Michelin stars align for Italian chef in Central
Chef Umberto Bombana is in top-class company.
The much-watched Michelin restaurant guide has endowed his Central restaurant, 8 1/2 Otto e Mezzo Bombana, with three stars, the first Italian eatery outside of Italy to achieve the exceptional grading.
'It's a dream come true,' Bombana, an 18-year veteran of Hong Kong, said.
The restaurant is just one of two Western eateries in the city - along with French contemporary L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon - to be elevated from two to three-star status in the 2012 edition of the Michelin Red Guide Hong Kong and Macau, due out today. They join two Four Seasons Hotel restaurants - the French outlet Caprice and Cantonese restaurant Lung King Heen - that retain the coveted three stars.
Bombana, who worked his way up from washing dishes three decades ago, said freshness was the essence of Italian cuisine.
'Hong Kong is now the best city in the world. I can get all ingredients here,' he said.
In all, the guide bestowed 62 eateries with a total of 80 stars, up on the 75 stars dished out to 60 restaurants last year. Ten eateries received two stars and 48 had one star.
Anybody interested in trying the new entries to the one-star category should be prepared to pay a little bit more. Last year HK$100 might have been enough for a meal at one-star debutantes One Dim Sum or Hin Ho Curry, but diners should expect to pay at least HK$160 to eat at this year's one-star entrants, which are either located in hotels or malls.
If that's too rich, the guide's Bib Gourmand category suggests a range of restaurants that are not quite in the one-star league but offer good value for money. The six-month-old Superior Rice Roll Pro Shop in Prince Edward is one of this category's new listings.
'There were no eateries that specialised in rice rolls. Chinese restaurants usually offer rolls made with shrimp, beef and roasted pork, but I want to offer more choices,' co-founder Wong Tim-fat said.
He said the zucchini and mushroom rice roll was a particular favourite of Deanie Yip Tak-han, who won the best actress award at the Venice Film Festival for her role as a servant in A Simple Life.
Food critic Walter Kei said the results were 'normal Michelin choices' - new entries are usually mid to up-market restaurants. 'For people who don't know about Hong Kong, [the guide] is OK,' Kei said.
However, he questioned the guide's selection criteria, which might only work for Western restaurants. 'I'm surprised to see almost the entire chain of Lei Garden has been awarded one star. I've never seen such a phenomenon in other Michelin guides. Should I say Hong Kong's restaurant management has done so well that standards of different branches can be kept at the same level?' Kei said.
Yung Kee, a popular dining haunt for the rich, lost its one star; while Felix, a European restaurant in The Peninsula, was listed in the guide for the first time but failed to get any stars.
Caprice, L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon, 8? Otto e Mezzo Bombana, Lung King Heen
Amber, Bo Innovation, Celebrity Cuisine, Lei Garden (Mong Kok), Ming Court, Pierre, Shang Palace, Spoon by Alain Ducasse, Sun Tung Lok, Ye Shanghai (Kowloon)
Source: Michelin Guide Hong Kong Macau 2012