I bloomin’ love Tai Hang. This little area nestled between Tin Hau and Causeway Bay is just so… adorable. I find everything about it charming, from the sweet elderly lady near Classified who jams herself into this crevice and sells potted plants and flowers and the gorgeous dogs that wag their tails happily from the pet shop opposite the Chinese Recreational Centre, to the quaint cafes that are dotted around the side streets.
Tai Hang is undergoing a bit of a face-lift with lots of new eateries popping up. The streets are looking less weather-beaten and more spruced up. I liked the old Tai Hang with it’s unpolished edge, so I hope that the urbanisation stops at this point before the area loses its charm. That being said, I do like how there are some cracking great places to kick back and relax over coffee and also some truly nom-tastic restaurants, one of which is No. 5 Italian.
This delightful establishment is hidden behind the maze of streets in Tai Hang and is as compact as its menu, with a rustic interior able to sit no more than 20 people and a cosy terrace out the back. The small menu shows five options each of appetisers, homemade noodles and pizzas and a blackboard pinned above the kitchen has a selection of daily specials. The prices are bizarrely in Euros. I have no idea why they would choose to do this, other than to be merely quirky, but considering they have to then convert the prices back to HK dollars when the bill comes… it is a slightly pointless detail. However, they set the conversion to 1 Euro= $10, in case you think you will get scammed every time you return!
I managed to reserve the terrace at the back for our group and it was genuinely lovely to be tucked away from the maddening crowd and enjoy each other’s company, even with the leaky air-conditioning unit. The waiters at No. 5 were attentive and helpful and were great at giving honest opinions about the food. Our waiter for the evening, (the chef’s nephew) was hilarious and very enthusiastic, telling us which were his favourite dishes, but he also steered us towards other dishes he thought we might like. We definitely felt that other establishments could learn a thing or two about service from these guys.
One of our party of four is a vegetarian and she was pleased to see that the menu had some herbivorous offerings. We started by ordering a Goat’s cheese and rucola salad with white truffle honey dressing which was a tasty start to the meal. The pungent aroma of the truffle and the rucola mixed together nicely and the cheese was on the right side of strong with the honey tempering the robust flavours. The three carnivores also tucked into a plate of antipasti and dug into the delicious basket of bread with white bean puree.
Our mains were quite exciting. We went for the wild mushroom risotto with pesto sauce, the pappardelle with stewed wagyu cheek and the Johnny’s style pizza with parma ham, white truffle, rucola, tomato sauce and buffalo cheese.
The risotto was scrumptious and nicely al dente with a good bite and generous amount of wild mushrooms. We thoroughly enjoyed the eggy pappardelle steeped in beef jus and topped with the wagyu cheek, a few slices of radish and a baby carrot. Delicious. The best dishes of the night were by far the pizzas. Everyone has their own preferences, so don’t take my word as gospel, but I really love thin crust pizza and I honestly thought these were the best thin crust pizzas I’ve had thus far in Hong Kong. The crust was paper thin and crispy and the base had a nice elasticity to it. My friends’ and I are parma ham freaks and think that anything with parma ham on it instantly tastes better but this was an excellent pizza with or without the ham. I do think truffle is getting a bit overused in restaurants these days, but here, the truffle gave the pizza an extra lift, both in aroma and flavour.
So much was our enjoyment that we greedily ordered another pizza- the Rio’s Style, much to our waiter’s delight. The Rio’s Style was my favourite. It’s moreish toppings of portobello mushroom, squid ink tomato sauce, anchovies, black olive and lovingly melted cheese, made getting black teeth worth the while.
At the end of our feast, we sat back, admired the fronds of the potted plants next to us and chatted whilst we sipped our coffees and Milos.
What I enjoyed the most about our meal and the next two occasions that I visited No. 5 was the simplicity of each dish. There’s nothing pretentious about their presentations and there’s a real family feeling to this establishment. I certainly have a little soft spot for this place!
Chopstixfix rating: 4/5
No. 5 Italian, 21C Brown St, Tai Hang, 2504 2111. Open daily 6pm-midnight.