We finally dragged L and M to Esquina on Thursday night for dinner. It was absolutely packed, and we managed to get corner seats for the 4 of us by the skin of our teeth. Since it was L and M’s first time, we ordered some of the usual suspects like the salt and pepper squid and the bone marrow, but we also took the opportunity to try some new dishes too.
We ordered the roasted padrano peppers with garlic, chilli and salt for the first time. Wow, this definitely goes on the repeat list. The peppers were sweet and smoky rather than spicy; amazing that they managed to achieve such charred flavour from a simple cast iron skillet rather than a grill.
We ordered two dishes that, on hindsight, were quite similar. One was a roasted pork belly with bacon and seaweed dashi broth, and the other was a festive dish – Brussels sprouts with slow cooked egg, bacon and pork cubes in a seaweed broth. It may have been a bit much for just me and A, but it was perfect for the 4 of us, because we all couldn’t get enough of the awesome dashi broth. It was absolutely packed with umami flavour; I almost didn’t need the rest of the ingredients, though the pork belly and egg were really good too.
Another festive dish was roast duck with truffle honey and celeriac foam. I couldn’t actually discern very much truffle nor honey flavours, but the duck itself was cooked really well – rare in the center and really flavourful.
We actually ordered the Iberico pork chop off the Josper Grill menu, but they may have forgotten our order because when we reminded them towards the end, they told us they were out of the pork. That was a bit disappointing because I really wanted to try it. We settled for another Josper Grill dish – the grilled ribeye with parsley and shallot dressing. The beef was great, but the parsley and shallot dressing really “elevated the dish” (in A’s exact wanker words).
We ordered the cookies and cream dessert again, and it came served/plated slightly differently this time, with sweetened milk and the cookie served separately. The general consensus was that the manchego custard with olive brioche crumb and apricot jam was “interesting”. It was savoury rather than sweet, so a bit unexpected for a dessert. I guess if you liken it to a pre-dessert cheese course, then that helps you get over the mental obstacle that you’re having a cheese flan for dessert.
We’ve concluded that at least for the non hip-and-happening Atetoomuch, we’d much rather come to Esquina for lunch than dinner. Sure, at dinner there’s definitely a cool buzz, but at lunch time it’s a much more relaxing experience – they don’t run out of food, you don’t feel stressed out (yet admittedly a bit smug) by the people hovering behind you waiting for a seat, and the whole place is less frenetic, so you get to chat to the guys behind the counter and watch them do their thing at a much more calm, leisurely pace.
Food is always great, but after coming here for a dinner service, I definitely prefer the more laidback lunch atmosphere. Being so close to the "kitchen", I actually get stressed out by the dinner rush.