The city has become fairly inundated with tapas joints in recent years, and with the growth of Spanish small plates becoming synonymous with “trendy dining”, so too have prices hiked beyond rhyme or reason (think exorbitantly priced charcuterie plates and croquettes for HK$80 a piece). That’s why we were immediately drawn to Alzina Spanish Asador, a friendly, affordable tapas restaurant recently opened in Tsim Sha Tsui which, thankfully, doesn’t try to tack on a surcharge for a hip concept or clientele.
While the décor isn’t particularly trendy, this is perhaps what gives it the same comfortable appeal as its location, a harbour’s length away from the noisy, uber-stylish joints that continue to pop up in Central. A down-to-earth, congenial vibe is propagated by basic furnishings, such as a shelf scattered with a few props — a guitar, a pair of flower pots and an old school poster — and school-like square wooden chairs that contribute to the rustic vibe, albeit being a bit uncomfortable to think of settling in for more than a few hours.
The lively, colourful characteristics of Spanish culture are reflected through vibrant, tiled columns and a pink and purple mosaic on the back wall depicting — what else? — a mysterious and anonymous lady presiding over the establishment.
Food and Drink
The drinks list is short, with a cabinet-full of basic spirits, two “hot cocktails” which read more like desserts, and a variety of sangrias. Your best bet is to stick with the latter — we found our classic red version with brandy, Cointreau, orange juice, and soda water to be punchy yet not overly sweet, a good balance making it all too easy to have two or three glasses with dinner (HK$88 per glass, HK$320 per jar).
Tapas and grilled mains form the bulk of the menu, with paellas and pan-fried fish also making an appearance. The red lobster croquettes (HK$72 for four pieces) crunched obligingly to reveal a creamy lobster- and mushroom-inflected filling inside, although we wished there was more of the spicy green mojo sauce to punch up the flavours.
Those looking to try something more unique should make a beeline for the Spanish goose barnacles (market price), a prized Catalan delicacy which is rare to find in Hong Kong (we last spotted them at Casa Lisboa). At Alzina, the small morsels are poached simply in sea water, amplifying the salty, oceanic taste on the tongue.
A selection of mains from the grill includes Iberico pork ribs, pork cheeks, charcoal-grilled spicy chorizo, New Zealand lamb rack, and charcoal-grilled octopus with chimichurri sauce. We opted for the suckling pig (HK$298) which arrived as a sizable portion paired with a cinnamon apple chutney and port wine reduction. The skin was well-seasoned and appropriately crispy with a sticky, slightly gelatinous under layer from the pork fat. The meat tore apart, both tender and succulent, although we had to pry away an unappealing thick layer of white, unrendered pork fat to get to it.
There are five types of paella made in the traditional method (including black squid ink paella, a classic seafood paella, and a vegan option with wild mushrooms and asparagus), while the juicy red lobster rice we tried diverges fully into soupy territory, falling somewhere between a paella and a Spanish-stye congee. We prefer the dry version, but despite being submerged in liquid the rice itself maintained its al dente bite, boldly seasoned with tomatoes and peppers, and arriving with a whole tender red lobster on the side — a fair deal for HK$248.
Unfortunately, dessert was a bit of a disappointment. A plate of dense churros (HK$52) couldn’t be saved by ice cream or chocolate sauce, so next time we’ll be opting for the “El Flan” caramel pudding or an intriguing-sounding Catalan cream foam with cinnamon crumble and lemon sorbet.
While not all dishes hit their mark, flavours are well-balanced, portions are big, and prices are kept reasonable at Alzina. From a variety of tapas to different types of charcoal-grilled meats “a la parilla”, there’s a lot to explore for several return trips to this cosy tapas joint across the harbour.
Opening Hours: Mon-Fri noon-2:30pm; Mon-Sun 6-11pm
Recommended Dishes: Spanish goose barnacles, Iberico pork “a la parilla”, suckling pig, cuttlefish paella, charcuterie and cheese plates
Price: HK$50-$100 small plates; HK$150-$300 mains; HK$88/$320 sangria
Noise Level: Moderate
Service: Attentive, not overly intrusive
Alzina Spanish Asador, G/F, 29-31 Chatham Road South (or Hart Avenue), Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong, +852 2723 9833, facebook.com/AlzinaHK