Date of review: February 2, 2015 | Reviewed by:
121BC’s whitewashed walls and dark wood interiors give off a modern-industrial vibe with a size built for friendly banter. The intimate space seats up to 50 people, mainly via a long communal dining table running the length of the space and bar stools lining the walls. The lighting is warm and low, and the buzz of conversation envelops the air.
This osteria and enoteca offers Italian shared plates matched with an extensive wine list curated by award-winning sommelier Giorgio de Maria, who also worked on the original 121BC in Sydney. One side of the wall is a blackboard detailing the week’s menu that changes depending on the produce available. Dishes focus on simple Italian classics made from quality ingredients. Pasta, grissini and ricotta are homemade. Among the mainstays are the caramelised lamb ribs, orange and caraway, homemade ricotta and aubergine caponata, and the grilled octopus, chickpea, olive and tomato. The friggiteli peppers in celery salt is a simple appetiser great paired with a glass of chardonnay. The grilled polenta with parmesan is pleasantly grainy, chewy with just the right saltiness, while the homemade ricotta with aubergine caponata is amazing in its creaminess and flavour. The agnolotti del plin, stuffed with braised rabbit and sage came drizzled in olive oil with a handful of spinach tossed through. The homemade pasta and stuffing is excellent and did not need further seasoning. For meats, go for the caramelised lamb ribs, orange and caraway, or the hangar steak with mushroom and salsa verde, which are cooked to perfection. All things chocolate for dessert always run out by the end of the night, so get your wait staff to reserve your piece of chocolate tart early. Dishes can be ordered a la carte, or banquet style, which is what 121BC calls an eight-dish taster menu recommended by the chef, which costs HK$500 per person.
121BC carries an extensive wine selection covering different regions of Italy, highlighting biodynamic wines sourced directly from the producers. Their selection of macerated (white like a red) wines is worth sampling. The staff are able to recommend excellent wine-food matches before a plate is served, and as there are more than 30 different bottles offered by the glass, there are plenty of options to complement the dining experience.
Service is friendly and unobtrusive. All staff are knowledgeable about the menu and the wine, some even offering to provide a lengthy lesson on wine maceration in Italy.
A tasting menu for two paired with wine by the glass comes to about HK$1,600, which is excellent value given the quality and quantity of the food and the wine.