First visit of 2013! Hopefully this sets the tone for rest of our 2013 visits to come, because once again, lunch here was great. While there were only a few changes to the main menu since we were last here in December, there were enough specials for us to only repeat one dish - the roasted padron peppers.
There was an uni and prawn bisque, which was beautifully served in a sea urchin shell on top of a huge stone. This dish alone should silence all the Esquina detractors out there who think this place doesn't serve food worthy of a fine dining restaurant. The presentation was exquisite, and the flavours were really intense.
The duck confit paella with gambas and mussels was also very good - kind of like a rustic surf and turf paella. The addition of the shredded duck confit was a nice touch, as it added a savoury meatiness to a regular seafood-based paella.
We tried a new egg dish on the menu - a poached egg with truffle egg mayonnaise, charred leeks and a walnut vinaigrette. Again, great flavour combinations, with each element not overpowering the other.
The tandoori lamb shoulder was probably the least successful dish of the day. The tandoori flavour was quite subtle, and the lamb, though very tender, was more braised/slow-cooked than we usually like. The accompaniments, a pickled cucumber and some kind of chutney, tasted faintly of achar; I wonder if that was the chef's intention.
We tried a new dessert - a chocolate tea ice cream with sacher sponge, pickled cherries and hazelnut praline. I quite liked this for a change, but I think A would've preferred the cookies and cream again.
For Esquina newbies, they've just lauched a Chef's Tasting Menu - $95 for 10 courses. It's available at both lunch and dinner, and you get tasting portions of most of their specialties, with a choice between 2 main courses. Since we've pretty much eaten our way though their entire menu (and all its variations), we may not go for this, but if you're planning a visit and don't quite know what to order and where to start, this sounds like a good idea.
Win! Plus, the new Chef's Tasting Menu is great for newbies. I may try it myself one day if I can't choose between all the great dishes there.