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When Spanish wine flows into Hong Kong

(China Daily)

15:46, November 20, 2012

The decor makes the restaurant look like a small town grocery store in Spain. (Photos/China Daily)

Vi Cool is a great place to hang out. It's not particularly romantic or posh, but it is the ideal spot to meet up with friends and partake in some tasty Spanish tapas and wine.

The name says it all. Vi is short for "vino", Spanish for wine, and the place really is, seriously cool.

Chunky wooden block floors and tables, set off by walls decorated with fish cans, oil and wine bottles, and bags of rice, make it look like a small town grocery store in Spain.

Sergi Arola, a Michelin-starred Spanish chef, takes charge of the kitchen at his debut Hong Kong restaurant. He is best known for his eponymous Arola restaurants, but has also been serving more contemporary cuisine at Vi Roses. These more casual offerings in Madrid's Vi Cool are now available in Hong Kong.

The wine list here is extensive, as the name suggests, boasting more than 30 wines. They also serve a few classic cocktails and a house special sangria, made with blackberries and white peach.

In the cold dishes section, salad with vine tomatoes, Spanish salt-cured tuna filet, and kalamata black olives is a delicious combination of sweet peeled tomatoes, smoky tuna chunks, seedless black olives, and a light balsamic vinegar dressing.

It was a light and refreshing dish that excited the taste buds.

The steak tartare with roasted soya bean soup and organic egg yolk is served with Japanese shoyu "soup" on the side. Add this sparingly as too much will make the dish too salty.

The sea bass, mango and avocado ceviche served with tortilla chips is also highly recommended, as it has a great mix of textures and tastes - soft, creamy, citrus, salty and crunchy.

As for the hot tapas, the fried meatballs with chimichurri, served with goat cheese fondue, is a popular choice. The small meatballs are made with a mix of beef, pork and chicken, and paired with a warm goat cheese sauce.

The cheese fondue was so good the people dining at the table next to us asked for extra bread so that they could soak up the sauce with it.

Other hot dishes are the signature Arola style "Brava" potatoes, tiny morsels of carbo-goodness; king prawns fried with garlic and mint mayonnaise; and the iberico ham croquettes, crispy on the outside and creamy on the inside.

If you are a fan of thin crust pizza then make sure you also try one of the Catalan style pizzas, or cocas, which are made with organic flour and topped with a selection of Mediterranean delicacies.

For a light dessert, the pina colada is recommended. Coconut foam, pineapple chunks, and lightly whipped cream are presented in a coconut shell. Refreshing and not overly rich, it was a wonderful way to end the meal.

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