Lunch @ 8 1/2 Otto e Mezzo Bombana (Hong Kong)

November 3, 2018 in Italian

The first meal which my friend and I had in Hong Kong was… *Drum roll* Yes! Italian cuisine at 3 Michelin stars 8½ Otto e Mezzo Bombana. And to secure our lunch reservation in August, my friend emailed the restaurant in May since the restaurant accepted reservation up to 3 months in advance. Proper Kiasu planning is the key in securing our restaurant reservation. Keke.

My friend and I touched down in Hong Kong in mid morning, and immediately headed to the restaurant for our lunch. Coming out from exit H of Central MTR station, we went up to level 2 of the building that’s directly beside the exit where 8½ Otto e Mezzo Bombana was located at.


Interior (Picture Credit: Link)

Upon seated, we were given the set menu (pages 1, 2) and a-la carte menu (pages 1, 2, 3). My friend and I were pretty quick with our order-taking because prior to our visit, we had already decided to order the degustation menu. Keke. And with that, we started our degustation 8½ (HKD1680) lunch with:-


1) Bread platter, Complimentary (above)


2) Amuse bouche, Complimentary (above) – Lorenzini melon and Mangalica black hundok Ham.

3) Sourdough bread, Complimentary (above) – Was surprised when we were presented with more bread. But no complaints since I love bread!

4) Marinated tuna tartare (above) – Citrus and tofu emulsion, royal oscietra caviar.


5) Warm blue lobster (above) – Broccolini emulsion, lobster jus.


  

6) Homemade tagliolini (above) – Butter, parmesan and “melanosporum” black truffle fondue. Our friends were raving about the pasta and I could finally vouch that the raves are true, now that I tried it for myself. It was so good! The texture of the homemade tagliolini was nothing quite like any homemade pasta I tried, and I absolutely loved it. Simply divine with the sliced truffle and truffle fondue. If I live in Hong Kong, I could totally visualise myself returning (many times) just for this dish.

7) Main with options of:-

(A) Baby lamb from Aveyron (above) – Aromatic herbs, black olive, barley and vegetables. When this was served, I couldn’t help but feel the plating was themed ‘garden’. No? And it’s a first to see such a small lamb rib. It just screamed ‘cute’ to me. Keke.

(B) Short rib & beef tenderloin (above) – Whipped potato, red wine and plum sauce.

8) Dessert with options of:-


  

(A) Grand cru chocolate (above) – Baked chocolate cream, cocoa nougatine and sorbet.

(B) Strawberry (above) – Fresh strawberry, sorbet and vanilla cream.

9) Petit fours, Complimentary (above)

10) Coffee, Complimentary (above) – Went with coffee instead of tea.

11) Chocolate, Complimentary (above) – And just as we thought we came to the end of our lunch with the petit fours and coffee, the staff brought a box of chocolates. And since I love my chocolates and I am bad at choosing, I requested 1 of every flavour. Haha. Greedy me.

It was an enjoyable lunch with great food! And I really liked the ambience of the place too. Although 8½ Otto e Mezzo Bombana was a fine-dining restaurant where one was required to be dressed appropriately, the atmosphere was comfortable. Ie, not tensed and stuffy. And I also credit that to the approachable, smilely staff who gave such impeccable service.

My friend and I were also in luck to have chef-owner Umberto Bombana in the house during the day of our meal; He’s not always around since he also opened branches of 8½ Otto e Mezzo Bombana in Shanghai (2012), Beijing (2013) and Macau (2015). And during our lunch, I kept seeing head chef Bombana. At least 5 times? I suspect the layout/floor plan of the restaurant must be a donut/loop because I only saw him heading back to the kitchen but not of him coming out of the kitchen. Haha. And he reminded me of a gentle polar bear. Don’t ask me why!

Do I recommend Michelin-starred 8½ Otto e Mezzo Bombana? That’s for sure!

8½ OTTO E MEZZO BOMBANA
18 Chater Road, Landmark Alexandra, Shop 202, Central, Hong Kong
+852 2537 8859, Website
Overall: 8
Opening hours:-
Food/Beverage: 8
Mon – Sat: 12:00 – 14:30 (Lunch)
Ambience: 8
Mon – Sat: 18:30 – 22:30 (Dinner)
Value: 8
Service: 8
* Closed on Sun

Lunch @ Caprice (Hong Kong)

October 22, 2018 in French

While having dinner with the friend who made August 2018′s gastronomic trip to Hong Kong possible, I was chided for having not blogged about the restaurants we went (in Hong Kong). But honestly, my backlog is really long; I have 30 restaurants to write, just from my trips alone. Gasp. But since it’s mentioned, I felt I should quickly review my topmost favourite restaurant from our Hong Kong trip. And yes, that’s Caprice!

I meant to dine at Michelin-starred Caprice earlier when I was in Hong Kong with my colleagues in May 2018 but the restaurant was serving a special menu as it was the Mother Day’s weekend. Since I preferred regular menu, my colleague and I went to Belon instead. But once I knew (in April) that I was returning to Hong Kong again in August, I made my reservation for weekday lunch by dropping Caprice an email.

In the same email, I enquired about the menu and got to learn there’s also a surprise tasting menu in addition to the set lunch and a la carte menus. The surprise tasting menu, also known as ‘Menu Carte Blanche’, was a 8-courses surprise menu prepared by head chef Guillaume Galliot. It was also mentioned in the email that the surprise menu will not be sent prior to lunch. Hmm, okie… I had to fill a credit card authorisation form too to secure my reservation.

I arrived at the restaurant 5 minutes prior to 12pm. And since I was early, I waited at the lounge before the staff led me to my table. And the waiting staff attending to me was informed of my interest in the surprise tasting menu as indicated in my reservation email. Upon seated, she said I could refer to their menu (pages 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6) before deciding if I wanted the lunch set or continue with my surprise tasting menu. It’s to note the latter was not shown in the presented menus.

No surprises that I stuck to my original choice. And with that, I started my Menu Carte Blanche (HKD2080) lunch with:-


1) Bread platter, Complimentary (above) – The staff came up with a basket of chilli challah, sesame brioche, mini baguette and chestnut rye bread. I really wanted to try one of everything, but I went with the sesame brioche only because I knew I had to save my stomach space for what’s to come. Appetite has shrunk much. Sob. And I was given salted and unsalted butter to pair with my bread.


  

2) Dish #1 (above) – Comprised of king crab, oyster and caviar, this was so good! The tangy potato foam worked well with the caviar in bringing out the sweetness of the king crab. And I liked the addition of cubed pickled celery as it introduced another texture into the dish. Brilliantly executed.


3) Dish #2 (above) – When I was presented with a vegetable dish for my 2nd course, my heart took a dip. How do I say this… I need some meat in my dishes. But! This was amazing. I called this the ‘everything tomato’ dish because it was literally so; Tomato bisque with a layer of tomato jelly (and tomato seed), various types of tomato which include pineapple tomato (the yellow one) and sea tomato (the green one), and a scoop of burrata cheese sprinkled with (even more) tomato powder. Really amazing. I shall not judge a vegetarian dish anymore. Kekeke.


4) Dish #3 (above) – Blue lobster was served within a glass dome so as to allow customers to get a sniff of the truffle & coriander within when the lid was opened.

5) Dish #4 (above) – Turbot, caviar on potato, and saffron sauce made with cream and herbs.


  

6) Dish #5 (above) – Before being plated, the waiting staff brought the whole racan pigeon to the table and explained it’s roasted and smoked inside a cocoa pod. And for the final product, the pigeon was served alongside foie gras, fig marmalade and white celery.


7) Dish #6 (above) – Roasted pork loin with pork juice, artichoke, French bean, black olive and artichoke purée.

8) Dish #7 (above) – At this point, I was presented with a large variety of freshly imported French cheese placed on an oak slab. There were more than 10 to choose from. Unfortunately, I am not too well-versed with my cheeses. So I said I had no preference. To which the staff said he will include Caprice’s signature in my cheese platter. 5 minutes later, he placed the plate in front of me and recommended me to start from my 6 o’clock and go clockwise. And the third would be Caprice’s signature. Can’t remember if he said it was aged 3.5 months or 3.5 years. Sorry. And to go with the cheeses, the staff also presented me with a bread platter. Again, I asked for recommendation and he mentioned the French would traditionally have their cheese with baguette although there’s also the second group who would prefer cracker. He personally preferred the former and I decided to go with that. And honestly, bread is always a (good) choice. Keke!

9) Palate cleanser, Complimentary (above) – Coconut biscuit with blueberry sorbet.


10) Dish #8 (above) – Blueberry panna cotta with figs that’s in season. This was really good!

11) Petit fours, Complimentary (above) – Chocolate puff, pineapple tart with mint, and chocolate with hazelnut and almond within. And I checked… The drawer was empty. Sob.

12) Coffee or tea, Complimentary (above) – And I went with coffee.

The interior of Caprice was nothing like any of the other fine dining restaurants I visited. Gigantic chandeliers hanged from the ceiling, thick lush carpet was used for the flooring, and gold back-painted frosted tiles were used for the elevated walkway which stretched the entire length of the dining hall. Everything screamed “luxurious” to me. And I felt like a VIP as I strutted down the ‘runway’, with staff greeting me as I walked past. And because my assigned table was at the furthest end from the entrance, I walked past the open-concept kitchen which was positioned in the middle of the space.

It should most likely be the fact that I was the earliest customer to start my lunch that I was given the most corner seat. But I somehow felt that it’s actually because they gave much consideration that I was a solo diner; Corner seat so that I wouldn’t be scrutinised by curious eyes of the lunch crowd which mainly came in groups. And it was a nice gesture to be given magazines just in case I needed something to kept myself occupied. Lovely! And yes, I dined at Caprice alone because my friend wanted to check out Bo Innovation which I had already tried in 2017.

I don’t have the habit of going to the toilet in the midst of my meal, but I was glad I did at Caprice. Enroute to the restaurant’s toilet, one could get a glimpse of the chefs plating before the food was sent out to customers. And as I walked back to my table, the staff caught sight of me and strode before me to pull the heavy leather-cushioned chair out for me. Nice. I also noticed I was given a new napkin which was placed on a plate instead of directly onto the table. Wow.

Everything was top-notch. Food, service and ambience. I absolutely enjoyed myself. And to top it, I had a clear view of the Victoria Harbour! It was a flawless lunch experience. I highly recommend 2 Michelin stars Caprice. And including tax, I paid HKD2288 for lunch. But do note that one will need to be at the restaurant by 1pm if one wishes to order the surprise tasting menu during lunch!

CAPRICE
8 Finance Street Central, Four Seasons Hotel, 6/F, Central, Hong Kong
+852 3196 8860, Website
Overall: 9
Opening hours:-
Food/Beverage: 9
Mon – Sun : 12:00 – 14:30 (Lunch)
Ambience: 9
Mon – Sun : 18:30 – 22:30 (Dinner)
Value: 8
Service: 9

Lunch @ Bo Innovation (Hong Kong)

April 17, 2017 in Chinese

When the first ever ‘Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants’ list was announced in February 2013 by S. Pellegrino, Bo Innovation somehow stood out to me. And at that moment, I made a note to self to visit the restaurant when I fly to Hong Kong.

But yes, it took me 4 years. Having traveled to Hong Kong at least thrice, one can say there wasn’t a strong pull factor for me to quickly re-visit Hong Kong. But! A family trip was arranged in March 2017 because my brother is getting married and my Mom wanted to buy bridal gifts. So yeah!

I emailed the restaurant and made reservation for weekday lunch successfully. In fact, I was to have lunch at Bo Innovation immediately after touching down. Keke.

  

Bo Innovation was a 8 to 10 minutes walk from Wan Chai MTR station. The lift opened directly into the restaurant and I was greeted by colorful neon lights. It was totally head chef Alvin Leung’s style; Matched his multi-colour hairdo and tattoo.

The receptionist checked my reservation, took my luggage and passed me a tag before her colleague led me to my table. And I noticed every table was set with different Chinaware. A male staff came up to me and said, “The plates are made in Hong Kong with long history. Please take picture and share.” But what puzzled me was that the plates were only placed for decoration. When the dishes came out, the Chinaware was kept.Hmm…

And from the menu (pages 1, 2), I ordered:-

1) Chef lunch menu, HKD800 comprised of:-

  

(A) Egg waffle (above) – “Egg waffle. This is like bread and butter in Hong Kong”, the male staff said. And within the waffle was Yunnan ham and spring onion.

(B) Scallop (above) – Shanghainese “jolo”, woba, sugar snap peas, avocado, lemon. And before the dish came out, the staff presented Beau Ideal’s superior pickle sauce; A marinated cooking wine made from (high quality) rice, wheat and kaoliang liquor, and fermented through modern microorganism technique. “Famous in Shanghai”, he said. Shortly after, the bottle was taken away and my dish was served. Apparently, the Hokkaido scallop was marinated with the presented pickle sauce. Served alongside crispy puff rice, beet root and avocado sour cream.


(C) Fishing village (above) – Spot prawn with soy salt, umami noodles, pickle fuzzy melon. Glass noodle marinated in shrimp oil (made after a 48 hours process), prawn, and black powder made from garlic and ginger cooked at very high heat.

(D) Molecular (above) – X-treme “xiao long bao”. Topped with strip of ginger marinated with red vinegar, I was expecting the skin to be thin like a real xiao long bao. But I had to really bite into it to burst it and taste the soup within. So yes, one need to make sure one’s mouth is fully closed to prevent the soup from spirting out. And this was really tasty.

(E) Foie gras (above) – “Mui choy” caramel ice-cream, green apple, ginger bread. And I was told this was inspired by the pork belly with preserved vegetables (梅菜扣肉) dish. I honestly felt it’s a brilliant dish in terms of varying temperature (room and cold), texture. And I left the green apple foam for the last as I instructed to as I was told it’s to be eaten as the palate cleanser.

  

(F) Mao tai (above) – Lemon, egg white. Served in a cup which shape was modeled after what’s used by emperors in olden days, I was told to hold the cup by the wings and look up 90 degree. And it was quite weird drinking it in that manner; I felt as though I was taking a roller coaster as I watched the liquid falling towards me. And because of the high 53% alcohol content in moutai (distilled Chinese liquor, I could feel warmth spreading within my body once drank. Thank goodness I wasn’t knocked out by this. Haha.


(G) Red mullet (above) – Black bean, pepper, black garlic, yuzu, mullet roe.

(H) Langoustine (above) – Cauliflower, black truffle, salty duck egg yolk. I thought it was interesting that the foam was mustard!

  

(I) Coconut (above) – Palm sugar, desiccated coconut chocolate,
piña colada, cherry, pandan avocado.


2) Caviar & smoked quail egg, HKD280 (above) – Besides the xiao long bao, the other signature dish would be this; Caviar on quail egg with taro. As this was not included in the set menu, I ordered it as a-la carte. And the staff mentioned the concept for this dish was bird nest. Thus it sitting on a tree. I really liked this. A must try.

And with my lunch, I could finally (and proudly) say I’ve dined at Bo Innovation. Yeah! My meal experience would have been made more beautiful with a glimpse of chef Alvin. But unfortunately, he wasn’t at the restaurant. Sob.

Would I recommend Bo Innovation? If one is open to molecular cuisine, I would say yes. Even if one is unsure about molecular gastronomy, I would say chef Alvin was not very extreme in breaking away from what Chinese cuisine should traditionally be cooked.

But what I wasn’t used to was the fast-paced service, which probably was (considered) normal in the context of Hong Kong culture. When the staff delivered the lengthy introduction of the respective dishes, they rattled off like machine-gun. Too fast. I only managed to catch everything almost everything after hearing them repeating the introduction to my neighbouring diners. My plates were cleared almost immediately once I put down my utensils, and the next course was served very efficiently. I did get the slight feeling of ‘I couldn’t relax and breathe properly’.

With 3 Michelin stars meaning ‘exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey’, I wasn’t too aligned with the 3 Michelin stars awarded to Bo Innovation. Unless lunch was just a preview?

BO INNOVATION
60 Johnston Road, J Senses, 1/F, Wan Chai, Hong Kong
+852 2850 8371, Website, Facebook
Overall: 7
Opening hours:-
Food/Beverage: 8
Mon – Fri : 12:00 – 15:00 (Lunch)
Ambience: 7
Mon – Fri : 19:00 – 00:00 (Dinner)
Value: 7
Sat : 18:00 – 00:00 (Dinner)
Service: 8
 
* Closed on Sun