After entering Form 8, our timetables allowed us to “add” an extra subject… and since we already lived in France, it was German and Spanish that were the languages on offer for our timetable’s empty slot.
The German’s teacher’s presentation focused on how Germany was an important industrial and economic power in the European Union – therefore making German an important language to learn. To a class of impatient, pre-pubescent 12 to 13 year olds, this wasn’t exactly the most enticing of reasons.
On the other hand, the Spanish teacher, gave us the best pitch I’d ever heard: “Take my class and we’ll go on field trips to eat paella, gazpacho, churros, tortillas and more!”. I was sold! Over the next 8 years, I’d learn Spanish and even have the opportunity to visit Spain multiple times on school trips and exchanges.
Even though I’ve long left Europe, the Spanish adventure continues – but this time in Sai Wan Ho’s branch of Tapeo Tapas.
Fortunately I was in a group of five, including myself – perfect for some tapas tasting. (tip: eating at a tapas restaurant is better in groups; you can try more dishes, as tapas are originally small bar snacks! Share with your friends instead of having one each.)
Manchego Cheese with Honey: this was a hit with everyone at the table! Honey brought a sweet and viscous dimension to cheese and ultra-crispy toasted bread slices on the side. Tapeo’s selection of Manchego cheese (made from sheep’s milk) was a safe choice being neither very fresh (young / soft / mild taste) or dry (older / hard / strong taste) – but somewhere in between.
Marinated White Anchovies: Usually anchovies bother me whenever they crop up, most commonly, in a Caesar salad. Too often they are overly salty as well as unattractive: dull, dark, shriveled up and small. At Tapeo they looked fresh; brilliant and shiny, bathing in a marinade of olive oil, lemon juice and herbs. Naturally, I was tempted to give it a try. Result? A lesson learned: don’t condemn an ingredient by how it’s usually prepared. Cured in vinegar (instead of salt) these “White” anchovies had a milder and more elegant flavour complemented by the soothing olive oil and lemon juice. In other words: a seafood tapas success!
Next comes many people’s favorite part of any meal: the CARBOHYDRATE part! In Spain, rice and potatoes will be the most common in this department. Since our table was going for a tapas experience, there won’t be any paella in this post – but feast your eyes instead, on the potato treats above.
Chorizo and Spinach Tortilla: I instinctively associate tortillas with Mexican or Tex-Mex food, always forgetting that in Spain tortillas are actually an egg-potato hybrid omelette in which you can find any number of special ingredients. It’s an interesting texture of foamed egg omelette with slices and chunks of smooth potato… Without any additions, this risks is a potentially boring dish… but add spicy chorizo and streaks of spinach? A lovable stomach-filler!
Patatas Bravas: Being half-Dutch means I love to put mayonnaise on potatoes (and tomatoes, eggs, everything and anything). To complete the patatas bravas was a spicy tomato sauce on the side, mayonnaise, paprika powder and herbs. For this kind of dish, I would have liked a crispier and longer-fried batch of potatoes… So, unless you want to be healthy, you should probably mention to fry it a bit longer for that extra tasty, and oily crunch!
Ham Croquetas: Not exactly something you’d only find at a tapas restaurant, croquettes can be found nearly everywhere from your local pub or tapas snacks to a family restaurant. These tasted like normal, well-made croquettes flavored by the hearty ham bits. Imagine adding a melted cheese centre! Or am I just getting carried away now…? 🙂
Chickpeas, Spinach and Bacon: I’m really starting to like this spinach and meat combination that first came up in the tortilla. With the kind of “blank canvas” taste that chickpeas and potatoes offer, the added salty/spicy meat with vegetable to balance it out, transforms all three into a wonderful combined taste! These trio of ingredients are some of my favorites across the board… was this dish destined for me?
Crushed Marinated Olives: Don’t expect anything else when you order this! All you’re going to get is a big bowl of… well, crushed marinated olives! This dish demonstrates perfectly how eating tapas alone can present difficulties; without at least one friend to help share this with, finishing this entire bowl of olives would be a challenge… no matter how nice they are.
Crispy Shrimps with Chili: If you’re hardcore you could eat the shrimp with its shell on because that’s how crispy these shrimps were! But if you’re not the shrimp terminator, then get ready to get your fingers messy with peeling these insanely tasty shrimp. Once you’ve de-shelled your shrimp, be sure to dip it into the clump of remaining shrimp gelled together by this amazing creamy chili/herbs/spices sauce. Be prepared to be very sad when you run out of shrimp (and sauce, as you will inevitably dip things into the leftover sauce).
Pan con Tomate: Meaning “bread with tomato”, this tapas was, unfortunately, as boring as its name. Whereas a tomato tapenade with its characteristic power, intensity and flavorful essence could have been able to pull off a tostada just on its own; this sauce didn’t quite do it. In addition to being a little bit on the bland side (thank goodness for the herbs, though), the tomato sauce was too moist, ruining any of that lovely toasted crunch that the bread might have had.
Churros: Churros always look good. But they don’t always taste good. You have to get them fresh and just out of the frier in order to get the most out of them! If you can get them fresh (like ours were served at Tapeo Tapas) then indulge in the crispy dough batter that has been deep-fried in oil, and rained on with sugar. You can technically dip it in any sauce, or just use the chocolate one above. Dream you could make this at home to try more sauce options? Yeah, me too…
Custard: I can’t remember the name of this one anymore! It was very similar to a creme brûlée, but without the crispy burnt sugar “crust”. The lemon-hinted custard cream was lovely but… because it reminded me so much of creme brûlée, I found myself missing that thin crispy layer of melted sugar.
There is a Tapeo branch in Central (which I have not been to… yet) if you’re a near-Central dweller… but I doubt it will have the tranquility and comfort of the Sai Wan Ho branch, with its, albeit slightly blocked by passing cars, view of the channel between HK island and Kowloon side. 😉 In the evening, however, traffic is calm enough to make the Sai Wan Ho seating quiet enough for HK al fresco dining.
Insider tip? Both my friend Josephine and I ordered the house sangria; except Jo ordered hers without ice. Definitely order this signature Spanish drink with less or no ice to avoid watering down the seasoned and sassy sangria.
Thanks for reading!