It has taken a while for Sassy to sample a taste at Catalunya, but now that we have, we finally understand why this restaurant took Hong Kong by storm at its opening early last year! Serving contemporary Spanish cuisine and headed by an impressive team of culinary experts from restaurants such as elBulli, El Celler de Can Roca and Arzak, Catalunya has garnered high praise from many a foodie, with Hong Kong celebs flocking to dine on Catalan-inspired dishes in the confines of their private dining room (via the VIP back entrance, of course!).
Tree-lined Oi Kwan Road with its schools, hospital and swimming pool is an unlikely location for such a restaurant, but the quiet environment is appealing and adds charm to Catalunya. The grand interior is decorated with Spanish-inspired elements and decked out in mahogany and warm red hues, sitting around 140 diners.
Rach and I were nestled in a booth in the main dining room and had a good view of the comings and goings… including the delicious dishes that were heading our way!
Catalunya’s menu is varied, with a large selection of seafood and meat, but everyone’s eye is on the tapas. We began with the excellent “Travelling Oysters”, so called because the oysters feature flavours from a different country every week. We tried the Gillardeau oysters dressed with a Japanese sauce of ponzu and ikura.
The thinly sliced 48-month Jamón Ibérico was not too salty and had a lovely nutty flavour. This was a great accompaniment to the “Pa Amb Tomàquet”, a traditional Catalan toasted bread topped with a tomato ‘’De Penjar” spread and a dash of olive oil, which salt lovers will also enjoy with the moreish Cantabrian anchovies.
The “Catalunya Tomato Tartar”, an elBulli-inspired dish, is unusual as it is completely made out of tomatoes but resembles a steak tartar in appearance. The ‘tartar’ had layers of rich tomato flavours and I was impressed by the meatiness of the texture.
However, our most enticing dish had to be “The Bikini”, a downright sinful and luxurious sandwich filled with Iberian ham, mozzarella cheese and truffle. The truffle smell hits you first; breathing and tasting it all at once can be a little heady… or perhaps this was just my sheer delight at scoffing it!
My litmus test at any Spanish restaurant is their tortilla, and Catalunya’s “Tortilla De Trampo” got my seal of approval. Their Catalan version made from potato, onions, eggs and red sausage was slightly wetter than others I have had before but was thick and velvety, especially smothered with their addictive allioli sauce.
Our other favourite dishes were the “Bombas De La Barceloneta” (pork and beef meatballs covered in potato puree then breaded and deep fried) and the “Octopus A Feira”, a creamy combination of potato foam, octopus and grilled pork belly.
The green peas with blood sausage may be slightly less palatable for some depending on your penchant for both ingredients, but the green peas were fresh and the sausage had an intense earthy taste.
Of the desserts we sampled, I enjoyed the “Torrija” the most. This simple pudding of brioche bread soaked in vanilla milk and then pan-fried was decadent and I was intrigued by the smoked ice-cream.
In comparison, the “Chocolate in Different Textures with Passion Fruit” fell short of my expectations and was too sweet for me to have more than a couple of bites.
Meanwhile, Catalunya’s signature “Fruit Salad” was definitely an interesting finish, with pieces of fruit infused with different flavours, such as watermelon chunks infused with sangria!
Catalunya is by no means cheap (to eat well costs around $500-600 a head), but if you are seeking a near authentic Catalan gastronomic experience without funding the air ticket to go to Spain, then it is worth a trip for the high quality ingredients and careful execution. With bar bites and brunch options also now available, Catalunya should still be high on any Hong Kong foodie’s hit list.
Catalunya G/F Guardian House, Morrison Hill, 32 Oi Kwan Road, Wan Chai, Hong Kong
2866 7900 www.catalunya.hk
Check out more foodie adventures from Michelle on her blog, Chopstixfix!