Ham and Sherry - Hong Kong
We'd heard that Hong Kong is one of the best food cities in the world and were excited to spend a week trying a variety of different cuisines. I'd done a lot of restaurant research before we arrived and kept coming across Hong Kong food blogs that listed Ham and Sherry as one of the best restaurants in the city for high quality, delicious tapas and small plates. After emailing with the restaurant’s PR contact I learned that Ham and Sherry (part of the 22 Ships restaurant group) recently announced Chef Aaron Gillespie as the new executive chef, allowing us the amazing opportunity to dine at Ham and Sherry while chatting with chef Aaron about the great Hong Kong food scene.
Being a budget traveler means having to forgo more expensive meals, no matter how delicious they look. We will go over the top every so often be it for seafood if we are by the water or Peking duck when in China. This allows us to see several different sides of a city food-wise and experience the foodie culture for our short time there.
When we arrived to Ham and Sherry on a Thursday night, every seat at the bar was taken with Hong Kong locals having a drink after a busy work day. The rest of the tables were scattered with tourists and people in the city on business. The restaurant’s decor keeps with its Spanish theme, completely decked out with beautifully designed blue and white tiles on both the walls and the floor. The wooden tables, chairs, even the bar top added a rustic touch and the paper menus that serve as placemats give the restaurant a casual, approachable feel.
We were immediately greeted by Chef Aaron and the manager Match, who sat us at a corner table with a window allowing us to view the action happening inside the restaurant and the bustling street outside in the trendy WanChai area. True to its name, Ham and Sherry is known for its ham and other charcuterie straight from Spain along with Sherry drink pairings. Neither Jeremy or I are Sherry drinkers at home, so we were excited to see what the food and pairings would bring. Match explained to us that while Sherry is usually known to be a sweeter drink popular with the grandfatherly-type, Ham and Sherry's selection is mostly of the drier variety and actually a super versatile drink that can go with different types of meats, seafood, cheeses and more.
We started off our meal with Iberico Bellota Jabugo, a super high quality cut of ham that's imported straight from Spain and then sliced in house. The iberico is drizzled with a little bit of olive oil and dissolves right on your tongue. The fat is evenly distributed throughout the slices and is just salty enough without overpowering the taste of the ham.
Along with the ham we were served the pan con tomate, a piece of toasted sourdough with a super fruity spread of fresh tomato and a hint of garlic. Plus, we were treated to jamon croquettes filled with amazing Spanish ham and a cheesy béchamel sauce. The manager Match paired this course with a dry Sherry with hints of pear and almond that served as a bit of a palate cleanser between bites of each dish.
While we devoured our food Chef Aaron explained that Hong Kong's location in the world makes it unique compared to other global cities such as New York or Paris. Ingredients from Europe, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand can all be flown to Hong Kong via a short flight without sacrificing quality by being frozen or preserved. It’s also a unique hub of tourists, expats and locals on a very small island and people expect good food all the time. A Michelin starred restaurant and a super cheap noodle joint can exist right next to each other and both be packed on a daily basis. Chef Aaron has only been in Hong Kong for a couple of months now, previously working in Dubai the past two years. It was clear he was really happy with his new home and explained how he loves the frenetic vibe of the city and how even in the early morning, the energy of the city pumps him up for the workday.
Our next two dishes were the perfect contrast to our salty starters as they both had a citrusy clean taste. First a scallop ceviche sliced super thin with lemon and lime flavors and a peppery piece of radish on top. I couldn't get over how fresh the scallop was and how beautifully it was plated. Then a blackboard special of the evening, a beetroot cured salmon with compressed cucumber, dill, and lemon gel. There were so many amazing earthy flavors in this dish and the natural tartness of both the beet and lemon paired perfectly with the fattiness of the cured salmon. The two raw fish dishes were paired with another dry sherry that was light, crisp and refreshing, the perfect match for the ceviche dishes.
Next came a sizzling hot plate of Tetilla cheese served in a cast iron skillet, topped with iberico and drizzled with honey and fresh truffles shaved table side. The cheese was so mouth wateringly (I made up this word) good, melty and draped perfectly over the toasted pieces of bread accompanying the skillet. I couldn't have been happier with the sweetness the honey provided and the perfectly rendered pieces of crispy ham. Chef Aaron told us that he's looking forward to adding his own twists to the menu based on his personal style and what he comes to love about Hong Kong once he’s there a bit longer. We discussed how similar tapas are to dim sum (his current obsession) and how he plans to add a few more Asian flavors to some of the tapas as well as switching up the menu based on the season. In fact, one of the dishes we had later directly reflected the hot summer season.
The next dish was a hearty braised lamb served with a spoon instead of a knife because of how incredibly tender it was. In fact, as soon as I touched the lamb with the spoon it started to flake apart falling into the thick red gravy and surrounding vegetables. This was the kind of comfort food that warms you from the inside out and you can tell the time and thought that was been put into making the meat so succulent and tender.
The final savory course of the meal was a seafood paella filled with calamari, fried whole shrimp, and mussels. Chef Aaron explained how normally the restaurant does a paella with chorizo, but the seafood version is a nod to summer and a bit of a lighter option. The rice was perfectly cooked in that signature paella tomato stew and seasoned well with herbs along with a savory broth. It was the perfect end to a meal, and the nutty and complex Sherry served with it complimented both the lamb and paella.
We wrapped up our meal with fresh out of the fryer mini churros dusted in cinnamon sugar with a bittersweet melted chocolate sauce. Chef Aaron snuck away to sit with us and listed off some of his favorite restaurants in the city and how he loves the collaborative chef culture of Hong Kong. It's easy to see his passion for food as well as his excitement about being in Hong Kong and what he plans to do with Ham and Sherry and the other 22 Ship’s restaurants moving forward. We are definitely looking forward to following chef Aaron's career and hope that we'll be able to meet him and his food again in the future! When you’re planning a trip to Hong Kong and you need a break from noodles and Chinese food we'd highly recommend Ham and Sherry as the restaurant to visit. Thanks again to Chef Aaron and his team for having us in for a delicious meal and a lovely conversation!