Musings of a bon vivant in Hong Kong


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Art and food at The Drawing Room

Since its opening in 2009, The Drawing Room has unassumingly established itself as one of the top fine-dining restaurants in Causeway Bay, with a solid reputation, knowledgeable wait staff and a sleek menu.The Drawing Room

My first visit, over two years ago, saw it still finding its feet, with some room for improvement in service and a few tweaks needed for a couple of its dishes. But when I returned recently, it was to a smoothly run and confident establishment.

The Drawing Room was Tony Cheng’s first venture into the F&B business and the beginning of a successful partnership with Master Chef Roland Schuller, who recently opened AMMO together. Most will have soft spots for their original projects, and one can tell that they’ve not let their other undertakings get in the way of the attention to detail and quality of their dishes.

Rach and I headed to the restaurant in torrential rain, so it was a welcome comfort to step into the carpeted entrance and be greeted by friendly staff who helped me with my now useless umbrella and ushered me to my seat. We settled at the tables on the elevated platform at the front, getting a good view of the rest of the softly elegant space and the art work (provided by MobArt Gallery).

The Drawing Room is open only for dinner and provides four and five-course tasting menus, with each course having three choices to choose from. Our dinner was a signature dish affair, showcasing Chef Schuller’s finest creations. We started with the Pan Fried Quail and Foie Gras with Hazelnut and Cherries.

Pan Fried Quail and Foie Gras with Hazelnut and Cherries.

Pan Fried Quail and Foie Gras with Hazelnut and Cherries.

The quail was cooked perfectly, the skin crisp, the meat tender. Unfortunately, the foie gras was tad overdone, the outside a bit too charred which slightly marred the silky, creamy taste within. The cherries were a lovely addition, helping to cut through the richness of the dish.

Schuller’s popular Linguine with Canary Island Red Prawn and Crispy Artichokes was beautifully prepared. The prawn and its juices mixed in with the al dente linguine tasted sublime and the artichoke slices gave it a nice crunch.

Linguine with Canary Island Red Prawn and Crispy Artichokes

Linguine with Canary Island Red Prawn and Crispy Artichokes

Our third course was the Trio of Wagyu Short Rib, Wagyu Beef Tenderloin and Ox Tongue. Consistency was a problem here with the ox tongue the clear winner of the three with its succulent and bouncy texture. The tenderloin was good and well flavoured but the short rib was overcooked and a little dry. The Dauphinoise potatoes and the pretty mound of vegetables on the side were pleasing to the eye and to the palate.

Trio of Waygu Beef

Trio of Waygu Beef

To end, we had the stunning Pear Tart with Vanilla Ice-cream. I thoroughly enjoyed the flaky pastry and the pear slices delicately layered on top retained their juices and gave the dessert a wonderful fruity aroma. The ice-cream was scrumptious too, in all its vanilla pod glory.

Pear Tart with Vanilla Ice-cream

Pear Tart with Vanilla Ice-cream

We were also treated to the divine Dark Chocolate and Hazelnut Praline cake with Vanilla Ice-cream, which delighted Rach with its sinful velvet chocolate exterior and a rich, nutty interior.

Dark Chocolate and Hazelnut Praline cake with Vanilla Ice-cream

Dark Chocolate and Hazelnut Praline cake with Vanilla Ice-cream

The service that night was impeccable. Our waitress was attentive and conversant in each dish and there were no prolonged waits between courses. Rach and I felt at ease to enjoy our meal without any rush and we ended our evening satiated and warm. Unfortunately for us, we soon had to leave the comforts of The Drawing Room and brave the deluge outside.

Chopstixfix rating: 3/5

$$$$$$$$$$

The Drawing Room, J Plus Boutique Hotel 1/F, 1-5 Irving Street, Causeway Bay, Hong Kong | Tel: +852 2915-6628

5-course meal: $930 + 10% per person

4-course meal: $760 +10% per person

You can also see this review on Sassy.


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A little bit of this and that at Papi

I like Civic Square at Elements, Kowloon. The space is attractive, the feel and ambience reminiscent of places you’d find in Europe. It’s a shame I don’t get much of a chance to go, (this is mostly due to laziness on mine and my friends’ part… it’s just a little too far from our usual haunts!), but it has a couple of promising eateries.

One of them is Papi, a traditional Italian Cicchetti (small-plate restaurant) that serves up small bites as well as pasta and pizzas. Papi is a cute amalgamation of Pasta and Pizza, deriving its concept from the small snacks or side dishes that are typically served in Venice. The idea of sharing plates has been a popular one in Hong Kong of late (hello dozens of new tapas restaurants!), and it certainly gives everyone a chance to be even more sociable over a meal and indulge in multiple dishes without the quantity.Papi

Papi is small but uncluttered, the light wooden flooring and bright lights giving it an open yet comfortable feel, which combines nicely with the al fresco dining area. It’s casual and completely without airs and graces. Side blackboards display a few drink specials, one of which was a refreshing ginger lemon and honey tea, a tall cool drink that quenched my thirst and left me feeling invigorated, ready for the feast ahead!

Blackboard showing drinks specials

Blackboard showing daily specials

We began with a selection of small plates. First up was the lovely sliced raw swordfish with cherry tomatoes and asparagus. The swordfish was amazingly fresh and so finely sliced that it melted in the mouth. The homemade pork meatballs with fennel seeds and tomato sauce were delicious; the sauce outshone the meat itself with its delicate salty tang emerging through the boisterous tomato flavour.

Sliced raw swordfish with cherry tomatoes and asparagus

Sliced raw swordfish with cherry tomatoes and asparagus

Homemade pork meatballs with fennel seeds and tomato sauce

Homemade pork meatballs with fennel seeds and tomato sauce

The deep-fried mixed mushrooms and the fresh burrata cheese with cherry tomatoes were hands down the best of the small bites. Frankly, I was surprised by my enthusiasm for the mushrooms, as it’s a) not meat b) not a dish I would usually pay attention to, but the light batter encasing the perfectly seasoned mushrooms was a winning formula. Rach and I were addicted to the burrata cheese, which was wonderfully fresh, creamy and soft. I smiled with immense satisfaction as I then proceeded to smother my deep fried mushrooms with burrata cheese – double win!

Deep-fried mixed mushrooms

Deep-fried mixed mushrooms

Fresh burrata cheese with cherry tomatoes

Fresh burrata cheese with cherry tomatoes

Our two mains were also scrumptious. We had the Papi’s Pici, a hand-made Tuscan pasta with spicy tomato sauce and garlic chips. The sauce was stupendous and drenched the fat spaghetti which had a fantastic bite to it. I love garlic chips when they are fried nice and crisply and these did not disappoint, nor did they become soggy atop the pasta.

Papi’s Pici

Papi’s Pici

Something that I’ll definitely be going back for is the Pizza Lardo di Colonnata. This absolutely moreish thin crust pizza covered with Colonnata fatty ham, asparagus and Taleggio cheese was sinfully fatty. The perfect salty greasiness of the ham was gently offset by the asparagus which lightened the pizza and the cheese was gorgeously gooey. Never has lard been enjoyed so much on a pizza!

Pizza Lardo di Colonnata

Pizza Lardo di Colonnata

To end, we completely overindulged with three desserts – Papi’s tiramisu, the panna cotta with fresh wild berries and the Nonna chocolate cake with gelato. The tiramisu was lovely and light and the panna cotta was silky smooth thick and creamy, delighting our tastebuds with the accompanying fruit.

Papi’s tiramisu

Papi’s tiramisu

Panna cotta with fresh wild berries

Panna cotta with fresh wild berries

Nonna chocolate cake with gelato

Nonna chocolate cake with gelato

But our favourite was the chocolate cake with its rice crispy base, scattering of chocolate coated popping candy and amazing vanilla ice-cream. The mousse-like cake was especially enjoyable as it did not lose any of the chocolatey sumptuousness despite being so light and airy.

Papi, after a year of opening, seems to have settled into a comfortable rhythm of laidback dining with some quality offerings; expect to pay around $350 per person (depending on how greedy you are!). It’s a great venue to hang out with friends at any time of the day, whether it’s for a relaxing drink with friends over a few bites to eat, or a hearty dinner tucking into a pizza or pasta. Elements really isn’t that far away!

Chopstixfix rating: 3/5

$$$-$$$$$$$$$$

Papi, Civic Square, 3/F Elements, MTR Kowloon Station, Kowloon, Hong Kong, 2811 2681 www.papi-hk.com

You can also see this review on Sassy.

A couple of friends went to Papi recently and apparently the Pizza Lardo di Colonnata was not on the menu (?!) and the waiter had no idea what it was. ‘Tis a mystery, but I hope that it hasn’t disappeared from the menu completely as that would be a real shame.


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High Five for a taste of Italy

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.

No. 5 Italian

Not sure why they price everything in Euros!

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!

No. 5 Italian

The terrace at the back with a cute display of plants

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.

Goat's cheese and rucola salad

Goat’s cheese and rucola salad

Yummy bread with white bean puree

Yummy 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.

Wild mushroom risotto with pesto sauce

Wild mushroom risotto with pesto sauce

Pappardelle with stewed wagyu cheek

Pappardelle with stewed wagyu cheek

Johnny's style pizza

Johnny’s style pizza

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.

Rio's style pizza

Rio’s style pizza

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.

I think this was Milo?! Can't remember but it was  delicious.

I think this was Milo?! Can’t remember but it was delicious.

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.


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Fuelling the Appetite at AMMO

It’s not often that a new restaurant finds a unique setting in Hong Kong. But new kid on the block AMMO has found a fiery site at the Asia Society Hong Kong Centre, formerly an explosives magazine compound created by the British Army in the mid-19th century.
Nestled against a bountiful backdrop of greenery and foliage, AMMO’s floor-to-ceiling glass construction looks like a very classy greenhouse with copper embellishments: spiral staircases cleverly suspended as chandeliers, a huge copper mural on the wall and a bunker-like ceiling. Overall, the modern sleek design beautifully represents the site’s former use.

Given the location, look and feel of the place, one would expect the cuisine to be on the steep side, but Chefs Tony Cheng and Roland Schuller (the man behind The Drawing Room in Causeway Bay) have created a focused menu for diners that is elegant but affordable. One can enjoy all the trappings of a fine dining restaurant but without the pretension. The a la carte menu has a lovely selection of starters and scrumptious pastas, some of which have Asian flavours and elements infused, thus reflecting Chef Tony Cheng’s aim of a cross-cultural offering (there is a tapas bar menu too).

A big attraction is the delicious 3-course set lunch menu, which has an attractive price ($188 +10% per person) and is changed on a weekly basis. Our lovely host Lauren thankfully chose a selection of dishes both a la carte and set menu for Food4Media.com’s Resham, Rach and I to feast on, which saved us from the agony of trying to pick dishes as frankly, we wanted to eat everything!

We sampled the light and refreshing sweet Japanese prawn with cherry gazpacho from the set menu, swiftly followed by some excellent grilled scallops with ginger, chives and Japanese pumpkin (an a la carte appetiser). The scallops were plump, delicately seasoned and perfected cooked and were complimented by the pumpkin puree.

A standout starter and an AMMO favourite is the slow cooked egg with toro, sea urchin and zucchini sauce. It was extremely satisfying breaking the egg and seeing the gorgeous runny yolk ooze and mix in with the rest of the ingredients on the plate. The freshness of the toro and the urchin plus the egg was like a party in my mouth!

We gleefully tucked into four pasta dishes for mains. Rach commented that sometimes pasta portions are so huge that you can’t fully appreciate the flavours, instead spending time wrestling with a mound of carbs; however at AMMO, the portions were well controlled, the homemade pasta (made with chicken eggs) nicely al dente and the sauce allowed to do the talking.

The tuna tartar taglioni had a piquant yoghurt sauce that added a wonderful depth to the pasta. For a pasta dish, it’s relatively light and I would recommend it (should it appear again in the future), if you are seeking something a little less heavy going at lunch.

The angel hair with uni, tomatoes and garlic chips was a solid dish and again, perfectly seasoned. If you’re a fan of uni, you’ll enjoy mixing the creamy sea urchin into the angel hair and tasting that rich, slightly sweet flavour of the sea.

I loved the pappardelle with veal and pork meatballs; I could’ve eaten a whole plate of the meatballs alone, they were that tasty. I enjoyed the egginess of the pappardelle, which soaked up the superb tomato sauce and makes you hanker for more.

But the real triumph of the pasta mains was the Burrata cheese ravioli with Peking duck ragout. It was hard work sharing this dish, and if you’re as much of a cheese fanatic as I am, this is the piece de resistance! Everything about this dish was sublime, from the creaminess of the cheese, to the soft yet firm and chewy bounce of the ravioli, down to the salty meatiness of the duck ragout. I was in pasta heaven.

Last, but definitely not least, were the desserts. We had the mochi with fresh berry from the set menu and the pan-fried brioche and vanilla panna cotta from the a la carte. I love it when panna cotta has lots of visible vanilla seeds, and AMMO’s was delectable and surprisingly light. 

The brioche was fabulous and very reminiscent of the kind of French toast you’d make for yourself as a naughty treat – beautiful and crisp on the outside, soft and rich on the inside. The mochi were bite-sized fruity delights and made for a great palate cleanser.

Asia Society Hong Kong Centre has hit the right note by establishing AMMO and bridging the gap between casual affordable cuisine and fine dining. The location is fantastic, though a little out of the way, and on the two occasions I’ve been, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the food, the decor and the ambience. Service is smooth and friendly, and it feels as if you’re dining somewhere quite swish. And the best part is that your wallet doesn’t tremble at the sight of the bill when it arrives.

Chopstixfix rating: 4/5

$$-$$$$$$$$$$

AMMO, Asia Society Hong Kong Centre, 9 Justice Drive, Admiralty, Hong Kong, 2537 9888
www.ammo.com.hk

You can also read the review on Sassy.


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Krug grief, you’re German?! A delightful lesson in bubbly at 8 ½ Otto e Mezzo

What do you get when you put ten foodie fanatics, three WOM guiders and one Krug expert in a private room together with bottles of champagne? Answer: an epic four hour, progressively rambunctious dinner peppered with talks of spam and bricks of butter. This was my evening two Fridays ago, when I was most, most fortunate to be invited by Krug and WOM guide for a night of champagne education and good banter at the 3 star Michelin restaurant 8 ½ Otto e Mezzo Bombana. I had been dying to go to 8 ½ Otto e Mezzo for yonks, but was saving a trip for a special occasion so I could go all out and spoil myself, so I couldn’t believe that such a dinner was being hosted. This was definitely too unique of an experience to turn down (what’s a girl to do eh?).You know the night will end well when one walks in to be greeted immediately by a glass of champagne. After a few rather large gulps, (I’d been waiting all day at work for 7pm to arrive), Regional Brand Ambassador for Krug at LVMH, Arnaud Mirey, kick-started things by giving us a wonderful history lesson on the house of Krug. I loved hearing how Krug has in fact a German background, founded by Joseph Krug, a German immigrant, in 1843, who learnt his trade at Champagne before setting up the famous house in Reims and making it his own, thus solidifying the presence of Krug in the world of bubbly. More fascinating still, is how, even today, members of the Krug family aren’t permitted to travel on the same flight together, lest something should happen and the secrets of Krug are lost!We had the privilege of trying four champagnes: the flagship Grande Cuvée, Krug Vintage 1998, Krug Clos du Mesnil 1998 and the Krug Rosé. After giving us a bit of guidance on the tasting notes, we were pretty much left to our own devices to decide which would pair better with each course. I was half drunk by the time the first course arrived, and was merrily interspersing bits of my warm lobster salad with Roast Ligurian artichoke and Cinta Senese ham with sips of the Grand Cuvée (spelt Cruvée in my tipsiness on my phone) and Clos du Mesnil and didn’t notice that my glasses were being magically refilled.Just a little ditty about the food- the Roast Duck Foie Gras with Piedmont Hazelnut Sauce was sensational. I didn’t know what to do first, drink the Vintage 98 (which paired exquisitely with it) or eat my foie gras. I tried to savour every morsel, but great conversation and alcohol meant that it was over too soon. However, by then, all eyes were on the ridiculously generous amount of black winter truffle that was being shaved agonizingly slowly over our third course- the Homemade fettucine, which again, I thought, went superbly with the Vintage 98. Or maybe I was just letting the champagne control my taste-buds and I was too happy to with my glass of Vintage!I can’t remember what went with the excellent Spiced Roast Challans Duck Supreme with apple and eggplant compote, I’m pretty sure I was still drinking the Vintage, but the Crispy Pear Tart, was a scrumptious sweet ending with the Clos du Mesnil.

The Clos du Mesnil 98 and the Krug Vintage 98 were by far my favourites of the four. Somehow I managed to cobble together some educational notes for myself. First up, I learnt about the elegant, highly sought after and eye-wateringly expensive Clos du Mesnil 98, which is unique in being a single vineyard (Chardonnay grape), single vintage, blanc de blancs, bottled in the village of Mesnil-sur-Oger. The vineyard is surrounded by a wall and used to belong to monks. (I have no idea why I chose to take this bit of information down, but it seems nice to share!). It has a beautiful pale golden colour , a blossom smell and a sweet honey, fruity flavour with bready notes.  The wonderfully long after-taste makes this very memorable.I loved the Krug Vintage 98. This champagne, the last Krug vintage of the 90s, has a lovely soft spice, nutty, gingerbread aroma and flavour to it. Very easy on the palate and honestly, goes down a little too smoothly. Dangerous. Lucky this stuff can’t be found in your local supermarket, or else I’d be broke.

As the dinner went past the halfway point, conversation turned to spam. One foodie couldn’t believe we were talking about this tinned meat favourite of WWII, but too much fun was being had discussing spam potluck gatherings, how to prepare spam, how to optimise the caramelisation of pan-fried spam. You get the idea. We also ended up talking about butter as if it was bricks of gold, much to Arnaud’s amusement. If you passed our room and heard a lot of ‘oohs’, followed by, ‘oh noooooooo, ughhhhh’ it was most probably because we’d just discussed how rubbish it is when croissants are made with margarine. Travesty!

Anyway, back to the champagne, and the Grande Cuvée, being the flagship, is of course, lovely to drink as well. It is multi-vintage, as 50% of the blend is made of reserve wines from three grape varieties. Some of the wines have been aged up to 20 years before they are used for the Grande Cuvée, and up to 200 base wines may be used for this blend. It’s special as it shows signs of maturity: an extra stay of 6 years in the cellars after the blending process cements its finesse. I enjoyed the Krug Rosé, (which I think I’d prefer drinking on its own). It’s nice and girly with its pretty pink flush and delicate flavour and is made from a blend of 10%, skins included Pinot Noir, with the remainder being a white base.  I showed all 4 champagnes a lot of love that night, so much so that I face-planted onto my bed when I eventually got home and could barely support my head weight. I’m not sure if I was lucky but I didn’t have a hangover the next day. So I reckon drinking Vintage is the way to go!

Thank you WOM guide and Krug for such an enjoyable evening. Great company is always integral at meals, but coupled with an impeccable menu and fine champagne I’d say that that night had the very best of combinations.

You will probably have read a few recounts of the same evening from my fellow foodies and the reason for all our quick write-ups is because we have a special prize of a private Krug room dinner for 12 people being dangled in front of us! All our write-ups will be uploaded to the WOM guide and links placed on their Facebook page. The blog with the most LIKES wins this dinner, so take a look and ‘like’!

8 1/2 Otto e Mezzo Bombana, 202, 2nd Floor, Landmark Alexandra, 18 Chater Road, Central, Hong Kong. Tel: +852 2537 8859

LMVH Krug http://www.krug.com/en


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Lots to Wolf down at Lupa

The hotly anticipated Italian restaurant Lupa, by Mario Batali and his partner Joe Bastianich, finally opened its doors a month ago, much to the excitement of the Hong Kong crowd who crammed themselves into the new LHT Tower in Central for the opening party (we’re told it was like a rave!).

Mario Batali, the internationally recognised Italian chef, has already built up a formidable portfolio of successful restaurants in New York, LA, Las Vegas and Singapore, but LUPA will be his first test of the Hong Kong climate and palate (with a further two restaurants, including a steakhouse upstairs and something in Causeway Bay, to open over the next year). Executive Chef Zach Allen heads the kitchen, bringing diners his and Mario’s version of New York Italian cuisine.

The space Lupa occupies is pretty fantastic. There’s La Terrazza, the wonderful open terrace which gives us a good view of the bustling Queen’s Road Central and the main dining area which sprawls over 5000 square feet and is all dark wood and dim lighting, with an open kitchen and a compact bar area which ends up becoming the cold-cuts section for the lunch buffet. The décor is rather reminiscent of that in restaurants used by the characters in the Godfather movies, which I found more austere than intimate or cosy. This feeling was compounded by the interesting statue of Romulus and Remus suckling at a Lupa (Latin for She-wolf) that appears to have been casually plonked in the middle of the restaurant (from eBay apparently!).Lupa was already doing a roaring business when Rach and I went to sample the lunch in the first days of its official opening. The very reasonably priced lunch menu offers a Chef’s Buffet with a selection of vegetables, seafood, Italian Salumi, breads, salads and desserts for $168, with the option of adding a soup, a pizza or pasta dish, or a main course for an extra charge ($30, $50 and $90 respectively).

There isn’t a designated buffet area per se, so they set up two small tables plus the bar area on which to balance plates and bowls of food. It was madness with people trying to negotiate past the statue to the various sections, so bear in mind that going for lunch at peak times might not be the best idea for a relaxing meal!

There was a good selection of salads and vegetables on offer, which were wonderfully prepared and delicious. I’m a huge fan of Italian salads, so I would be quite happy to have the buffet selection on its own without any additional dishes. Rach pronounced herself a particular fan of the lentils and we really enjoyed a cucumber and mint salad too. There were less cold-cuts to choose from, but all were of an excellent quality, especially the salami which I wolfed down (pardon the pun) with gusto.Rach and I were able to have a pasta, pizza and a main course to try, and we chose the garganelli with oxtail ragu, the funghi taleggio pizza and the braised pork shoulder.

The oxtail ragu sauce was rich and full of meaty tomato-ey flavor, but it wasn’t thick enough for my liking, nor was there nearly enough of it (lunch portion, perhaps?). The pasta itself was a little on the firm side but the chunks of oxtail in the sauce made up for it with its tender texture.The pizza is only available at lunchtimes or out on La Terrazza in the evenings, which I find slightly annoying given how good it turned out to be. The funghi taleggio pizza was scrumptious, the base was chewy yet crisp, the dough had a lovely ‘give’ and I adored the generous gooey cheese and the amazing mushroom aroma.The braised pork shoulder was an alarmingly dark colour, but once I cut into it, the succulent meat peeled away. The pork was dressed with a chili dressing, which packed a spicy punch and gave the dish some dimension and depth. I liked the addition of the cucumber, which was a fresh and crunchy contrast to the pork.The desserts from the buffet were cute and dainty. There was an interesting chocolate banana bread pudding, which should have been served with custard; it was a tad dry, especially after it was left out for the duration of the lunch hour. Along with chewy chocolate chip cookies (which Rach attempted to stash in her bag for later!), a blueberry cheesecake, a delicious panna cotta and a rich chocolate cake, there was an utterly sublime lemon torte which impressed me with its amazing consistency, lovely sharp citrus flavour and a crumbly base.Lupa has some room for improvement. As with most new restaurants, the improvement is usually to do with the overall efficiency in the running of the establishment and with the service. I can’t say that the service was stellar and the hostess didn’t seem to be overly concerned with welcoming diners, seeming more confused than we were! That aside, the lunch was very promising indeed and the food we had was of a high standard; however, a quick glance at the dinner menu tells me that Lupa isn’t the place for a budget-friendly foodie! Then again, with all the hype over Batali’s arrival, did we ever expect it to be?!

Lupa, 3/F, LHT Tower, 31 Queen’s Road Central, Hong Kong, 2796 6500; La Terrazza is open in the evenings only.

Lunch: $$-$$$$$$$$$$

Dinner: $$$$-$$$$$$$$$$

You can also read this review on Sassy.

(Interior photos courtesy of Lupa)


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A taste for heights

The views are truly spectacular, if somewhat dizzying, the interior spick-and-span, sleek and luxurious, the feel and atmosphere buzzed with a touch of new and unseasoned. What is this place I speak of? None other than The Ritz-Carlton at ICC.It’s taken me almost a year to get myself over there, but I finally made it. It’s swish inside, as to be expected, the staff obliging and smiley, and as I rode the lift and nervously glanced at the escalating floor levels and getting slightly paranoid about any movement I felt, I couldn’t help but marvel a little at the sheer scale of this hotel. Boasting the highest bar in the world (Ozone, on the 118/F), is no mean feat and even if you have no intention of staying or dining there, I’d say it’s worth a fly-by visit.

The day I went, I was off to have lunch at their Southern-Italian restaurant, Tosca, on the 102nd floor. The impact of the decor is quite dramatic, with high ceilings, water fountains (to reflect the water theme of the restaurant), chandeliers and velvet seating. A nice touch is the open kitchen, something that seems to be de rigueur in Hong Kong.Neopolitan Chef Vittorio Lucariello, has brought a classical menu with traditional Italian ingredients, to Tosca and has ensured that 90% of the ingredients are sourced from Italy, down to the flour. We had an epic lunch to look forward to, as it was recommended that we try all of Chef Vittorio’s Signature dishes, plus an additional antipasti of Fassone beef carpaccio, asparagus, anchovies and extra virgin olive oil gelato.

Both Chef Vittorio and The Ritz-Carlton’s Executive Chef Peter Find, were kind enough to swing by our table and enthusiastically explain the dishes, which were all quite complex with their ingredients. Post dish break-down my palate had a chance to sort out the myriad of flavours offered in some of them!

To start we had a lovely looking amuse bouche of mozzarella, sun-dried tomato and anchovies and Chef Vittorio presented us with a single rigatoni with a delicious pork, tuna, and chilli sauce, which had a very distinct Southern Italian taste.The beef carpaccio, with olive oil gelato, asparagus foam, asparagus puree, anchovy sauce and honey mustard dressing was aesthetically interesting, but difficult in practicality to dish out. The carpaccio looked like a thin, flying saucer of beef, with toppings. The intriguing parts were the accompanying gelato, foam and puree. The olive oil gelato was sweet, palate cleansing. But I found the sweetness intensified at the end and didn’t have a strong enough ‘olive oil’ taste. My favourite was the asparagus puree but the foam’s taste was too delicate and indistinct and was quickly overwhelmed by the gelato.The roasted pigeon was succulent, and the foie gras so intensely rich, that it was a little too much for me, (shocking I know), but the Campari jelly helped to cut through the heaviness.The Tagliolini with red prawns had a wonderful texture, the prawns perfectly. They were a bit liberal with the salt but the little tomatoes in the tartare were wonderfully warm and sweet, giving a lovely balance.
Was this the end of the meal? Absolutely not. We charged on and welcomed the tender lamb chops with an excellent, crunchy pistachio crust and a Jerusalem artichoke mash. I felt that this dish almost seemed to cater more for Asian tastes, as the accompanying French beans had a Cantonese flavour to them.Our last main dish was the Mediterranean Sea bass. The top half of the sea bass was fantastic, but the bottom half was a tad overcooked. The spring onion fondant was overwhelming, masking the gentle taste and texture of the fish, which was a shame. I wasn’t sure of the intention with the spring onion but I do think it is overpowering for this dish.Luckily there is a separate stomach for dessert (wishful thinking), as we had the Baba’ (citrus sponge cake), with cherry custard, pine nuts praline and malaga gelato. The rum raisin ice-cream was scrumptious and the sponge full with tangy syrup.The signature dessert is the Tiramisu, made with illy coffee, Italian eggs, (giving it a more yellow colour) and homemade crumbled cookies. It was not too bitter and all sorts of chocolatey goodness which paired well and penetrated the creaminess. In short, it was incredibly indulgent as a dessert, as it should be.

 Chopstixfix rating: 3/5


Tosca, 102/F, The Ritz-Carlton, Hong Kong, International Commerce Centre, 1 Austin Road West, Kowloon, Hong Kong. Tel: (852) 2263 2080

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You can also read this review on Sassy HK.