One to try: At Rubia, great steak and excellent fries win the day
12 Mar 2020
The story: From the team behind excellent Sheung Wan tapas house Pica Pica, chef Edgar Sanuy and his team at Rubia bring a slice of Iberia to Hollywood Road, with a focus on northern Spanish hand-reared beef and seasonal tapas.
The vibe: The handsome two-floor venue has already seen the crowds flocking – though this can perhaps be put down to its highly visible location, combined with the dearth of new openings around town of late (not to mention the Hong Kong status flex of needing to be the first to try a new restaurant). It could also be down to the fact that Rubia has a fair amount of charm about it, a cleverly fitted out taberna which includes a lot of dark wood tones. On street level is a well stocked and spacious bar, and, while my visit to the upstairs dining room was not during regular service hours, it’s not hard to see this place buzzing on a busy night.
On the menu: Shall I wildly misappropriate the Bard and compare thee to La Vache? With steak and fries the focal point of both Rubia and the Black Sheep meat den, a comparison between the two might be all too easy to make, but doing so would be reductive – even if Rubia does label itself as Hong Kong's ‘first elevated Spanish steak and fries concept’. For starters, the menu at Rubia is far more extensive, with a decent selection of tapas, skillet-cooked meats and other mains.
Nothing is overly complicated at Rubia – and, as is the case with much of the food from southern Europe, that’s pretty much the point. The seasonal tomato salad with smoked sardines, pine nuts and basil (HK$95) is a solid start, the sweetness of the fruit elevated by the fish and the earthiness of the pine nuts. The sustainable bluefin tuna tartare (HK$180) is a tasty and generous serving, and, paired with avocado, is a good option to prepare the palate before the heartier, meatier dishes.
The star of the tapas selection though is the huevos rotos (HK$73, with fried eggs and a choice of morcilla or chorizo), and it’s here that we get a first taste of Rubia’s excellent fries. The stout morsels of fluffy Agria potato are fried in garlic-infused 100% Arbequina extra virgin olive oil, which is known for its nutty, buttery, aromatic flavour, which is enhanced by the perfectly cooked eggs and the hearty chorizo.
A quick aside to talk about these fres, though (they are one of the most important food groups, after all). While your correspondent usually prefers a crunchy shoestring variety, the Rubia version are short and robust – usually a recipe for a soggy mess. However, the crunch to potato ratio with these chips is spot on, the golden fried exterior encasing a fluffy but not overly dense interior. The excellent oil ensures that they retain their cunchiness even when they're less hot, while the playful garlic overtones add an intriguing extra layer of taste.
The fries make another appearance with the mains – served naked, and alongside sweet, smoked Piquillo peppers, and crunchy butter lettuce in a zingy mustard dressing. These sides come with each of the skillet-cooked mains, and we sampled two of the main attractions: the 250g Rubia Gallega boneless rib eye (HK$480), and the 200g Rubia Gallega tenderloin (HK$495). The steaks are twice cooked – seared to pack in flavour, rested, then touched by the flame again before they hit the table – which lends them a consistent char while retaining natural flavours and juiciness. Both pieces are cooked to a medium-rare perfection, too, and we’d definitely recommend sharing for the sake of variety.
Another highlight of the larger dishes is the black fideos (HK$350), a generous serve of squid ink noodles served with Spanish red king prawn and a rich all i oli. The natural sweetness of the crustacean is the hero of the dish, with the squid ink and creamy garlic sauce providing a balanced and well rounded palate.
Dessert-wise, the warm blue cheese cheesecake and whisky ice cream (HK$70) is wonderfully gooey and well thought out but in no way on the light side – we’d recommend skipping this unless you really like blue cheese. The baked chocolate cake with candied orange, hazelnut and chocolate cardamom ice cream (HK$70) is also very good, the interplay of sweet, bitter, earthy and herbal notes working well together.
What else: Don’t overlook the bar at Rubia – stop by for clever takes on classic cocktails or a glass from the selection of Spanish reds and whites, Cava and Corpinnat.
PR speak: “You want your steak served the way we do, you just didn’t know it yet.”
Rubia, 35-37 Hollywood Road, Central, +852 2889 1199; www.rubia.hk
WOM Guide was a guest of Rubia.