Monday, January 30, 2012

Comilonas - Catalan got my tongue

Shrimp and chorizo paella
I've blabbed on about the whole private kitchen phenomenon in Hong Kong before, and it all sounds very pessimistic, with all that menu and party coordination, only to be rewarded with mediocre food. But occasionally, along comes a place like Comilonas, and all is good with the world of private kitchens again.

Pa amb tomaquet
Comilonas is inside a nondescript old residential building in Sai Ying Pun (of which HK has many - that is to say, you should check up on the address before you go, and not get lost like I did). Inside the flat, the establishment's one and only Last Supper-esque long table takes centre stage. They can seat up to 20 people, and the minimum booking is for 10.

Our dishes had been worked out beforehand - this wasn't their standard menu. A few friends had already been before, and asked for a "best of". We also got a completely new dish - the shrimp & chorizo paella.

To start, we had a series of cold cuts, cheeses and pa amb tomaquet. The latter is simply toast rubbed with raw garlic and tomato, then drizzled in olive oil. I'm a big fan of simple, ingenius combinations like these - another one was the salchichon and roasted almonds.

Another cured meat, the name of which eludes me...
With the toast, you had to do some rubbing, but for the sausage, nada. Pop a slice of meat and an almond in your mouth at the same time, chew, await mind-blowing melding of oils and pangs of umami.

Salchichon and roasted almonds
That's probably the laziest but most ingenius "dish" ever. I guess you could go all molecular and extract the oils and put them together again, but I think the heat of my oral cavity and the grinding action of my teeth can do that too. Just saying, y'know.

If I'm not mistaken, these were both sheep's milk cheeses. The harder one (right) is Manchego, and the softer one, I've forgotten the name of, which is stupid, because I really liked it. It was stronger tasting that the Manchego, with a meaty, peppery finish.

Xatonada is a Catalan winter salad of cod, veg, olives and anchovies topped with romesco sauce. I preferred it with more sauce to bind all the ingredients together - aside from the olives and anchovies, the rest of the ingredients weren't salty, so my overdoing of the sauce worked well!

Potato & onion tortilla
Along with the Xatonada came this tortilla, cooked perfectly to reveal a gooey, only slightly runny centre. The onions were cooked right through, making them soft and sweet, and the warmth of the omelet went well with the room temp salad.

Piquillo peppers stuffed with cheese
Instead of a pepper each, we went with three to share, as we were getting ridiculously full from just the starters. These were butter-soft, and I wish my stomach could have fitted more (actually, given that I was wearing skinny jeans (retard!) maybe not...)

Roast chicken with stuffing
Comilonas is owned by a husband and wife team, Lluis from Spain and Carrie from Hong Kong. Lluis came out to explain each dish. When he presented us with the roast chicken, he explained that this is a recipe from the 14th century, which has largely remained unchanged, and is traditionally eaten at Christmastime. The Medieval influence was clear from the Moorish spices and apples in the stuffing. Americans have their turkey, we have our chicken, said Lluis, or something to that effect.

Shrimp and chorizo paella, again
Carrie said this was the first time she'd made this paella - either she's lying, or she's got a lot of talent. I think it's the latter. The amount of socarrat (I just learned this word that night, it's the cirspy burnt bits of rice at the bottom & sides of the pan) was perfect, the shrimps (prawns, I'd say, by the size of them) were juicy and full-flavoured, and the chorizo just pulled everything together, giving it a salty, meaty zing, as well as more to chew on. The first bite seemed a little salty, but as soon as I swallowed I couldn't wait to shovel another spoon in. We had some leftovers and I shamelessly took some home. I dare say it was even better the next day.

Porron, the infamous Catalan drinking vessel
Pour-on is right! I managed to spill as much wine as I drank from this! I guess I need to go back and practice. (I don't really need an excuse to go back, but it's always nice to have a backup argument, right?).

Caramelised orange and vanilla ice-cream
We were completely stuffed by the time dessert came, so something light like this was perfect.

Lluis and Carrie, the chef-owners
As I'm finishing this blog post, about five people have already asked about going again on my Facebook page. If delicious, sharable plates and good company isn't the perfect excuse to go again, I don't know what is.

Comilonas is closed for February as Lluis and Carrie are back in Spain, but you can still email them to book for a later date.

1/F, Flat 22 Yip Cheong Building
4-16 Hill Road
Sai Ying Pun
Hong Kong
+852 9863 2270
reservations [a:t]

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  1. To be blunt there's something highly unusual about your review. Unlike most (dare I say all) the reviews of Spanish eateries bases in Asia that I've seen in recent years, this time the food actually looks like Spanish food!

    In fact, a number of the dishes are better versions of what I try to serve up in my kitchen. I hope they are still in business (and I can get a booking) when I next get to visit Hong Kong!

    And, as I mentioned to you on Twitter, I love the name they chose for this eatery!

  2. I have only been there once but I am looking forward to go again. Hope to gather a group of friends to enjoy the good atmosphere and especially the food.

    I will blog soon my first experience in the place. Definitely, worth to try :)

    Good review.

  3. That paella looks sooo amazing!!

  4. Manolo10:29 am

    Long life to catalan food! Specially bellota ham, the most authentic catalan food! Or porron! Or tortilla!