Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Long Lombard Lunch

I always love the idea of Tosca’s weekend lunch menu with a regional focus, each time featuring dishes from a specific area and paired with their wines as well. A few weeks ago, we were there again on a Saturday afternoon, just as they were wrapping up the series focusing on Lombard dishes and wines. While we may not particularly appreciate the heat wave going on in town with temperature soaring to mid-30s, but that meant we had a few days of stunningly clear sky, making our visit to Tosca near the top of The Ritz-Carlton especially enjoyable with the perfect viewpoint of Hong Kong’s skyline from Level 102 of the tallest building in town.



All the dishes presented in our lunch menu – 5 courses and 3 hours long - was from the Lombardy region. The name may not ring a bell to many as an area known for its food and wine or sights, but that’s just because people are more familiar with its capital of Milan than the area in general. Our feast began with an elaborate display of canapes – not what I usually expect from an Italian restaurant – served on a few plates in bite-sized portions. Of which I loved the anchovies served in a paper cone with ribbons of fennels wrapped around, with good salty, umami flavor, and the thick slices of salami with firm texture. They were followed by polenta and pork sausage served in a deep dish. I am usually not a big fan of polenta, but this one was delicious, well-seasoned and smooth and served underneath a chunk of pork sausages. Very straight forward cooking but I love this combination of rustic flavor.

Nothing spoke louder of Lombardy cuisine than a plate of saffron risotto (okay, except the Veal Milanese I suppose, which we later had), and it’s done in the simplest and the most classic way, with nothing but threads of saffron giving the dish a golden color and unique aroma finished with a toss of butter and gremolada sprinkled on top – Lombard cuisine was known for its sparing use of butter rather than olive oil which set them apart. The dish – often called Risotto alla Milanese – was rich, aromatic with a good bite.

Next was the seafood course of whitefish served with fennels and an almond and milk broth. The fish fillet was pan-fried with the skin-on to perfect crispness, and the bread crumbs were sprinkled on top of the fennel and broiled for that extra texture and hint of smokiness, then to complete the dish was the light creamy sauce. It has a refreshing flavor.

Speaking of Lombard cuisine classic before, it’s no surprise our main course was Veal Milanese – I guess Chef Pino would get a few complaints from diners if they came in expecting Lombard dishes and left without one of the classics – the veal chop drenched in batter, coated in bread crumbs then deep-fried for the crispy surface, and served with salad, potatoes and lemon wedge. No surprises here, but it’s done the way it should, served with fried potatoes on the side.

Sandwiched between a few other better known wine regions (Piedmont and Veneto, for example), Lombardy pales in comparison in terms of variety and quality of their wine production, generally speaking. But Leo the sommelier of the restaurant did manage to pull a few selected bottles to go with the dishes served. We began with a pair of sparkling wines – Franciacorta was perhaps the most famous wine region in Lombardy with its sparkling wine production made primarily of Chardonnay. Then we moved on with a few more bottles – two reds and one white to be exact. I couldn’t recall having a still wine by Bellevista before (they are better known for their line of sparkling wines), but the one we had this afternoon, made with 100% chardonnay, was remarkable – full-bodied, rounded and with good hints of vanilla, apples and ripe stonefruits on the palate. And we finished not with a wine but a digestive liqueur called Amaro, served on the rocks with a zest of orange as garnish, just like how the locals do as their digestivo of choice. That went well with our dessert platter of seasonal fruits (strawberries and figs) plus a few Italian sweets – my favorites were the light slice of torta paradiso, and the Zabaione with Amaretti cookies served in a glass bowl.

More photos: https://www.flickr.com/photos/g4gary/albums/72157697280984345

(Lunch was by invitation based on a menu available for limited time only)

When? May 26 2018
Where? Tosca at The Ritz Carlton, Level 102, International Commerce Centre, 1 Austin Road West, Kowloon
Menu Highlights? Risotto allo Zafferano e Gremolada
Drinks?
Ca' del Bosco "Cuvée Prestige" Franciacorta DOCG Brut NV
Contadi Castaldi Brut Rose Franciacorta DOCG NV
2016 Tenuta Mazzolino Terrazze Pinot Nero
2012 Bellavista Vigna Uccellanda Bianco Curtefranca DOC
2011 ArPePe Sassella Stella Retica Riserva Valtellina Superiore DOCG

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