Monday, July 24, 2017

New Italian Private Kitchen

There's every reason to be excited about this new restaurant opening. With Umberto Bombana being unarguably the most well-known Italian chef in town with three Michelin-starred restaurants under his name (Otto e Mezzo in Hong Kong and Macau plus Ciak in the Kitchen in Central), his latest project Octavium, branded as his "private kitchen", was eagerly anticipated by many months before it opened its door.

The CHF gang picked a date when most of us were available and made a booking for dinner in early July in its second week of operation. Apparently tables for the restaurant were in high demand soon after the news came out of its existence, so I was glad we planned in advance beating the crowd to it.

The restaurant is located in a new office building near the Des Voeux-Chater street junction. Not much of a view from the window unless you count looking into other people's office as one, but the interior was lovely and comfortable, follows the minimalist style with only a handful of tables spread across the spacious dining area, with a decent-sized bar and wine cellar on either sides right outside the kitchen hidden at the back. I felt like eating in someone's bachelor's pad.

As the information about the restaurant was sketchy (they were being all secretive about it - it's even hard to find their contact information to make a booking), we didn't know what's on the menu until we arrived. At the time of our visit, they were serving a prix fixe 4-course tasting menu, with choices for each of the courses served. There's also the wine pairing option plus a concise wine menu which focused on Italian wines with a few from other regions available.

We began with a small bowl of amuse-bouche with wild fennel puree and a thin slice of Iberico ham, which was followed by our first course of cold appetizer. I found my marinated Japanese snapper with carrots and mandarin orange a tad bit too sweet with the orange sauce brushed underneath the slices of marinated snapper, but the dish was refreshing, working well during summer time and the plating was beautiful with thin slices of carrots in three colors cut in circles and served on top of the sliced fish cured with a mild vinaigrette. The Mayura beef caparccio was the choice some picked, and from what I heard it was excellent too, served with a rich parmesan sauce on the side.

Our decision was evenly split as for our pasta course. Half went for the Sardinian gnocchi with pork ragout and half ordered the Linguine "Gentile" with scampi and caviar. I picked the gnocchi and it was outstanding. The Sardinian-style gnocchi was smaller than the version we were more familiar with, hand-rolled in long shape like a giant rice grain and ridged with a bouncy bite. The rich ragout sauce was done in traditional Piedmontese style with slow-cooked minced pork and grated Castelmagno cheese. It's a simple yet perfectly prepared home-style dish which I often crave for. I also loved the spoonful of linguine I tried from CYY's share, with the pasta full of seafood flavor with a firm bite from the chunks of scampi topped with caviar.

Three choices of main courses were offered, but all of us ignored the first choice of seafood and went for either the veal or the lamb. My veal was cooked medium rare with the pinkish meat, and served with "Trombetta" zucchini and baby white radishes, watercress and artichoke purees and the meat jus reduction drizzled on top as the dish was served. The combination of flavor was unbeatable - I especially love the crunchy zucchini and the rich meat jus reduction. The meat was tender and juicy and served in generous portion.

For dessert I went with the chocolate soufflé with hazelnut gelato. The soufflé was well-risen and with perfect texture and the chocolate was rich and balanced but not overbearing. I personally wouldn't mind more icecream than a single scoop spooned on top but then if it's entirely up to me I would want 10 scoops of those all to myself as hazelnut has always been my favorite gelato flavor. And towards the end of the meal chocolate sweets and macaroons were served as petit fours.

I liked the wine selection here - not a lot of choices but well curated from selected producers in each of the regions with a good price range to pick. With all of us went for meat as our main courses, we went with a bottle of red from a small Tuscan village (Morellino di Scansano - I confess I almost forgot there's such a DOCG region!) Ruby color, medium bodied, loaded with plum and ripe cherry on the palate, not a lot of tannin but with some oak for an enjoyable sip, matching well with our dishes too.

The restaurant pretty much lived up to the hype and the meal was exceptional. I would go as far as saying the food we had was as good as the standard at Otto e Mezzo with a much laid-back ambiance.

More photos here:

When? July 11 2017
Where? Octavium, 8th Floor, Chinachem Central One, 22 Des Vouex Road Central, Hong Kong
Menu Highlights? Roasted Veal with Trombetta Zucchini and Watercress
Drink? 2009 Tenuta Belguardo Bronzone Morellino di Scansano Riserva

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