Older Singaporean males will recall with fond memories the NCO (Non-Commissioned Officers) Club at the former Beach Road Army Camp where many a beer have been downed. On this site now stands the kaleidoscopic South Beach, a commercial and residential complex housing one hotel, shops and residences. I went there to sample Vatos Urban Tacos, an outpost of a Korean-Mexican fusion joint in Korea named the “Hottest New Restaurant in Seoul” by CNN.
First, about South Beach. The development concept is a collaboration between UK-based architect Foster+Partners and global design firm Aedas with interiors by renowned French designer Philippe Starck, featuring a distinctive curved tower.
Sunken courtyards and tiered gardens are surrounded by installations from acclaimed South Korean artist Lee Lee Nam, and Singaporean artist and illustrator Soh Ee Shaun.
Winner of two Green Mark Platinum Awards, South Beach boasts a canopy that is designed to harvest rainwater and engineered with photovoltaic cells to convert solar energy into electricity,
The South Beach Hotel labels itself as a “654-rooms and suites Luxury & Lifestyle H.I.P. (Highly Individualised People and Places) Hotel that aspires to Create Infinite Experiences for you, with you.”, showcasing Phillip Starck’s bold and whimsical works.
Back to the food: Vatos Urban Tacos is the brainchild of three Korean-Americans who wanted to offer a new type of dining experience in Korea.
Carrying a bare-ceiling industrial chic design with rugged brick walls and edgy furniture, the place was super busy when we visited; we had to wait a good half hour for our table.
There’s an open kitchen where you can see the busy chefs at work.
I’m an ardent fan of al fresco dining, so our seating outside the white-washed heritage building was a blessing as the December cool breeze was delightfully.
Vatos’ signature drink is the Sexy Sanchez; an icy strawberry margarita impaled by a bottle of Albens apple & strawberry cider. Not cheap at S$28 a pop but worth trying – a deceptively potent concoction.
The craft beers were unusual too. What I found hilarious was the honesty of the Guava soda that proclaims proudly “with 100% sugar”.
The menu features Korean-Mexican fusion cuisine with creative dishes like the Kimchi Carnitas Fries, Galbi Tacos, and Spicy Chicken Quesadillas. The fries, artfully presented and loaded with crunchy and pungent sweet onions, were very addictive combining well with the kimchi and the shredded braised beef.
The Cheese Quesadilla with the coleslaw-like side was simple but delicious.
The Galbi Taco was created for Instagram, with chunky and flavourful pieces of beef ribs.
On the other hand, the tamale was rather plain, just steamed maize flour wrapping some seasoned meat; nothing exciting to highlight.
The Spicy Wings were lip-smackingly yummy – tender pieces of mid-joints coated with a tangy sauce.
Upstairs from Vatos, where the restrooms are located, are the Suite 26 nightclub and the sexy Vanity Bar.
Ladies, do check out the velvety-red vanity area in the restroom at the edgily retro Vanity Bar. Before I incriminate myself, rest assured that I didn’t venture into forbidden territory – the glimpse of it was earned from the walkway.
Vatos Urban Tacos is a welcome addition to the already-vibrant Singapore dining scene. Its eclectic Korean-Mexican fusion cuisine and signature Vartos’ Ritas are worth the wait; and the bonus of browsing the architectural delights of the entire South Beach complex makes it a no-brainer.
Vatos Urban Tacos
36 Beach Rd, Singapore 189677
Phone: +65 63856010