What do you do when you have 7 hungry girls? Tapas is a pretty good option and as it turns out, Duende was a winner. The service was good and the atmosphere was great for a maximum of a 2 table group. Anything larger and you won’t hear each other. Candles were lit and lights were very dim so if you found a nice corner table, it could be rather intimate as well.
To get the party started, the vinos ranged from $8-$18 a glass. There is also an option for half a litre. I was abstaining so I had the Citron Presse ($5)
Looks fancy doesn’t it? It’s basically a glass of sparkling water with a shot of lemon juice and a shot of sugar syrup. It was really refreshing.
The first dish we had were the ♥ Prawn and Chorizo Paella balls, paprika aioli ($15). As I put the first bit into my mouth, I heard all the mmms going around the table..then I realised myself. The coating of fried crumbs gave way to warm, flavoursome paella which was made richer by the spicy paprika aioli. Liann noted that there were flavours of bonito which is a Japanese fish flakes used to make the stock for miso soup and other dishes. If you like arancini, you will like these.
Then the highly recommended (by Nicole K.) ♥ Sweetcorn & Manchego croquettes ($15) arrived and that was when I believed Duende had gotten the art of deep frying down pat. These crumb coated cushion shaped croquettes had a lovely crisp coating that gave way to total sweet, creamy smoothness of potato and Manchego (a strong Spanish cheese made from sheep’s milk), sweetened by sweet corn.
The Baby Eggplant, Pepperonatta, haloumi ($16) was a delightful stack of roasted tender baby eggplant served with the scicilian pepperonatta (which is a tomatoey stew with red peppers) and haloumi. The haloumi was melted through and for a moment, I thought it was an omelette until I took a bite.
The pictures might start getting better at this point because of my lovely assistant, Sarah Chong.
The filling dish of the night were the Spicy Lamb Meatballs, braised beans, tahini yoghurt ($16). The meatballs sat in a hearty stew of thick, smooth butter beans along with a variety of others I didn’t recognised. The lamb meatballs itself lacked a bit of flavour (to me) which I felt could afford a lot more flavour given the milder bean stew and yoghurt that accompanied it.
My favourite of the night was the ♥♥ Slow braised goat, fig cous cous, makfoul, yoghurt ($18) which is a proper tagine dish. Trust me, it tastes a lot better than it looks. It seems I’m not alone with 4 votes for this as the top dish. Shini loved how the meat just fell off the bone. Sarah described it as ‘melt in your mouth meatiness’ I didn’t get any bone. It was all soft tender meat in moroccan spices, tamed by yoghurt. I especially loved how the fig cous cous soaked it all up so in the end I had a slightly coarse textured mix of cous cous in a spiced goat gravy rolling down my tongue. mmm..
Lots of girls liked the honeyed pumpkin, sumac, minted yoghurt ($15). I thought it was delicious and considering I’m not big on pumpkin, this means a lot. The pumpkin was fully roasted with crisp skin and mash-soft flesh. The flavours were sweet and lemony from the honey and sumac. The minted yoghurt helped cream everything up so it just melts in your mouth.
A good Jamon Serrano ($14) is always good. I tried my best to avoid it but in the end, took a small piece. Eeps. This is how I can be assasinated easily… just poison foods I like and put it right in front of me.
Now for desserts – there is always room for dessert especially with 7 girls.
The biggest hit was the Doughnut balls, condensed milk ice cream ($14) which were basically soft balls of dough fried to airy little puffs, sugared and served with a nice milky ice cream.
The Crema catalana, pinones fruta ($14) was basically a creme brulee – with its burnt sugar top and all. I had to google pinones and it looks like pine nuts. The custard was actually really good – creamy and rich. Definitely worth eating if you like your creme brulees.
Finally, the one for the chocolate lovers – the Flourless chocolate cake, orange, hazelnuts ($14) is very rich, smooth and decadent. It was great but in small serves so best to share this one.
Will I return? Hell yeah! This is one of the better Tapas joints that is less stuffy and expensive than say Pata Negra. Who would not like that? It sure made all the girls (below) happy! Thanks for the pic, Sarah!
Unfortunately, from 8 July 2013, they won’t be taking any more reservations! This isn’t being received well at all. Who knows, they might change their policies one day?