Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Italian Lunch on Valentine's Day

Right before Chinese New Year (on Valentine’s Day, to be exact) I was at Octavium, the private kitchen of Chef Umberto Bombana, for a tasting they hosted for media to introduce the new lunch menu to be launched starting in March. I loved the experience of this relatively new restaurant (opened in July last year) in my last outing here so I was pretty excited to check out some new dishes in their expanded menu, some 6 months later after its opening.

Before the dishes were served and while we were munching on the warm, homemade bread (which was excellent, by the way), we were given a brief introduction by Chef Bombana of their lunch service, which has the option of a 2-course prix fixe menu and a la carte choices, a deviation to their dinner offering which is based either a 4-course or 6-course tasting menu, all handled by their executive chef Silvio Armanni who managed the day-to-day operation of the restaurant. We were given a preview of the 2-course set lunch menu which comprises of an appetizer and a pasta course, plus a main course and desserts, “just because today is Valentine’s Day and we want this to be extra special for everyone”, as chef told us.

We began with the appetizer of Hokkaido cuttlefish with celeriac broth. In the deep dish was potato brunoise, white beans topped with two pieces of gently poached cuttlefish fillet with the warm celeriac broth poured into the dish at the table. It was light and refreshing, yet comforting with the hearty broth and tender cuttlefish fillet with a slightly bouncy texture.

The pasta course looked simple but it’s anything but. The chitarra pasta was said to be personally sourced from an artisanal pasta-maker by Chef Bombana himself, and cooked to perfection as one would expect. And the sauce was what stood out, with the rich and creamy pecorino melted and mixed with a touch of black peppers and butter, with 2 pieces of morel mushrooms on top. This is one memorable cacio e pepe like I have never had before – one I wish I had more, like every day.

Took a little while for our main course of roasted veal to arrive – not that we mind a lot given I wasn’t even in any hurry. And I thought it was worth the wait. The slices of veal was still in its delicate pinkish color and was very tender. It’s only gently seasoned but worked very well with the rich jus reduction served. On the side was kale, mashed potato and deep-fried chunks of salsify for a straight-forward presentation. It was delightful.

A few desserts were served at the end. First was the one listed on the menu – the Sicilian cassata gelato with candied fruit and berries. It’s in a presentation similar to semifreddo, with a "slice" of zabaione gelato with fruit peels and chocolate gelato in the center, soft sponge cake at the bottom and  served with sweetened fruits and mixed berries on the side. It’s not as sweet as I thought but I think it worked well to wrap up a filling meal – no one wanna get into a major food coma after a weekday lunch anyway.

And because it’s Valentine’s Day and all, the kitchen team decided to bring out a couple more desserts for us to share. The tiramisu was done the traditional way and served in a short cylindrical glass bowl and topped with a quenelle of zabaione. Not the richest type with loads of mascarpone cheese and liqueur flavors but it has such a balanced taste and with the softest texture. It’s meant for sharing but I think I finished almost all of it on my own. Then it’s the “Grand Cru” chocolate soufflé  – I had the same dessert last time when I was at the restaurant and this one was as impressive as the one I had – well-risen, rich with good texture and balanced taste. I also enjoyed the mini tart with the seasonal wild strawberries and the hazelnut chocolates as our petit fours.

With many also having grand Valentine’s Day dinner plans in mind and with this sumptuous long lunch we just had, I think Chef Bombana either just gave us a great lead-in for the evening with our loved ones, or the formidable task of having to work out enough stomach space for another feast at night.

When? February 14 2018
Where? Octavium, 8th Floor, Chinachem Central One, 22 Des Vouex Road Central, Hong Kong
Menu Highlights? Artisanal Chittara Cacio e Pepe with Morel Mushrooms
Drink? Ca'del Bosco Cuvee Prestige Brut Rose NV, Franciacorta DOCG

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