Sunday, August 11, 2013

Restaurant Week - Night Out at Carnevino

One of the best things about the whole concept of Restaurant Week is that, it gave you an opportunity to try out restaurants that you have never visited - whatever the reasons. Saw the American Express promotion on advanced booking for Restaurant Week and decided to try out Carnevino, a steakhouse in Central by Dining Concepts bearing the name of Mario Batali, the celebrity TV chef.

We had our reservation on a Tuesday evening. You can't really ask for a more central location for the restaurant as it's right in downtown at the foot of Lan Kwai Fong, and I was impressed with the decor as well - classy dining space, dim lighting, leather couches with ample space in between tables. Typical New York-style steakhouse, I suppose.

The Restaurant Week promotion offered a standard 3-course menu with 2 choices for each course. After the amuse bouche of a "compressed" water melon cube served on a Chinese ceramic spoon (well I didn't feel like that being compressed at all, to be honest, so all we got is a regularly cut watermelon cube), I started off with a Insalata Romana with Romaine and Red Endives with sweet garlic dressing and some anchovies sandwiched between thin toasts. The presentation is neat, romaine was fresh and crispy, the dressing was almost a like ranch and the taste was balanced. A simple salad it may just be, but not bad.

We supplemented the original menu with an additional hot appetizer to share. We both like the bone marrow with preserved lemon gremolata. The portion was good - it's halved so we each could have a piece. The preserved lemon and parsley flavor from the gremolata worked well with the roasted bone marrow.

I was taken aback when our main dish was brought in. Well the menu did describe that as a USDA Prime 12oz sirloin, but we didn't expect that's all we got on the plate - no garnishes, no sides, no nothing. Not even a small piece of roasted cherry tomatoes to make it look, well, less plain. Anyway, they did bring us condiments - after we requested for it - but we were only offered the usual choices of English and Dijon, not the other more interesting sauces listed on the a la carte menu, something which I found them being petty-minded. 

The steak turned out to be better than I expected - bear in mind I didn't have much expectation to start with - at least it's cooked to the right doneness, with a good, intense meat flavor. It did get a little tough on the sides (and a little burnt) but it's forgivable. And portion is more than decent - I am sure many would even find it so big that it's hard to finish. Of course, it's nothing to compare with the gorgeous steak I had the week before, but probably nothing could match that for a while.

We finished with a simple dessert of Lemon Semifreddo with sangria sorbet and mint fruit salad. Nothing fancy but nothing wrong either. It's refreshing with a medley of summer fruits (blueberry, strawberry, raspberry and apple) infused with mint and the cold lemon semifreddo.

Seeing the way over-priced wine list on their website (typical of any Dining Concept outlet) prompted me to bring one of my own. Even after paying the exorbitant corkage I figured it's still a better value. I am trying to clear off space from our wine fridge and I figured it's time for this Brunello we captured during our winery visit last year to be opened. After decanting at the restaurant and in about 30 minutes, the wine opened up with a bouquet of deep, intense aromas of dark fruits and tobacco. There's a hint of oak thanks to the aging in smaller barrels - a variation of the traditional Brunello practice. Tannin was rounded and ripe with long finish. It was the best bottle I tasted as we toured around the region last year and it still is.

Not sure if they have done enough to convince me to return any time soon, but the dinner was alright and we enjoyed a random night out to try something new, especially given the price (the Restaurant Week 3-course menu went for HK$438 per person). I love the setup and things, but I was expecting more substance - otherwise it defeated the purpose of using Restaurant Week as a promotion to entice repeat business from new customers.

When? August 6 2013
Where? Carnevino, 5/F, LHT Tower, 31 Queens Road, Central, Hong Kong
Menu Highlights? USDA Prime 12oz Sirloin
Drinks? Poggio Antico Brunello di Montalcino "Altero" 2004

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