Occupying a prime spot on Shelley Street, this pan-Asian tapas bar catches your eye as you ascend the Mid-Levels escalator. Conversely, once you have been lured in, the illuminated faces of the commuter rush peer down at your table with undisguised looks of envy. They are right to be jealous, as this stylish restaurant, where the service is slick and the tasty bites keep on coming, is certainly the better place to be.
Cicada is the latest venture for the people behind tapas hotspots Enoteca and Bacar. This time they have played around with the concept, keeping the small plates of sharable food, but instead looking east for inspiration. The menu dances around Asia - you might start with Japanese gyozas and move on to Indian skewers, or plump for Tibetan momos then Filipino spring rolls. The beauty is you don’t have to be decisive; they recommend five to six dishes for a table of two, so it’s all about playing mix and match.
The first plate to hit our table was Thai chicken larb wrapped into rice spring rolls ($62). The fresh flavours from a generous layer of mint leaves and garlicky lime dip perfectly balanced the fragrant chicken, whetting our appetite for more. We loved the lack of pretension of our next dish – joyously simple curry sauce with roti ($58). The Indian bread was perfectly buttery and flaky, though the coconut masala lacked body, and would have been better served by being thicker with punchier flavours.
The fusion concept had its hits and misses. An Asian-style baba ganoush – aubergine dip flecked with chilli and coriander – was served with crisp shards of papad ($52). The kick of chilli lifted the dish to heat highs, while the smokiness of the aubergine gave it depth. On the other end of the scale, the coconut and shitake risotto balls served with wobbly homemade mayonnaise were a big disappointment ($68). The grains of rice had lost all bite, leaving a strangely sweet paste inside the crisp shell. Luckily, the kitchen redeemed itself with a dish of seared bamboo beef served with coriander leaves and water chestnut ($72). The rare meat juices mingled with the vegetables imparting their umami flavour. The result looked so tempting that the ladies at the next table just had to know what we had ordered.
As the evening went on, the lights dimmed and the increased chatter of a largely expat crowd, many of them knocking back fresh lychee bellinis, transformed the atmosphere into half restaurant, half nightspot. After all, tapas were designed as a way to keep the drinks flowing, and Cicada hasn’t forgotten its roots, with a large bar dominating the restaurant. This is the perfect place for people who work late and want to combine going out for a drink with an informal dinner. As we left, things were only getting started. Named for the insect that chirps long into the night, Cicada looks set to do the very same.
G/F, 4 Shelley St, SoHo, Central, 2521 8188. Sun-Thu noon-1am & Fri-Sat noon-2am.
|Venue name:||Cicada (Closed)|
G/F, 4 Shelley St, Soho, Central