Rubia, the new Spanish taberna by Epicurean group (who were behind popular Sheung Wan tapas joint Pica Pica), prefers not to advertise itself as a steakhouse, mainly because it’s only got two varieties of beef — and just as few cuts.
But if you’re serving the Rubia Gallega, the rare and majestic blonde cow from the northwest of Spain that has sent even the most frigid of foodies into carnivorous bliss, why even bother with anything else?
Indeed, Rubia is one of only a handful of outlets in Hong Kong that now serves the famed steak, and also offers an extensive menu of Spanish tapas and bocadillos at its prime SoHo location.
Does the new restaurant have what it takes to compete with the Hollywood Road heavyweights? And does the Galician steak really live up to the hype? We arrive at the recently opened venue for a taste.
Located conveniently close to the Mid-Levels escalators, the new Spanish eatery is perhaps most ideal for office workers in the area. A dedicated bocadillo and burger menu accommodates lunchtime patrons who prefer a quicker fix.
When the coronavirus’ social distancing measures let up, we expect to see more people tucking into tapas on the ground floor’s relaxed open setting. It has that streetside appeal that most SoHo haunts can claim.
Upstairs, on the second floor, expect a casual sit-down affair. This is where you can enjoy your Spanish steak and frites in warm-lit comfort. Antiquated amber tin tiles clad the ceiling, and dark wood wainscotting and deep burgundy leather booths add to the old world drama.
Food & Drink
We started with the tapas: cuts of cured morcilla (Spanish blood sausage), a 48-month acorn-fed Ibérico ham, and Padrón peppers finished with sea salt. Classic. Delicious. A most satisfactory nibble.
Next came the Gallega Octopus served atop a buttery potato cream. The seafood was executed to its textural best, finished traditionally with the smoky, sweet paprika and doused with virgin olive oil. The appetiser almost made us forget about the main event. Almost.
But then it came: 250 grams of Rubia Gallega boneless ribeye, with a wondrously dark umber crust, served in a skillet alongside humble accoutrements: hand-cut patatas fritas, sweet piquillo peppers, and mustard-dressed butter lettuce and walnuts.
We’re told that the special blonde cows are tended to for five to eight years usually, which is longer than the average USDA Prime or Japanese Kobe (typically 26 to 32 months). As a result of this longtime party in the pastures, the blondes do indeed have more fun, and the Rubia Gallega’s intense beefiness is incomparable. It has a wonderful balance of marbling and a grass-fed flavour, singing with just a smidgen of sea salt and a crack of black pepper.
As the restaurant cheekily boasts on their socials, “You want your steak served the way we do it, you just don’t know it yet” — and I can’t help but wholeheartedly agree.
What’s more, the relative leanness of the beef allows room for dessert. A few gluttonous bites of the warm creamy cheesecake, full of funky, nutty notes from the Spanish Blue Valdeon cheese, pairs well with whiskey-infused ice-cream.
Look, it’s 2020; there’s no wrong way to eat a steak. If you want your ribeye doused in ketchup and done ‘Well Done’, we’ll try not to judge. And, in the spirit of being inclusive, if you want to pay God-knows-what for a slab of A5 Wagyu and feel ill after the eruption of fat on your tongue and tonsils, that’s your prerogative too. But, if you’re done with the days of that masochistic hedonism, perhaps opt for one of the Golden Girls — the fat, old, blonde Spanish cows that Rubia delivers exceptionally well alongside its comprehensive tapas menu.
The Rubia Gallega steak is fat-lean dualism at its best — those seemingly contrary elements of fat marbling and lean grass-fed meat are interdependent, thriving off one another in a sizzling skillet of Spanish yin and yang. How could you have not seen it before? Call your mother and tell her you’ve worked it all out.
And if you don’t reach a cosmological epiphany like I did, don’t worry about it; Rubia’s still a swell place to kick back with some tapas and a jug of sangria.
Opening Hours: Monday to Friday, noon-10:30pm; Saturday 11am-10:30pm.
Recommended Dishes: 250g Rubia Gallega boneless ribeye, octopus gallega on potato cream, 48-month acorn-fed Ibérico ham, Padrón peppers, warm cheesecake with whiskey ice cream.
Price: From HK$300-500 per person.
Noise Level: Medium.