District 10 Bar Tapas Restaurant, The Star Vista

If you attempt something, make it the best attempt ever.

District 10 has come a long way. I remember the opening of the very first restaurant at UE Square like it was yesterday. It started off on a low note – I was disappointed that while commitments were made, none of my colleagues at ALEXIS actually adhered to it, so I arrived with a very heavy heart. Determined to make the best out of an undesirable situation, I put on a sociable front and things turned out fine, great even. The lovely watering hole had a very homely, rustic vibe and was baked in earthen colors; a complete opposite to neighboring contemporary chic Ippudo TAO. It was unintended actually: I remember someone mentioning that the wooden sleepers lining the ceiling and the bar were remnants of a previous restaurant in Bukit Timah which became the predecessor to District 10.

District 10 is decidedly Italian. District 10 Bar Tapas Restaurant at the futuristic and cyberpunk The Star Vista however, takes inspiration from Spain. The space is small, but it’s cosy, evoking the feel of dining within a basement wine cellar. If that’s too claustrophobic, the al fresco area is wide open and perfect for the evenings – the mall employs a green technology that encourages natural ventilation inside and outside the building with minimal air-conditioning. While the outlet doubles as an ambassador for the UE Square outlet, serving classics like the Grilled Argentinian Rib-Eye, Hoegaarden Battered Fish & Chips and Rigatoni with Wagyu Meatballs, the star attraction at The Star Vista are the tapas and pinchos. Tapas are, well, tapas, but pinchos on the other hand, are almost strictly bite-sized.

As time wore on, it was incontrovertible that this outpost at The Star Vista simply couldn’t compare to the original. The first course, the Premium Cold Cuts Platter, was a magnificent stumble. Served with a variety of three meats, comprising of the Iberico Spicy Chorizo Bellota, Iberico Spicy Salchichon Bellota and the Spanish Iberico Jamon. Aged for eighteen months, it boasted an unfamiliar flavor and alien texture that never quite relented.

There was a certain haphazardness that permeated some of the dishes. Perhaps it was the presentation, but there was something “off” with some of the dishes. I really couldn’t help but wonder if the Marinated Anchovies with Paprika Oil and Parsley came out of a can. Then again, these are anchovies and since they aren’t good lookers, I wouldn’t know how one would present them in a way which is appetizing. The Patatas Bravas with Spicy Tomato and Garlic Mayonnaise were satisfactory, but the diced potato wedges were curiously soggy, which hurt the contrast that was intended by the confluence of the spicy tomato and pungent, strong flavored garlic.

It’s not all doom and gloom, though. Albeit pricey (SGD 6), the pinchos, or bite-sized wonders, are epicurean kaleidoscopes – each an experience that dares to explore and tease the intricacies of flavor, taste and texture. We tried the Spanish Potato Tortilla and Beef Tartare with Pickles, and they were just positively mind-blowing. I had a slight issue with the overwhelming kick that the jalapeno and pickles incited, at times, devouring the entire experience, but it was something different, and something I was willing to, on some level, accept as being alright.

Normally, I’d encourage you to experiment and discourage those who stay on the shelf, but in District 10’s case, at least at The Star Vista outlet, standing on the safe side of the road might indeed, be most prudent. The no-brainers, and classics of Spanish tapas, well, at least how Singaporeans perceive it, the Sauteed Garlic Prawns with Olive Oil and Mini Black Angus Cheddar Cheese Burger, as with the Grilled Beef Tenderloin with Mushroom and Bearnaise Sauce, were real standouts.

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