The city has gone wild with tapas fever 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 TST. From a steakhouse to a pig-centric eatery, a tapas restaurant doesn’t seem like the obvious choice for this hungry restaurant group, 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 brains and chef behind The Salted Pig and Shore), as well as James Black, the new Salted Pig chef (no, there is no relation). 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 the 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.
Following this came a platter of aliñados – pickled green and black olives, aubergine, carrots, garlic and red peppers. Although the olives and aubergine were tasty, it was the latter three that really impressed. The carrots in particular are so delicious that manager José even claims that they are one of his favourite items on the entire menu.
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.
Individual portions of mussel and potato soup came next, served in rustic clay bowls. Although it was a little too creamy for me and I couldn’t finish the entire portion, the delicate flavours, enhanced by fragrant oregano, roasted garlic croutons and super fresh mussels, were spot on.
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. A little more garlic wouldn’t go amiss, however, along with a little more oil in which to dip the fresh crusty bread.
As well as being beautifully presented, Arroz Pico, or 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 probably one of the best steaks I’ve had in a long time.
After cleansing our palates with a deliciously refreshing homemade lemon sorbet, adorably served inside a lemon, 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.
And so, 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 the dark side just to get my tapas fix is yet to be decided, but perhaps I should just point out that the only reason stopping me from going there again this very evening is my sheer laziness…
G23-28, G/F, Empire Center
8 Mody Road
Tsim Sha Tsui East
Tel: +852 2366 8355