Chef Rafa Gil began his culinary career in Spain, working with Michelin-starred chefs Martín Berasategui, Carles Abellán and Santi Santamaria. He moved to Asia in 2012 to open Catalunya, first in Singapore and then here in Hong Kong. He was also a semi-finalist alongside his teammate, Mexican chef Esdras Ochoa, on the Netflix series The Final Table.
We were thrilled when Chef Gil returned to Hong Kong earlier this year to head up the kitchen at La Rambla by Catalunya, coming full circle. Many of Chef Gil’s signatures from his time at Catalunya remain on the menu – like the ham croquettes, truffle bikini sandwich and bomba de la Barceloneta (fried smoked potato balls filled with minced meat, topped with a spicy, paprika-based sauce) – but he’s also recently introduced nearly a dozen new à-la-carte items that are less rustic and more refined.
We paid a visit to La Rambla to sample these newcomers, sat at a table next to the restaurant’s spacious terrace with its unbeatable views. Of the 10 dishes we tried, there were five standouts that we urge you to order the next time you book a table:
Sea urchin & pancetta Ibérica (HK$190): Chef Gil enjoys incorporating Japanese ingredients into many of his dishes, and this philosophy is best exemplified in these umami one-biters. Toasted squares of brioche are layered with smoked caviar, a generous dollop of creamy Hokkaido sea urchin and ultra-thin slivers of Joselito pancetta – a great way to kick-start the palate with an explosion of flavours and textures.
La Rambla Kinder Egg (HK$150): an updated version of Chef Gil’s iconic savoury take on a Kinder Surprise, which debuted at Catalunya in 2015. The room-temperature truffle egg and potato foam is simply luscious, topped with a mound of Baeri Kaviari caviar, upping the indulgence factor.
Caragols a la lluana (HK$180): a Catalan speciality, these plump snails are grilled over open fire with Pedro Ximénez sherry, shallot, garlic and herbs – served to us piping hot with aioli for dipping, we could have each eaten a dozen of these these oh-so-moreish, garlicky babies.
Spanish tonkatsu (HK$150): a twist on traditional Japanese tonkatsu, or deep-fried pork cutlet, Chef Gil’s version uses breaded Ibérico Secreto, a thin cut of meat hidden between the shoulder blade and loin of an Iberian pig that’s prized for it unique proportion of meat to fat. This Spanish-style tonkatsu is supremely tender, juicy and flavourful, and it’s well balanced with the East-meets-West vinaigrette made of Spanish piquillo pepper and Japanese ponzu, cutting through all that richness. Artichoke chips crown the dish.
Chocolate flan (HK$110): Chef Gil’s desserts are always delightful, none more so than this luxuriously dense yet silky Spanish pudding infused with chocolate. Plus – popping candy for the win!
Chef Gil can do no wrong in our eyes, and we think these new dishes deserve permanent spots on La Rambla’s menu.
Where: Shop 3071–73, 3/F, ifc mall, 8 Finance Street, Central
This write-up is based on a complimentary media tasting provided in exchange for an honest review and no monetary compensation. The opinions expressed here represent the author’s.