Although we never dined at Picada at its former incarnation on Elgin Street, whenever we passed by, the tiny shop seemed heaving. So it makes sense that the team have moved just down the hill, to a huge (by HK standards), 3,000-square-foot space atop LKF.
The new quarters are vibrant and inviting, with the decor and background music mimicking the colour and energy of the Latin American region to which it pays tribute. We especially liked the burlap coffee-bean-sack statement wall. There’s also a sizeable bar area with seating towards the back, an upstairs terrace lounge and a stage front and centre, which is the focus of regular live music and dance performances.
So this new-and-improved Picada has a lot going for it. But we were there to eat and eat we did, courtesy of a sampling menu devised by Chef Abel Ortiz Alvarez. Before coming to Hong Kong, this Peruvian chef honed his skills at some of the best restaurants in Latin America, including Central in Lima, which currently sits at number 5 on The World’s 50 Best Restaurants list. In HK, he headed up the kitchens at Chicha and (now closed) Toro Latin Steak House.
Picada’s menu, embracing all the flavours that Latin America has to offer, is broken down into several sections, with dishes meant for sharing. We sampled an item from each of the sections (except for Chino-Latino) in a gut-busting dinner.
We started with what ended up being our favourite dish of the meal: Peruvian ceviche ($148). The seafood was undoubtedly fresh, and we loved the bold flavours from the lime and chilli. The chargrilled smoked sweet potato purée flourish on the side was a nice touch, its sweet smoothness balancing out the much stronger flavours and textures from the ceviche itself.
Next came a selection of empanadas – chicken, beef and mushroom ($98–108), served with a variety of sauces. These bite-size stuffed pastries are especially popular in Colombia and Venezuela. Other versions we’ve tried have been much flakier; Picada’s empanadas are gluten free, made with corn flour, and appeared to have been deep-fried, with a chewier texture that wasn’t as appealing to us. Our favourite filling, hands down, was the beef ribs, which had been slowed-cooked till they were melt-in-your-mouth tender, then shredded – these were packed with flavour.
Another Colombian staple is the arepa – a simple corn cake that is often stuffed – and we tried the slow-cooked beef ribs arepa ($78). In this case, the ribs were lacking in seasoning compared to the empanada filling we had tried earlier.
The Hot Scallop ($98 for 2) followed – beautifully presented in their shells, we particularly enjoyed the sweet and creamy edamame purée upon which the scallops were nestled.
While undoubtedly high-quality sirloin was used for the carne (beef) anticuchos ($128 for 2), the (very tender) beef was on the fatty side and again lacking in seasoning for our taste buds. The highlight of this dish, however, was the sliced grilled potatoes. In the battle of spud vs steak – the humble spud came out on top.
Our mains consisted of a 12-ounce Argentine rib-eye ($378) and three-duck arroz con pato ($238), a paella-like, rice-based dish. The rice took the prize here, with the meaty smoked duck breast being particularly succulent. The coriander-laden green rice was also exceptionally moreish. The steak, while again juicy and well cooked, needed a heavier hand in the seasoning department.
We could barely manage another bite, but we took one for the team and tried out the tres leches ($75), a popular Latin American cake made with three types of milk (cream, evaporated milk and condensed milk). Unfortunately, Picada’s take on this dessert was the biggest disappointment of the meal for us. Made with corn flour, this tres leches was dense, grainy and strangely sour – we wished we had gone with the more generic-sounding chocolate surprise to end our evening.
On a mid-week evening, Picada was humming, mostly with groups soaking up the fiesta-like atmosphere. We’d definitely recommend it for drinks and fun nights out with friends. The service was friendly and well-intentioned though a bit frayed as the place filled up. As for the food, it was hit and miss: high-quality ingredients and good execution, but some of the flavours were lacking for us. We also need to say a word about the prices, which are on the very high side. We understand it’s Wyndham Street we’re talking about, but even the prices at top Argentine steakhouse Gaucho in Central seem more reasonable, where a 300g rib-eye will set you back $318. But everything is meant to be shared at Picada, so a meal out here is much more affordable if you go with a bigger party.
2/F, LKF29, 29 Wyndham Street, Central, 2526 7538
This write-up is based on a complimentary media tasting provided in exchange for an honest review and no monetary compensation.