Astra, a new Chilean grill restaurant-cum-late-night hotspot, opens at an iconic location on Hong Kong’s Wyndham Street.
We’ve spoken before about Asado, the Spanish barbecue tradition that’s as much a social phenomenon across South America as it is a cooking method that traces its origins to Spain’s Basque region. Asado sees meat – usually beef, chicken, pork, and sausage but also sometimes goat and fish – cooked over a parrilla or slow-burning fire pit by a seasoned (get it?) parrillero or pitmaster and became popular with Patagonia’s roaming cowboys or gauchos, as a rustic cooking style thanks to the resulting smokey flavour.
While we’d all love to jump a plane for Buenos Aires or Santiago to try the real thing, we might have to content ourselves with the opening in Hong Kong of Astra, a new Chilean grill restaurant that has flung open its doors in the Wyndham Street space formerly occupied by nightclub Bungalow.
Here, Chilean chef Francisco Araya taps into his extensive experience working at the likes of El Bulli and Mugaritz to deliver a refined take on classic Asado cooking that’s laced with ingredients sourced from the depths of Patagonia.
In Chile’s southernmost reaches, Asado is generally cooked over oak charcoal and vine shoots, and this tradition has been reinterpreted for the spacious new grill restaurant (which after 10 pm doubles as a late-night drinking den under the name Space), with the meat’s flavours intensified over the flames and vegetables cooked in the meat juices before being given a kick of fragrance with the addition of fresh herbs and lashing of the chef’s own secret chimichurri recipe.
When it comes to the new eatery’s interiors, forget any preconceived notions you have of a Latin-leaning steakhouse; the venue features only a handful of stylish, deep-set booths in charcoal and timber with marble tabletops, which are combined with a HK$1 million sound system and an LED wall to allowing it to easily slip off its leather chaps and into something more appropriate for dancing the night away.
While the venue offers a great set lunch menu, to get the real experience you might like to gather the lads over dinner and pounce on the Rubia Gallega “Chuleta”, a 400-gram ribeye that’s been dry-aged for 50 days; or the impressive 1kg Argentinian 21-day wet-aged T-bone. Other great sharing dishes include the spring lamb shoulder and the Iberian “secreto” pork shoulder, which can be paired with fresh Chilean scallop ceviche; silky beef tartare with crispy bacon; toothfish cheek; Maldivian tuna salad, grilled jet fresh seafood platters, and plump chicken and beef empanadas (which come in single servings so order accordingly).
If you do visit for dinner, you’ll want to resist the food comas long enough to enjoy the restaurant’s vibe as it changes into Space, its seductive nightspot alter ego, complete with bottle service and a great selection of cocktails (there’s even a 90-minute free-flow cocktail option from HK$138). And if you find yourself still peckish into the wee hours, there’s Chilean-style tapas ranging from mini empanadas and homemade pickles to artisan cheese, octopus ceviche, and fresh oysters.
We’re sure those grooving gauchos will approve.
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