Picada, which bills itself as the city’s first pan-Latin restaurant and bar, has revamped its menu for the summertime, with dishes that take inspiration from the cuisines of Spain, Peru, and even North Africa, China, and Japan.
The restaurant is named after a type of Colombian sharing platter, often featuring a variety of barbecue and starchy sides. Picada HK does indeed serve picada, though its menu offerings extend beyond that — even then, the place is generally known for doing dishes that are great for sharing, which is probably one of the reasons behind its popularity among the city’s serial brunchers.
The place has been popular ever since it opened in its original location on Elgin Street, but has since re-located to a more spacious spot — with a terrace — just above Lan Kwai Fong, outfitted with a warm blue neon sign whose glow is visible even from afar. It’s an ideal space for group gatherings of four to ten friends, with a menu to match.
Also, because this is the kind of thing that the people like to see in this day in age — we were told ahead of the meal that “98 percent” of the dishes on Picada’s menu are gluten-free, with extensive options for vegetarians, too.
But, let’s start with the cocktails, which are priced at HK$120 each. We tried the Pisco Sour, which can be prepared with your chosen fruit base of raspberry, strawberry, or passionfruit, and then mixed with egg whites, pisco and lime. This one’s a nice, light drink with the perfect amount of sharpness — a great one to start with.
There’s also a Picada Fashion, Picada’s spin on the classic Old Fashioned, made of Gosling black seal rum instead of the traditional whisky. It’s mixed with frangelico, orange bitters, and brown sugar, and comes topped with a bit of avocado and corn, which sounds more awful than it actually tastes.
In starters, they’re doing standard, crowd-pleasing stuff.
So, of course, we’ve got guacamole (HK$150), which Picada staff tells us is made with avocados brought in from Mexico.
Picada gives customers the option to “design” your own guacamole. Choose mix-ins like diced onions, tomatoes, and extra lime juice, or even mustard, chipotle sauce, cheese, and crispy bacon bits. We asked for all of the above.
What? The novelty of it delighted us so.
Anyway, it’s then made right in front of you, and served with some rather colorful chips. The result is a fine take on guacamole, and the bacon bits are a nice touch that we wouldn’t always want in the mix, but was a fun pairing to try. Also, if there were more intact avocado chunks up in there… we would not be mad at that.
Anyway, on to the Peruvian ceviche (HK$148). Picada’s version uses sea bass from France, mixed with red onions, chili, coriander, Peruvian white corn Choclo, and Peruvian crispy corn Cancha, with some smoked sweet potato pureé on the side for extra flavoring.
The chunks of sea bass have been cured with a “Leche de Tigre” (Tiger’s milk), a citrus-based marinade made up of celery, coriander, garlic, chili, lime sauce, fish stock, ginger, and white onions. The marinade has a nice kick and the extra crunch from the corn adds a nice bit of texture to the dish (go easy on that sweet potato pureé though).
Next — tacos. Picada’s a little less traditional with their fillings. We tried the beef ribs taco (HK$58), a chicken Al Pastor taco (HK$50), a soft shell crab taco (HK$68), and an avocado taco (HK$50).
All in all, a solid platter of hearty tacos. The meat-based tacos in particular were very well-seasoned. The soft shell crab taco, with a crispy crab marinated with salt and black pepper, topped with mango, tartare sauce, and lettuce — that one was exceptionally good. The crispy texture of the crab combined with the soft crab meat is perfect, and the added sweetness from the mango is a nice touch that balances out the gentle kick from the black pepper.
The tacos also come with a side of homemade Guazacaca sauce, made with fresh garlic, onion confit, white vinegar and salt. The tacos are pretty damn full of flavor on their own, though, so there’s not much need to add that sauce on (though sauces are always appreciated in our book).
Picada also has an option to get a platter of eight tacos, which will set you back HK$388.
Another highlight on the menu is the 3 Duck Rice (HK$148), duck breast and leg confit marinated for nine hours and then smoked with spinach and coriander sauce, which is then baked with rice in a paella pan and served with a sunny side-up egg. It offers up all kinds of satisfying textures, with the coriander sauce cutting through all that savoriness with a spike of fresh herbal aromatics.
The item that we probably could have done without were the cheese empanadas (HK$198), stuffed with a mixture of jack, cheddar, and blue cheeses with fresh basil.
The blue cheese overwhelms everything else in there, and the end result is you feel like you’re eating something with the texture of melted cheddar and jack, but with the face-slapping smell of blue cheese. Blue cheese on its own is great. Mixed with other cheeses? Probably more of an acquired taste, and is an issue dividing the Coconuts HK team.
In desserts, we tried the Mexican churros (HK$88) and chocolate mousse (HK$98).
The churros are served with a homemade dulche de leche sauce that’s not too overwhelmingly sweet. Those are nice, but it’s the chocolate mousse, made with rich Peruvian chocolate, that we were especially into.
The consistency of the mousse here is a bit heavier, almost pudding-like. It’s much more solid, and less fluffy than a conventional mousse, but aside from that possible misnomer, the flavors and rich textures are beautifully done.
Eating and drinking here go hand in hand, but the cost of that will be a bit steep for some, since it could come out, on average, between HK$300-350 per person for a group that’s sharing dishes from starters to desserts (with at least a drink each). Still, a solid spot for the occasional group binge/splurge.
Picada is at 2-3/F, LKF29, 29 Wyndham Street, Central
+852 3425 4037
MTR: Central, approx. 5 minute walk