There certainly isn’t a shortage of Spanish restaurants in Hong Kong. Yet whilst most of these offer simple spreads of tapas for sharing, Vasco, the sister restaurant to Isono in PMQ, presents us with a fine dining tasting menu of Spanish dishes from the Basque region (País Vasco in Spanish).
Perched just above Isono on the seventh floor of PMQ, Vasco offers sleek interiors and comfortable, nicely spaced booth seating; that instantly suggests, from the moment you arrive, that dinner here is going to be pretty special.
In a fine dining restaurant such as this one, a six-course tasting menu is never really a six-course tasting menu, as there will always be little surprise courses that catch you unaware. At Vasco, your meal starts with a selection of little canapés, including olives stuffed with prosecco jelly and curried pistachios.
To accompany your freshly baked sourdough, there isn’t just one choice of olive oil, there are five (all extra virgin, all Spanish): some more nutty, some with undertones of tomato or even green banana. Just in case five types of olive oil isn’t enough, there are also five types of butter to choose from, including plain, mushroom or tomato. It’s advisable however,not to fill up on bread and butter, as you’re also served a freshly baked ham, lemon and caper brioche before the actual meal has even commenced.
It seems that one amuse bouche is not enough, so at Vasco you get two. The first was a little pot of smoked tuna with green apple that indicated the quality we now knew to expect. The second was a slice of octopus with black garlic, broccoli cream and paprika foam that all fused together magically.
Following this, the first actual course consisted of grilled sliced beef with foie gras curd and tomato and oyster salad, topped with frozen mustard. I loved the beef, foie gras and mustard combination, particularly as the mustard quickly melted over the beef, but I didn’t love the addition of the oysters. Despite being chopped up and mixed with tomato, these carried a strong flavour that overpowered everything else.
The blue lobster and Iberico pork medallions that followed were spot on, the lobster perfectly cooked and the pork sweet and sticky, all brought together with a creamy and mild white asparagus foam and white asparagus ‘tofu’.
I’m a big fan of monkfish, and Vasco’s monkfish cooked with Basque dressing did not disappoint. The fish was satisfyingly meaty and flavoursome, paired with a lovely combination of mandarin gel, citrus crumble and green chilli, alongside some sautéed mushrooms.
For main course, you get the choice of lamb or guinea fowl, so naturally we chose one of each and shared – Food Envy is not welcome at my dinner table! The guinea fowl ‘a la royale’ was rich, gamey and delicious, stuffed with foie gras and complemented by carrot and vanilla puree and tamarind compote to balance out the richness.
Our favourite, however, was the roast organic Rhug Estate new lamb. Here we had four cuts of lamb – rack, leg, belly and tongue – which were all incredibly tender and full of flavour, served alongside a piquillo pepper and caper relish and dollops of yoghurt and cucumber sauce.
At first sight, I wasn’t particularly excited about the ‘seasonal strawberries’ for dessert, preferring more chocolate-based than fruit-based treats myself. Yet the combination of strawberries, rhubarb jelly, pistachio sponge and shiso ice cream was actually seriously delicious and appreciably light after such an indulgent meal.
But of course the fun didn’t stop there, for what is a tasting menu without some petits fours? We enjoyed the chef’s selection of treats including macarons and rum infused white chocolate, before rolling out in somewhat of a food coma.
Vasco’s tasting menu is $980 per person, with the option of adding a wine pairing for $780, but there is also an a la carte menu available. Service was fantastic throughout the meal and we enjoyed not feeling as if we were being rushed to make room for the next sitting. Dinner at Vasco is a pleasant, unique experience, albeit, at these prices, perhaps one best saved for a special occasion…
Vasco, 7/F, Block B, PMQ, 35 Aberdeen Street, Central, Hong Kong, 2156 0888, www.vasco.com.hk