Date of review: January 9, 2014 | Reviewed by:
Il Milione feels decadent and sexy thanks to its Art Deco-inspired decor. In the black-and-gold space, low lighting and brass accents set a glamorous scene. Entering through a metal, vault-style door, you first travel through the bar, where Negronis are the order of the day, created by the bar staff with a flair for showmanship. The main dining room is situated at the back of Il Milione; here, generous spacing between tables creates the sensation that you are dining in your own private space, making it perfect for a special night out. The vibe lends itself to nighttime dining rather than day, but would provide a cool escape from Hong Kong's humid summer haze. Perhaps Il Milione’s only visual fault is the low ceilings in the dining room – Design LSM, the designer firm behind the interiors, has done what it could to counteract this and make the space feel intimate, but it’s hard to totally dispel that feeling of cabin fever.
Chef Marco Gubbiotti created an Umbrian-inspired menu for Il Milione, drawing on the Italian region’s focus on a few quality ingredients. Umbria, which sits next to Tuscany, has the same foundations, but what sets it apart is the lack of salt in the food (Umbria being landlocked, it did not traditionally have so much access to salt) and its emphasis on meats, grains, truffles and vegetables – especially seasonal produce. This came through at our meal in the amuse-bouche of porcini mushroom and sausage, which is fantastic. The deep fried zucchini flowers are crisp and fresh, yet provide enough weight to counterbalance the bar’s signature Negronis. The lobster is the star ingredient in the restaurant’s signature cappelletti with Parma ham and lobster, but the fresh pasta is not far behind, particularly as it’s homemade. Il Milione’s grated pasta with lamb ragu also features homemade pasta, which really adds another dimension to a simple dish. This one surprised with its wintery, stew-like feel, making it an ideal option in the cold months ahead. The beef fillet with truffles and foie gras matched the decor in terms of decadence. The dessert menu is intriguing: popcorn and apple mixed with fior di latte gelato creates a surprisingly moreish “apple tart”. The buttery crunch of the popcorn kept us going back for more. A pecorino-flavoured souffle provides a contrast – a not-too-sweet finish to a considerable meal.
Il Milione prides itself on its Negroni, a delicious, if somewhat lethal, combination of martini rosso, martini bianco and gin. It offers a range of variations on the traditional Negroni, and each is prepared in front of you with theatrical flair. If that sounds too much, try the lighter and slightly less potent Negroni Sbagliato, which is “broken” with the addition of prosecco. The wine list is extensive, with a wider variety of wines at the high end of the scale, and an emphasis on Italian varietals.
The staff is helpful and attentive at Il Milione, although their knowledge of the menu is not consistently top-notch. Our wait staff early on just recited the menu back to us when we asked for recommendations; however, when it came to dessert, another member of staff was able to give us some in-depth and interesting suggestions.
Il Milione is expensive, but that is to be expected when the chef at the helm of things is so renowned, and when the ingredients used are so high-quality. Expect to pay HK$xxx for a three-course meal for two, with a glass of wine each.