October 15, 2016
Weekend brunch, over the past half-decade or so, has swiftly occupied an important slice of Hong Kong’s dining scene. All-day breakfast, Egg Benedict and granola bowl are mainstays, but most popular is semi-buffet in the form of all-you-can-eat appetizers and desserts with a single entrée.
Flipping this concept around, La Paloma, meaning “pigeon” in Spanish, has recently launched a weekend brunch of fixed appetizers and dessert coupled with an unlimited supply of suckling pig and paella, dishes that normally cost upward of $200 each. La Paloma bills $250 per person with no service charge.
The 85-seat restaurant is located on the 1st floor of SoHo 189 in the Western District. The deco is inspired by “Chiringuitos”, beach bars that sell drinks and tapas.
Appetizers were tomato toast (Pan con tomate in Spanish), tuna ceviche, ham and chorizo, green salad, pickles, and fried potato topped with spicy aioli — a filling mix of carbohydrates and protein.
Fully aware of the upcoming onslaught of suckling pig and paella, we picked and chose our spots. Of all the dishes we most enjoyed the patatas bravas. Accentuated by the savoriness of the aioli, the potatoes were sweet like yam with a firm and waxy texture.
Most popular in Castile, especially in the province of Segovia, the suckling pigs (El cochinillo asado) are first marinated for a few days, then are battered with their own fat and white wine before being roasted in a clay oven over 400°C fire.
La Paloma is keen to entertain its patrons and obviously understands the importance of Instagram. Before being chopped up into pieces the roasted pig would first make an appearance around the tables.
Many restaurants serve this dish in Hong Kong, but this was the best I have had in town. The skin was crispy like corn flake while the meat was so tender the moment my teeth made contact it dissolved like a hot knife cutting through butter.
A paella station was set up next to the balcony and it attracted the smartphones of almost every customer when the preparation began. First was the stir-frying of a batch of ingredients, including chicken, bell peppers and green beans.
Then came the rice and broth, which filled up 2/3 of the pan. Twenty minutes later, when much of the broth was soaked up by the rice, mussels were added.
The entire process took exactly 30 minutes. The rice had picked up the flavors of all the herbs and ingredients, but regrettably it was too moist. The mussels were the best part of the dish and cooked just right.
Perhaps the rice could be drier if given a little more time in the pan, but given the price and setup this quality was more than acceptable. It would be unreasonable to expect perfect timing for an unlimited supply of paella.
We were already 100% full when the churros arrived. I was expecting a crunchier surface — it was soft like a dough — but perhaps that was because it came straight from the deep fryer. This was the most disappointing part of the meal.
Not every dish was up to par, but La Paloma offers great value even if you come only for the unlimited refills of suckling pig and paella.
Address: 1/F, SoHo 189, 189 Queen’s Road West (Entrance at Wilmer Street), Western District
Opening hours: Mon – Thurs 18:00 – 23:00; Friday – Sunday 12:00 – 14:00, 18:00 – 23:00