Signature dish

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 07 July, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 07 July, 2011, 12:00am


Last Wednesday, I ate at a new restaurant, Linguini Fini, which had opened just the day before.

I usually avoid going to restaurants in their first month, because I want to give them time to iron out any kinks in food and service.

For this occasion, a group of girlfriends and I had planned on ordering the pig-tasting menu at Liberty Exchange, but we were out of luck - the friendly, very apologetic waitress told us that owing to unexpectedly high demand for the pig menu the day before, they had sold out of it.

We promised her we'd be back to taste it on another day and left, discussing alternatives as we walked out the door.

One of the women in our party had tried Linguini Fini earlier that day and liked it a lot, so we were unanimous in our decision to go there.

Linguini Fini is being touted as the first 'nose-to-tail' Italian restaurant: on the menu is tongue, tripe, heart, sweetbreads, liver and a pork head, veal and oxtail ragu.

Nose-to-tail eating was popularised in England by Fergus Henderson at his restaurant, St John, in London, and his influence spread to chefs in the United States.

Eating every part of an animal is something the Chinese (and many other Asian cultures), French and Italians have been doing for years.

It started out for reasons of pure survival - you can't feed a large population if you only eat the steaks, chops and loin of an animal, then discard the rest.

Over time, skilled cooks developed these innards and extremities into dishes that are just as delicious (if not more so) than the prime, expensive cuts.

Many of us who deliberately seek out offal dishes do so not because they're cheaper (often, they're not), but because we appreciate the varied tastes and textures different parts offer.

In the move towards 'eating local' and trying to reduce our carbon footprint, the nose-to-tail concept is something that should be fully embraced, and I'm glad Linguini Fini chef Vinny Lauria is offering the diner so much choice.

Yes, there's 'normal' food for those whose idea of Italian food begins with Caprese salad and ends at eggplant parmesan (which any Italian chef will tell you is Italian-American).

But when we ate there, the four of us went for the guts: out of eight dishes we tasted, five of them featured innards.

Other European-cuisine chefs in Hong Kong also offer offal: David Lai, of On Lot 10 in Central and Bistronomique in Kennedy Town, serves dishes of tete de cochon (pig's head) terrine, bone marrow and boudin noir (black pudding); while David Goodridge of Gaddi's in The Peninsula recently cooked a special offal menu for a group of friends: there was veal head, sweetbreads, calf's liver, veal kidney and lamb organs.

Some day, I hope, nose-to-tail eating will no longer be seen as something done only by extreme eaters.

People will realise it's the right thing to do, because nothing goes to waste and, just as important, they're eating something delicious.