By: Emily McCabe
“We grill things” is the mantra at The Optimist. Brought to us by the same team as popular Pirata just next door, this beautifully decorated restaurant is spread over three floors, each with its own personality, décor and ode to different parts of Northern Spain. On street level, there is the bar, which has a vintage 20th-century southern European vibe. Then there’s an intimate dining room on the second floor, and, up top, an eclectic space with a real buzz to it.
We walked in for a 9pm sitting, and the place was still jam-packed with a mixture of Hong Kong’s finest restaurant goers, from large corporate groups to couples and smaller gatherings. We were starving, but a desperate glance at a waitress had us quickly sorted; co-founder Manuel Palacio’s passion for high-quality service was immediately obvious in the staff who served us during this visit.
Using a traditional asador-style grill from Northern Spain, The Optimist offers a beautifully curated Spanish experience. The staff began talking us through the menu for the evening and had us nicely settled with a glass of wine in hand before presenting a pair of starters, ham and mushroom croquettes ($100) and grilled Galician octopus ($220). The croquettes packed a punch of flavour and the octopus was beautifully grilled – I love octopus and wish it came cooked like this every time. Broken eggs “huevos rotos” ($130) was next – if you’re a chorizo lover, this one is for you.
The mains were served and paired with a new wine. We tried the charcoal grilled flat-iron steak ($290) and seafood charcoal baked rice“al horno” ($330). The rice was comforting, carb-loaded goodness, but I have to say the flat-iron steak was a stand out.
By this stage, we were not only far from starving, but steadily heading in the direction of a food coma. Still, when someone says “Cheesecake?” you just have to say “Yes, please!” The strawberry cheesecake ($70) came served in a rustic jar; it was smooth, with a perfect biscuit, and topped with sweet strawberry. Delicious.
We couldn’t fault any of the dishes at The Optimist; it was all superb.
G/F, 239 Hennessy Road, Wan Chai
2433 3324 | theoptimist.hk
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This article first appeared in the Oct/Nov edition of Expat Living magazine.