Date of Visit: June 5 2013
So here is the newest and hottest tapas joint in The Kong. Positive reviews bestowed upon this contemporary Catalan eatery were presumably based on the El Buli alumnus who had spent a decade with celebrity Chef Ferran Adria. Catalunya Hong Kong is a second restaurant set up by Chef Alain Devahive Tolosa in Asia, sister to Catalunya Singapore. Interest was certainly generated, enough to pique my interest to convort a reservation 1 month in advance.
On the actual day, I and one other hailed a cab from Admiralty to Morrison Hill (near Happy Valley), only to be told by the taxi-driver that we will be countering heavy traffic because today is a Wednesday, and Wednesday is horse-racing day. Luck was on our side, we arrived at the restaurant right on time, 30 minutes later. The exterior of the restaurant looked every inch a bespoke jewel box on the ground floor of a non-descript office building, distinctively decorated with metal works and tiles on plastered wall – hard to miss.
Upon entry, we were quickly whisked to our table. I noted an army of waiters, around half are Spanish, the rest Filipinos. Could the Spanish economy be answerable to the influx of Spaniards to Hong Kong and the recent Spanish tapas boom here?
Earthly tones of the interior exudes sensuality and warmth. The timber panels on the walls, floors and ceilings completed the ambience with coloured walls in reds and browns. One cannot help but imagine oneself being transported to an elegant rustic Spanish country manor while sitting on the upholstered chairs. The room was dimly lighted with the central chandelier emiting a warm glow to the abyss. I especially liked the mirrored tiles on the walls which reflected in the dark. Since dimly lighted rooms do not photograph well with my camera phone (see example below), I had to resort to borrowing from Catalunya’s webpage for illustration.
A bottle of Catalan Priorat was promptly ordered and imbibed while we took time to read the fun descriptions on each dish in the menu. We consulted with service who recommended that we start with 2-3 tapas and a main. I am intrigued to see what the kitchen will come up with.
Dinner started with the arrival of the Bikini (HKD115), a standard Barcelonean tapas staple. Who would have guessed that the ordinary looking toastie of melted mozzarella, aromatic truffle and Iberian ham sandwiched between 2 slices of Wonder Bread could elevate the ham and cheese toastie to a whole new level? “You won’t be wearing the bikini”, claimed the menu, too much of this toasted goodies would certainly mean that I won’t be wearing one!
Our second starter of Catalunya’s ‘special surf and turf’, did not disapoint either. Sweetbreads with Baby Squid (HK$130) were unbeatable. Artichokes and olives were pan-fried together with the creamy sweetbreads and squids to give an acidic side-kick for balance.
The star of Catalunya was also our Main. The Segovian Suckling Pig (HK$825) was presented to us with the piglet laying on a bed of herbs on a timber board. It was served table-side with the waiter cutting the piglet with a ceramic plate. The piglet could not be more than a month old from the crisp paper-thin skin lacking fat. Meat was tender yet firm, but needed the full use of the accompanying gravy to give some taste. I presume the piglet to be pressure cooked then reheated and subsequently its skin lightly torched before final serving.
Service was attentive, however without the silver-service that one could expect at a fine-dining establishment. Usually in other premium restaurants, service would extend to frequently reaching in to refill the wine/ water from the bottle that rests on your table. This lack of extended service might deter some people, but I appreicated on being let alone with uniterrupted conversation.
For dessert, we chose Chocolate. The self-saucing chocolate pudding, accompanied with passion-fruit sorbet and poached spiced apricot was delectable and ended our dinner with a positive note.
After 2 hours of eating and drinking, it was time for us to make a move. As I was leaving, I saw the next table which was seated at around the same time as us, being served their first tapas. Perhaps this is how one makes the 1-month long wait list worthwhile, by warming up your tooshie on the seat a wee bit longer.