Tonito at Jewel Changi Airport hit me up for a tasting last week, promising a gastronomic tour around Latin America. Despite being an avid traveller, I’ve never made it to that part of the world. But I’ve had my fair share of LatAm food, whether it’s the classic churros, ceviche or chilli con carne.
With Jewel’s famed Rain Vortex as its background, the casual restaurant is just the place to share authentic (and less ubiquitous) Brazilian, Peruvian and Mexican dishes.
It’s been over a year since it opened, and the team has refreshed the menu, adding on dishes that dive even deeper into LatAm cuisine.
Veggie-friendly aplenty at Tonito.
My vegan / vegetarian friends, forget the thought of meat-heavy dishes at a LatAm restaurant. There’s plenty to choose from at Tonito, my absolute favourite being the Ensalada de Quinoa ($16).
The quinoa I make at home just doesn’t match up and it could be because Tonito’s version is boiled and then… deep fried till the little grains puff up. Plus the pomegranate, radish, cucumber and coriander add oodles of flavour to this healthy dish.
Japanese-Peruvian (Nikkei cuisine) I am familiar with but Chinese-Peruvian? Not so much. Well, I learned something new, the chifa tradition where Chinese immigrants introduced their culture to Peruvians. The Tallarin Saltado ($20) is ode to that – stir-fried angel hair pasta in homemade soy sauce and red wine vinegar.
Other veg-friendly dishes included the Frijoles ($8) – braised kidney beans with chimichurri and topped with cotija cheese, Yuca Fritas ($8) – deep-fried balls of cassava, and the Gazpacho Verde ($16) – red gazpacho’s green cousin thanks to the use of tomatillos. The sherry and raspberry vinegar infused refreshing soup is perfect for keeping up with the hot weather we’ve been experiencing recently.
And now, on to the carne.
On to the meat dishes, of which we tried many, thanks to our generous host.
A great option to snack on while kickstarting the party would be the Cangrejo ($24) – deep-fried soft shell crabs with chipotle mayo dip.
The Japanese influence on Peruvian cuisine made its presence known in the form of Tiradito Nikkei ($26), a dish of salmon slices macerated with Japanese Tiger’s milk made from soy, mirin and ginger.
Everyone’s highlight seemed to be the Arroz con Pato ($28) as was mine. This dish which is most famous in the north of Lima, Peru, is essentially a confit duck on a bed of coriander-based rice that is cooked in stout. The duck leg had crispy skin and the rice, silky smooth – almost like eating risotto.
While I didn’t quite try the Mariachi ($35), others seemed to enjoy the slow-cooked pork ribs which had been marinated overnight in paprika. It came with a homemade adobo made from chipotle, charred onion, tomato, garlic, balsamic vinegar and honey.
How could we go without trying an old favourite of the restaurant – the Fish Tacos ($18)? Which we did, and enjoyed especially after dropping fire bombs of hot sauce onto them!
As if we weren’t stuffed enough, our host ordered desserts – we had the Churros and the Chocolate Tres Leche ($18 each).
While Tonito may be located in Changi, and it is quite the trek over, I think it’s worth the trip to try some of these party-friendly dishes. Who knows… maybe next time I’d be making a pit stop at Tonito on my way to Brazil!
Address: 78 Airport Boulevard, #02-248, Singapore 819666
Contact: +65 6904 3975, email@example.com
Opening Hours: Monday to Sunday 11.30am to 10.30pm