Saturday, September 29, 2018

Last Day of Freedom

I spent my “last day of weekday freedom” with a trip to a new pizzeria restaurant in Central which was still in their initial "soft opening" period. Kytaly is an "indirect import" from Italy, conceived by a famous Italian pizzaiolo Franco Pepe, born in Geneva and now made its way to this part of the world, and is said to serve the world’s best pizza. Well, of course there’s no lack of places that boasted the "best of (something) in the world", but with many who tried said the same thing after trying, I was curious to see if there’s any merit to that claim myself.

The place could be a bit hard to find, hidden inside a commercial building on top of Wyndham. But once I got there, I was amazed by the cool décor, with a narrow indoor dining area leading to the kitchen further back. There’s also a sky deck which is one of the features of the restaurant too, with ample outdoor seating which I thought would be perfect for happy hours with a glass of spritz in hand when it’s not so hot out there.

I was happy to be seated at the high table right in front of the kitchen, allowing us the perfect view of the kitchen action and to see how the stuff was made (and food took the shortest distance to reach us too!) With only pizzas and a few appetizers on the menu, everything was prepared inside that compact kitchen. At the back of that kitchen was a giant brick oven custom-built for the restaurant, which could go up to 400-something degrees in temperature, allowing pizzas to be baked and ready within a couple of minutes.

They have a simple all-day menu but with good selections, with over a dozen pizza choices plus antipasti, which were something we started our lunch with. The blob of buffalo mozzarella (from Campania) served with slices of prosciutto was straight forward enough but both ingredients were top-notch. Our host explained to us that all the ingredients were jetted in fresh regularly from Italy (except the water used in cooking, he confessed). The salad felt almost like a pizza without the base and without cooking, with scores of ingredients – sundried tomatoes, tuna, capers, olives, anchovies and herbs – served on a bed of romaine lettuce. I love its intense flavor.

We soon moved on to our carb feast of various pizzas served in quick succession. It didn’t take long for one to observe one major difference in their pizza-making from say, any high-street pizza restaurants. While most places did it by kneading and tossing the dough, putting on all the toppings and then baking in the oven, many of the toppings at Kytaly were done AFTER the dough base was baked. That added to a refreshing flavor profile and in many cases, a different texture to the pizza we are more used to. There were also other more subtle yet more important differences in their pizza making, including their high humidity dough base which gave an extra crispy and puffy crust when heated in the oven with a perfect balance of yeasty, doughy flavor and texture in the pizza base.

My favorite of the afternoon was also the one with the most unusual combination of toppings. The Alletterata came with buffalo mozzarella and onion cream both baked with the dough then topped with chunks of talletterato tuna and ribbons of celery just before it’s served. To me this is like a tuna melt meets white pizza with so many flavors and textures came into play in a single slice – there’s the rich creamy cheese plus the sweet onion cream combined with the oily chunks of tuna and ice-crisp celery. I thought there's a light drizzle of mild honey somewhere too, to counter the saltiness of the fish. I found this most interesting and enjoyable.

I also loved the calzone – baked in the perfect half-moon shape with mozzarella, ricotta and scamorza cheeses stuffed inside along with salami and tomato sauce. The ricotta was the ingredient which stood out with its signature pungent taste and raw texture, standing in contrast (and in harmony at the same time) with the scamorza cheese, creamy, smooth and well-melted inside. I thought this went down particularly well with the glass of classic Aperol Spritz I ordered – a bit early for that I know but hey it’s Friday and probably my last day I could do that for lunch for a while.

The last pizza we had was the Scarpetta, with the classic combination of cheese, basil and tomato but with a slight twist, for which additional Grana Padano cheese was shaved on top of the pizza after being cooked for extra cheesy flavor. I personally was more used to the more intense tomato flavor (by use of tomato paste in addition to fresh tomatoes), but this one tasted more natural and refreshing with three types of tomatoes used as compote spread on top.

We finished with a couple bowls of tiramisu, served in a glass tumbler. First was the one you would expect from the most traditional version, with the smooth mascarpone cheese with a thin layer of  coffee-soaked sponge biscuits at the bottom, but the second one was the real bomb, using the thick Nutella mousse instead with each spoonful like a decadent ganache. I don’t know how one person could finish that after all the savory dishes but I felt if it’s left on the table, I would eventually.

Haven’t been to Naples myself and certainly not a pizza expert by any means, I am in no way to judge its authenticity or the claim to be the best in the world, but this is a damned good pizza which I could have any time of the day, or night - definitely the best in town. I could imagine this being the place I wanna go when say, I want something simple and casual, or as late night quick bites, or time to chill at the outdoor terrace with a drink and slice of pizza in hand, like the college days but with much better quality food, obviously.

(Meal was by invitation and hosted by the restaurant's PR team)

When? September 14 2018
Where? Kytaly, 5/F, Carfield Commercial Building, 77 Wyndham Street, Central, Hong Kong
Menu Highlights? Alletterata pizza

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