Aug 16, 2012|
Hong Kong’s a city obsessed with the latest crazes, and while tapas restaurants have been around since forever, there’s a new crop of stylish, modern tapas bars popping up like mushrooms and offering diners bold new plates that are a world away from sliced chorizo and roasted potato wedges. Defined as snacks in Spanish, tapas are a popular option for lunch or dinner, given their endless variety and flexible portions. Below, we get six hot tapas joints to tell us a little more about their signature tapas dish.
Two-month-old BCN (short for Barcelona) is owned by chef Edgar Sanuy Barahona and his relatives from Spain. Chef Edgar received training in Spanish culinary arts and gained experience in his family’s restaurant business, before opening up his own tapas place to showcase his talents. Of the many great dishes at BCN, one is particularly worthy of mention. The suckling pig with sweet potato cream and Spanish meat sauce is a modified version of the traditional roast suckling pig, or “lechon,” as it’s known in Spanish-speaking countries. This one is prepared sous-vide, by storing two pigs in an airtight vacuum bag with one resting on top of the other and slow-cooking them for 10 straight hours. This way, the juices of the pork are completely sealed into the meat, making it both succulent on the inside and crispy on the outside.
37 Peel St., Central, 2811-2851.
Nigel Guttridge and his wife Tricia own this sports bar-turned-tapas bar on busy Staunton, and Guttridge is also the man behind the dishes. He’s come up with a pan-fried chorizo tapas with five kinds of wild mushrooms that are then topped with an addictive aurora sauce (a creamy tomato-style sauce with fresh herbs). But even after we begged, he won’t give the secret to the ingredients that comprise this special sauce. Guess we’ll just have to keep popping back to his shop. The chorizo dish can be eaten with Guttridge’s homemade herby Catalonian flatbread—another popular signature.
40 Staunton St., Central, 2522-8329.
Located smack in SoHo, WTF is a Spanish tapas bar with a swanky interior that deviates from the red-brick walls of traditional tapas joints. Chef Arnie Bumagat, WTF’s executive chef and an expert in Spanish cuisine, has been in the Spanish F&B business for 12 years. Among the favorite tapas dishes he serves here is the stuffed squid cooked in white wine, sherry and the squid’s own ink. The blending of the different alcohols also brings an aromatic component to the dish. At WTF, you can also expect classics like the seafood paella served in large, round, steel paella pans—it’s definitely not tapas-sized, but still highly recommended.
9 Elgin St., Central, 2559-0218.
First opened in Central in 2010, Tapeo has since spawned a branch in Sai Wan Ho. Chef Michael Van Warmelo—who was raised in Australia and has worked at Melbourne’s old Regent Hotel and top-end restaurants around the world—has created a pork belly dish that is delicious and goes down surprisingly easily. Often the first mental image that pops up in many people’s minds when they hear the words “pork belly” is a fatty chunk of meat that leaves a lingering film in your mouth. At Tapeo, the pork belly is first steam-baked and then cooked slowly under a large tray of water, which helps remove any excess fat on the meat during the browning process. The pork is then placed on a grill to make the pork skin crispy, and served with a creamy quince aioli.
Various branches, including Shop GA01-03, G/F, Lei King Wan, 55 Tai Hong St., Sai Wan Ho, 2513-0199.
Specializing in cuisine from Andalusia, a warm region in southern Spain, Mesa 15 was established by a group of Spanish and Chinese gourmet lovers in 2010. Since its opening, the tapas bar has been introducing nouvelle—or ultra-modern—Spanish cuisine to the local palates. Mesa 15’s Spanish “nigiri” (a type of Japanese sushi) with fresh sea urchins and tempura spot prawns is a dish you won’t find elsewhere. Essentially, it’s a Japanese-influenced potato salad consisting of pickles and tuna topped with fresh sea urchin sashimi and deep-fried botan ebi, or spot prawns. Drawing inspiration from the popular potato and tuna salad of Andalusia—where the dish is traditionally eaten with anchovies and roasted pepper—executive Chef Alejandro Sanchez has decided to add more texture and flavor to the salad by putting in pickles, carrots and cucumbers, complementing those flavors with deep-fried prawns and subtle sea urchin sashimi.
15 Hollywood Rd., Central, 2530-1890.
Chef Choy Ka heads this five-year-old staple on Star Street, after having worked at high-end Italian and Japanese restaurants in five-star hotels prior to joining 1/5 Nuevo. Among his signature tapas dishes is the trio of hummus, guacamole and olive dips that will get your taste buds all fired up. A medley of Arabic- and Latin-style dipping sauces served with hot, crispy pita bread, the zesty, garlicky hummus and the light, herby guacamole go surprisingly well with the sour, savory olive dip.
G/F, 9 Star St., Wan Chai, 2529-2300.