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Top tapas

Delicious sampler plates and imaginative cocktails get the evening off to a perfect start

 

ROOM WITH A VIEW

 

LOBBY LOUNGE
Lobby Level, InterContinental Hong Kong
18 Salisbury Road
Tsim Sha Tsui
2721 1211
hongkong-ic.intercontinental.com

 

FARE International. AMBIENCE Spacious area with comfortable sofa seating overlooking panoramic view of Victoria Harbour and Hong Kong Island. COST About HK$1,500 for two including drinks. WHO TO BRING Friends, family, business associates. TURN-ONS The early-evening "tappatisers" and light bites are not to be missed. A variety of sampler plates presented tapas style can be ordered from three to five items, perfect for two. The king crab and mango ceviche, cured duck with cantaloupe and feta cheese, seared tuna with truffle artichoke, Iberico ham with confit portabello and black truffle tortilla are a good start. For light bites, the plates are enough for two. The spicy wagyu beef balls are perfect and the chorizo sausages are the best this side of Spain. TURN-OFFS There are no reservations, so guests come on a first-come, first-served basis. DRINKS Recommended are signature "V Sips" cocktails, which are named after daytime and nighttime Hong Kong themes. They include Victoria Sunset, made with Martell cognac, cointreau, maraschino, lemon, pineapple and aphrodite bitters, and Smoke and Mirrors, alluding to the city's hazy days, which is made with Chivas Regal, cherry liqueur, sweet vermouth, angostura bitters and oak wood smoke. TRACEY FURNISS

 


 

TASTY TIKKA

 

ISTA
2/F, Onfem Tower,
29 Wyndham Street
Central
2530 5353
ista.com.hk

 

FARE Indian. AMBIENCE A spacious, contemporary design with large windows overlooking Lan Kwai Fong, cream leather chairs and sofas surround white linen covered tables with cosy booths at one side of the room and a mosaic bar on the other. There's an alfresco dining area, one floor up, perfect for after-work drinks and tapas. COST About HK$1,000 for two, including a bottle of wine. WHO TO BRING Friends, family, colleagues and the love interest. TURN ONS The Indian-style tapas with a good selection of meat, seafood and vegetarian options. Each dish is enough for two. Outstanding is the chicken tikka marinated with green chilli paste, yogurt, cloves, cooked in a clay oven, and mackerel coated with gram flour, deep fried - the restaurant uses Atlantic mackerel as its taste and texture is near to the king fish - a favourite in India. Tandoori prawns and paneer ka shoola - cottage cheese stuffed with dried nuts, yogurt and Indian herbs and stuff red bell peppers - are also worth trying. For dessert, go for the platter of Indian favourites. The main menu consists of favourites from all over India. TURN OFFS Easy to miss the entrance. DRINKS Full bar with a fine selection of cocktails and wine. TRACEY FURNISS

 


 

INTIMATE PLEASURES

 

AMMO CAFÉ
9 Justice Drive
Admiralty
2537 9888
ammo.com.hk

 

FARE Asian and Mediterranean tapas. AMBIENCE The small dining area is intimate, with the focus on the stunning copper mural on the back wall. WHO TO BRING Friends to catch up. COST HK$1,214 for two including drinks. TURN-ONS The tapas selection had 14 dishes. We particularly enjoyed the grilled wagyu beef sirloin cubes in Japanese soy sauce that practically melted in the mouth, while the roast Iberian suckling had a crunchy skin. Langoustine wrapped in Vietnamese rice paper and basil was fresh. We liked the wagyu beef cheek - tender and hearty - with polenta. On the main menu the AMMO vegetable soup was rustic with vegetables and beans in a pesto-flavoured broth, while the home-made pappardelle was excellent, with mini-meatballs made of veal and pork. We finished the meal with the tiramisu served in a martini glass that had to be polished off. TURN-OFFS The trumpet zucchini croquettes were sufficiently deep-fried but lacked flavour. DRINKS The drinks list had an impressive 30 wines by the glass and 14 fortified wines. The signature sangria was fruity and easy to drink. Bernice Chan

 


 

WHIMSICAL MOUTHFULS

 

ZELO
Shop 007, LG1, Pacific Place
88 Queensway
Admiralty
2918 1029
gaiagroup.com.hk/zelo

 

FARE Spanish cuisine. AMBIENCE Spacious and airy with a charming, whimsical décor. COST HK$900 for two, with two glasses of wine. WHO TO BRING Friends and business associates. TURN-ONS Impressed by the tapas selections on offer, we decided to try out several of the small plate dishes. Our choices worked out well. We found the chorizo Iberico tasty. The sautéed mushrooms sizzling in a garlicky olive oil got a thumbs-up. Equally tasty were the chubby albóndigas (meatballs) in a spirited tomato sauce. The ham and cod croquetas were mouthfuls of delicious softness in a crunchy crust. And the gambas al ajillo, a Spanish standard with sizzling, garlicky sautéed shrimps, did not disappoint. Our big dish was the seafood paella. We were particularly impressed with how right the rice turned out. Not in the least bit dry or undercooked, it's thoroughly infused with oil, seasonings and the flavour of the ingredients in it. For a sweeter end to the meal, we chose the pear soaked in red wine with ice cream on the side. TURNS-OFFS Diners might find wandering shoppers intrusive. DRINKS A nice selection of Spanish, Argentinian and Portuguese wines by the glass and cocktails to complement the various dishes. Pin Lee

 


 

FRIENDLY FUN

 

BRICKHOUSE
G/F, 20A, D'Aguilar Street
Central
2810 0560
brickhouse.com.hk

 

FARE Mexican. AMBIENCE Hidden in an alley at the foot of Lan Kwai Fong, this restaurant has an edgy atmosphere, with graffiti, cement floors and waiters in casual clothes. COST HK$850 for two, including drinks. WHO TO BRING Friends for a fun night out. TURN-ONS Start the meal with organic stone-ground chips and four salsas that includes a bowl of guacamole to munch on throughout the evening. The watermelon salad looks pretty, with red fruit cubes contrasting with goat cheese, mint and candied pumpkin seeds. It's refreshing and light. Meanwhile, the tuna tostada is delicious with slices of yellow fin tuna on top of deep-fried tortilla chips dressed with chipotle mayonnaise, pickled cucumber and habanero mustard. We were anticipating good things from the lengua or ox-tongue taco as part of the taco platter, but it was superseded by the rib-eye. It was smothered in crispy manchego, grilled tomato salsa and coriander, and with a squeeze of lime, all the flavours became more pronounced and melded together. The ox tongue had an unexpected pulled-pork texture, while the chicken and fish tacos were average. Finish with the chocolate fondant with the molten chocolate infused with chilli. TURN-OFFS The restaurant can be very noisy, making it difficult to hear dining companions. DRINKS Various cocktails and Mexican beers. Bernice Chan

 


 

COMFORTABLY COOL

 

VI COOL
Shop 2101, Level 2, Gateway Arcade
Harbour City
Canton Road
Tsim Sha Tsui
2735 7787
diningconcepts.com.hk

 

FARE Tapas and Mediterranean food. AMBIENCE Funky walls stacked with cans of food and bottles of olive oil, combined with a comfortable, cool décor and seating arrangements. Lively atmosphere as it is situated in a busy shopping mall. COST HK$1,100 for two, including drinks. WHO TO BRING Good place to meet friends and take family for an outing. On the weekend that we visited, there was a smattering of tourists, locals and families. TURN-ONS A great selection of tapas and other Mediterranean-style small bites. On the cold dishes front, the tomato and salt cured tuna fillet with Kalamata black olives (HK$98) was interesting. For the adventurous, try the steak tartare with soy sauce, roasted pepper dressing and egg yolk (HK$148). The fire-smoked eggplant with toasted pine nuts and balsamic vinegar was creamy and went down well with the wine. So did the king prawns fried with garlic and mint mayonnaise (HK$148). TURN-OFFS The restaurant is difficult to locate if you are not familiar with the Harbour City shopping area. DRINKS Some of the best selection of Spanish wine from Rioja, in northern Spain, to wines from other regions such as Ribera del Duero, Priorato to Catalonia's Penedès, the home of sparkling wines known as Cava. Mukul Munish

 


 

BLAND DATE

 

SOCIALITO
Shop 2, G/F, The Centrium
60 Wyndham Street
Central
3167 7380
socialito.com.hk

 

FARE Mexican and Latin American cuisine. AMBIENCE Dark, nouveau-rustic with tiled floors, wicker chairs and a funky wagon-wheel chandelier. COST HK$1,000 for two with drinks. WHO TO BRING Friends and co-workers for a casual night out. TURN-ONS It's hard to find good guacamole and chips, and Socialito delivers on both fronts with perfectly smooth avocado and warm, crunchy chips. The dish even comes with a serving of fresh tomato salsa. After that, it was tough to choose from the extensive menu with everything from ceviche to black Angus short-rib tacos. The kale salad, recommended by our server, had a nice tangy dressing and tasty roasted beetroot slices. The platos pequeños, or small plates, were actually quite large with plenty for two to share. TURN-OFFS For a Mexican restaurant, the food was surprisingly bland. The seared pork belly in particular was dry and lacked flavour, which the heavy sauce did little to offset. DRINKS An interesting selection of signature cocktails and hard-to-find tequilas, plus a short wine list. Tama Lung

 


 

EARTHY FLAVOURS

 

BOQUERIA
7/F, LKF Tower, 33 Wyndham Street
Central
2321 8681
boqueria.com.hk

 

FARE Contemporary Spanish tapas. AMBIENCE A slice of midnight Barcelona in the heart of Lan Kwai Fong. WHO TO BRING A cosy date, friends for drinks or bigger groups for dinner. COST HK$1,500 for two with drinks. TURN-ONS The chorizo with red wine was a good starter with thin slices of smoked sausage, plump and sweet from the wine. The black truffle and Iberico ham croquettes were creamy and light in texture with the earthy flavours shining through. And the spinach with garbanzos and pine nuts were jazzed up with juicy raisins. For dessert, the warm, cinnamon-coated churros were a touch heavier than expected, saved by the thick, hot chocolate sauce. TURN-OFFS The tortilla española, a personal favourite with its comforting potato, onion and egg goodness, was a disappointment, served cold and bland. The gambas al ajillo - garlic prawns with Guidilla pepper in olive oil - were overcooked and the pepper overpowered the garlic. DRINKS Good selection of Jerez (sherry) and wines by the glass with helpful categories. Lana Lam

 


 

HIT AND MISS

 

22 SHIPS
22 Ship Street
Wan Chai
2555 0722
22ships.com

 

FARE Modern tapas bar. AMBIENCE Tiny, casual space, with the best spots around the bar allowing diners to watch staff meticulously construct dishes. COST About HK$1,400 for two with drinks. WHO TO BRING Friends for a casual bite. TURN-ONS The Spanish oyster shot features a freshly shucked oyster followed by a spicy gazpacho shot, baked Iberico ham and a small glass of sherry. Also delicious is the succulent miso-grilled mackerel on a bed of wasabi avocado and cucumber. Gourmet comfort food comes in the form of manchego cheese and Iberico ham toastie topped with fried quail eggs, while a hearty dish is thick slices of rib-eye on top of morcilla or blood sausages on a bed of sliced piquillo peppers. We also enjoyed the Iberico pork and foie gras mini-burgers with avocado and pickled cucumber. TURN-OFFS Some dishes that didn't satiate the taste buds were the baked scallops with bone marrow crumbs and manchego and the salt-baked beetroot, cheese mousse and almond powder, while the smoked egg yolk with the steak tartare didn't have a smoky flavour. Dessert was a curious presentation of an orange scoop of pineapple, carrot sorbet on top of a subtly flavoured coconut tapioca topped with frozen black sesame shaped like twigs. DRINKS White sangria ginger and apple foam is very refreshing and light. Bernice Chan

 


 

MEATY MENU

 

TAPAS BAR
Lobby Level, Kowloon Shangri-La
64 Mody Road
Tsim Sha Tsui East
2733 8756
shangri-la.com

 

FARE International tapas. AMBIENCE Street-level view of the harbour and alfresco dining make this place unique. The interior is cosy with dark wood floors, stone columns and marble countertops, while large-screen televisions entertain diners. COST HK$1,450 for three, including drinks. WHO TO BRING Friends for a casual gathering. TURN-ONS The menu offers various combinations to entice customers to try more dishes. The selection of three hams (Serrano, San Daniele and Iberico 24-month) was freshly carved from the open kitchen and was a strong savoury start. We liked the big chunks of fish and chips, the fish meaty with a crunchy batter, while the marinated tuna with soy and mirin jelly had a ginger kick with complex flavours. Our favourite was the Chinkiang vinegar braised wagyu beef cheek cubes, each bite meaty and melted in the mouth. For dessert, the deep-fried banana was perfectly prepared with pistachio sprinkles. The small scoops of chocolate mousse weren't too sweet with almond chips, while the baked cheesecake wasn't too cheesy and was accompanied by a refreshing bouquet of fruits. TURN-OFFS The baby eggplant filled with spiced lamb tasted rather bland and could have done with more yogurt and mint. DRINKS Various wines by the glass and international wine list. Bernice Chan

 


 

ANDEAN ADVENTURE

 

CHICHA
G/F, 26 Peel Street
Central
2561 3336
conceptcreations.hk

 

FARE Modern Peruvian. AMBIENCE Ready yourself for a playful and casual culinary adventure to Peru with friendly staff and a menu glossary that acts as a tour guide. WHO TO BRING Groups of friends, and this place is great for people-watching if you snag a window seat. COST HK$1,000 for two with drinks. TURN-ONS A Peruvian staple is ceviche - raw fish cooked in citrus juices - and Chicha offers two distinctly different takes on it, both winners at our table. The traditional sea bass option, with thick chucks of fish in an acidic yet creamy marinade called "tiger's milk", was refreshing and light, while the king fish tiradito had thinner slices of fish that soaked up the aji amarillo sauce made from Peruvian chilli. Skewers of grilled meat and seafood - were fun to share. The cod with ponzu miso and the chicken with aji panca chilli sauce were the best of the bunch. TURN-OFFS The hot ceviche of scallops were a tad overcooked and, while flavourful, the sauce was overpowering and didn't let the star of the dish come out of its shell. DRINKS Be sure to sample the headline cocktail, pisco sour. New World wines with plenty of South American options. Lana Lam

 

 

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