BCN’s motto should be ‘come hungry – or don’t come at all’. Indeed, head chef Edgar Sanuy Barahona means serious business when it comes to feeding his guests. A newcomer to the dining scene, the narrow venue (tucked behind an unassuming, charcoal façade) is a midway point between a tapas bar and chef’s table. It’s a tiny space with only 12 high stools surrounding an open kitchen where the affable chef preps and personally explains his brand of creative Spanish cuisine.
Dinner service is split between three menus: the Paella Set ($480), Trip to Spain ($580) and Special Chef’s Set ($680). Everything starts with a platter of manchego cheese, cured meats and bits of toast rubbed down with olive oil. It’s comfortingly simple and when you tuck into sheets of free-range Iberico ham and fat-flecked chorizo, you know Barahona pays attention to quality ingredients. But it’s after this platter that the real meal begins – and if you opt for the Trip to Spain, you’ll get a trio of bite-sized tapas that change on a regular basis. Pray for the Iberico ham croquette because this is near ethereal – a golden brown, breaded sphere plumped with creamy béchamel and cured pork. The same goes for the patatas bravas, which appear as small cylinders of fried potatoes with billowy centres smeared with spicy garlic cream. On the night of our visit, the only item that doesn’t amaze us is the smoked salmon roll filled with cream cheese and yoghurt, and arranged on an all-too-mild black olive cookie crumble.
As the name promises, the rest of the menu continues through classic Spanish flavours. There’s the Andalusian gazpacho, a chilled tomato soup with a subtle, sweet zippiness that’s tempered by a few drops of olive oil. It’s not complete though until you drink the broth with the tomato, watermelon and fresh basil served on a bamboo skewer. It’s a sharp contrast to the heavier Galician-style octopus arranged on softened potatoes. Here, the mollusc is expertly cooked, resulting in meat that’s firm to the bite without being rubbery. Add a liberal dusting of smoked paprika and there you have a pretty great way to devour the tentacled creature.
But while dishes here are carefully constructed, there are a lot of meats, carbs and heavy sauces, and several plates become much too dense to be properly enjoyed in a multicourse meal. We start to feel this when the rossejat de fideos arrives, a Catalonian dish of fried short noodles cooked in seafood broth in paella-like fashion. It’s garnished with thick garlic aioli and although there’s a touch of tangy tomato, it’s not nearly enough acid to spruce up the whole affair.
If you’re not careful, this could lull you into a food coma before you get to the suckling pig. This has two hunks of pork sandwiched together and is slow cooked for more than 10 hours until the meat tears away in meltingly tender strands. Both faces are seared before plating so the skin crisps up. It’s a sophisticated piece but we also yearn for a smack of citrus or the like to help cut through the fattiness.
That’s not to say that Barahona doesn’t try; he serves the pig with a shard of honey for sweetness and crunch, and sweet potato cream is smeared on the side, providing temporary – though not lasting – respite from the meal’s heavier moments. And when he offers up two orbs of rich chocolate truffles at the end of the meal, he garnishes each piece with a few strips of orange zest. It’s a promising sign to leave off on and we’re hopeful that Barahona’s dishes become even more balanced the next time we visit. Dorothy So
37 Peel St, Central, 2811 2851; www.bcn.com.hk. Mon-Sat 11.30am-11.30pm.
Trip to Spain x2 $580pp
10 percent service charge $116
Total (for two) $1,276