Good news - Esquina is now offering set lunches on weekdays. At $39 for 3 courses, this is pretty unbeatable value. On the Monday that we were here, this was the set lunch offering:
We decided to order one set lunch, to gauge both the quality and the portion sizes, and supplemented it with other items off the menu. First, we'll showcase the set lunch dishes.
First course was trout tartare with a red pepper gazpacho. This was similar to another dish we ordered a la carte a few weeks ago, so we can vouch for the fact that they don't skimp on the ingredients nor the portion size just for the set lunch. Once again, the flavours were great, with the gazpacho a perfect blend of sweet and tart.
For the set lunch main we had the beef with peppercorn sauce and carrot and cumin puree. It was cooked a bit more medium than we would have liked, but still pretty tasty.
We would ordinarily have chosen the chocolate mousse, but (a) we've tried that before and (b) we were eyeing a similar dessert off the regular menu, so we went for the manchego, quince and toast. This could be the most straightforward dish we've had at Esquina to-date. No reinvention or modern spins, just straight up cheese, quince and toast.
One of the reasons we came here was a Facebook post over the weekend by one of A's friends, who raved about a grilled Madagascar gambas with seaweed aioli. To my initial dismay, the dish is part of a Josper Grill selection that's only available at dinner time. However, one of our regular waiters noticed how distraught I was, and got the kitchen to make it for us anyway. It was a lovely gesture, and an even lovelier prawn. It was huge, perfectly grilled and I could literally use a spoon to scoop up the delicious head juices. Sublime.
On the festive menu is a pretty awesome pig dish - a slice of pork belly, crackling, and a roulade of suckling pig rolled with minced Iberico pork. The heaviness is cut through with a side of sauerkraut. I'm not a huge fan of their normal pork belly dishes here but this, with the suckling pig, was amazing.
Props also to the fried quail's egg with curried haddock rice. I'm a sucker for a good rice dish, and this was really addictive. There was just enough curry flavour to complement the smoked haddock - I dare say this is better than their paella.
After so many visits, we decided to finally try the ham croquetas. As far as croquetas go, this is one of the best we've had. The filling was creamy and absolutely filled with diced jamon.
They've revamped their dessert menu, and the first thing that jumped out at us was the Cookies and Cream - condensed milk ice cream, chocolate chip cookies, chocolate cake and salty hazelnut paste. This was a truly awesome interpretation of cookies and cream, with the entirety even better than each of its parts.
A few weeks ago we were here, and had a good but not as wonderful experience as the current one, possibly due to the combination of dishes that we ordered. The kingfish sashimi with barbequed cucumber and uni mayonnaise is worth mentioning though. The sashimi was delightfully creamy, and each bite-sized morsel of cucumber and uni mayo packed a ton of flavour.
At long last, we also tried their Iberico pork and foie gras mini burgers. I found the patty to be less burger and more pulled pork, and the flavours were decidedly of a chorizo nature. I'm glad we tried it, but it's not something we'll order again.
The kitchen and the service staff have definitely found their groove. It's a lot less manic these days, and they have the time to chat with and get to know you. You don't feel as if you can't linger because there's a long line of customers waiting to take your place. Is this our last visit for 2012? Hmm, I don't know. The dinner-only Josper Grill items are calling to me...
I love this place. Especially at lunch when things are more chill. If I didn't have to watch my weight or my wallet, I'd be here at least 4 times a week.