21C Brown Street, Tai Hang
Tel: 2504 2111
Open: noon-3pm, 6pm-11pm Cuisine: Italian
Price: HK$320 without drinks or the service charge.
Ambience: given the choice of alfresco dining or sitting at a counter, we chose the former, imagining a romantic outdoor setting. But we moved inside because the courtyard was stifling. Worse, it smelled of toilet disinfectant.
Pros: on busy nights, diners at this small restaurant might feel squashed, but there is a retro appeal to the rustic interior, which recalls English-Italian taverns from the 1970s. The staff, although slightly frazzled, were friendly and eager to please.
Cons: the counter table is by the window, so you may have passers-by checking out what's on your plate. Dishes are priced in euros as a gimmick, although the exchange rate is a simple one euro to HK$10. Chocolate mousse (HK$78), the only dessert offered that evening, was overkill and looked like a giant cowpat. Our mains did not arrive at the same time.
Recommended: the main ingredients in the sautéed shrimp and sausage starter (HK$88) were faultless: the shrimp was succulent and garlicky, and the salami had a delicious chilli bite. But there was so much undressed rucola you would have needed a second stomach to digest it. The fish stew (HK$188) was light, full of flavour and came with scallops, prawns, fish and clams. We dunked our bread in the stew and shared it while waiting for the second main dish to be served. The linguine with tiger prawns in lobster sauce (HK$158) was worth the wait. Attention had been paid to authenticity and the house-made pasta, being al dente, was wonderfully chewy. The lobster sauce was rich and strong.
What else? A tasting menu is available, but orders must be made three days in advance.