Musings of a bon vivant in Hong Kong


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Piccolo Pizzeria & Bar

Wan Chai is choc-a-bloc with a variety of tasty eateries lately, from the swanky to the modest and cool.

Piccolo Pizzeria and Bar is one of the latter, and after successful branches in Kennedy Town and Tai Hang, a third restaurant has now opened at Tai Wong East Street. If you enjoy their Roman-style pizzas and satisfying pastas, but found Tai Hang and Kennedy Town just that little bit too far to get to, then the Wan Chai is nicely in the middle to sort out your needs.

Homey and family-friendly were the two things that sprung to mind when I stepped foot inside one Saturday evening. The premises are thankfully larger than their Tai Hang branch which, despite my best efforts, I could never get a seat at. The word ‘friendly’ persists, with happy, helpful staff who showed me to my table and were just on the right end of chatty to talk me through the menu and their specials.

Piccolo Pizzeria

Piccolo Pizzeria

I had a good view of the restaurant, gazing up at their muted tin lights with different shaped tungsten filaments lining the centre of the ceiling and their open bar. 70s and 80s music washed over me, and I had to stop myself from showing my age and busting out some karaoke warblings to The Police and Spandau Ballet.

The menu does not try too hard with too many dishes or anything overly fancy. The focus is on the freshly-made pizzas and pastas with the addition of a daily special.

I started off with a basic Beetroot and Rocket salad, which was nicely dressed but could have done with a slightly more generous helping of beetroot to what was a forest of rocket on my plate.

Beetroot and Rocket salad

Beetroot and Rocket salad

I tried a small portion of the special that day which was an Italian seafood soup called Cioppino, with Red Snapper, squid, shrimp, clams and lobster. The shrimp were sweet, the broth full of flavour and quite clearly the result of a good amount of reduction with half the sea in it.

Seafood Cioppino

Seafood Cioppino

The staff recommended I have the Nduja de Calabria pasta with live prawns tossed with chilli. This was by far, the most delicious pasta I have had for a long time. The Nduja, which is the Calabrian version of salami, is spicy and typically used as a spread on breads or served with cheese. In this pasta dish, the chorizo-like piquant sausage lovingly coated the pasta and the prawns were so fresh and sweet, that I clean forgot I had pizzas to look forward to and tucked into this dish with gusto.

Nduja de Calabria pasta

Nduja de Calabria pasta

I was able to sample two of their pizzas- the signature Pizza Pancetta with bacon, tomato sauce and a soft egg and the bestselling Prosciutto di Parma with Parma ham and rocket. Both were excellent though I especially loved the Pizza Pancetta. The pizza bases were crispy and thin and the cheeses melted and bubbled to perfection. I stopped at two slices from each and excitedly asked to have the leftovers to take-away, a brilliant decision on my part as my lunch at home the next day was amazing. The Pizza Pancetta was, I think, even tastier and I had it cold. Not that I would encourage this, but I am definitely ordering this pizza again and saving some for leftovers.

Pizza Pancetta

Pizza Pancetta

Prosciutto di Parma

Prosciutto di Parma

Although I was on the verge of bursting, no meal would be complete without some dessert. I had to try the Tiramisu which was lovely and light and child-friendly. The portion is just enough to satisfy anyone’s craving for a sweet ending without being too cloying. The Panna cotta was smooth and full of vanilla pods which I love and I was pleased to note that it was not overly rich or sweet and the fruits were a refreshing complement.

Tiramisu

Tiramisu

Panna cotta

Panna cotta

I can see exactly why Piccolo Pizzeria is able to open a third branch. With reasonable prices (around $120-180 for mains) for hearty, unpretentious but well-executed food, it is somewhere that I know I will be finding my way back to for a tasty meal with solid service and a friendly atmosphere.

Chopstixfix rating: 4/5


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Piccolo Pizzeria & Bar – Wan Chai, 22 Tai Wong East Street, Wan Chai, Hong Kong. Reservations: 2824 3002

Opening Hours: Monday to Thursday: 12pm to 10pm; Friday to Sunday & Public Holidays: 12pm to 10:30pm

 This review was done on behalf of Sassy HK and can be read here.

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A touch of France in a Le Creuset dish- Bistro Du Vin

French restaurants and their air of je ne sais quoi seem to generate much excitement in HK, leaving people all hot under the collar. With a bevy of unpretentious French eateries popping up around town of late (e.g. La Cantoche, Les Fils a Maman), Bistro Du Vin in Kennedy Town is the newest addition to the scene. Created by Les Amis Group who also own Piccolo Pizzeria and Cepage, it’s already attracted a fair bit of attention with its rustic, home-style and finely executed dishes.

Kennedy Town, like the other hip foodie hotspot Tai Hang, is starting to come into its own and Bistro Du Vin is another reason to hop on that tram, enjoy the ride west and explore the area.

Bistro Du Vin

Bistro Du Vin

The interior is welcoming and eclectic with a lovely collection of unconventional but distinctly French antiques; delicate drawings of can-can dancers, Mickey Mouse vintage prints and tastevins (small metal cups used in times gone by to assess wine by candlelight) adorn the walls in a charmingly haphazard manner.

Bistro Du Vin's eclectic interior

Bistro Du Vin’s eclectic interior

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The owner’s passion for wines from the Burgundy region is evident by the extensive wine collection housed at the back of the restaurant, which in itself adds a decorative flair to an establishment, capturing the essence of a Parisian bistro quite successfully.

The interior creates the right ambience, but what about the food? The compact menu has a good selection of ‘Les Charcuterie, Pate et Rillettes’, ‘Les Entrees, ‘Les Oeufs’ and ‘Les Plats Prinicpaux’, as well as the all-important ‘Les Desserts’. A mini chalkboard at each table showcases the appealing selection of daily specials; that day, I sampled the baby squid a la plancha as well as the bouillabaisse. But before plunging into the mains, the homemade pork paté, duck paté and duck rillettes were an absolute must.

Daily specials on mini chalkboards

Daily specials on mini chalkboards

All three were superbly prepared, with both the pork and duck paté vying for attention from my knife! The duck paté was beautifully smooth and rich, and was scrumptious with the sourdough bread. Given a choice, I normally prefer rillettes as I’m a particular fan of its more rustic texture, and in this case the fat-encased duck rillettes came out top, with me eating it on its own (no bread required!) and having to stop the waiter from whisking it away.

Homemade pork paté, duck paté and duck rillettes

Homemade pork paté, duck paté and duck rillettes

The baby squid a la plancha were delightfully fresh and I adored the simple seasoning and squeeze of lemon that brought out the flavours. This was definitely one of the highlights of the meal.

Baby squid a la plancha

Baby squid a la plancha

Although the bouillabaisse, presented with aplomb in a blue Le Creuset dish, was teaming with sea life (mussels, prawns, crabs, fish), the thin broth was lacking the robust flavours that would have reflected the many hours of stewing – though it still makes for a great way to fight off our current cold spells!

Bouillabaisse

Bouillabaisse

Egg-lovers will be interested in the ‘Les Oeufs’ section and I would be surprised if diners didn’t enjoy the home-salted brandade and soft egg with Espelette Hollandaise sauce. The brandade, traditionally an emulsion of salt cod and olive oil, was perfectly salted and tasted heavenly with the runny yolk and Hollandaise sauce. Espelette pepper is a variety of chili pepper that was originally cultivated in Espelette in the Basque region but is now also grown in other areas; the addition of the pepper here gave the hollandaise a slight smoky tang and sweetness, rather than the heat or strength one might expect from a chilli.

Home-salted brandade and soft egg with Espelette Hollandaise sauce

Home-salted brandade and soft egg with Espelette Hollandaise sauce

The usual French fare of coq au vin or duck leg confit caught my eye on the menu but upon spotting rabbit, I knew this was a dish worth checking out, especially as rabbit is not common in Hong Kong. The rabbit leg was tender with a subtle game taste. Generous amounts of white wine had gone into the white sauce and the pommery grain mustard was just a tad too piquant, but otherwise the dish’s flavours combined well on the palate.

Rabbit leg with white sauce and pommery grain mustard

Rabbit leg with white sauce and pommery grain mustard

The classic apple tart with vanilla ice cream was a scrumptious end to the meal and beautifully made. I loved the crisp flaky pastry with slices of still juicy apple, finished off with an attractive dusting of sugar.

Classic apple tart

Classic apple tart

Bistro du Vin is worth the journey to Kennedy Town, and the quiet area adds to its charm. The relaxed atmosphere and quirky decoration is a definite draw, and the dishes are prepared with enough care to tell me that no detail has been overlooked.

Chopstixfix rating: 4/5


Bistro du Vin, Ground Floor, Shop 1D, Davis Street, Kennedy Town, Hong Kong, 2824 3010

You can also read this review on Sassy.