Friday, July 19, 2013

Monday Night at BCN

We dropped by this little eatery just off Soho called BCN a couple Mondays ago in the evening. I think the place opened late last year and I heard quite a lot of good comments, but we have never been able to get a reservation so we put off the plan to come over until now, when our friend Elsie mentioned she's a friend of the owner, hence we finally scored our spots (without making reservation months in advance)

Many people have mentioned the restaurant is small, but as I walked in I was still surprised to realize how compact it really is. There's only one L-shape bar table that can cozily sit 12 - you literally need to squeeze by to get to your seat. Behind the bar counter was the open kitchen where most of the food was cooked and plated; there's also a bigger kitchen at the back for some other stuff.

We started right after all of us arrived - the menu has already been chosen for us so we just went with whatever that was served by the chef. Later we found out that's the Summer Chef Menu we were served. I don't know why I was tasked to pick a wine from the list but the choice seem to be a no-brainer as I spotted a decently-priced Rjoja from a winery I like. The current vintage of 2001 riserva from R. Lopiz de Heredia showed mellow and rounded characters thanks to the long aging process (6 years) with vibrant but not overpowering red cherries on the palate. A lovely wine well-suited for the meal, I reckon.

The amuse bouche was presented in a clay flowerpot, and inside was some anchovy mousse, roasted red pepper foam and and some dried black olive "soil", on top of the soil was a "plant" of shisho leaves. How cute was that? The chef suggested we spooned all the way to the bottom and got a bit of everything to taste. Hmm... it's interesting on the taste buds with this particular combination of flavors - and I meant interesting in a good sense, in case you wonder.

Soon the claypot gave way to the charcuterie platter - there were slices of belota iberico jamon and chorizo, served with a small bowl of tomato espuma and toast. I could personally live with a stronger-flavored espuma, but this version went well with the rich jamon and chorizo.

I liked our next course of tapas trio a lot - it started with the "hervos rotos" (broken egg) dish served in its own shell in the middle, then a deep-fried manchego on the left, and a croquette on the right. The egg was broken and cooked in the shell over simmering water, then added in the gambas (Mediterranean red shrimp), leek foam and garnished with chives. The manchego cheese was deep-fried to just the right texture and was delicious with the classic Romesco sauce on the side, and the croquette filled with black truffles and iberico jamon. All were very decent.

We then moved onto soup, which was a cold pumpkin soup with apples. There's no surprise in this dish but it's well-executed with refreshing flavors from the soup and good texture from the thin slice of pumpkin and apple dices. The salad of roasted peppers and eggplants with white asparagus "bubble" served on a filo pastry shell was delicious also - even for me who doesn't like eggplants, though once again the "bubble" didn't have much taste, which probably has to do with the choice of ingredients (white asparagus didn't have much flavor anyway) than the techniques.

The main dish was pan-seared tuna cube with carrot puree. I usually wasn't a fan of cooked tuna but this one was certainly one of the better versions I tried. It's marinated and only seared slightly on all sides, so inside it's tasty and moist. The carrot cream brought in the sweetness to the dish, with olive oil and splash of balsamic providing the finishing touch. A cherry tomato confit was served on the side. Overall it's rich but not too filling.

The final savory dish was the Paella was cooked right in front of us on the stove in the open kitchen. It's cooked to the right doneness and served with jamon, chorizo and black truffles. But I reckon the black truffles were a little too subtle - I saw it being grinded on the dish generously, but I could hardly smell it. Perhaps they should just keep their truffles in the rice container so the rice was infused with the aroma even before it's cooked. Other than that, what's not to like about jamon and chorizo and black truffles with rice, right?

Dessert was a straight-forward one - a small piece of Santiago tart (almond cake with sugar) with oranges in slices and in foam served in a high glass. It's light and refreshing - good in such hot weather.

Overall I quite like BCN - it did remind me of the days eating at a tapas bar in Barcelona late at night. It's not fine-dining but it's fun to sit behind the bar counter watching the chef prepare the food using a mix of ingredients prepared ahead of time and on the spot. The food served here was not particularly cutting edge progressive but refined - I particularly like the tapas trio, the tuna and the paella. My only complaint was its relatively small portion which left me not completely full - if they would add a meat course or even larger plate of paella i would be 120% satisfied.

There has been a huge influx of Spanish restaurants in the past 2 years, and I would say BCN is definitely among one of the better ones we have tried. Judging from the place being full day in and day out, I guess I am not the only one that thought so.

When? July 8 2013
Where? BCN, G/F 37 Peel Street, Central, Hong Kong
Menu Highlights? Seared Tuna Cube with Carrot Cream
Drink? R. López de Heredia Rioja Reserva Viña Tondonia 2001
Web: www.bcn.com.hk



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