I feel that I’ve been voraciously eating Japanese food for the last few months and disregarding one of my all time favourite cuisines- Italian.
How I adore Italy and its dishes. Spaghetti vongole on the Amalfi Coast, lemon sorbet in Milan, spaghetti arrabiata in Rome, pesto alla genovese, gelato in Florence…ahhh I could go on.
So it occurred to me recently that since coming to HK, I’d only been to a miserable total of 2 Italian restaurants, Amaroni’s in Festival Walk, which was average and Al Dente on Staunton which was actually pretty good, but before the days of the blogging (will have to go there again soon). Then again, most of us mere mortals can whip up a decent pasta dish or three (I can do a mean spag bol and a pea risotto) but nothing quite beats getting the authentic taste of the land of the Romans without having to slog at the stove yourself.
Much excitement was abound when I heard about the new Northern Italian place, La Baita aka “alpine stone cottage” on Queen’s Road East, Wan Chai.
To me, “Alpine stone cottage” conjures up images of yodelling and singing Sound of Music on a mountain, which contrasts with passionate, boisterous Italy, and made me wonder what the ambience and decor would be like. I imagine they were trying to give a rustic, cosy feel to the restaurant but as the interior is enormous, and can easily seat several large groups of people, the effect instead, is a rather souless, cold atmosphere. The management have tried to compensate by the use of soft lights and candles which does help create a more intimate feel when you’re dining.La Baita has an extensive selection of wines from Italy and are displayed in a gigantic and impressive looking wine fridge next to the bar, which serves as a decoration in itself!
The menu is concise and showcases a fine array of Northern Italian food. To start, we ordered the Sauteed baby squid with tomato sauce and the Cherry Mozzarella wrapped with Parma ham and wild mushrooms. The squid was excellent- lovingly prepared and nicely chewy with all the flavours complimenting each other delicately across the palate. The cherry mozzarella was fantastic, but the presentation made me think of 5 snails hibernating (not to put you off). I adore cheese and adore parma ham and you can’t really go wrong with this combination can you?For mains, all of us went for one of their homemade pastas. I love that they offer half or full sized portions which I think is important especially when ordering heavy dishes like risotto and gnocchi.
KL went for the linguine with clams and zucchini which was lovely, light and very fresh.Chiaphuati had the homemade black ink tagliolini with shrimp, scallops and fava beans. I snaffled a bit and felt that the combination of the ingredients could’ve been smoother and I wasn’t sure if it was due to the strong flavour of the black ink or the fava beans. The tagliolini was a bit too al dente for my liking but overall this was an interesting dish.I had the handmade gnocchi with black truffle and asparagus which was gorgeous. The truffle flavour was punchy and strong but not overpowering and as I had the half portion, I was able to chow down the whole lot and still have room for dessert.Being the greedy pigs that we were/are, each of us ordered a dessert. Chiaphuati and I were amused by the sound of the “wrap up gianduia icecream with nuts, socked in coffee. Obviously, they meant soaked but we’re also juvenile so that made us laugh for a good 5 minutes. We also ordered the frozen amaretto sabayon with toffee sauce (an Italian dessert made from egg yolks, sugar and a sweet wine) and the tiramisu with coffee and caramel sauce.The tiramisu was outstanding and also HUGE. The coffee flavour wasn’t too bitter or overwhelming, which can sometimes be the case. The sabayon was smooth and rich; eating it was like eating a slab of frozen cream, very decadent. The gianduia was a delicious but substantial pudding and they were a little heavy-handed with the coffee. If you’re sensitive to caffeine I would avoid this dessert!
The service was excellent, the waiters were helpful and exuberant about the food and the prices were very reasonable. Definitely my new go-to place for my Italian cravings- I’ll be trying the veal milanese next time, which I hear is delicious!
Chopstixfix rating: 4/5
La Baita, 248 Queen’s Road East, Wan Chai, Tel: 2572 8872