Splendid Spanish cuisine with a Peruvian twist at Ola Cocina Del Mar

Aug 14, 2019

Ola Cocina Del Mar is my favourite spot in Singapore for Spanish food. Located at the financial towers at Marina Boulevard, the restaurant is housed amongst a well curated collection of bars and restaurants. Getting there is merely a 5 minute walk from Marina Bay MRT station.

Chef Daniel Chavez has had an illustrious career spanning from Spanish cuisine in Barcelona at the now-defunct Can Fabes, all the way to French cuisine at Les Amis in Singapore. Even Gaggan Annand had dined at Ola Cocina Del Mar multiple times, and that’s saying something.

This little write up is based on two anonymous visits over the past year. Chef Daniel Chavez does not know who the hell I am, and I am perfectly fine with that.

Let’s talk food. Note that the items featured here may no longer be on the current menu.

Crispy face-huggers, I mean, shrimp heads, $free.

On both visits, we were offered a complimentary amuse bouche of these crispy fried shrimp heads, sans shell, paired with some sort of sweet potato puree. On both visits, I recall wanting for another plate, because they were so damn delicious. Crispy throughout, salty and concentrated with that shrimpy flavor.

Ceviche, $26. Marinated fish with lime, chilli, coriander, red onions and sweet potato puree.

Definitely not a Spanish thing, but it pays homage to Chef Chavez’s Peruvian heritage. I’ve had many ceviches during my years in Shanghai. Thanks to Peruvian chef Eduardo Vargas and his league of disciples, there were a lot of Peruvian restaurants and dishes available.. but I digress.

Chavez’s ceviche tasted accurate with the acidity from kaffir lime balanced with sweetness from the sweet potato puree. A very good ‘first ceviche’ for those who haven’t had it before.

Burrata, $28. Burrata cheese and kale salad, aged balsamico and prosciutto.

Lovely creamy burrata and sweet balsamico. You know a balsamic vinegar is well-aged when it’s more sweet than sour. Proscuitto nice, salty and fatty. Otherwise, nothing much to say about a salad. It’s a salad.

Gambas, $24.

Gambas Al Ajillo is what a Hainanese Chicken Rice to Singapore is for Spanish food. Yet, so many places can’t get it right. Thankfully, the one at Ola is splendid.

The old adage is true, the simplest dishes are the most difficult to get right.

All I want in a Gambas al Ajillo is fresh bouncy prawns, a strong flavour of garlic and smokey flavours of chilli and/or paprika. The one at Ola Cocina Del Mar was so good I wished we had more bread or even some capellini to mop up all the flavoursome olive oil.

Octopus, $28. Grilled Spanish octopus, confit potatoes, Spanish saffron and fresh oregano.

Another seemingly simple Spanish staple that many fail to deliver. First of all, any well-cooked octopus dish should have tender octopi. Don’t give me that bullshit about preferring your octopi with a bit of bite. If you cook octopus and it’s chewy, you don’t know how to cook octopus.

To be honest, it’s not even that difficult; I used to serve a fantastic octopus dish at my restaurant in Shanghai. Massage the octopus tentacles for about 5mins or 100 presses, boil gently in flavorful water for 55 minutes or so. It will be tender.

That’s the basic octopi prep. The next part will depend on one’s genius recipe of the century.

For me, I like my octopi to be grilled on the outside so a charred crust forms. Those charred edges are the most aromatic parts, similar to a charred prawn shell.

The octopus tapa at Ola was very good, ticking all the boxes. Tender, well seasoned, still retaining the natural flavors of the octopus while enhanced with charred flavors. Well complemented with the aioli-like sauce, while the confit potatoes were just a forgettable sidekick.

Suckling Pig, Leg $66, Loin $48.

I can’t remember if this was the leg or loin, but I was pleasantly surprised by how well executed it was. Thin, crispy skin wrapped around soft creamy pork fats that gave way to the tender succulent flesh. Thankfully, the pork had no boar-taint stench.

Josper Grilled M5 Ribeye Steak, Salsa Verde, Potato Puree and Rocket Salad, $58.

Ola Cocina Del Mar has a Josper grill for several of their grilled courses, and with that, comes very delicious smokey grilled meats. The steak had a great marbling even for a M5 grade, it’s fattiness offset by the tangy salsa verde. The accompanying potato puree was a Parisian mash – smooth and buttery. Lovely dish, although one would not typically visit a Spanish eatery for steak.

Paella de pulpo y chorizo, $42. Paella with squid and chorizo sausage meat.

I’ve tried two paellas at Ola, this one with squid and another one that only had pork. Firstly, let’s get the popular question out of the way: how big is the paella?

If you only had 1 or 2 starters, then this Paella would feed 2 persons comfortably, maybe 3 smaller eaters. That is to say, it is not a big portion of Paella, especially for its price, but it is damn delicious.

Fresh seafood, well-seasoned broth, perfectly done Paella-style rice – crispy and charred on the edges while saucy and al dente in the middle. The little dried shrimp gave a briney flavor accent and the aioli provided a luxurious creamy finish.


That concludes this little write up of Ola Cocina Del Mar. At this date of writing, I’ve noticed that some of the dishes I’ve mentioned have been altered on the latest menu, so your moment might vary. From my experience, regardless of the changes to menu, I think you are in for a good time at Ola.

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