Around the Wan Chai harbourfront, there used to be a lack of dining venues apart from those restaurants within the hotels, and the arrival of Sanlitun was meant to change all that and create the LKF equivalent buzz for the area. Sadly, the fizz seems to have gone and very rarely do people make a hike out to try out some of the restaurants there. Since we were in the neighbourhood for a performance at the Arts Center, we decided we would revisit the area.

Opting for a more exotic cuisine, we made reservations at a rather new restaurant in Sanlitun, Rico Bistro. It's claim to fame is that Miki, a member of the teen band Cookies, is a part-owner, supposedly she and the other members of the band would somtimes come and help out at the restaurant too. Posters of Miki were plastered around the cashier area, but there was no sight of anyone famous. We only saw two occupied tables, but we were dining early at six thirty. Our Sangria mix was refreshing and full of fruit bits, which made a promising start for the evening. Following the Spanish way, we ordered a number of tapas dish to start, and a big seafood paella as our mains. 

We enjoyed the complimentary baguette, which was toasted with a layer of garlic paste, it was crunchy and tasty. We liked the melon used in the parma ham with melon dish, as it was ripe and sweet, although the parma ham portion was quite stingy, and it wasn't flavourful enough.

Smoked salmon toast was just that - salmon served with a wee bit of capers nad onion on some garlic bread. It was ok but nothing spectacular. The stuffed mushroom with creabmeat looked interesting with the golden yellow oven-baked finish. We were disappointed to find it was rather tasteless and bland.

Next came the spicy clams, which we were expecting to be fiery in taste - turned out to be not spicy at all and tasted more like broiled clams. There were quite a number of empty shell as well.

Finally came the star of the show, the seafood paella, which was extremely colorful with all the chunky seafood sticking out of the paella plate. I  very much looked forward to this enticing dish, as I adore paella. This was probably the worst dish of the evening. The rice was terribly overcooked and mushy and there was not even a hint of saffron, the precious ingredient that does magic to this dish. The rice is meant to be the single most important component of a paella dish, and I think Rico faulted by not using the right variety. The rice is meant to soak in all the flavours of the seafood and the sauce, and is normally so addictively good that I could eat a few platefuls before remembering that there's plenty of seafood in the dish as well. In Spain, medium grain rice is used, which is round and short, absorbing liquid easily while staying firm during prolong cooking. I suspect Rico used the normal long grain rice we use for Chinese cooking, resulting in it being overcooked and tasteless. I would give them credit, though,  for the huge prawns that were used, but these, along with the mussels and scallops, tasted way overcooked and not fresh. The ingredient mix just did not work and the dish felt awkward with the bits and pieces sticking out in places.

The dinner experience we had was in stark contrast to some of the good reviews that I had read about the place beforehand. This could only mean one thing, the restaurant, in an attempt to lure more customers, has localised the dishes to suit what they think HK people would like. Most of the dishes were bland and not authentic at all. For a better Spanish dining experience, I'd recomment Ole in Central.

The Filipino singer was not very enthusiastic in his singing, and in fact, gave us the impression that he was bored performing in front of such a small audience. We do not blame him~ we were bored and disappointed too.

Rico Bistro Shop 4 The Sanlitu 28 Harbour Rd Wanchai
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