The city has gone wild with tapas fever (Spanish ones at Quemo, Peruvian ones at Mayta and even international ones at Common Room – need I say more?!) and it looks like it’s still contagious. Shore Hospitality is the latest group to be affected, with the opening of brand new Pico in East Tsim Sha Tsui. A tapas restaurant doesn’t seem like the obvious choice for this hungry restaurant group (whose previous venues include Shore and The Salted Pig), but if everyone else can do it, why can’t they?
Once you’ve made the ‘trek’ to East TST, you will find Pico in Empire Centre, just beyond the Intercontinental Grand Stanford. It is a large, unfussy space with rustic wooden tables, patterned tiles and old photos of Spain adorning the walls. Tables and chairs spill out at the back of the restaurant onto an open terrace; it’s not quite Madrid’s Plaza Mayor, but it’s still pleasant and a good spot for people-watching.
The menu is devised by Jason Black (the culinary brains behind The Salted Pig and Shore) and James Black (the new Salted Pig chef – and no they aren’t related!). It encapsulates almost everything you would expect to find at a tapas restaurant and more, all expertly created by the new restaurant’s head chef Sammy Flores.
We began our tapas adventure with a plate of 48-month jamón Ibérico, sliced from one of several legs of ham hanging above the bar. The ham was of the highest quality and dangerously moreish, particularly when served with the delicious baked breadsticks that give the restaurant its name.
The warm octopus salad, a combination of grilled octopus, sliced potatoes, olives and lettuce, was rather disappointing. Although the octopus had a lovely smoky barbecue flavour, it was slightly overcooked and chewy. What’s more, the strong flavour of the olives completely masked the delicious barbecue flavour; personally, I would have preferred a simple pulpo a la gallega.
Pico offers three types of croquetas: ham and cheese, prawn and crab, and pumpkin. The classic ham croquettes were as expected – crisp, salty and delicious, whilst the seafood variety offered an excitingly different alternative. It was only the pumpkin one that disappointed, as the flavour was a little too bland.
Given the popularity of Jason Black’s bacon-wrapped scallops at The Salted Pig, he has brought this same idea to Pico and given it a Spanish twist – scallops wrapped in Serrano ham. These beauties are lightly cooked on a skewer and served on a sizzling plate to continue cooking tableside, giving them a perfectly bouncy texture and delicious flavour.
Gambas al ajillo is a must-order dish at any tapas restaurant. Pico’s version offers generously sized, perfectly cooked prawns that are up there amongst the best I’ve had in Hong Kong. Nevertheless, a little more garlic wouldn’t go amiss, along with a more oil to dip the fresh crusty bread in.
As well as being beautifully presented, the Arroz Pico (paella Valenciana), with a selection of seafood and chicken, was also delicious. The rice was a little overcooked, lacking that satisfying bite, but the authentic flavours and fresh seafood made up for it.
Although we were bursting at the seams, we were encouraged to try the Solomillo al cabrales – chargrilled beef tenderloin. Served with a whole roasted garlic bulb, sautéed onions and topped with creamy Cabrales cheese, this steak was unbelievably tender and full of flavour; in fact, it’s probably one of the best steaks I’ve had in a long time.
We ended the meal on a sweet note (of course!) with the quintessential dessert of any tapas joint – churros con chocolate. Despite being a little too crispy without that much-loved soft centre, they still hit the spot and completed a truly delicious meal.
The Shore team have shown us that they too can pull off a tapas restaurant with flair. A normal meal here (without over-eating, as we obviously did!) is likely to cost you around $400 per person, without drinks. Whether I would make the ‘trek’ to Kowloon just to get my tapas fix is yet to be decided – but I should point out that the only thing stopping me from going there again this very evening is sheer laziness more than anything else!
PICO Shop 23-27, G/F Empire Centre, 68 Mody Road Tsim Sha Tsui
2366 8355 picotapaswinebar.com.hk
Check out more from Ale on her fab blog, The Dim Sum Diaries!