Terrific tappas and sangria on an autumn afternoon
By Wing Tan
Spanish people are famous for knowing how to enjoy life and savor good food and wine and they have brought their spirit and their cuisine to Shanghai.
La Cocina, hidden on quiet tree-flanked Dongping Road in a three-story brick-and-wood villa, features authentic Spanish food and fine wine.
“Tapas is something we Spanish people can’t live without,” says the chef Kike Garcia, from the northern city of Bilbao of Spain, who has been cooking traditional Spanish cuisine in Japan and Southeast Asia for more than 20 years.
“Tapas, just like Chinese dim sum, is an everyday snack for us and it’s also very good to go with light drinks,” he says.
Garcia has created a tapas menu of more than 30 traditional dishes, and tapas is the highlight of the restaurant’s fare.
The grilled prawn with sea salt, a simple and delicious dish from northern Spain, makes a good starter. “It won’t be very salty because the shell prevents the salt from getting into the prawn, but grilling lets the salty flavor integrate into the prawn nicely,” he says.
Another signature tapas is the Serrano ham. The salty ham taste is balanced perfectly with the sweet melon, and the peppery arugula wrapped around the ham makes it especially fresh.
Ox tongue with sherry wine is also a popular tapas. The Spanish sherry highlights the dish with a little alcoholic boost and a special aroma. Another dish, the baked goat cheese on croutons spayed with almonds and semi-dried plums is a nice choice for some vegetarians.
Good news for tapas lovers: La Cocina offers a mixed set of tapas samplers, which includes medium portions that can be shared.
As for the main course, roast pork ribs is one of the most popular.
The pork is cooked for hours in a “secret” sauce until the meat becomes extremely tender. It’s then roasted and the skin becomes very crispy. “Crispy outside and tender inside, you must love it,” Garcia says.
With a glass of slightly sweet sangria topped with fresh apple and orange slices, visitors can idle away a whole autumn afternoon at the window bar facing peaceful Dongping Road. Latin music plays in the background.
The dessert menu includes classic cheesecake, homemade tiramisu and crème as well as creamy Spanish rice pudding with mango and cinnamon.
The menu is updated every two weeks according to the seasons. Having worked in Asia for many years, the chef has tried many different culinary styles. “I find that though the food ingredients and styles are different, the ways to cook and marinate have things in common. However, I always stick to original Spanish cuisine.”