While PMQ’s retail line up is still warming to the location, its restaurant openings seem to be on fire – with Aberdeen Street Social and Tai Lung Fung packed full, even on weeknights.
Behind a heavy steel and glass door to the sixth floor of the Sheung Wan complex are Isono Eatery & Bar and Vasco Spanish Fine Dining, two concepts by Paolo Casagrande, the decorated chef-de-cuisine at Barcelona’s two-Michelin starred Restaurante Lasarte.
While Isono uses raw materials to create a rustic, spacious open dining room, we opt for the more refined Vasco on the seventh floor. With a sleeker interior, the sparsely laid out floor plan of the elongated dining room is cosy, highlighted by warm lighting and crisp white tablecloths. The outdoor terrace is perfect for a pre-dinner drink – we opt for a glass of wine before being seated. With two private dining rooms, and spacious booth seating, Vasco provides an intimate atmosphere where the buzz of conversation is reduced to a comfortable low muffle.
There are two tasting menus ($880 for six courses, $1,180 for eight courses) that change seasonally, but as they require the whole table to take the same set, we pick the same dishes from the à la carte menu instead. The staff are confident and informative, carefully explaining their recommendations without being overbearing, and deliver some nice crusty sourdough bread with three choices of olive oils (light, medium and full bodied) while we wait for our courses. We start with the trout tartare with orange, curd cucumber and trout caviar ($240). The finely minced trout is shaped and smoothed like a tart, and while we generally prefer a chunkier tartare texture, the robust flavour of the trout with the tang of orange and cucumber mixes surprisingly well with the fine, almost paste-like feel in our mouth. Having had our fair share of Iberico ham, our high hopes for their iberian ‘bellota’ cured ham gran reserva ($360) are more than fulfilled. The paper-thin slices of premium quality ham are served in a generous portion, with a succulent and hearty flavour and the perfect proportion of fat.
The main course selection is split into ‘sea’ and ‘land’, and we choose one from each section. The low temperature cooked wild turbot (pictured above, $480) is served on a bed of onions and paprika marmalade with delicately trimmed braised endive. Lightly grilled at the top to give the dish a healthy colour, the flaky turbot has a nice, firm flesh and a much more refined presentation than sea bass or cod, which tend to be more popular with most restaurants in Hong Kong. The crispy suckling pig ($590) is elegantly prepared with pineapple chutney and a mustard sauce, the tender flesh nicely contrasts its thin, crispy skin worthy of a fine dining institution.
Though too full for dessert, we make an effort to share the marinated pineapple with caramel ice cream and crispy pink pepper ($120). The usual tartness of pineapple is much milder due to the marinade and is very pleasant against the smooth and silky ice cream.
All-in-all, Vasco is one of the city’s most impressive recent openings. With it’s modern interiors and innovative re-use of space in the heritage building, the restaurant is a slick operation and the food is simply outstanding. Leslie Chan
Verdict: Competent cooking in classically stylish surrounds
Vasco Spanish Fine Dining7/F Block B, PMQ, 35 Aberdeen St, Central. 2156 0888; vasco.com.hk.
Trout tartare $240
Iberian ‘bellota’ cured ham $360
Low temperature cooked wild turbot $480
The crispy suckling pig $590
Caramel ice cream and crispy pink pepper $120
Service charge $174
Total (for two) $1,914
|Venue name:||Vasco Spanish Fine Dining (closed)|
7/F Block B, PMQ, 35 Aberdeen St, Central