When the word “tapas” comes to mind, most of us are quick to think of Spanish food. Being spoiled with an extensive selection of Spanish cuisine around Hong Kong, a lot of us are unaware of the culinary wonders of Portuguese tapas. Luckily for us, visiting chef André Correia from T for Tapas in Macau, who comes from the Portuguese island of Madeira, brings a taste of Portugal to Hotel ICON's GREEN in an exclusive, limited-time menu, showing us that Portuguese tapas is just as delightful (if not better!) than its Spanish counterpart.
Being a lover of of all things tapas, I was excited to try Chef Correia's selection of food, which was picked from a special menu that will be introduced in August at GREEN. Presented as a full seven-course meal, each item on the menu was carefully paired with a glass from an exquisite collection of Portuguese wines (one for each dish!).
To start: the poncha cocktail, a traditional alcoholic drink from the island of Madeira made with aguardente de cana (known to us as sugar-cane alcohol), honey, sugar and lemon rind blended with fruit juices. This had a mild, refreshing flavour.
To ease us into the meal we were presented with an amuse-bouche of roasted bell pepper coulis with sardine and codfish foam, served in a martini glass, which almost made me think we were in for round 2 of cocktails – because, why not? The light seafood taste mingled well with the sweet peppers, creating an ideal balance between the ingredients. Definitely a good start.
Next was seared tuna with Azores spice and mango sauce, paired with Vértice Sparkling Cuvée 2009. Made from soft pieces of finely cut tuna that were marinated with pimenta da terra, a traditional spice from the Azores, the mango sauce was a flavourful addition – I only wish there was more of it, as it gave a touch of sweetness to echo the tropical tastes of Madeira.
Portuguese piri-piri garlic prawns followed, matched with Soalheiro Alvarinho Primeiras Vinhas 2014. This seafood dish resembled the iconic Spanish tapas of shrimp in garlic sauce, with the chef using piri-piri spice to bring out a pleasant fiery hint.
The grilled octopus lagareiro style was paired with Quinta do Crasto Superior 2014. Slow-cooked to a perfect texture in the lagareiro style – a method of cooking seafood using extra-virgin olive oil – the octopus was boiled, charcoal-grilled and then caramelised. Chef Correia recommended to let the octopus “swim in the oil” that was given alongside the dish in order to experience it like the Portuguese would. It's a known fact that olive oil, with its tremendous health benefits, is an essential addition to most Mediterranean food.
Served in a cute cast-iron pan, the scrambled eggs with flour sausage and truffle – paired with DODA Niepoort 2010 – were cooked using small pieces of farinheira, a traditional Portuguese smoked sausage made with a combination of wheat flour, pork and seasonings, served with finely cut slices of Tasmanian truffle. Although flour sausage was new to most of us at the table, the taste did not disappoint, as it added a welcome overall smoky flavour.
A recreation of the classic Portuguese dish codfish à Brás, the tuna confit à Brás with slow-cooked egg yolk and angel hair potato – paired with Quinta do Vale Meão 2010 – was served with thinly cut strands of fresh potato (resembling mini fries) and caramelised onion, topped with a perfectly rounded egg yolk.
Then came the tenderloin bun – paired with Palacio do Buçaco 2009, which in Portugal is known as "Prego" – which can best be described as a type of steak sandwich. Made using finely cut slices of beef and bread that was cooked to softness with a thin spread of garlic butter, the bun was presented with a side of hand-cut crisps. Being one of Chef Correia's signature dishes, I would definitely return to GREEN just for this. Taking one bite made me forget about traditional American-style beef burgers. Despite the simplicity of the ingredients, it was absolutely delicious, with all credit going to the well-seasoned slices of beef – just going to show that simple is oftentimes best.
And the finale came in the form of passion fruit mousse with sugar-cane molasses crumble and banana ice cream, paired with Barbeito Single Harvest Madeira 1999. With a passion fruit layer as the base, the seeds brought a sour yet moreish flavour.
A full menu featuring all of the above dishes will be available at GREEN from 18–23 August 2017 as part of the Taste of Portugal promotion. So if you're one of those people who, like me, doesn't know much about Portuguese cuisine, have a soft spot for tapas or are a foodie at heart, give this menu a try!
G/F, Hotel ICON, 17 Science Museum Road, TST East, 3400 1300
This write-up is based on a complimentary media tasting provided in exchange for an honest review and no monetary compensation.