapas, tucked away in a corner of Marina Bay Sands Shoppes, is actually a creation of Carnivore. Located adjacent to the Carnivore at MBS, Rio offers a lighter all-day dining concept, morphing from muffins at breakfast to cocktails and tapas at dinner time. It’s a pretty small set-up, with only 5 tables, but I think you can order the Rio menu while sitting at the Carnivore tables as well.
Their idea of tapas is actually just small plates, so don't expect authentic Spanish tapas offerings like grilled octopus or jamon. Rather, there is a small but rather enticing-sounding selection of small bites, including mini burgers and seared tuna salad.
We went for 4 dishes, and by far the best (and also best value at $16 for a decent portion size) was the squid ink pasta with grilled squid. The squid ink is part of the pasta, and the dish is prepared aglio olio style with cherry tomatoes and a hint of chilli. The pasta was seasoned well and cooked just right, and the squid was pretty nicely charred as well.
Another pretty good dish (though this was way more up my alley than A’s) was their oxtail soba. This was a small bowl of a rather rich and very flavourful beefy broth with pieces of tender oxtail. The soba noodles were rather overcooked though; I would have liked them to have some bite. The dish was supposed to have been drizzled with truffle oil but I didn’t get any hint of it. Despite these few flaws, I did enjoy it and at $9, again pretty decently priced.
We tried their duo of mini burgers – one with cheddar cheese and one with blue cheese. When they say mini, they aren’t kidding. The burger bun was about 7 cm in diameter, and the patty itself can’t have been more than 4 cm. In addition, we were a bit apprehensive when they told us that the burgers were cooked well done. They were ok – they were more meatballs that actual patties, and after being smothered with cheese, actually not bad.
The cubed beef tenderloin was an epic disappointment though. They asked for preferred doneness so we said medium rare, but the irregular morsels that arrived were more medium to medium-well done. The beef didn't have much flavour at all, and really needed the ponzu dipping sauce that accompanied it. Their fries aren’t half bad, and at least they serve a good ketchup.
Despite A’s inability to drink alcohol, he couldn't resist ordering the Alco-Horlicks – a spiked milkshake with chocolate sauce and Horlicks. It seemed innocuous but left a lingering boozy heat at the back of your throat. The churros were a pleasant surprise – they were a lot lighter and fluffier than expected. They came with 3 dips – chocolate, spiced vanilla and raspberry coulis. The chocolate was obviously the best, but the other two didn’t suck either.
Whenever we walk by, Carnivore/Rio are seldom full, so this could be a good last minute option at MBS, given that it’s well nigh impossible to get a table at Mozza at short notice.
A surprisingly good meal. Despite my reservations, everything turned out to be decent (except for the very blah and over-priced beef cubes). I’d definitely have the squid ink pasta next time. And my milkshake. Heh.
#01-77/80, The Shoppes Marina Bay Sands
2 Bayfront Avenue
Opens 9 am – 12 midnight weekdays; 9 am – 2 am weekends