Musings of a bon vivant in Hong Kong

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A taste of Piedmont

(Horrendously late with updating the blog with this review I did for Sassy! Sorry, sorry, more updating to follow!)

Sometimes I wonder if I was a Roman in a former life, such is my love for parma ham, pasta, cheese, and all things that encompass the heart and soul of Italian food. So I was very pleased to hear that yet another new Italian place had opened and taken up residence on the corner of Lyndhurst Terrace opposite Paisano’s Pizzeria.

Having no exposure to food from Piedmont (North- West of Italy on the border with France and Switzerland), where La Piola takes its inspiration, I was curious to find out what was different about the Piemontese cuisine. After some research, I found that Piemontese cooking is reputedly one of the best out of all the Italian regions and that the area specialises in great wines, truffles, braised beef, risotto and a pasta called “agnolotti,”, a type of ravioli stuffed with roast beef or pork and flavoured with parmesan and herbs. Quite a reputation to uphold!

Sprawling over two-levels, the ground floor is a casual dining area with a wine bar looking into the streets and the first floor is for more intimate dining. As wood seems to be the décor de rigeur these days, La Piola too, is decked in timber with brick walls and a feel that says, ‘laid-back’. As the name means ‘tavern’, this is clearly the atmosphere they want to capture, with customers coming in to enjoy a glass of wine or three over casual conversation and good food.

The menu is comprehensive and set out into sections covering hot and cold starters, homemade pastas and main courses.

Three starters caught my eye: the peperoni in bagna caoda– roasted peppers served with a traditional garlic and anchovy sauce (love, love, love anchovies), the flan di melanzane con fonduta di fontina d’aosta– an eggplant flan with fontina d’aosta cheese fondue and the gratin di patate con formaggi d’alpeggio e tartufo – a potato gratin with Piedmont’s alps cheese and truffle.

I’ll be the first to admit that the roasted peppers did not look that appetizing when first presented, but I can definitely say that they were delicious; finely roasted sweet peppers with a perfectly seasoned sauce. I am however, one of those few people who adore anchovies and copious amounts of garlic.The eggplant flan was an arresting sight. It totally did not look how I imagined it would. It resembled a pudding rather than a starter, a panna cotte-esque dish with fierce cheese spikes sticking out. It was cheesy and had a lovely pâté texture. Extremely cheesy and pleasing to my palate. It was, however, difficult to detect the eggplant, as the cheese flavour was quite strong.The potato gratin was good, especially with the fantastic aroma of truffles accompanying it. It could have done with a bit more seasoning and more sauce, but otherwise it was a solid dish.

For mains, we ordered a variety of pastas and main courses.

As it’s a specialty of the region, I went for the agnolotti di nonna paolina al ragu‘ di carne– agnolotti with beef ragu. A good sized portion with the pasta nicely al dente and a rich meaty filling with just enough sauce to ensure it didn’t get too dry.The other mains that were ordered were the braised beef in Barolo wine and a vegetable ratatui, the wild boar stew with traditional Piedmont polenta and the gnocchi with tomato sauce, fresh mint and salty ricotta. The braised beef had been tenderized very well by the Barolo wine, but perhaps the richness of the meat would benefit from a pairing with a fresh side salad to balance out the heaviness. The wild boar was delicious but my friend commented that the polenta lacked in flavour in comparison to the meat. The gnocchi went down a treat. My girlfriend actually said the portion was too small! She did think it could have been cheesier and more heavily seasoned.We finished with three puddings, the standout being the panna cotte, which was lovingly dressed with a raspberry coulis. One of the better panna cottes I’ve sampled in Hong Kong.

Overall, we enjoyed our meal at La Piola, and it is refreshing that we have a variant of the tried and tested Italian cuisine we all know and love to grace the streets of Soho. Make sure you try out one of their cocktails- they were yum! One drawback was the service. We were ignored a fair few times and it was next to impossible to flag someone down without making a show and dance of it. However, given it is in its infancy, I would expect that this is something that will improve soon, as they iron out the last of the kinks.

Chopstixfix rating: 3.5/5

La Piola, G/F + 1/F, 8 Lyndhurst Terrace, 2-10 Lyndhurst Terrace, Central, Hong Kong Tel: 2851 2281

$$-$$$$$$$$$$ (excluding drinks)

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That’s one big pizza slice…

How do actors in American films make eating pizza look SO mouthwatering?! Every single time I see someone stuffing one of those American style slices into their mouth, I salivate like a dog looking at bone. Darn those acting skills!

Having been in HK for little over a year, I was pretty crestfallen to notice no decent pizzerias. I mean, Pizza Express and the other Italian eateries are fine, but eating pizza should be a messy, sloppy, with melted gooey cheese going all over the place affair not a “sit at a table primly cutting up your pizza elegantly” undertaking. So you can imagine my excitement when I found out from my friend D that an American/ NY style pizzeria had opened on Lyndhurst Terrace in Central. Apparently, there has been a branch in Sai Kung for a while, but let’s face it, no one is going to trot all the way up there just for 1 slice. (Or you might, if you were really having withdrawal symptoms….or just desperate).I’m NOT that desperate, but I was looking forward to getting my chops on a “slice”. And what a slice it was. At Paisano’s you can order a whole pizza, either 14″, 16″ or a whopping 24″ to share or you can ask for a giant pizza slice. A slice that’s bigger than your face and then some.

We quickly bagsied ourselves seats in their functional dining area downstairs and after recovering from my initial shock at seeing the sheer enormity of the slices, I ordered myself one of the “Paisano’s pizza”- sausage, pepperoni, mushroom, black olives, onions and homemade pizza sauce. The slice could’ve done with being in the oven for a bit longer, but being the voracious eater that I am, I merrily shoved it in my mouth, not caring about the cheese going all over my face and hands. Yes, I am a slob. D meanwhile was eagerly sprinkling extra parmesan cheese on top of her pepperoni slice and then wolfed hers down with glee.Our thoughts? Satisfying, filling and decent enough. It’s not about the size or the quality, so much as the fact that there IS a quick stop pizzeria where you can get a slice, without having to order a whole pizza on your own. Sometimes a Mcdonald’s or a kebab just doesn’t cut it when you want fast food and Paisano’s more than fills that void. A thumbs up for the pizza of epic proportions 🙂

Next time: their sub sandwiches, lasagna and their calzone!! (Not all in one sitting of course! Doh.)

Chopstixfix rating: 3.5/5

Paisano’s Central, 9 Lyndhurst Terrace, Central. Tel: 2544 4445 Open till 11pm weekdays and 1am weekends/ Paisano’s Sai Kung, G/F, Shop 27, Chan Man Street. Tel: 2791 4445