With the heat wave that’s arrived in town, summer has officially hit Hong Kong. And for those of you who speak Spanish, I know the idea of going to Quemo might not sound the most enticing (it literally means “I’m burning!”) but I promise – one bite of Quemo’s food and you’ll forget all about the heat and humidity!
Quemo is a collaboration between Elite Concepts (the folks behind Nanhai No. 1) and Quim Marquez, the owner of the eponymous El Quim de la Boqueria in Barcelona. Continuing the regeneration of QRE Plaza, Quemo boasts a pleasant rustic yet comfortable dining atmosphere; decked out in light browns with a long open bar, there’s a private room for intimate evenings with pals and a breezy outdoor terrace for alfresco dining, whilst the main room is more rowdy and fun!
Be prepared to drink from the porron at least once throughout the night – a specially designed wine pitcher that essentially eliminates the need for a wine glass. Think of it as playing the dual role of a decanter and communal drinking vessel (Sassy tip: don’t wear white – you’re bound to end up with a wine-covered shirt!).
We started with a number of appetizers from the bar, the first being some mussels. I’m usually a huge fan of mussels (just watch me devour a pot of moules et frites!) but this wasn’t really my cup of tea. I did like the flavour of the piquillo candy pepper, but the mussel was just a little too salty and slimy for me.
What I did absolutely adore was the 5J (Cingo Jotas) acorn fed ham. Hailed as the some of the finest ham in the world, it totally lived up to its reputation. The ham itself was satisfyingly salty with a unique nutty flavour and just the right amount of fattiness to keep me licking my lips. Paired with juicy crushed tomatoes on toasted bread, this was just the perfect starter!
For those who are total suckers for quirky dishes, go for the chorizo lollipop. I’ve always been a little sceptical of food shaped as candy, but this had the flavour to back the gimmick – two chorizo slices with sweet quince jelly and goats cheese in-between, this made for a great contrast of salty and sweet.
We also couldn’t resist trying the pregnant tomato (with a name like that, how could you not?!) – cute little balls of sweet tomato stuffed with Manchego cheese, roasted eggplant and salty cod fish. Despite the staff’s somewhat scary insistence that we eat the whole thing in one go (our jaws are only so big!), this was an awesome, juicy, salty little bite.
There isn’t usually much lamb on menus in Hong Kong, let alone lamb carpaccio, so it was a lovely surprise to see the dish here at Quemo. The velvety soft meat played well with crunchy foie shavings and dried fruit, although it was a little too rich for us to finish the whole plate.
However, we definitely licked our plates clean for the next dish – El Quim de la Boqueria fried egg. This can only be described as a super luxurious version of a greasy spoon dish – a rich, intoxicatingly scrummy mix of mushrooms, foie gras and our absolute favourite, soft gooey runny egg yolk. Served with hot toasty bread, this was simply to die for!
We then shared another two entrees – the first being the Presa, a barbequed Iberico pork shoulder loin. The meat here was extraordinarily juicy and tender, with a delicious char on the edges; make sure you get generous with the accompanying gravy to give that extra oomph of yummy meaty flavour.
However, the definite star of the meal was the squid ink paella. With paella, you typically expect yellowy rice with seafood mixed in a pan… but that’s not what you’re gonna get at Quemo! Instead, the rice and clams are served separately; the rice comes out thinly cooked on a huge pan, with the outermost rice crispy and addictively delicious, whilst the inside was soft and filled with inky flavour. The clams were delicious, juicy and smelled divine; mix them into your rice (along with a huge dollop of homemade aioli) for total heaven on a plate.
We ended our meal with liquid bombons, little pops of warm fluffy chocolate pillows with a delectable warm chocolate surprise in the middle (Spanish version of mochi anyone?!). Eat these little dumplings in one bite – we promise you’ll love them!
With food this good and classy surroundings to match, it’s no surprise that Quemo has quickly become a HK hotspot. This isn’t your typical tapas restaurant – so come hungry and expect to share! It’s worth noting that these definitely aren’t tapas prices either; although the starters and smaller dishes are around $100, most of the sharing entrees will set you back between $350-650 – but the ingredients are premium and one portion could be easily shared amongst groups of about 3-5 people.
Quemo is perfect for family-style meals, so gather all your friends for a night of amazing Spanish fare and dive into the best squid ink paella in town!
QUEMO 5/F, QRE Plaza, 202 Queen’s Road East Wan Chai