La Barra, Singapore
“Remarkable Empanadas and Arepas to Live for”
By Monica Tindall
I hear familiar salsa tunes before I see the new Colombian café I’m searching for. Now jiving along the second floor of The Star Vista, the music grows stronger and a myriad of food outlets beckon. There is one, however that has been recommended above the rest. Arriving, to La Barra, my eyes are greeted by the vibrant colours of the Colombian flag, the smell of corn flour in the deep fryer and a mix of Spanglish humming from the packed tables. The evening breeze drifts through and I’m almost transported back to my 20s and warm nights on Caribbean shores.
Hubby and I have had a long hot day working and sight seeing on the streets of Singapore. We’re both in need of refreshment and our eyes turn instantly to the Pura Shakes. Pure tropical fruit shakes made from imported Colombian fruit pulp, are ice blended with water or milk.
The Lulo (also known in South America as naranjilla or little orange) $6.50 is something you’ll most likely not taste elsewhere so worthy of an order. This refreshing fruit has a slight tang like that of a lime but with the cleansing after taste of pear. Both hubby and I are passionfruit addicts so the Maracuya $6.50 is our next order.
For a little more sugar, the Colombiana $6.50 is a popular carbonated, peach hued beverage, also known as champagne soda. Hubby takes a swig and a huge smile develops across his face. I take a sip and quickly hand back the syrupy sweet soft drink. Hubby gulps down another mouthful and says with all sincerity, “this is something really special to Latin Americans.” I sit by as he talks about past memories with childhood glee and keeps assuring me what a very special drink this is.
Thirst quenched, it’s time to move on to the solids. A simple menu, celebrating the convenience of Colombian street foods, focuses primarily on arepas and empanadas.
Two forms of arepas are available, both the flat open kind and the dense stuffed pocket variety. A duo of flours can be chosen from too, white corn or yellow corn. The Domino $9 is our first order. A pizza looking meal soon appears piled with black beans and crumbled white feta cheese. We both think the price is a bargain for this filling dish. Such food begs for a beer accompaniment so hubby orders a Colombian classic, an Aguila $12. This cool crisp, clear pilsner has a mild taste and is easy drinking.
Now mildly satiated but curious for more, we place the next order. Hubby must have the Venezolana $13.50 - an unleavened grilled corn flour pocket bread filled with shredded beef, black beans, sweet fried plantains and queso fresco (young white cheese). While he is never officially allowed to say that a Colombian restaurant could possibly prepare a Venezuelan arepa to his standards, he polishes it off… down to the very last crumb.
These arepas are filling so we turn to the Barra Bites section looking for something a little lighter to try. We decide on the mixed basket of Empanadas $10 and soon three golden corn flour fritters filled with chicken, beef and cheese arrive at our table. These are hot! A perfectly crisp exterior encases juicy fillings. We have fun stretching the melted cheese and soon realize this is another snack begging for a beer pairing so order the Club Colombia $12. The extra dry, carefully crafted pilsner lager washes down the remainder of the oil on our lips and we’re ready for dessert.
We check out the daily specials board for the home cooked desserts of the day. Our jovial waiter assures us that all three are excellent so what to do, but to get the trio? He also suggests a digestive and sweeter beer to finish, so we happily agree and out comes a shot of Aguardiente and a tall glass of Redd’s.
Redd’s is a favourite with the ladies offering a refreshing lime flavour, is low in alcohol, rimmed with salt and garnished with a lime wedge. Aguardiente, fire water, is known as Colombia’s national drink. This anise flavoured liqueur is derived from sugar cane and makes a perfect aperitif, digestive or party shot.
The Cocada materializes and is just as I remember from my time on the southern continent. Coconut, condensed milk and sugar are clearly evident.
Panderos, made with copious amounts of sugar, butter, cassava flour and aguardiente, quickly disintegrate into a powder upon first bite and then groups together in our mouths necessitating further tongue maneuvering to get it to fully dissolve. It forms almost a peanut buttery quality sticking to the roofs of our mouths, but also the sides of our gums and teeth. We’re left with the delicious job of sweeping the remains away with our tongues.
The Coconut Cream Caramel seductively arrives. Served in a black stone bowl the caramelized ivory tower sits in a pond of passionfruit and cheekily flirts with our taste buds and tests the seams of our stomachs. The tangy fruit pulp cuts through the fat and gives a zing that livens up the traditionally creamy dessert.
Finishing the meal with the rich smoothness of Colombia, we joyfully sip on cups of Juan Valdez coffee.
|Juan Valdez Coffee|
First bopping as a result of the rhythmic salsa, now fueled by aguardiente and caffeine, we’re ready to see where else the night leads us.
|Map to La Barra|
La Barra is open Monday to Sunday from 12noon to 11pm.
Reason to visit: deliciously filling arepas and empanadas, value meals, Colombian desserts, Colombian drinks, Colombian coffee
1 Vista Exchange Green,
#02-21 The Star Vista
+65 6694 2495