Inside are glistening, doughy balls called pao de quiejo, a Brazilian cheese bun made from cassava. They were the plainest looking item of a meal one evening, but they are delightful, like a savoury mochi with a pillowy chew. The balls come with a severely underwhelming amount of butter, so slather what you can on a pao or two, and save the rest to mop up any residual sauces from other dishes.
You will need them for the nachos, or in Alegria’s case, a single, skateboard deck of a masa chip that oozes cheese and guacamole. Similarly, a taco of ube, or purple yam, drips meaty sisig and dinakdakan sauce, two Filipino staples made from pig offcuts.
If the food sounds vaguely Latin-Asian, that’s because it is. Alegria originated as sangria bar and restaurant in the Philippines in 2017 before evolving into Latin American cuisine with Asian and European influences. Today, the group owns four concepts in their home country from an asado wood fire eatery to a cafe serving huevos rancheros and Puerto Rican empanadas. Singapore is the first time they are going overseas.
An open fire grill is one of the features here, which is used to cook cauliflower barbacoa. The charred white and purple heads are beautiful – Instagrammable, if you must – and tenderly cooked, but arrive slightly bland. Better to order the grilled pulpo, or octopus. The protein is tricky to get right – rubbery when undercooked, dry if overdone – but Alegria’s example is sweet and yields under the gentlest of pressure.
There is no problems with the juicy elote, or grilled corn, which is flecked with crumbs of pork crackling called chicharon. There is no elegant way to eat this, so use your hands and head to the bathroom afterwards to pick corn bits out of your teeth. It is messy, but well worth it.
While most of the food at Alegria is brightly flavoured, the tuna and scallop ceviche unfortunately is not. More tartare than seafood salad, it is a quiet dish that stirs briefly when you bite into pops of prawn roe. Dessert, however, does not disappoint. Taho at queso is a beancurd rendition of cheesecake. Gorgeously plated, it is light, creamy and refreshing enough that you’ll want to start your meal all over again.
Alegria Singapore is located at 18 Teck Lim Road, Singapore 088390.
Tuesdays to Sundays, 3pm to 10.30pm