SMALL PLATES AND SAN­GRIA

TA­PA­GRIA’S MEDITER­RANEAN FLA­VORS IN­SPIRE A LONG, FES­TIVE LUNCH.

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FRONT PAGE -

While our gig­gling group did not nec­es­sar­ily walk the straight and nar­row af­ter a long, long lunch at Ta­pa­gria, we were def­i­nitely weav­ing a lit­tle down Hong Kong’s busiest thor­ough­fare.

Four of us en­joyed all the ta­pas on the lunch menu with a lit­tle cre­ative or­der­ing and some help from an ami­able wait­staff.

Then we or­dered two jugs of san­gria, which caused us some grief be­cause it was so hard to de­cide which from the me­an­der­ing list on the menu. There are, af­ter all, 65 dif­fer­ent san­grias to choose from.

We fi­nally set­tled on a light, white wine san­gria gaily called the Caribbean, and then af­ter that dis­ap­peared we chose another jug of darker, deeper fla­vors that was named Wild Berry.

Ta­pa­gria is def­i­nitely a fes­tive place to cel­e­brate, es­pe­cially with the Christ­mas tree guard­ing the en­trance. But even with­out the tin­sel and bells, we would have had a grand time cel­e­brat­ing the birth­day of one of our young col­leagues.

Lunch is best or­dered from the set menu, which has a grand choice of nine ta­pas, in­clud­ing veg­e­tar­ian and sta­ple op­tions. Al­ready, a huge pan of seafood paella was send­ing out sig­nals as we passed and we dou­bled our or­ders for that par­tic­u­lar dish.

Ta­pas are lit­tle plates, more a life­style than a cui­sine style. Trans­planted to Hong Kong, it to­tally suits the Chi­nese love of shar­ing food, es­pe­cially for those who can­not de­cide on that one dish to eat.

The soup of the day was a tomato seafood soup that is clearly home­made from fresh in­gre­di­ents. It was a tad tart but that only served to whet the ap­petite for the pro­ces­sion that fol­lowed.

A beau­ti­ful salmon tartare with mango had us lick­ing our forks as we col­lec­tively dipped into the pile. It was a plea­sure to look at, served on flo­ral ce­ramic plat­ters that im­me­di­ately brought us men­tally to the Mediter­ranean.

A beef carpac­cio with thinly shaved manchego cheese fol­lowed, but I had my eye firmly on the baby oc­to­pus sauteed in olive oil. It was juicy and ten­der, and ev­ery mouth­ful was a burst of sun­shine that matched the warm rays fil­ter­ing through the win­dows.

Then what we’d waited for ar­rived: two pans of seafood and meat paella, steam­ing hot with crusty bits that were redo­lent of meat and seafood juices.

Paella was ac­com­pa­nied by a duck-leg con­fit lean­ing on a lit­tle pile of smoky mashed pota­toes. Fork-ten­der rich red duck was cov­ered by a crisp skin, and the duck dis­ap­peared al­most as fast as the paella.

Even as I was chew­ing on my last bite of duck, I had one eye on the cast- iron pan of clams in seafood sauce. This is my mem­ory of the Mediter­ranean.

The clams were just cooked and we slurped up the juices.

Did I for­get to men­tion the Iberico pork fil­let mar­i­nated in a se­cret sauce? The meat was very lean, but some­how, the se­cret mari­nade had made it so de­li­cious that it went down with­out a fight.

In spite of the lit­tle plates, the set lunch of three choices of ta­pas is more than enough to fill the av­er­age tummy. You get to choose a dessert as well, and we would strongly rec­om­mend the sor­bet. We had peach, al­though we hear that the co­conut is ex­tremely pop­u­lar. Con­tact the writer at paulined@chi­nadaily.com.cn.

PHO­TOS BY PAULINE D. LOH / CHINA DAILY

Beef carpac­cio with thinly shaved manchego cheese is among the main dishes.

Duck-leg con­fit is served with smoky mashed pota­toes.

Clams in seafood sauce trig­ger mem­o­ries of the Mediter­ranean.

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