Monday, April 20, 2015

Practicing what they preach

"Farm-to-table", "Locally sourced fresh ingredients", "100% Homemade"... those were big, attractive slogans that many restaurants use to promote their food these days, but Linguini Fini is one of the few in town that truly practice what they are preaching day in, day out with much success commercially.

On the last day of the Easter long weekend, the restaurant invited our group in for a dinner tasting. Since last year the place has moved to a new venue in Soho after moving out of their original location on Queen's Road Central and this is the first time I had the opportunity to try out their full menu at this location, having been here mainly for drinks and snacks a couple of times before.

The settings of the restaurant resembled what they used to be, featuring industrial-chic decor and lighting, a long bar in the middle, and comfortable space apart between each table spreading across the dining area. The music is loud but not overbearingly so, adding to the lively, laid-back atmosphere.

Caprese Salad - Organic Tomatoes, Basil, Fresh Mozzarella and 30-year Balsamico
Food started to arrive soon after we settled down with our drinks. With a big group this evening we were able to check out a wide variety of food from their a la carte menu, including some of the old-time favorites and a few new dishes.

Fragrant Grass infused Linguini Fini with Alfredo Sauce
Of everything we have tried, their pasta dishes remained one of the most impressive to me. To start, all their pasta was made in-house daily. Yes, you could argue ready-made pasta could be just as good but fresh pasta has this distinctive taste and textures that ready-made version can't rival, plus the chefs could easily customize the house-made noodles for the specific dish. Among them my favorite was the Fragrant Grass Linguini Fini, which is one of their original creations, making use of fragrant grass, a local herbs used in Cantonese cuisine. The pungent herb was kneaded into the pasta dough, cut into linguine size, cooked and served with a touch of creamy and cheesy alfredo sauce. It's simple but delicious.

Italian "Xiao long bao"
Italian "Xiao long bao" was a new item on the menu, with agnolotti (smaller version of ravioli) filled with beef and pork served in a tomato-based sauce with drizzles of chili oil and aged balsamic vinegar. I thought that was a smart take of the traditional Shanghainese "Xiao Long Bao" while staying true to the Italian/American-Italian style in spirit. The sauce-pasta portion was done well and I love the fatty pork filling combined with the mellow balsamic vinegar taste. Similarly, I also liked the papardelle nose-to-tail bolognese with the thick-ribbon-like pasta carrying every bit of the tasty meat sauce in every bite.

The Bronx
A big pizza arrived just as we were finishing up the pasta dishes, taking up almost the entire table. The Bronx is the true meatlover's pizza, with porchetta, pepperoni and meatballs as toppings along with fresh mozzarella and basil. I thought their mozzarella - made fresh daily in-house also - was on the light side in terms of taste, but its creaminess worked best in the pizza with the already super rich meat toppings. At first it seemed daunting to finish the whole 18-inch of meaty bites among us, but of course, at the end we wiped the dish clean and I felt like I haven't had enough!

Dry-rubbed Hanger Steak
All three main courses we had were decent, but my favorite remained the hanger steak served with the caramelized onion aioli. The steak was tender and juicy, cooked medium rare and was flavorful with the dry rub on the crust, but I couldn't resist having the steak with smears of the sweet onion aioli on top. This is a dish I don't mind having it every time I am here.

Caramel Apple Pie with Vanilla Icecream
Whenever we need to look for a place good for gathering among friends, especially in a big group, or a quick no non-sense dinner with just us two, Linguini Fini is usually the first that came to mind. With the consistency, the price, care of their ingredients and the casual menu with good variety of food, you simply can't go wrong with it. Eating well does not always mean fancy restaurants, dressed up to the nines and paid a hefty premium - and this is one perfect example how this is done the casual way.

(The dinner tasting is organized and paid for by the restaurant)

When? April 7 2015
Where? Linguini Fini, 49 Elgin Street, Central, Hong Kong
Menu Highlights? Fragrant Grass Linguini Fini, Dry-rubbed Hanger Steak with Onion Aioli
Web: www.linguinifini.com


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