Chef Carlos Montobbio brings big flavours to the small plates at Esquina
One of the city's top tapas bars sees a new chef at the helm
When Chef Andrew Walsh left Esquina to open Vasco, his own Latin American-inspired cocktail bar, we wondered who his successor might be. It turned out to be a familiar face, one who was already making a name for himself by way of his creative Asian-inspired tapas menu at Anti:Dote bar. But this time around, Chef Carlos Montobbio is no longer hidden from the public eye. As the newly-minted Head Chef of Esquina, the 28-year-old Montobbio will preside over the bar's buzzy open kitchen — arguably one of the busiest in this city.
While more than half of the dishes from Walsh's reign remain, Montobbio has been steadily introducing new dishes to the menu since September. There're creamy, pillowy chorizo croquetas held together by delicately breaded shells, and dishes, such as the oysters topped with jalapeno ponzu and pickled ginger flower, that showcase the Asian pantry handsomely.
Montobbio isn't afraid to play around with ingredients that aren't your typical crowd pleasers. Take beetroot, for example. Here, he pickles them to lend a tangy kick to its earthy flavours before laying it alongside whipped truffle burrata, raspberries, and smoked walnuts. His kitchen also turns out perfectly grilled Spanish octopus drizzled with bacon oil, both of which play off to good effect against the briny notes of pickled seaweed. While the dessert menu remains the same, we look forward to witnessing Montobbio work his magic in that department.