The Optimist Review date: November 6, 2015
Once again 235 Hennessy Road is the destination for dinner. It’s becoming quite the restaurant hub with venues including Pirata, Mercado, Zahrabel and others slowly filling its 25 floors. New spot The Optimist is on the bottom 3 floors, a three storey venue smartly and sleekly designed by Rocio Martínez.
The ground floor bar is sexily decked out in greens, gilt, marble and brass, all low lighting and banquettes, while the top floor is more family in feel with light woods and framed prints.
The star here is the asador or grill that accommodates hefty Galician steaks and sizeable turbot. The grill options are substantial:
Dining with the vegetarian meant that the substantial ‘pescados’ and ‘carnes’ were not going to happen, so instead we tiptoed around other elements of the menu, ‘entrantes’ ‘verduras’ and, er, ‘others’. I did actually order a king size prawn to try the grill action, but it was overlooked in the order. No matter, as the other portions were generous and it was only day five since opening, to be fair to the wait staff.
But before, two types of decent warm bread accompanied by dishes of Romesco and aioli, dunktastic.
First to arrive – impressively swiftly – were the boquerones. One of my favourite ingredients anywhere, they were served alongside green olives and potato chips in a traditional Spanish aperitivo way. They were decent enough, just not particularly generous – four in total.
Mushroom croquetas were very good, just what you’d expect from crispy deep-fried domes of creamed mushroom. They retained some fungi hum without being cloying.
Eggplant fries were decent but not remarkable, but my main event of Charcoal grilled rice with Iberian meats was bang on the money, a creamy and aromatic mix studded with occasional meaty jewels, some silky jamon here, some chorizo there, while asparagus spears and mushrooms played a supporting role to everyone’s favourite crocus stigma, saffron. Although it wasn’t a paella, I was hoping for some soccarat love underneath – that crispy bit stuck to the pan that everyone covets – but no dice.
The vegetarian’s vegetables did what vegetables do in a smoky chargrilled way, but the best of all was saved to last in the form of two cracking desserts.
The caramelized warm bread brioche ‘torrijia’ was especially memorable, kind of an Iberian bread and butter pudding with a burnt sugar topping like the Spanish cousin of a crème brulée.
Finally the Spanish classic of egg flan was bookended by two shards of almond crunch and served with lemon cream. Beautiful.
With a couple of cocktails and a very nice glass of Pinot with serious notes of tobacco, the cheque came to just north of $1600, taken care of by a PR agency. Overall its sleek design and well-executed dishes will see me coming back for more – as long as they up the boquerones count.
G/F, 239 Hennessy Road, Wan Chai, Hong Kong +852 2433 3324