A 20-year anniversary is cause for celebration in itself, but when it's the twentieth birthday of a restaurant in Hong Kong, well, its longevity and achievement is a thing of almost saint-like reverence. Longstanding Spanish stalwart Olé is taking a stroll down memory lane with its newly-launched brunch menu, filled with a staggering number — twenty !— of its customers' all-time favourite dishes, priced at the unbelievably reasonable $380 per person. Say what?!
Now, twenty dishes is no mean feat, and authentic Spanish flavours, fresh ingredients, and traditional recipes are a given when delving into what make up the core values of Olé's food. We decided that we needed a taste of each and every one to find out how they have withstood the test of time in a culinary landscape as volatile as Hong Kong's. It took us several hours to plough through this banquet-like meal, and, boy was it worth it. Let's get started:
20. Sautéed chorizo with garlic and chives
Sorry, chorizo; we desperately wanted to love you, but you were just a tad too oily for us.
19. Baby squids in ink sauce
A packed dish of baby squids as black as my soul. Aesthetically, nothing speaks to me more. Alas, these shrimp and almond-stuffed baby squids, served in their own ink sauce, just didn't quite do it for us. The briny flavour was slightly too overwhelming, like being slapped in the face with the full force of the ocean, and the texture reminded us of rubber.
18. House-marinated Spanish olives
We actually loved these as a perky starter, but at the end of the day, in the face of a brunch that boasts a total of twenty dishes, they're just olives, aren't they (albeit freshly-imported olives from Spain prepared Andalusian-style with paprika, cumin seeds, lemon juice, and garlic. Yum).
17. Alioli potatoes
Nope, that's not a typo. We may spell it "aioli" in English, but the traditional Spanish sauce takes its name from its ingredients: garlic (all) and oil (oli). High marks for full potato coverage, extremely creamy aioli, and firm-to-the-bite, non-greasy potato chunks. We really enjoyed this one.
16. Ibérico ham and tomato bread
There is nothing not to love about Spanish ibérico ham; no exceptions here at Olé. Paper-thin slices of knee-weakening ham made for quickly-devoured snacks at our table. The accompanying tomato-coated breads, however, didn't leave much of an impression.
15. Padrón peppers
No fear — these peppers aren't even remotely spicy. What they are is perfectly blistered on the outside, soft on the inside, well-seasoned, and an addictive, straightforward starter to whet our appetites; we were hooked in an instant.
14. Sizzling garlic prawns, Gambas al Ajillo
Plump and juicy, these fresh prawns were prepared in traditional Spanish terracotta pots, and served sizzling at the table. A reliable and simple recipe consisting only of olive oil, garlic slices, onion, and our favourite crustacean. This aromatic dish was full of flavour and generous in portion, albeit a tiny bit too oily. Then again, it's dunked in a bath of olive oil, so we can't say we didn't expect it.
Cold soup may not be for everyone, but the chilled taste of gazpacho ranks high on our list, especially in the summertime. We love the strong garlicky notes making a strong stand amongst the sweet, refreshing flavours of cucumber, red pepper, and onion. Olé's gazpacho follows a traditional farmer's recipe that blends hard-crust bread into the soup and uses mineral water, olive oil, and tomatoes to creative a rich, creamy texture.
12. Pear confit in red wine
Wonderfully simple plating meets complicated, rich flavours. Served with a dab of cream for a touch of lightness, these poached pears are just sugary enough to balance out the depth of red wine.
11. Aubergine stuffed with mushrooms
While Olé's not quite the right destination for a vegetarian palate, they do plan for emergencies. A southern Spanish creation by Executive Chef Jesus Pascual, this dish of halved and hollowed-out aubergine is stuffed with more aubergine, red pepper, and mushrooms. Mousseline sauce is added — think of it as a luxurious, richer Hollandaise sauce — then baked until tender. Topped off with melted cheese and a tomato sauce, this colourful dish holds its weight against Olé's seafood-centric menu.
We're at the halfway mark now, and this is where the rating gets tough.
10. Grilled Spanish octopus with paprika and aioli
We're always looking forward to these unique, bite-sized parcels when we pay a visit to Olé. A rollercoaster of textures — from the softness of the potato base, chewy firmness from the octopus, and a creamy aioli on top — make this a triumphant success.
9. Stuffed Piquillo peppers
This dish is not a looker, but it made up for appearances with its excellent execution. These Piquillo peppers from Spain are stuffed with a filling of cod marinated in flour, butter, and white wine, then baked in a blanket of cheese and homemade red pepper sauce. Served piping hot, the cod flaked apart at the touch of a fork, and the flavour was subtly sweet.
8. Baby lamb chops, Parilla-style
There's nothing fancy about the preparation of these New Zealand baby lamb chops — no unique herbs, no elaborate prepping methods — but that's because the raw meat is already so impressively aromatic that all they need is a thorough sitting on a traditional Spanish parrilla grill. Olé served it up tender and juicy, full of smoky and gamy flavours, with a side salad and thick-cut fries.
7. Codfish in green sauce
When are fresh clams not delicious? Olé takes inspiration from the Basque country with this fragrant oceanic dish of breaded Alaskan black cod fillet served on a bed of clams. Served in a green sauce made of white wine and a peppery and garlicky fish stock, the cod is slow-cooked on low heat for an especially tender texture.
6. Traditional Spanish squid-ink rice
Presentation aside, this squid-ink rice was absolutely stunning. The trio of garlic, onion, and olive oil made a steadfast appearance for an aromatic base, thoroughly flavouring the squid, prawns, and rice before a house-made fish stock and ink sauce is added to create a creamy, rich risotto-like rice dish full of umami notes and brininess.
5. Orange flambéed Catalan cream
If you like crème brûlée, you'll like this — it's basically a Spanish version of a crème brûlée, flavoured with orange rinds, vanilla beans, and cinnamon. We cracked through the sugary crust with relish, and heaved satisfied inward sighs at the taste of warm, slightly citric custard. A true delight.
4. "Leche frita" with toffee reduction
If you haven't tried fried milk before, you have to try fried milk. Leche frita is made by mixing cooking flour with milk and sugar until it thickens into a dough, then fried and dusted with cinnamon powder and served with a toffee reduction. It sounds absurd, but it is DELICIOUS. What you get at Olé is a thick, wobbly slice with a soft tofu-like consistency. Swab up some of that toffee glaze and every forkful brings you a step closer to mouthgasm heaven.
3. Spanish churros with hot chocolate sauce
We were a little taken aback with these skinny churros, in a good way. Quite slim in appearance, unlike the puffy and rotund variation we're used to seeing, our first bite was a heavenly crunch. Liberal dustings of sugar made these light snacks perfect on their own, even without a dunking of hot chocolate sauce. Definitely some of the best churros we've had in recent memory.
2. Roasted suckling pig, Segovia-style
When you grow up with the aromatic Chinese-style suckling pig, it's always fascinating to encounter how other countries' take on this dish. And how Segovia— a historical city in Central Spain — prepares it is to let the ingredient and its natural flavour shine. The chefs at Olé took inspiration from this and applied a minimal amount of salt, then slow-roasted the pig for three hours until the flesh dripped with juice and the skin formed a crispy crust. Long story short: it was a textural and rich delight.
1. Traditional Spanish seafood paella
Paella has rarely tasted more seafood-y. Olé really went all out and loaded their traditional seafood paella with all sorts of oceanic bounty, from prawns to mussels and octopus and squid. Seasoned with a homemade bisque, the rice was moist and sung with a subtle infusion of saffron and garlic. We were absolutely smitten with the savouriness of this paella, and were left scraping at the soccarat at the bottom of the blackened pan for the very last scraps.
And there you have it, folks. My rating skills have been exhausted, and my stomach has ballooned. This incredible 9-course, 20-dish brunch at Olé is available on Saturdays and public holidays from 12:00–3:00pm, and is priced at a mind-boggling $380 per person, with free-flow drinks options available for wines, sangria, cocktails, and mocktails.
1/F, Shun Ho Tower, 24–30 Ice House Street, Central, 2523 8624
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.
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