When dining out, the atmosphere is often just as important as the food. This is something that La Paloma has down to a tee. Much like FoFo by el Willy (La Paloma’s brother restaurant, which shares Executive Chef Alex Fargas), the restaurant is vibrant and full of quirky design touches. However, FoFo’s gorgeous white tablecloths scream fine dining, while La Paloma’s fairy lights and colourful bottles, birds and plates offer themselves up to a more laid-back evening.
Since 2015, La Paloma has become a popular hang-out in Sai Ying Pun thanks to its affordable tapas, weekend brunches complete with giant paellas and a balcony perfect for sundowners. The restaurant is very clearly and authentically Spanish, with much of the staff (including the chefs and managers) speaking with lovely, thick accents. La Paloma was actually one of the very first restaurants I visited upon moving to Hong Kong. It had been awhile since I last visited, and I was eager to see if it was as good as I had remembered.
Our meal started off with a gin and tonic ($100) made with Spanish Nordés gin. While I am not much of a gin drinker, I enjoyed this gin’s fruity notes, which differ from the common botanical gins out there. This drink became a fast favourite at our table, with a few of us having seconds. There is also no better way to start a meal than with this crisp tomato bread and homemade pickles.
Our first tapas was the salazones ($198) – a board of house-cured fish (bonito, mackerel, octopus and sea bass chorizo) served with tomato bread. Each type of fish was deliciously fresh and tangy. The sea bass chorizo was particularly impressive and had the same smoky and fatty flavour as pork chorizo while remaining tender and delicate in texture.
These pretty little parcels pack quite the punch. Named salmon TNT ($30/piece), these bite-sized treats are topped with salmon and fish roe and stuffed with a spicy chipotle cream. These are best eaten all in one bite.
The next dish will appeal to those with a flair for theatrics (me!). The Wagyu beef and foie gras air baguettes ($35/piece) are served to your table raw and then torched with what we’re told is a “fire gun”. These were absolutely incredible, and if not so exceptionally rich in flavour from the burst of foie gras mousse, I could have easily eaten a dozen more.
Once again immaculate in presentation, the king crab and tuna roll with cabbage, avocado and chipotle sauce ($50/piece) fortunately tastes as good as it looks, with the buttery brioche complementing the clean taste of the tuna. However, the flavour of the king crab was quite subtle, and I would have liked more crab instead of so much cabbage.
The traditional bravas with spicy sauce ($65) was pleasant enough but not memorable, nor did it stand out in the same way as the other dishes did. I could have done without the extra carbs.
The sautéed prawns with garlic and chilli sauce ($138) require no frills or fuss, just plenty of bread to soak up that simple yet seriously addictive sauce.
Another beautifully presented dish was the cuttlefish fish balls with artichoke and ink sauce ($148). The cuttlefish was cooked to melt-in-the-mouth perfection, but the squid-ink sauce was slightly too salty for us.
Our final tapas dish was the crispy oxtail with foie gras and beef sauce ($88). This is a rather indulgent dish thanks to the amalgamation of rich flavours, but I loved the crispness of the flaky pastry and the succulent oxtail filling.
Sexy paella for sexy people! We sampled two of La Paloma’s signature paellas: chicken and artichoke paella ($238) and traditional seafood paella ($338). The seafood paella was clearly the star of the show with its generous topping of prawns, mussels, clams and squid. Although they’re recommended to be shared between two people, these dishes are pretty huge and comfortably fed a table of six.
Even after those hefty paellas, there’s always room for dessert, especially when it’s La Paloma’s Dessert Festival ($120)! Complete with classic churros, light and fluffy cheesecake bites and decadent bollycao (Nutella-filled brioche), this is a dessert platter fit for a king. My personal favourite was the bollycao, which catered to my ever desire with its puffy doughnut-style crust and molten Nutella filling.
I’m pleased to say that La Paloma is just as lovely as I had remembered. The tapas are certainly sexy, the staff knowledgeable and attentive and the atmosphere as vibrant as ever. La Paloma’s creative dishes are best shared with friends, and the space welcomes celebrations and festivities. Even if not for a full meal, be sure to stop by for a drink sometime (and a foie gras puff or two) to enjoy this lively SYP spot.
189 Queen’s Road West, Sai Ying Pun, 2291 6161, book online
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.
For more reviews like this, like Foodie on Facebook