Spanish satisfaction and a lot of soup at Rústico

The first time we visited Rústico, to say we were pleasantly surprised would be an understatement. This restaurant in Lai Chi Kok is the closest Hong Kong offers to crowding into a bar in El Barrio Gótico for a glass of wine and a tapa. The convivial atmosphere, the satisfyingly hearty menu, even the particular aroma of the olive oil on the table showed real attention to detail and authenticity, all without pretension or fussiness. So why oh why did they feel the need to fly in a chef from a famous Michelin Starred restaurant in Spain to mess it all up? Gone is the conviviality and fun and in its place are preciously assembled delicate little morsels of exquisite fine dining. 

Chef Jaume’s tapas menu is only available for selected dates during September. Alternatively, HK$880 per person will buy you the tasting menu, available only 4-7 September. There’s a lot of soup; razor clams with chilled green soup, pan seared scallops with cucumber and coriander soup, prawn gazpacho with jalapenos. Three small portions of very rich seafood-based soup punctuated by short breaks left our stomach feeling a little uneasy, so we eagerly anticipated the lasagne that featured further down the menu. It may have been billed as “SKINA style with ECO chicken and crumble of parmesan”, but lasagne is lasagne and this place is called Rústico, right? Wrong. We were more than a little disappointed by the dainty little bowl of mince draped in a sheet of pasta that arrived on the table.

Both the zucchini flower served with zucchini pesto and the egg yolk with emulsion of mushroom were rich and creamy, but really amounted to yet another two soups. Mussel croquettes were a welcome, if bite-sized, respite from the barrage of soups. And it was a blessed relief when the gamey duck rillette with seasonal vegetables arrived. The duck rillette had all the rustic charm that was missing from the rest of the menu, even if it was served in an “emulsion of its juice” (read soup). 

Sure, being a chef in a Michelin Starred restaurant is a revered badge of expertise and dedication. But dining is far more fun when it’s not being presented as an exquisite and refined aesthetic experience. And even if working in a restaurant with a Michelin Star does endow a chef with the ability to sprinkle that profitable Michelin Fairy Dust on a guest menu, why would you want them to when the results are just so… unsatisfying?

George Major

Restaurant Details
G01, G/F D2 Place, 1-9 Cheung Yee Street, Lai Chi Kok 2743 4511
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