Chef Alvaro 'el Palanca' Ramos is making his debut at trendy Spanish tapas restaurant La Paloma from 16-21 August only, and we were lucky enough to enjoy a sneak preview of what's to come. The man himself is a pure embodiment of the food he serves: vibrant, quirky and a lover of all things Asian. Like any Spanish meal should, we started off with a glass or ten of Cava and Sangria before settling down to feast.
Chef Alvaro's 6-course menu (priced at $398/person) consists of contemporary Spanish dishes featuring Asian flavours and ingredients, all inspired by his travels around the region. Most recently, he lived in Shanghai for a few years before making the move to Hong Kong, where he has yet to set up his own place.
In total, there are 6 delicious courses but I've only included 4 below. Missing pics include: Shiso Shot (a palate-cleansing shot of foamy, red shiso mojito), Crema Catalana 016 El Palanca (a light, creamy passionfruit dessert with sweet red pepper and a salted caramel base.)
Chef El Palanca looking colourful as ever while preparing mussels. Check out that Hanshin Tigers robe from his recent trip to Japan!
These crunchy Andalusian shrimp fritters and zesty hamachi crudo were so bomb I couldn't have just one. The fritters are dressed with a special 'El Palanca' aioli that is curiously reminiscent of Japanese okonomiyaki, but like, tons better. I'm not a huge fan of sweet sauces lacking nuance, so the El Palanca aioli with the sourness of lime really hit the spot for me. Loved the bold flavours of this dish.
Next up: Thai mussels in coconut water (mejillones con agua de coco verde Thai). Having had our first taste of El Palanca's robust flavours in the the first course, we were pleasantly surprised by how delicate and mild the second dish came out to be. The coconut water was lightly seasoned with traditional Thai herbs, and all we wanted to do was slurp it down like soup (we did). The mussels were perfectly tender, and even the vegetarian at the table (no names!) couldn't resist.
The next dish is a literal mouthful: Taco Taco de Papada de Cerdo Canton Style y Chutney de Piña. The Cantonese-style pork is slow cooked, and topped with an eclectic combo of goat's cheese, pineapple salsa and coriander. The table's favourite was actually the thick-cut fries underneath, which had hints of truffle and were totally addictive.
Now for my favourite, the 'Arroz de Azafran' short ribs over saffron paella. Holy crap. This was absolute heaven. Back to serving up unashamedly bold flavours, Chef El Palanca delighted with this gorgeous paella featuring chunks of melt-in-your-mouth short rib. The rice had a perfect al dente texture and bits from the base were nice and crunchy. This is definitely a dish to look forward to!
I'd recommend you to make that reservation ASAP, before tables get booked up! Happy dining!
Follow 'El Palanca' on Instagram! @chefelpalanca
1/F Soho 189,
189 Queen's Road West, Sai Ying Pun, Hong Kong
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