Saturday, 15 August 2015

Fofo by el Willy: Not just a funny name

For a restaurant with a funny name, FoFo by el Willy takes itself pretty seriously.  Taking on the moniker of it's namesake in Shanghai, Fofo Hong Kong is the latest in a burgeoning chain of restaurants from chef Willy Trullas Moreno.  Originally from Barcelona Spain, Willy started with the original Fofo in Shanghai but has taken his concept of authentic Spanish cuisine and made as accessible to as many people as possible.

I first visited Fofo by el Willy a few months ago, thinking that the name sounded cool, but mostly because of a rad looking tasting menu that was available for a short time.  I'm not going to say much about that initial experience, except to say that the service was poor and left me unimpressed.  What did impress me was the way the team at Fofo reacted to my issues and had me back for a second visit.

The head chef of Fofo by el Willy in Hong Kong is talented chef Alex Martinez Fargas, also from Barcelona, a man that takes his food very seriously indeed.  With a slew of awards, which includes a recommendation from the Michelin Guide and a Best Restaurant 2105 award from the HK Tatler, Alex had done a top job of bringing the fun concept of Fofo and turning it into a serious contemporary Spanish diner.

I'd purposefully chosen a busy Friday night for my return visit, wanting to see if the service issues I'd experienced the first time were a once off.  We were greeted warmly at the door and shown to our table, which had expansive views of the Midlevels.  Being located on the 20th floor and with floor to ceiling glass windows, the view from our table was breathtaking. Shortly after we'd been seated, Alex came out to our table to give us a rundown of the restaurant and to say hello.  We'd been given the option of choosing from the a la carte menu, or having Alex surprise us with his favourite items from the menu.  Of course we chose to be surprised.

A small starter of pickled vegetables and some famous Barcelona style tomato crystal bread came out with SC's glass of sangria.  I'm not a fan of pickles in a burger, but for some strange reason, I actually quite like pickled gherkins on their own, so I happily munched on a couple to start.

The first of Alex's favourite dishes arrived and it was a great, and traditional, way to start a meal. Hand sliced pieces of Iberico ham presented on a wooden platter, along with more of the delicious tomato bread.  There was a slightly oily finish to the Iberico ham, which came from the lightly cured and fatty meat.  I absolutely love Iberico ham but when combined with the slightly acidic and sweet tomato bread, that love is intensified.  We completely devoured the ham in record time, but still managed to savour the intense flavours.

In what would be the theme of the night, the food started coming thick and fast, with Alex bringing the food out to give us a bit of the background.  Plated on a slate were some traditional Spanish toasted sandwiches - the 'bikini' filled with more Iberico ham, black truffle, mozzarella and arugula.  We'd had a lot of bikinis in the last few months and the Fofo version were as good as you'd hope for. Lashings of truffle and ham blending well with the mozzarella and combining for a slightly salty, yet ever so sweet treat.

Also on the slate were the 'Montadito de salmon ahumado', or smoked salmon on a bag of air. Looking very dainty and with instructions to eat in one bite, the bag of pastry was filled with sour cream and spring onions.  The texture of the bite was quite crunchy at first, but as it broke down in my mouth, the creaminess came through, finishing off with the slight smokiness of the salmon.  It was very simple flavours but paired beautifully for an intense hit to the palate.

One of my favourite dishes of the night, and certainly the prettiest on the plate was the 'Vieras', scallop ceviche with avocado puree and toasted shallots.  There was some glistening olive oil to finish off the scallops along with colourful micro herbs and flowers.  I appreciated the simplicity of the dish, which could so easily have gone wrong, but the fresh scallop pieces worked wonderfully with the avocado puree, adding a creamy sweetness.  Finishing off was a bit of crunch from the toasted shallots, which was needed to help with the soft texture from the puree.

There is a really interesting trend in Asia whereby black bread is really popular on burgers.  I know, it's a little weird, and maybe even a little superfluous, but there is no denying that it certainly makes a statement.  Our next small bite was the crispy calamari sliders with a jalapeƱo mayonnaise and a tomato salsa.  The black brioche buns were made with squid ink and were incredibly soft, contrasting with the crunch of the calamari and the heat of the jalapeƱos.  I'm not sure the colour added anything to the dish, but it was definitely a tasty little slider.

While the ceviche scallop was one of my favourite dishes of the night, the 'Puplo a la galena' was hands down my pick as winner.  Slow cooked octopus laid out on a bed of creamy mash and paprika foam, then covered with Iberico pork pancetta, the dish was a triumph.  The octopus was incredibly tender and when combined with the saltiness of the pork and the sweetness of the paprika, it just blew my mind (figuratively not literally).  I'd have easily stopped there with a big tub of the octopus, but the best thing?  SC's not a fan of octopus, so I got to eat her share!!  There were a handful of padron chillis, which have a reputation of mostly being sweet, with one in ten being super hot!  We scored a perfect three from three sweet padrons - score!

Chef Alex was incredibly proud of the next dish, which was a local delicacy back in his home province of of Catalonia.  Simply named 'land and sea', there was a combination of tiger prawns and super thinly sliced cuttlefish along with crispy pancetta.  Included in the dish were the prawn heads, standing upright in a bed of mash potato, with instructions from Alex that you'd normally suck the prawn heads dry, to get all of the flavour!  I think SC enjoyed this dish a little more than I did, she even squeezed the fluid out of the prawn head soak into the mash and then scooped it up.  The flavours were intense, and maybe just a little too much for my palate.

We were starting to fill up and I think Alex could tell, informing us that our next dish would be the last on our Spanish culinary journey.  Happily agreeing, we struggled to get through the last dish as it was.  The crispy suckling pig had been marinated for forty five minutes before being slow cooked overnight for twelve hours.  Taken from the side of the pig, the skin was incredibly crispy and the flesh sweet.  We tried our best but just couldn't finish the last pice of suckling pig, even with the apple  & lime sauces that accompanied the dish.

There is always a special little place next to the stomach that is used for desserts when you can't eat another bite, and we had to call on our reserves to finish it off.  Not that it was a chore, Alex had selected two wonderful desserts for us to end the meal!  Fist was a plate that very much resembled a mille-feuille but used tempered chocolate between layers instead of pastry.  It looked beautiful and tasted amazing, with layers of white chocolate and cream, finished off with a berry sorbet.

We saved the best dessert for last, the Bailies parfait with chocolate and mixed berries also looked  pretty spectacular.  I love parfait, which means perfect in French, the texture is so creamy and melt in your mouth.  What was amazing about the dessert was the creamy parfait mixed with some seriously great quality chocolate, to give you that perfect mix of vanilla and chocolate. Texture came from a wonderful crunchy chocolate biscuit that sat atop the parfait.  We finished the lot, but had exhausted our reserves, we were spent!

Our first trip to Fofo by el Willy had been on a quite public holiday and had been a bit of a disaster, but our return visit was vastly different.  It was incredibly busy, with people sitting at the bar waiting for tables to vacate, before being replaced by more waiting diners at the bar.  There seemed to be more staff on hand and the service, across the board was really good.

It was great seeing Alex come out to tell us a little bit about himself and he was particularly interested in our Australian heritage, given his wife's an Aussie too.  I also loved that Alex was talking to lots of diners as he made his way back to the kitchen.  There was redemption in the air at Fofo, but of course I'd expected it the second time, especially since the team knew I was coming along.

Look, we had a really great experience, which balanced out our really poor experience.  I guess I was impressed with their handling of the situation and we really felt welcomed.  I do wonder if a normal punter would have received the same treatment.  However, getting a glimpse of how seriously Alex and the team take their jobs and how conscientious they are about their restaurant, I have sneaking suspicion they might.

**I was a guest for this meal at Fofo by el Willy

Iberico Jamon
Octopus and Patron chillies - this was superb
The suckling pig 
Our night time view of HK

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thanks very much for your comment, I really love and appreciate feedback and your thoughts


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...