Hong Kong is a city that never sleeps, and also, a city that is constantly evolving. My last trip here was only a year and a half ago, however, the food scene has yet again spun in another direction. I recently visited 22 Ships, a tapas spot in an area of Wanchai which used to house bustling wet markets and pawn shops. Now, the gentrified area is home to chic and trendy restaurants and bars.
We arrive on a rainy evening at this casual neighborhood joint where locals congregate for a bite and a drink before heading home. The atmosphere is energetic and it doesn’t look like the rain has dampen the enthusiasm of the patrons here.
The restaurant concept is by UK Chef Jason Atherton, but manning the helm in Hong Kong is Chef Aaron Gillespie, a fellow Aussie from Adelaide.
I am compelled to order Sangria because, well, why not? There is red or white sangria, and I try both, though preferring the red far more. It is not overly sweet like sangria you’ll find in most restaurants, and that definitely appeals to my non-sweet palate.
We leave the ordering to Chef Aaron and soon, the small plates start covering our tabletop. Miso Glazed Chargrilled Carrots (HK$78/US$10) is a simple dish with complex flavors. The umami of the miso works in perfect harmony with the smoked aubergine and walnuts. Most importantly, I absolutely adored these carrots when I’m not usually a fan of them.
Scallop Ceviche (HK$138/US$17.70) is another favorite, with beautiful aromas from yuzu, and crunch from cubes of daikon. Microgreens not only add an aesthetic touch, but also, a burst of freshness to the plate.
At the crux of traditional Spanish fare is Pan con Tomate (HK$58/US$7.40) however, at 22 Ships this humble staple is topped with crispy jamon bits, elevating it to a savory, satiating bite you’ll find hard to resist.
Vegetables shine here, so don’t miss out on Asparagus (HK$108/US$13.85) topped with parmesan, lardo, and egg yolk. It is an unctuous concoction of rich creaminess that makes your mouth sing.
Miso Potato (HK$128/US$16.40) is again, a dish which takes humble ingredients, and turns them into a flavor explosion. Crispy discs of Jerusalem artichoke, or sunchokes, lend a textural contrast to the soft, pillowy potatoes. The truffle mayo never overwhelms, but envelops the entire plate, giving it a well-composed finish.
One of my favorite dishes of the evening was Tuna Tartare (HK$178/US$22.80). This refreshing item comprises cucumber, and one of my favorite herbs, shiso leaf. The most interesting item was the sago crispbread served alongside the tartare. Indescribably unique and creative! Kudos to Chef Aaron!
Octopus (HK$128/US$16.40) is one of my favorite proteins, and I always order it whenever I see it on a menu. Beautifully tender slices of octopus are bathed in a marinade seasoned with chile, and garlic, and dotted with micro coriander. The octopus is prepared in a traditional method — NOT sous vide!
Though not traditional, this Seafood Paella (HK$128/US$16.40) is packed with flavor and there are varying degrees of textural contrast from the fava beans, and crispy bacon, to give it that extremely satisfying mouth-feel.
Spanish Breakfast (HK$108/US$13.85) is bocadillo with manchego cheese, jamon and truffle. Although I’m picky about where truffle is utilized in dishes, I was pleasantly surprised that it wasn’t overwhelming in this sandwich. The quail egg is a nice touch, offering an added level of extravagance to an extraordinarily simple dish.
If you’re in Hong Kong, and looking for an unpretentious spot for a bite, definitely check out 22 Ships. The drinks are easy to drink, and the food, tasty and highly satisfying.
22 Ship Street
Tel: +852 2555 0722