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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
Out of the sandwich offerings in Hong Kong, most are a bit meh sometimes, (interpret that word as you see fit 😛 ) except for Pret A Manger and possibly Oliver’s. And maybe a dirty Subway. But now there is Panino Giusto in IFC Mall which specialises in Milanese ‘sandwiches’- Panini.
Established in 1979 in Milan before branching internationally, Panino Giusto brings us authentic, freshly-made panini, as well as toasties, plates of sliced meats, salads and desserts. You will not catch this store pre-making their panini and cling-wrapping them to go! They say the key to their success is their “rule of 7”: 70 grams of freshly sliced meat, 70 grams of cheese, vegetables, sauces and oils, sandwiched between 70 grams of French bread. All ingredients are hand-picked from Italy and then Panino Giusto branded.
Location-wise, I love it. On the 3rd Podium level of IFC Mall, it has the benefits of the roof a few steps away, sunlight pouring through the glass windows and a pleasant seating area for a relaxed meal or coffee and dessert. It’s great to see their fridge of hanging meats taking centre stage at the front of their store, alongside a shiny red Berkel meat slicer. There’s something exciting about seeing big chunks of amazing hams and meats being sliced in front of you for your panini. Guaranteed freshness.
My friend and I were given a voucher to try out a couple of their panini, one salad, a starter and a dessert when the shop first opened, although since then I have been back for more and I can tell you that the quality and my enjoyment has been consistent.
One of their must-have panini is their signature Tartufo, a delicious panino of Parma ham (24-month aged), Brie, tomato, rocket and Alba truffle oil. The rich scent of the truffle oil hits you when the warm panino arrives and I just loved the whole combination. I also quite enjoyed the fact that the Brie is not melted, just warmed by the toasted bread as it gave the panino added texture instead of being a warm, gooey mess. This has become my favourite at Panino Giusto whenever I go.
Another lovely panino is the Savoy with Praga ham, Mozzarella, tomato, rocket and a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil. All the flavours were quite mild but nevertheless, it makes for a lighter and less salty offering than the Tartufo.
We also tried their Stuzzico Crudo E Caprino starter dish of Parma ham, goat cheese and warm bread. I admit, we ignored the bread and the cheese in favour of stuffing ourselves with the moreish slices of Parma ham. At $88 for a plate, I have to say that it is worth it seeing as going to the deli counter at Taste or CitySuper for Parma is outrageously expensive for possibly around the same number of slices.
Stuzzico Crudo E Caprino
Their Pratomagno salad of Carpaccio, herbed artichokes and fresh Parmesan was also lovely. The beef was delicate yet full of ‘beef’ flavour and went well with the artichokes.
To end we had their house-made Tiramisu. Those of you who enjoy a heavier coffee taste may be disappointed with this but though creamier than other versions, I thought it was rather scrumptious and not overly laced with rum.
Although most of the panini may be a little steep at $78 -88 each depending on ingredients, Panino Giusto is, I think, the place to go for a panini fix. There is a fine and quite large selection to choose from and you needn’t worry about not feeling satiated afterwards; they are filling enough to keep you going for the rest of the afternoon. The salads and starters are good but definitely not the main attraction.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
“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 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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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
Wyndham Street isn’t the longest road in Hong Kong, but it sure has a ridiculous number of restaurants and bars along it. Rest assured, you’d never starve or go thirsty. I’ve been meaning to get myself over to W52 for yonks, (the interior always looks very inviting when one is queuing outside of Tazmania Ballroom on a Saturday night), but eating my way through all these places takes a while!
Sassy first visited W52 a few months ago, so I was excited when I was invited to sample their new Spring a-la carte menu one lunchtime.
As you all know, I adore Italian food, and I’m constantly struck by the plethora of ways Italian food is created and presented and this menu certainly offers some refreshing new dishes. Unfortunately, Executive Chef Francesco Berardinelli was away so I wasn’t able to have a chat with him, but his PR lady, (with whom I dined), did leave me with a quote of his that gave me an insight into his creations: “..you can see all the ingredients on the dish, see the taste and the flavours”, (or words to that effect!).
As I settled into my seat, we were given the customary bread basket which included the squid ink bread- lovely and warm with a subtle squid flavour, it was a great way to whet the appetite.For starters, we had the Carciofi- crispy stuffed artichoke hearts with Pecorino Romano cheese and fresh herbs. Although not a new dish, I was told that I absolutely had to try it, and I’m very glad it was ordered as it was gorgeous. A relatively simple dish, it was packed with flavour, with the refreshing taste of the artichokes bursting through the crunchy cheese topping- a winner.The next two antipasti dishes were the Melanzane- eggplant slices wrapped around buffalo ricotta cheese nestled on fresh pea puree and Polpo- bruschetta with grilled octopus, potatoes and Sardinian Mullet Bottarga roe. The Melanzane was delicious and quite addictive, shame there were only three on the plate! What I loved about it was the vibrant colour of the green pea puree and the preservation of the veggie taste, same with the artichoke hearts. The seasoning throughout all the dishes was very light so that none of the flavours were obscured. The Polpo was also superb. The octopus was grilled excellently, crispy on the outside and the right kind of chewy on the inside.I couldn’t wait for the main course. My dining companion had ordered Gnocchi di Patate – fresh potato gnocchi with a Mascarpone and vanilla sauce and toasted hazelnuts to share, and the Astice al Burro- Boston lobster with endives and an artichoke butter sauce.I was quite curious about the gnocchi. I personally think gnocchi is quite a difficult dish to get right, and on so many occasions, I start eating it and then I’m full within 5 minutes as it’s so stodgy and completely smothered in a sauce too rich to balance out the carb-tasticness of the gnocchi. So, for this particular dish, I was intrigued indeed. Vanilla sauce on pasta seemed to be a bold move but was it a good one? Yes it was. I was blown away by the dish, and to be completely honest, I wished I had a whole plate to myself. The gnocchi was surprisingly light, the sauce wasn’t as rich as I anticipated and the vanilla cut through cleanly to compliment the dish. I thought the toasted hazelnuts were a great touch and somehow that added to the deliciousness of the gnocchi. Heavenly!
The Boston lobster was immense. We thought we were sharing one, but they ended up giving us one each! Not that I was complaining, but I was starting to get pretty stuffed at this point, so this was my Mount Everest to climb. An elegant, yet humble looking dish, with muted colours, (don’t be put off by the murky green artichoke butter sauce) the lobster was cooked to perfection and had a wonderful meaty chewy texture. The endives were a great and simple compliment to the lobster which needed no extra side dishes.Almost unconscious from the food, we still had dessert to look forward to and on the cards were the Panna Cotta alled Mele Verdi- Panna cotta with green apple Granita and green apple salad and the Tiramisu.
The Panna cotta was fantastic. I’ve never had one with a green apple compliment and it was amazingly refreshing and not too sweet. The Tiramisu was also a triumph. A classic dish that can sometimes be weighed down by too much liquor, W52’s version was scrumptious and not too strong. The coffee flavour was not too overwhelming so even those of you who aren’t coffee fans can enjoy this dessert.I left W52 thoroughly impressed. I loved my lunch, the service was impeccable, and the atmosphere coolly laidback. I will definitely be back for more of the gnocchi and to attack the lunch buffet one day.