Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Standing Strong

The team of Posto Pubblico must be doing at least something right - while every restaurants on the block came and went like a merry-go-round in this challenging environment of Hong Kong dining scene, they are still standing strong at its original location on Elgin after eight long years, just as popular night-in, night-out as they have always been.

Me being able to get out of office early on one of those rare days meant I caught the last bit of the restaurant's happy hour just as I arrived for dinner there recently, with jolly people drinking and eating (2 hours free-flow beer and wines plus charcuterie platter from 5-7pm do sound like a great deal if you manage to be there that early) I was forewarned that we were in for a big feast, but we were still tempted to steal a few slices of ham and salumi from the wooden board at the bar over a couple glasses of Aperol Spritz to kickstart our evening.

We soon moved to the table at the back to eat. The dining area didn't see much change from what I remembered and was packed by the time we settled down. It's probably a bit tight for large group like ours but just felt cozy rather than uncomfortable. More drinks came our way - this time the equally refreshing Whisky Smash - while the dishes began to arrive at our table.

We didn't have any new dishes tonight, just the tried-and-true ones that made them one of the more successful restaurant ventures in town. Their signature veal meatballs were as good as ever, big, soft and juicy and served with the tomato sauce made using local tomatoes. They were one of the earlier disciples of farm-to-table movement in town, sourcing from local farms as much as possible, a practice that they are still keeping to this date some 900,000-something meatballs later (they were close to the million mark, I was told). The Insalata Mista, made entirely of local farm products, was crisp and sweet with a dash of red-wine vinaigrette.

I must admit I was not a particular fan of their house-made burrata at first (when they were the first local restaurant making this in-house), thinking the taste was too mild, but the more I had it the more I like for the creamy texture working well with the fresh slices of organic tomatoes and drizzles of olive oil for a simple, healthy appetizer. We also quickly swooped up all the pan-fried scamorza cheese on our antipasti platter along with everything else served on a large wooden board.

Three pizzas and three pastas were shared among the 7 of us - and that's just our second course. The classic cacio e pepe spaghetti was completely smothered with grated pecorino cheese on top and was delicious, while one could think of the Bronx Bomber pizza served in a red-hot cast-iron pan as an upgraded version of the Meat Lover at that high street pizza parlor, with crumbled sausages and pepperoni toppings on a pan-fried pizza. I loved the dough of just the right thickness and a well-burnt crust.

Chicken Francese and Veal Chop Parmigiana were served as our main courses of the evening. The sheer size of the veal chop parmigiana with the complex flavors (cheese and herbs and the well-seasoned bread crumb batter) made it the clear winner of the two. We had so much food by now that I confess I hardly touched any of the sides served, except the bowl of brown butter sweet corns, also made from local produce.

We had our eyes on the cakes placed outside the open kitchen next to us since the beginning of our meal. The old-fashioned 3-layer Diner Cake was dense with dominant chocolate taste but soft in texture, while the Tiramisu was rich in espresso flavor infused in the ladyfinger biscuit layered between well-whipped mascarpone cream.

It may be a minor miracle that we could still move after so many food and drinks in one night, but with well-executed, simple and comforting dishes, friendly service and well-positioned price point hitting all the right spots, it's certainly no miracle why Posto Pubblico has been so successful.

(Dinner was by invitation)

When? August 24 2017
Where? Posto Pubblico, 28 Elgin Street, Central, Hong Kong
Menu Highlights? Pubblico Veal Meatballs, Veal Chop Parmigiana

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