Of all locations in Hong Kong, few would have guessed that Lai Chi Kok would be home to one of the most authentic Spanish restaurants in Hong Kong, serving traditional comfort food.
I must admit I heard mixed reviews about this place and indeed there were hits and misses. But overall the Iberico ham, garlic soup, Iberico presa salad, roasted suckling pig and dessert were unforgettably unique and delicious. And I’d say that’s a list long enough to bring me back again!
Award-winning world champion carving ham master, Jose Manuel, visits the restaurant in May 2015
Excellent quality Iberico Ham
Iberico ham is signature to Spanish cuisine and is indeed featured throughout the menu at Rustico. The Iberico ham itself was surprisingly juicy and tender, compared to the much dry-er versions I’ve tasted in the past. You can definitely taste the fact that they’ve used less salt during their curing process and hence some would judge the ham as having a little less taste. But I definitely approve of the lower salt version, given how sinful Iberico ham already is!
Save your stomach for the mains (not tapas)
In general, the tapas dishes were relatively standard and unmemorable. I wouldn’t advise ordering too many of these. Instead, save your stomach for the mains!
That said, Spanish chorizo in sherry wine was one of my favourites. The chorizo had a very good real meat taste to it. The sauce was a little spicy, but overall, didn’t have that irritating msg-like taste to it that so many Spanish restaurants in Hong Kong serve.
Castellana garlic soup
The most unforgettable course of the night, had to be the “Castellana” garlic soup with slow cooked egg and Iberico ham. The flavouring of the soup is extremely strong; it’s very garlicky and has a strong spicy smoked paprika taste to it too. The bowl just gets a whole lot more epic once you break the onsen egg and mix it together. So you can tell that this dish is not going to be for everyone, definitely not the faint-hearted.
Zorongolla salad with Iberico presa
The roasted red peppers “Zorongolla” salad with Iberico presa was another dish I had to wipe clean. That night I found out that “presa” is deemed the best and most expensive cut of the Iberico pig; the cut is located between the neck and shoulder. My taste buds could have found that out for me because the meat was extremely soft, tender and juicy. The excellent quality meat was perfectly paired with some soft roasted peppers, which had a tad of cumin to it.
Some disappointing dishes to avoid
The most disappointing dish of the night must have been the shrimp in seafood sauce with artichokes. The seafood sauce was typical but the shrimp was dry and not the freshest catch. The fact that I don’t like artichokes probably didn’t help either.
The Barcalao cod fish left me on the fence. Barcalao cod fish is preserved with salt and is extremely common in the Spanish and Portuguese kitchen. I haven’t had much of Barcalao/Bacalhau and while the dish tasted alright, my general feelings were mixed… I guess it’s because I’d just rather fresh cod!
Roasted suckling pig
The disappointments were not detrimental though, as the roasted suckling pig quickly won my heart over towards the end of the meal. The quality of the meat was excellent and had a perfect proportion of thin crispy skin, collagen and meat. It’s probably the best Spanish style suckling pig I’ve tasted!
“Torrija” caramelised brioche infused with orange, vanilla and lavender sauce, served with ice cream – HK$55
Caramelised brioche with ice cream
As always, I have a second stomach for dessert and so the fact that I had sampled five tapas dishes and five main course dishes, didn’t stop me from clearing this dessert up. Of course, my impressive volume-of-eating credit is owed to the excellently executed caramelised brioche. The brioche had a soft and moist texture inside, while the edges were crispy like French toast. I loved the sauce the brioche was bathing in; it had a mild hint of orange and lavender which was a refreshing combo, surprisingly easy on the taste buds. It’s highly recommended and definitely worth the not-too-big bucks!
Hidden gem for real comfort food cooked by a native Spanish chef
Lai Chi Kok is no Soho, so you really have to trek here just for a dinner. But when dining here, you can be rest assured that you’re tasting some pretty authentic Spanish food, cooked by a native Spanish chef. Not everything was amazing but the good stuff was really outstanding. Order the garlic soup, Iberico presa salad, roasted suckling pig and dessert and you can’t go wrong!
Rustico is located at G01, D2 place, 9 Cheung Yee Street, Lai Chi Kok. Phone: 2743 4511.