Mesa 15 has been a relatively strong mainstay on Soho’s Hollywood Road for the last two years. A demurely elegant tapas bar with bare black interiors, continental small bites and wine glasses to spare and swirl, it’s the type of place you could take your boss, your date or your mum with no fuss.
But now that Mesa has moved over to the Grand Progress Building on Lan Kwai Fong, it’s made way for Numero 15, Mesa’s rowdier, more colourful younger brother to barrel in. Like Mesa, Numero still offers up tapas and wine but it seems like this little bro is working hard to carve out its own identity.
Take the décor, for example. Whereas Mesa is all marbled counters and soft seaside hues, the epitome of quiet sophistication, Numero 15 ups the bold colours and fun, funky illustrations and typography from well-known local illustrator Ronan Leung. It’s as if Numero was a teenager trying on crazy outfits to set himself apart from his conservative family.
The menu also attempts to differentiate itself. All set at a lower price point than Mesa (but be warned: this just means getting a smaller portion), Numero’s dish list is a bit on the simple side and borrows most of its signature dishes from big bro Mesa. Some, like the slow-cooked egg mixed with chorizo and mushrooms and enveloped in smoked potato foam ($69), are better left in its big bro’s hands. The egg dish comes off ultra thick and frothy – fine except it is also a bit bland, save for the tiny slivers of smoked chorizo bites.Also, Numero charges $12 extra for bread to dip the smoked egg in, which means if we had not added the carbs, we would have merely been slurping foam. The other Mesa signature, the crispy boneless suckling pig ($119), also lacks a crunchy crust and juicy meat, coming off chewy and stringy instead.
When Numero does try to differentiate, however, the dishes finally begin to spark. We’re all over the mini octopus and pancetta rice, sauced up in green aioli ($109). Okay, so when they say mini, they really do mean mini – the dish gives three people approximately two medium spoonfuls of rice each. But the size is more than made up for by the brilliant bite of flavour that comes to pass. Slightly crispy from sizzling in the pan and exuding a super hearty, garlicky, stewy texture that contrasts nicely with bits of bouncy squid pieces, this is the sort of dish that rainy days are made for. Also good is the simple sautéed mushrooms and baby asparagus ($79), dressed to impress in slick garlic and parsley oil.
The desserts – churros with white chocolate and passion fruit sauce ($59) and the cheesecake with strawberry red wine marmalade ($69) – don’t especially stand out except that the churros are unusually salty, a cacophony of sorts when dipped in the sweet white chocolate and sour passion fruit sauce. The cheesecake comes off foamy rather than fluffy – not one of the best, texture-wise, we’ve had.
We enjoy the pleasant, easy-going feel Numero 15 gives off. It’s a fab space for a casual drink. But to truly stand out as its own top tapas place in this town, Numero needs to completely shed its big brother’s elegant skin and carve out a personality of its own. The look is a promising start, now work on the menu. Janice Jann
Plain bread $12
Slow cooked egg $69
Suckling pig $119
Octopus rice $109
Sautéed mushrooms $79
Service charge (x2) $51.6
Total (for two) $567.60
Numero 15 15 Hollywood Rd, Central, 2362 0881. Daily midday-3pm, 6pm-11pm.
|Venue name:||Numero 15 (Closed)|
15 Hollywood Rd, Central