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Hong Kong restaurant reviews

New & Noted: La Rambla by Catalunya, Central – Spanish cuisine mostly great and IFC setting is airy

The steamed razor clams with apple and cucumber were a major hit, as was the red prawn and squid ink paella, though the lobster bikini was nothing to write home about

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 14 December, 2017, 12:48pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 14 December, 2017, 6:51pm

It didn’t take long for me to be spotted at La Rambla by Catalunya, and they didn’t even pretend to not recognise me. The affable general manager poured me and my guest glasses of cava (and later, other wines) and gave us several free dishes (for which I compensated by leaving an enormous tip).

La Rambla by Catalunya is the reincarnation of something that used to be known just as Catalunya, which was a dark, noisy restaurant in Wan Chai. It’s still noisy, but the new space at the IFC – in what used to be Isola (which has moved to one floor below) – is much more airy and modern, with a spacious terrace overlooking the harbour for drinks.

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The menu seems shorter than I remember at the original restaurant (and the prices seemed more reasonable) but it was still difficult to decide what to eat. We were given a serving of Mediterranean baby shrimp fritters (HK$80) to nibble on with the cava, but we thought them overcooked which made them slightly bitter.

We had a major hit with the steamed razor clams with apple and cucumber (HK$200). The clam meat had a nice, bouncy bite and sweet flavour that was balanced by the tartness of the tiny diced apples and ponzu dressing.

We loved the Josper-grilled Hokkaido scallop with garlic chips, chilli and olive oil (HK$180). The scallop was served mi-cuit, so was raw towards the centre, and was thick, meaty and sweet.

A free dish of avocado and lobster roll (HK$220) was beautifully presented and lighter than expected, given the richness of the ingredients.

Another free dish, the 5J bellota jamon Iberico (HK$360) was as delicious as expected, served with fantastic toasted bread that had been rubbed with olive oil and tomato (HK$70).

We ordered the truffle, jamon and cheese bikini (HK$130), which we remembered fondly from Catalunya, but the GM decided to serve us a new version instead (we weren’t charged for it). Unfortunately, the lobster, espelette, cheese and avocado bikini (HK$165) was nothing memorable.

The red prawn and squid ink paella (HK$550 for regular, HK$650 for large) had a very intense flavour that could be mistaken for being too salty (although it wasn’t) and was just moist enough without being soupy. The GM squeezed the red prawn heads so the delicious juices flavoured the rice, while the prawn meat was sweet and perfectly cooked.

La Rambla by Catalunya, Shop 3071-3073, 3/F, IFC Mall, 1 Harbour View Street, Central, tel: 2661 1161.

The meal of everything that we ordered was HK$500 per person without drinks; with the free dishes (which was far too much food) it would have been about double.

While you’re in the area:

Restaurant review: Sukiyaki Mori in Central – a must for fans of sukiyaki with its delicate creations

Restaurant review: Gough’s on Gough, Central – good food with charming service and decor

Restaurant review: Spiga in Central – good seafood and great desserts, but avoid the pizza