|El Faro Tapas Bar and Restaurant|
El Faro Tapas Bar and Restaurant
El Faro Tapas and Bar peaks our interest with its supposed creative approach to tapas, casual ambience and well-spoken-of service.
Maroon and dark grey paint the room a chilled hue. A chalkboard highlights a range of drinks and the parts of a pig. Simple lamps and bulbs drop down on cords from the ceiling providing unobtrusive lighting. Painted as giant murals on the walls and giving a hint to the theme of the place is a flamenco dancer and, providing a symbol for the name of the restaurant is a lighthouse (el faro in Spanish). Latin guitar instrumentals further compose the setting. Parking is relatively easy after 6pm in front of the restaurant. If it’s busy go around to the side street and park on the road.
Butterworth boy Jack Yeap heads the kitchen, returning from 10 years in both local and international fine dining restaurants. Inspired by the booming tapas scene in Singapore, he and his partners wanted to bring good food in a casual dining ambience to local Penang. Chef himself enjoys eating in this manner - small plates -enabling diners to try many items on the menu. Shying away from labeling his cuisine as any one style in particular, he prefers to say “if it tastes good, it makes it to the menu.”
The menu is simply divided into Hams and Sausages, Cold, Hot and Desserts and, we’re about to find out if we agree with chef’s philosophy.
A truffle oil drizzle tickles our noses as the Cold Capellini (RM18) is delivered to our table. A roll of string thin pasta is matted with konbu and spring onions. A liberal stripe of lumpfish caviar tips the crest. Delicate in the mouth, the taste of the sea first hits the palate and the earthy truffle oil lingers in the mouth for some minutes after. It’s a dish chef brought back from his time in Singapore and we’re glad he did.
Slender Boquerones (RM18) are served on top of rectangles of bright red watermelon. A sprinkling of salt streaks the fish and a single mint leaf marks the end. Juicy fruit fills the mouth and is contrasted in both texture and taste with the salty and more chewy fish. I give them a thumbs-up, while hubby’s traditional taste buds are undecided.
Ensalada Tomate (RM14) is no ordinary tomato salad and we can see why it’s one of chef’s favourite creations. It’s paired with nacho granola, which is a savoury mix of crushed corn chips and traditional granola ingredients. Balsamic vinaigrette and pesto dress meaty momotaro tomatoes and a mix of rocket and lettuce leaves. Hubby often leaves the salads for my consumption, but this is one where I find myself having to fork rapidly before he devours the lot. It’s original and a big hit.
|Ensalada de Tomate|
Excited by the cold starters, we’re enthusiastic for the hot bites to arrive. Tomato Cappuccino (RM13) is tomato soup served in a coffee cup and looks just like a latte with an artful swirl adorning the foam. Baby octopus, pesto, corn chips and cheese foam, take the liquid way above the standard red tradition. We scoop through the layers and take our first spoonful. Wow! This soup is incredible. It’s intensely rich, so even though we’re both diving in for more, it is possible to share. It’s a must order for sure.
Portobello Mushroom (RM22) has an Indian influence with its marsala spice seasoning (which by the way is all made from scratch in house). A thick tomato fondue is counterbalanced with whipped mascarpone and crisp onion rings. I’m happy to see such a delicious and filling vegetarian option on the menu.
Huevos Estrellados (RM12.50) is a modern take on the classic recipe. Deconstructed and reconstructed in layers it starts with a poached egg that’s soft and runny in the base of a glass resembling a mini fish bowl. Corn kernels, corn chips and chorizo float in the middle and truffle adds its own earthy flavour. Potato is made into a foam which floats on the surface resembling a slick of cream. Chef’s innovations seem endless and it’s another dish we’re both surprised and delighted by.
What seems to be a simple ham and cheese toasty, the Bikini with Truffle Honey (RM18), is hubby’s favourite. This is not your common sandwich however. With star fillers of jamon Serrano, truffle honey and queso Manchego, it’s a pressed mouthful of great flavour combining savoury, sweet and buttery in one bite.
|Bikini with Truffle Honey|
Cabbage sides the Tender Pork Belly (RM18.90) and a maple and lime sauce dresses it. What chef humbly describes as a plate that is of more traditional tapas style, has still been brushed with his wand of individuality. Shredded cabbage is charred producing a smoky undertone and is teeming with plump juicy raisins. The nuance of maple works well with the super soft cuts of pork. The film of oil left coating the mouth means there’s no denying this full-flavoured plate is a bundle of calories. I stop at one bite calculating the extra kilometres I’ll have to run tomorrow, but hubby shamelessly polishes off the rest.
|Tender Pork Belly|
We’ve noted chef’s fine work of delicately balancing flavours and textures in one dish and, in the Hokkaido Scallops (4pieces RM26), he continues to show his strength in this area but adds another layer of complexity by also toying with temperature. Corpulent scallops are pan seared until a faint golden hue stains the surface and they are sizzling hot. Serrano ham and a chilled papaya salsa and pineapple puree strewn with poppy seeds cover them. The ingredients are all familiar, but the combination uncommon. They prove a terrific recipe.
Dessert leaves us with big goofy smiles of satisfaction and childhood-like amusement. Strawberry “Tiramisu” (RM15) is centred with chocolate ice cream, filled in with mascarpone, covered with strawberry granita and then headed with cookie crumble and chocolate powder. Upon request a sprinkling of popping candy is tossed in. We recommend asking for the mini-explosive topping. It’s another plate that is decadently rich enough to make sharing a possibility.
We’ve been surprised and enchanted by chef’s playfulness with recipes. Don’t visit El Faro expecting traditional Spanish tapas though. Come to witness creativity in the kitchen transferred to appetizing small plates on the table. I wonder if Penangites realize what a treasure they have under their noses? I know we’ll be back for sure.
Reasons to visit: creative and delicious tapas; Ensalada Tomate; Tomato Cappuccino; Bikini with Truffle Honey; Cold Capellini; Huevos Estrellados; Strawberry “Tiramisu.”
Tapas Bar and Restaurant
231 Burmah Road
10050 George Town
+6 04 227 2310
Open 3pm until 11:30pm