Musings of a bon vivant in Hong Kong


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Keeping it Simple at The Pasta Place

Simple eats are invariably the most satisfying and that’s what mother and daughter-owned The Pasta Place in Sheung Wan aims to do by going back to basics and providing hearty pasta dishes and desserts in a home-style setting. Despite owner Andrea Wannop being a Brit, her love of NYC and cooking Italian-American dishes inspired her and her daughter Charlotte to open their own establishment.

The Pasta Place is cosy, small and decorated with vintage wallpaper and black and white photos. A compact selection of Appetisers, Small Plates for sharing, Sandwiches and Pasta dishes grace the menu, though of course, it is the pasta that one would be most interested in. All the pasta sauces are Andrea’s own recipes and if any of them tickle your fancy, you are in luck as they are now bottling and selling her sauces.The Pasta Place

The Pasta Place

The Pasta Place

By kind invitation, my friend and I popped over one evening to try the food over a catch-up session. I started with a thirst-quenching homemade Mixed Berry spritzer before taking a forkful of their appetiser- Eggplant Parmigiana. The layers of roasted eggplant, mozzarella and pomodoro sauce came well together and I liked the burst of basil that came through. I would have preferred it if the eggplant could have been slightly more roasted but otherwise this was a lovely dish to begin with.

Eggplant Parmigiana

Eggplant Parmigiana

We then chose to try their Small Plates selection (you choose three dishes to share for $70 per person) and opted for the Caprese Skewers, Italian Meatballs and Garlic Mushrooms. The Caprese Skewers were an uncomplicated combination of Buffalo Mozzarella balls, cherry tomatoes and basil. The Italian Meatballs were succulent and quite aromatic and I would have loved to have had them on a plate of spaghetti, which is sadly not offered amongst the pasta dishes! We also enjoyed the Garlic mushrooms which I do not recommend getting if you are on a date or going home to a loved one straight after, but if you are garlic fans like we are, then these will be right up your street.

Garlic mushrooms

Garlic mushrooms

Caprese skewers

Caprese skewers

Italian meatballs

Italian meatballs

For mains, my friend had the NYC Style Penne alla Vodka with Chicken Breast. Here, the pasta (I nicked some haha), was nicely al dente and the sauce rich and creamy with a good balance of tomato and garlic flavours and a sharpish tang from the splash of vodka. We both agreed that this would have been a far more comforting dish if they had a been more sauce.

NYC Style Penne alla Vodka

NYC Style Penne alla Vodka

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Spaghetti Carbonara

As for my chosen main, I went for my ultimate pasta comfort dish Spaghetti Carbonara. This was cream and carb satisfaction to the max with a generous topping of Parmesan cheese, just the way I like it. It was cheesy and filling and completely obliterated any feeling of hunger. The major let-down of both mains was that they came out a bit on the lukewarm side, something that I later relayed to Charlotte.

To end, we had the Tiramisu and the Chocolate Fudge Brownie with Gelato. Both were solid offerings; the rich chocolate brownie sufficiently gooey/chewy and the Tiramisu flavours light and delicate.

Tiramisu

Tiramisu

Chocolate Fudge Brownie

Chocolate Fudge Brownie

The Pasta Place is by no means out there to compete with other establishments such as Doppio Zero and I like that this mother-daughter duo are doing something they both love and gain inspiration from. The Pasta Place will appeal to you if you crave an enjoyable, affordable meal in a restaurant with no airs or graces, just smiles and happy attitude to life.

Chopstixfix rating: 3/5

 

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The Pasta Place, 8 Hillier Street, Sheung Wan, Tel: 2774 6692 http://www.thepastaplace.com.hk

This was by kind invitation- thank you to Andrea and Charlotte at The Pasta Place for having us!

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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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Enomod- Social Dining in HK

“Social dining” is a seemingly new term that has sprung up. This concept of eating to socialise and to connect with others should not be a novel philosophy in our society, given that social dining dates back to Ancient Greek times, but now, it has had a modern face-lift of sorts. Like anything in HK, once a concept has taken hold, it becomes the island’s obsession for a while and I can see that social dining will be two words bandied about for the next year by those who want to wax lyrical about dining values, connecting with food and the like. Frankly speaking, it is not much different from having dim sum with your family or sharing plates of tapas, but I suppose actually uttering the words “social dining” is meant to have some sort of profound effect on the way we approach eating with our nearest and dearest or even strangers. Anyway, before I get carried away with the philosophy of eating, (I am having one of those deep thinking days), I will cut to the chase and give my thoughts on new Mediterranean restaurant Enomod.Enomod

Dining area

Dining area

Enomod is the amalgamation of the words Enoteca Moderna, thus reflecting this idea of ‘connection’. Enoteca Moderna represents a form of social dining that emerged in 1930s America and this establishment seeks to blend all areas of wining and dining with several different zones. Taking over the sprawling space that Entourage once inhabited, a lounge area, communal dining tables, a bar, wine corner, charcuterie and cocktail lounge now take its place.

Charcuterie

Charcuterie

The areas are well put together, with plush, comfy chairs and hints of art deco in the lounge section, plain white chairs and dining tables in the social dining zone and darker, night-scene colours and lighting for the bar. The wine barrels in the ‘wine area’ give Enomod a sweet, Italian provincial feel, yet the overall artistry of the place has very much a Great Depression vibe, especially with the copper fixtures adding that little bit of extra character.

Wine area

Wine area

Bar area

Bar area

As it was a friend’s birthday, we decided that there was no better way of celebrating with pals than embracing the social dining concept of Enomod. So it was on a Saturday night that ten of us found ourselves occupying one of the communal tables and perusing the menu of Social Dining and Canteen Selection dishes. As a glutton who hangs with gluttons, it seemed sensible to order almost 80% of the menu and get two of each dish, just to make sure we had most of the bases covered. The Social Dining menu is split into Wood, Stone, Copper and Ceramics, denoting the material of the serving dishes onto which the food is served. We started with the Mezze Platter of crackers, eggplant and hummus dip from the Ceramic selection, which was served on a wooden paddle, (minor detail but get your materials correct!). The eggplant dip was slightly piquant but subtle and the hummus light. Nothing unique, but was a pleasant appetiser.

Mezze platter

Mezze platter

We ordered a daily special- the Balsamic beef stew which was tender and well marinated, though more sauce would have been great. The balsamic reduction was a nice balance of acid and sweet and our party were quite happy with our first shared plate.

Balsamic beef stew

Balsamic beef stew

Next up, the Roasted Seabass from the Stone section made an appearance and this was excellent. The fish was succulent and I loved the light seasoning and coating of the herbs which allowed the seabass flavours to shine through.

Roasted seabass

Roasted seabass

Our Citrus scented Crispy Prawns (Ceramics) were lacking the citrus edge I was looking for and the batter was slightly too thick. They were still appetising but somehow the accompanying mayonnaise was the bit I was more interested in as I ended up with more mayo per bite of prawn.

Citrus scented crispy prawns

Citrus scented crispy prawns

The zucchini, fig and haloumi rolls with Sicilian caponata (a traditional aubergine stew) was absolutely delish, not least because I have not had haloumi in yonks, apart from one night out many moons ago when a couple of us visited Beyrouth Cafe and had haloumi kebabs. The saltiness of the cheese was a delectable complement to the sour-sweetness of the caponata.

Zucchini, fig and haloumi rolls with Sicilian caponata

Zucchini, fig and haloumi rolls with Sicilian caponata

The highlight of the menu was the 6 hour lamb rump with pistachio crust. The lamb was moist and that perfect pink in colour and I loved the textural dimension that the pistachio crust gave. The cheesy wafers were a hit too, shame there were not more!

6 hour lamb rump with pistachio crust

6 hour lamb rump with pistachio crust

It was following this dish that a few of the next offerings became less impressive. The Cinnamon beef tenderloin tips were tasty enough but nowhere near as tender as the balsamic beef stew. The Couscous Bouillabaisse was flavourful, the squid, fish and clams were fresh but I would have enjoyed a tad more bouillabaisse broth over the couscous. The worst dish of the night were the Blue Mussels with white wine sauce which, much to our chagrin, were not fresh. I have not had much luck with mussels of late, and it was really disappointing to find that our bowl of molluscs had gone bad. I managed two, a few friends had a couple each, and we unanimously agreed that we needed to give up on the mussels. The white wine sauce was however, quite flavoursome.

Cinnamon beef tenderloin tips

Cinnamon beef tenderloin tips

Couscous Bouillabaisse

Couscous Bouillabaisse

Blue Mussels

Blue Mussels

We tried two of their pastas- the Penne with Chorizo and Cherry and orange zest, which was nicely al dente and fairly spicy (some may find it a little too fiery to appreciate the lovely citrus tang) and the Tagliatelle with Walnut Carbonara Sauce which was delicious but, as with all carbonaras, became too rich to fully appreciate, especially after all the above dishes.

Penne with Chorizo and Cherry and orange zest

Penne with Chorizo and Cherry and orange zest

Tagliatelle with Walnut Carbonara Sauce

Tagliatelle with Walnut Carbonara Sauce

Spanish Tortilla is my litmus test for any restaurant that offers it, as it is simple but seems strangely difficult to master as I have not had any tortillas that have really satisfied me in HK except for the ones at Fofo by el Willy and Tapeo. I am a little hard to please in this area as my various travels in Spain have given me a high benchmark to compare to but still, a girl can hope! Sadly, while Enomod’s fancy-looking Spanish tortilla was presented lovingly (I would prefer it if they just served Spanish tortilla in one dish rather than cutting it up!), the taste just was not there.

Spanish Tortilla

Unsurprisingly, their sauteed broccoli and pancetta side-dish was a complete hit with our table. Anything with bacon gets the thumbs-up from us!

Sauteed broccoli and pancetta

Sauteed broccoli and pancetta

Desserts were where Enomod became more interesting. We tried all of them- the Absinth Spicy Tiramisu, Ricotta Cheesecake with crushed pistachio and candied orange peel and the Pumpkin Crumble Godmother-Style with Amaretto Bisquiti.

Absinth Spicy Tiramisu

Absinth Spicy Tiramisu

Ricotta cheesecake

Ricotta cheesecake

The Absinth infused tiramisu definitely piqued my curiosity and we were all expecting it to pack a wallop but I was pleasantly surprised by the subtlety of the absinthe. The Ricotta cheesecake was my favourite. The cheesecake was light and nutty and the biscuit base and orange zest made it moreish. The pumpkin crumble can only be described as a scrumptious, adult version of baby food.

Pumpkin crumble

Pumpkin crumble

Dining at Enomod was an enjoyable experience and the birthday girl had fun. While the food was decent, I could not say that anything in particular wowed me for the price (it came to $480 per person including wine) and the mussels tainted the meal somewhat. We would have said something but we too far along the meal to make a fuss. However, as far as socialising is concerned, Enomod does its job but I think it could benefit from a warmer ambience in the dining area. The stark chairs and tables did nothing to generate a cosy atmosphere, but the absinthe tiramisu certainly left a warm feeling in my stomach.

Chopstixfix rating: 3/5

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Enomod HK, 1/F, 1-5 Elgin Street, Central, Hong Kong, +852 2555 6065, www.facebook.com/Enomod