FOC PIM PAM: Spreading the Sherry Gospel
While most people just flip through the drinks menu, only to point coyly at the most familiar option, here I am leafing through the overtly extensive and wildly ambitious sherry menu at FOC PIM PAM as if I were diligently doing some extra reading for my final dissertation.
I furrow my eyebrows in concentration, trying hard to navigate the ‘information overload’ with Head Sommelier, Ronald Yeo, preaching the esoteric mysteries of the differences between a Manzilla and an Oloroso. Distractions are aplenty—my companions break out into peals of laughter as they are entertained by the dramatic procession of portioning of the suckling pig, whiffs of scorched skin and moist flesh wafting under my nose. A young one, fetched from the fields not long before, sous vide for 10 hours and given a quick high-heat roast is curled up magnificently, tanned skinned and all, on a wooden serving board. It’s so tender that it yields to the edge of a regular side plate with only a whimper and a submissive crackling of roasted skin. Momentarily distracted, I blatantly repeated the point about differentiating a biologically aged sherry versus an oxidative sherry, while struggling to figure out the colour tones in my fresh pour of Fino en rama. Was it lighter than earlier tipple of Oloroso? Multi-tasking is definitely not my strong suit. However, the duo task of eating well and learning is definitely giving this Spanish trip a memorable richness.
The restaurant has redefined its space, swapping out its once whimsical misunderstood image for more streamlined urban sophistication. Along with these ‘Emperor’s New Clothes’, came the decision to include more fun and sensationalised dining experiences such as the La Boqueria Market Brunch that runs on selected Sundays. This is all in an attempt to bring the atmosphere of a bustling food market to life, and to highlight the irrepressible energy of Spanish culture.
A couple of sherries in, and I concur. The Spanish sure know how to live it up. When it comes to sherry, first impressions are rather poignant. For me, the name conjures images of a dark and sticky pour, which my mum served me just before bedtime during examination periods. Inadvertently, many years down the road, she confessed to it being the best sleep inducer there was in the market. I applaud her parenting efforts and still have a bottle of Pedro Ximénez stowed away in the depths of my fridge somewhere. For others, it might just that quintessential kitchen staple used to deglaze the pan. Whatever it is, the truth about sherry could not be further removed—and my blissful ignorance was lifted after a delightful night of libations.
FOC PIM PAM is a handsome place; the dark and broody main dining room with velvet upholstered banquettes and chic metal tables, scream Spanish bodega through and through. Clearly, it is designed for people who enjoy their privacy, and the tapas bar upfront is where the drinks action takes place. Tall shelves displaying dangling Jamón ibérico, Spanish wines, olives oils and canned seafood, tower above a curved metal frame bound by a sexy brass counter. Here, you can partake in as many as 17 Gin & Tonic options, all served with a generous 60ml gentleman’s pour or take a gamble on the extensive wine list. Speaking of which, I launched into some strange form of existential crisis when faced with a perturbing choice of 150 labels including precious loots from illustrious bodegas—Gonzalez Byass and Lustau.
Although a lot of the activity does cluster around the cocktail bar, the menu at PIM PAM is equally ambitious. If you are here looking for croquetas, dreamy potato mille feuilles as blessed vehicles for lashings of garlic aioli or paella amassed with seafood galore, you’re in luck. For a more classical take on Spanish sensibilities, you can’t beat the Iberico Cold Cuts Platter featuring three meats: Pork Loin, Salchichón Sausage and Chorizo. The least assuming loin delivers heaps of flavour rounding off in sweet woody acorns once the richness of the marbled fats dies away. Solidly engineered cristal bread or pan de coca, toasted and coated with grated tomatoes is snapped from mediocrity in the company of meat carvings, and I’m rather glad about the situation. Pass me the oloroso.
The usual bread soup is given a lighter but no less impactful character in the Cherry Gazpacho. Olive oil is first smoked with charcoal from the Josper grill, and this comes to life in the form of Olive Ice Cream which is inundated in a vibrant tipple of chilled cherry, tomatoes, onion and garlic soup. It is much better than you’d think it might be. Then comes the Mushroom Croquetas, Patatas Bravas and Prawns Al Ajillo that you expect. Is it a surprise that the best tapas dish is Pig Tripe Stew? The dish is a manifestation of our usual pig tripe soup, albeit leased a new life with the addition of sofritto, and drawing umami from various off-cuts from the pig. It’s glorious and more interesting when ladled onto warm slices of sweet paprika focaccia.
A Burrata dish might sound like an unnecessary order at a Spanish place, but PIM PAM has perfected the age-old formula with a surprise entourage of chopped sun-dried tomatoes, mint and pine nuts slumped onto the creamy mound. Ibérico Ham baked till crisp also contributed to a strong exterior crunch. The kitchen’s reach-grasp ratio is further affirmed with the flashy display of the Suckling Pig, hailing from Segovia—famous for its magnificent Roman aqueduct and 12th century castle. You’re not sure if you can manage a mouthful, but you ease a healthy portion onto your plate, start at the corners and swoon in blissful pleasure as the crisp golden skin shatters with an inaudible crunch in your mouth. You could have a nice Garnacha with it, but I’m guessing that the Palo Cortado might be the golden ticket here.
After dinner, and maybe a diet-busting white chocolate and freeze-dried raspberry covered churro later, there is a comprehensive list of oxidative sherries—Cream, Moscatel and Pedro Ximénez to befriend. Sure, sherry hasn’t quite shaken off its fusty reputation, but with trendy spots such as PIM PAM dedicating their drinks programme to rhapsodising the tipple, evangelism has never been so sweet—or, in the case of a Fino, dry!
442 Orchard Road #01-29, 6100 4242