FOC Restaurant by Nandu Jubany

A food-loving colleague had told me about FOC, raving about its Catalan cuisine. 

A collaboration between a couple of Michelin starred chefs, FOC is amongst a new wave of hip swanky restaurants revitalizing the once-sleepy Hongkong Street. Inspite its impressive pedigree, I liked that the restaurant has a sense of grounded hospitality, made inviting by the warm gracious staff. I've never met chirpier, or bouncier, wait staff; I swear they were on prozac. For a new-ish restaurant, FOC is already running like a well-oiled establishment. The staff knew the menu inside-out, so they were able to make spot-on recommendations; the arrival of our courses were timely; and our water glasses were kept topped up with big smiles.

As for the Catalan food at FOC, it was indeed superb - traditional but executed with an effortless flair so while dishes seldom deviate from the classics, flavours are rich, hearty and soulful. It's pricey, but no more expensive than any other Spanish restaurants around.

A big plus about FOC: the ridiculous amount of eye candy amongst its ridiculously good-looking stable of chefs. For this reason alone, FOC makes for a brilliant girls' night out. [*mental note to organise any hen's night beginning with dinner here at FOC*] By the way, reserve the counter seats for maximum ogling pleasure at the hotties cooking up a storm. There's one who actually looks like Gerard Pique. Seriously.

A big down-side about FOC: it's like the business-district, night-time version of Tanjong Beach Club on the weekends (think beefcake expats, tanned SPGs and young-girls-sporting-their-sugar-daddy-sponsored-designer-bags). Of course, I hated the crowd. I mean, if the overly tanned, auburn-bleached, long-haired, overtly made-up chick next to us batted her Kim-Kardashian-esque falsies any harder at the chef, the tealights at my end of the counter would have been blown out. And just when my eyes just about rolled off the top of my head, her geisha-looking posse arrived, flirting desperately with their fake, bit-British-bit-American-complete-halfassed accents. 

Our favourite dish was the Heuvos Estrellados con Chorizo ($10), a breakfast hash of fried potatoes, chorizo balls and a just-cracked egg, still sizzling on the hotplate. Smoosh it all together, and you get a glorious mess of runny eggy delight.

The Croquetas de Setas con Jamon ($10 for 4) was a mixed platter of mushroom croquettes and Spanish ham croquettes, bursting with creamy goodness, and tempered with the contrast of the soft mash and crunchy breadcrumbed coat.

One of their recommendations, the Tortilla Abierta con Trufa y Pimientos del Piquillo ($26), an open tortilla with blistered red peppers, truffle strips and aioli was simple but done fantastically. It was just the right balance of rich aioli, aromatic truffle, sweet peppers and eggy pancake.

The Gambas al Ajillo ($18), a classic of sauteed prawns in white wine and garlic, was notable for 2 things: the copious use of really good white wine, which made this the most heady rendition ever - I think I got a little high from this; and incredibly sweet prawns still with shells on, for maximum flavour infusion to the sauce. A tip: get bread to mop all the deliciousness up.

The (Asian) force is strong in this one, the Vieiras a la Brasa con Caldo de Bonito y Caviar de Soja ($16) was a couple of fat succulent scallops grilled to a beautiful caramelization, and dunked into a delicate bonito stock and topped with soy beads.

From the mains, the Costillas de Cerdo a la Brasa con Pure de Calabaza Ahumada ($30) was seriously good, premium iberico pork ribs, burnished with rosemary, were grilled to a juicy smoky finish, and sided by a smoked pumpkin puree.

The Arroz Negro con Mariscos y "All I Oli" ($24) was perhaps the best squid ink paella I've ever had. The moreish squid ink was nuanced and countered with the creamy bite of aioli. You can't quite see it, but there was as much rice as there was squid dice, so that's really amazingly generous. That said, best not order this if you're on a date, the squid ink gets all over your mouth and in-between your teeth. It's really not a pretty sight. BUT, if your date still wants to kiss you after having eaten this, he's a keeper!

FOC by Nandu Jubany
40 Hong Kong Street
Tel: 6100 4040
Open Mondays to Saturdays from 11am to 1am; Closed on Sundays
Website: focrestaurant.com

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