Friday, February 27, 2015

New Year Get Together at Catalunya

It's a miracle that we - at least most of us - could agree on an evening that we could all get together for a meal to celebrate the Chinese New Year. Catalunya recently has a new chef on board with a revamped menu so they invited us in to give it a try, giving us the perfect occasion and venue to catch up before everyone is going all over the place around the world again.

They made a smart choice in putting us in a table away from the crowd - given the noises we made that evening at least this way we wouldn't scare away the whole floor of customers like we did in our last outing.

With cava in hand we began with a few classic Catalan tapas dishes - comforting slices of Pa Amb Tomaquet, a generous platter of Jamon Iberico served on a beautiful tile plate, anchovies in olive oil, tomato tartare served with crispy toast and tomato foam - it's so rich that one could have mistaken that as beef, and of course, their signature "bikini" sandwich with the perfect combination of ham, melted cheese and truffles served on a toast sliced thin.

We moved on to a few more new items served in small bite portion. The oysters were served raw on the shell with pearl - a seawater and seaweed sphere, which was alright except I didn't see much difference in taste from the fancy pearl.

But among all, the best one was the razor clam. The clams were steamed, cut into bite-sized bits and served in its shell with a tangy yuzu ponzu sauce and salmon roes. It's beautifully presented - each servings have 4 pieces lined up in a dark slate plate with colorful garnishes. The acidity in the ponzu sauce accented the fresh taste of that of the razor clams plus the roes.

Two types of Bombas, essentially a gigantic coquette, were served - one was the original one, called "Barceloneta" here, which has a meat filling and served a spicy brava sauce, and the second one, called "Eixample", was new on the menu, with squid ink mixed into the potato mash giving it a dark color, and then filled with cuttlefish and served with a aioli sauce. I thought that was quite special and tasty.

Of course we couldn't leave a tapas place without trying their egg dishes here. I wouldn't expect any less for their classic Totilla and it's right on par, but "The Perfect Egg" was certainly the fancier one of the evening, with fluffy scrambled eggs were served in its own shell with the addition of caviar, truffle and potato foam, giving the traditional Huevos Rotos a whole new meaning.

This ain't over yet, of course. They might have revamped their menu, but the Segovian Suckling Pig - which must be their all-time most popular dish here - is here to stay. Not only that, we went further with another pork dish, which is the slow-cooked pork ribs, glazed with quince reduction and served with a gravy on the side. Both dishes were good in their own ways - while the crispy skin and the fatty meat with the suckling pig was to die for, I liked the ribs' fall-off-the-bone tenderness. If you came in a smaller group, that would be a tough call as in which one to order.

We also tried the new dish of Mediterranean Red Prawns, with the fresh gambas topped with bone marrow, (probably) flash-grilled with a blowtorch, then ganished by caviar. I loved its creamy texture and the strong flavor. The mains were served with sides of caramelized pineapples, charred cabbage and pan-fried "padron" peppers - all of them more than decent and generously-sized. In comparison, I thought the Hokkaido Scallops with Mushroom "Pasta" was a bit ordinary. Having mushroom as "pasta" is interesting but didn't blow me away, I reckon.

True we kept saying we were so stuffed after the main courses, but that didn't stop us from "sweeping" the dessert menu by ordering every single items on it (with the exception of the fruit platter). My favorite were the Tarta al Whisky - a Catalan signature dessert with a slice of whisky-soaked cake and ice cream served on the side, and a simple one called "Pijama", with tri-color icecream - vanilla, chocolate and strawberry - served with flan, biscuit, apricot coulis and all.

The week after a long holiday could be a tough one to get by, but at least we were able to kick the Monday blues away, to mark our first work day with great food, plenty of cava and lots of laughs.

(Dinner courtesy of Catalunya Hong Kong)

When? February 23 2015
Where? Catalunya, G/F, 32 Oi Kwan Road, Wanchai, Hong Kong
Menu Highlights? Razor Clams with Caviar, Traditional Suckling Pig "Segovian Style" D.O. Teruel, Mediterranean Red Prawns
Web: www.catalunya.hk

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