Dining has never been more exciting as stunning contemporary menus broaden gourmets' venue choices
Catalunya is a destination dining spot in Morrison Hill. The inside is warm and rustic, with red fabric on the walls, and wood and stone in the interior. The restaurant prides itself on having many ex-elBulli staff members, but mercifully the menu is not all molecular. The focus, rather, is on contemporary Spanish food.
A must-try is the Iberico ham (HK$130-$330), which perfectly complements the tomato on toasted bread. The tomato tartare (HK$100) has a meaty texture, but the accompanying foamed tomato water is irrelevant.
Saltiness marred two otherwise solid dishes: the cod and the lobster.
The cod fish Esqueixada (HK$110) had a deliciously refreshing taste and texture, but we had to wash down the salt. The same went for the lobster rice (HK$480). Servers also overlooked giving us wet towels and an extra plate for our empty shells.
Chopping sounds emanated from the dining room, and the server explained that this was because the suckling pig (HK$825), which is cooked for 11 hours, was so tender, it could be cut with a plate. This was demonstrated in the dining room. We sampled the tapas version (HK$135) cut into two neat squares, which were bland.
We liked the succulent and sweet prawns with crispy pork belly and ajillo (HK$160), while the dessert of almond sponge cake (HK$90) took 15 minutes to arrive, but was well worth the wait.
The cocktails such as the PJS (HK$140) of lime, kumquat, sake, midori and sugar covered in crushed ice were refreshing. Bernice Chan
G/F, GUARDIAN HOUSE
32 OI KWAN ROAD
A TASTE OF PARIS
The construction of the escalator on Centre Street has made Sai Ying Pun more accessible, and a number of restaurants have sprung up. One is Metropolitain, adding French flair to the neighbourhood. The décor is similar to the Parisian metro, and there’s a nice peoplewatching space outside. While the à la carte menu isn’t strictly French – there is some pasta and eggplant parmigiana – there are some hearty dishes on offer.
For starters, the traditional salmon tartare (HK$78) is light and refreshing mixed with finely chopped gherkins on thin toast chips, while the garlic butter snails (HK$68) hit the spot, arriving hot and immersed in butter and pesto sauce. We completely cleaned our plate by mopping up the pesto with the bread.
For mains, the braised lamb shank (HK$178) practically fell off the bone, and was accompanied by mashed potatoes with carrots, while the duck magret (HK$218) – a challenging dish to prepare – was on the tough side. It came with creamy polenta and orange sauce topped with raisins and pine nuts.
The crème brûlée (HK$50) came in a shallow pot and was made with vanilla beans. Bernice Chan
46 HIGH STREET
SAI YING PUN
With a contemporary black and gold interior, Il Milione Bar & Ristorante Italiano oozes sophistication. Drinks at the bar are a must before dinner where a selection of Negroni cocktails – an Italian favourite – are served.
The House Negroni (HK$110) is recommended, as is a 1930s Manhattan. Central Italian and Umbrian cuisine are served and the menu is enticing with antipasti, such as caramelised foie gras with smoked eel in apple stock, diced vegetables and ginger (HK$250), and poached cod filet with organic chickpeas from Poggio Alquilone and candied orange (HK$230). Main courses of pasta and the passatelli pasta made with breadcrumbs and Sorrento lemon served with lobster tail in lobster broth with samphire (HK$330) were recommended, as was a main dish saddle of suckling pig, roasted baby pork belly, pan-fried baby pork back rib with fresh vegetables (HK$310). Other choices included sea bass, pigeon, lamb chops and octopus. For dessert, the chocolate and orange parfait, crumbly shortcrust with spices and negroni sauce (HK$120) and the ice almond milk, mulled wine sorbet with candied tangerine and custard fritters (HK$120) are a must. Tracey Furniss
IL MILIONE BAR & RISTORANTE ITALIANO
G/F HUTCHISON HOUSE
10 HARCOURT ROAD
A NEW TAKE
Piccolo has expanded with its third eatery just off Johnston Road, where several trendy eateries have opened up. Here, Piccolo not only offers its signature thin-crust pizzas, but also a few other new dishes not found in its Kennedy Town or Tai Hang locations.
For starters, the beetroot and rocket salad with fennel shavings and radish (HK$80) is refreshing, but we would have preferred more chopped beets to balance out the generous portion of rocket. We thoroughly enjoyed the new cioppino (HK$450) dish. The flavourful seafood bisque comes with tasty baby squid, red snapper, shrimp, clams and a small lobster cut in half - enough for three or four people to share.
The signature pancetta pizza, complete with an Italian egg in the middle (HK$145), is a tasty and ingenious combination.
Another new menu addition is the linguine with live prawns, tossed with chilli Nduja de Calabria (HK$180). While the prawns are not live, they are very fresh and meaty nestled in the slightly spicy pasta.
The traditional tiramisu (HK$60), served in a glass, is creamy and light. Bernice Chan
PICCOLO PIZZERIA & BAR
22 TAI WONG EAST STREET
2824 3002 FACEBOOK.COM/PICCOLOWC
Those seeking a comprehensive Japanese dining experience should head to INA by Inagiku. Diners can sit in the main dining area or at two counters – one for sushi, the other for tempura and teppanyaki.
For sushi, there’s an array of fresh seafood, from abalone (HK$100) and mackerel (HK$120) to striped jack (HK$80). We were most impressed with the very tender sea eel (HK$100), while chef Shinya Yamashita used a blow torch to sear the top of the red snapper (HK$90) for a more complex taste. Nanohana vegetables or rapeseed leaves are in season, and have a subtle, sweet taste.
The main event is the teppanyaki, deftly prepared by chef Masami Inoue. She has created some interesting main dishes, such as fresh lobster in a bouillabaisse style (HK$400), featuring fried barley cake and chunks of lobster in a flavourful bisque with garlic bread. Another is yellowtail, grilled to perfection and topped with a tomato parsley sauce (HK$180). The excellent wagyu beef steak (HK$750) melts in the mouth, contrasting well with crunchy garlic chips. Bernice Chan
INA BY INAGIKU
2/F, HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS
3 TONG TAK STREET
TSEUNG KWAN O
MAYTA is where Blue Smoke Bar-B-Que used to be. Celebrated Peruvian chef Jaime Pesaque has designed a menu featuring a central ceviche bar of fresh seafood and a selection of small and large Peruvian plates to share.
We started off with the solterito salad (HK$68), which had the right mix of avocado cream and miso dressing along with fava beans and salmon. The pan con chicharron (HK$128) was just perfect with its steamed buns wrapped around crispy pork, rocoto chili aioli and fried sweet potato. Another starter, the nikkei tartare (HK$138) went down well with country bread. It consists of tuna, avocado, nikkei sauce and dried squid.
For big-portion meals, we tried the cazuela criolla (HK$178), a veal cheek stew with red wine beans, baby carrots, crispy potatoes and pickles. The stew was thick, and the beans made it taste creamy. The clasico (HK$148), sea bass marinated in lime leche de tigre was tangy, and the red onion gave it a bit of a zing. We washed down the food with pisco sours (HK$68), Peru's national drink which comes in numerous flavours, including traditional, passion fruit and chicha morada.
MAYTA has a good selection of piscos and pisco infusions, South American beers and a long list of wines and dessert wines. Mukul Munish
MAYTA PERUVIAN KITCHEN & PISCO BAR
3/F, GRAND PROGRESS BUILDING
15-16 LAN KWAI FONG
When we visited Stone Nullah Tavern, it lacked signage, so we had to go inside to verify we were in the right place. Its interior is a cross between a living room and a barn, with a giant wooden sliding door. The restaurant claims to be “new American”, which is defined as using fresh organic ingredients. There aren’t many items on the menu, and portions are described as “medium” – but we thought they were on the small side.
For starters, the chicken liver and onion dip (HK$100) was delicious, with the chips artfully arranged like a flower, and the dip was well seasoned. Another highlight was the mac and cheese (HK$80), which came with an organic egg yolk that was mixed at the table to add extra flavour.
But other dishes didn’t merit much attention, such as the grilled asparagus (HK$100), which consisted of two long stalks cut in half and drizzled with crustacean butter. Another was the pork brisket (HK$130) – thick slices of ham braised in malt liquor, served with pickled lettuce and a stack of crackers.
We liked the clams (HK$130), which were juicy in a slightly spicy tomato sauce, but the deep-fried tripe garnish was redundant.
Finally, the hyped “fat kid cake”, featuring layers of crème brûlée, chocolate ganache and beetroot cake, turned out to be overwhelmed by chocolate.
For drinks, draft and bottled beers are available. Bernice Chan
STONE NULLAH TAVERN
G/F, 69-71 STONE NULLAH LANE
Spanish restaurants are sprouting up all over Hong Kong, and the latest is QUEMO. Start off with a glass of sangria, preferably white (HK$60), as this isn’t as sweet as its red counterpart (HK$50).
The menu has some standouts. There’s plenty of flavour in the pregnant tomato (HK$58), including smoked fish, roasted eggplant and onion. The acornfed ham (HK$328) is some of the best in town, but the tomato bread doesn’t stand up to the cured meat.
Chorizo lollipops (HK$68) are cute and sweet, filled with quince jelly and goat’s cheese, while the mussels with piquillo candy peppers (HK$78) are bland. The cod ravioli (HK$108) is a Spanish wonton filled with fish and leeks, while the egg timbal (HK$118) is a hearty dish with Iberico ham, roasted piquillo and potatoes.
One fun item was the Mediterranean rice (HK$368), which was held at a 90-degree angle to show off the thin layer of rice stuck to the pan. Diced cuttlefish was mixed in, while sweet clams came on a separate plate.
The desserts – liquid bonbons (HK$65), soft chocolate dumplings, and apple bunuelo (HK$65), or puffs filled with cinnamon apple – were so good we ordered more. Bernice Chan
5/F, QRE PLAZA
202 QUEEN’S ROAD EAST
BACK TO BASICS
The pizza options are increasing, with chef Mathieu Palombino bringing his style of Neapolitan pizzas from New York to Hong Kong. Located along the Mid-Levels escalator, Motorino is a small restaurant offering basic comfort food in a no-frills environment.
We thoroughly enjoyed the marinated beetroot salad (HK$88), garnished with very refreshing red onions, olives, mint and peppers.
However, the cockle clam crostino (HK$108) was heavy on the oil and, while the clams were plump, they were sandy.
The pizzas are chewy rather than crispy, so if you prefer thin-crust pizzas, this may not be the place for you. The cremini mushroom pizza (HK$138) was good, although there wasn’t enough mushroom and sweet sausage topping. The colatura di alici (HK$138) features chopped buffalo mozzarella, red onions, grape tomatoes, white anchovies, chilli flakes and Gaeta olives. The pizza arrived lukewarm. For dessert, the tiramisu (HK$68) is a generous, creamy and indulgent slice that’s big enough to share. Bernice Chan
14 SHELLEY STREET