Date of review: May 5, 2016 | Reviewed by: Wilson Fok
Housed within a new building on the busier strip of Lockhart Road in Causeway Bay, Involtini is opened and operated by Jack Law, a local chef who spent years in Umberto Bombana’s kitchen handling pasta making duties. The elevator door opens to reveal the dining room, which boasts an open kitchen where the culinary actions are, equipped with a number of high chairs doubling as the chef’s table. The main dining area is occupied with L-shaped tables that allow little elbowroom for guests with snuggly-packed tables.
Involtini, or ‘stuffed rolls’ in Italian, offers a well-balanced menu from generously portioned starters to pastas and mains. We began our meal with cured rainbow trout. Presentation aside, the thinly-sliced cured fish is smoked lightly and topped with orange and grapefruit segments, offering zing and depth to make it a refreshing starter.
Pastas are a strong suit at Involtini, as most are freshly made in house and paired with proper pasta sauces that compliments the texture of the pasta itself. The signature squid ink tagliolini with half Boston lobster is delightfully citrusy with the aroma of orange in the pasta. The lobster was cooked to perfection, tender and juicy chunks that match well with the al dente fresh pasta.
Orecchiette with Italian sausage and homemade nduja is pleasantly spicy. The chili-spiked sauce clings well onto each piece of ear-shaped pasta, though not formed as traditionally as it should, the texture and tangy heat are just right.
The mains hold relatively less surprise to the pasta. Seared scallops with bottarga butter and black garlic sauce features tender scallops pan-fried until just golden, and the black garlic sauce offers sweetness to enhance the brininess of scallops.
The short rib and A5 wagyu sirloin is picture perfect. The sirloin, though slightly tough, was prepared well and medium-rare is the best way to enjoy it. The short rib, slow cooked until fork-tender, is succulent, although the jus is slightly over seasoned.
While savoury dishes excel at Involtini, desserts are relatively weak, as the dessert duo takes a store-bought vanilla gelato paired with tiramisu that was too light on the coffee. The yoghurt panna cotta suffered with an unlikely addition of diced green apple.
With a short one-page wine list featuring a few by the glass option for wines, we felt that whites are more fitting for our meal. The Pinot Grigio IGT Sant’Elena from Italy is floral on the nose, with a dry, full body that stands up against seafood dishes like the lobster pasta. The Chateau la Rose Bellevue Tradition Blanc 2013 is punchy on aromas of melon and stone fruits, followed by citrus the and a sweet touch at the end, a white wine that marries well with seafood as well as fish dishes.
The service at Involtini is attentive and friendly. At peak dinner hours service, or the lack thereof, may occur but the staff are well trained to offer sound suggestions and portion control for guests, together with some basic wine pairing information. It is wise to ask the staff for daily recommendations or off-menu items at the time of reservation.
A full dinner for two with one glass of wine each amounts to slightly less than HK$1,500. The ambiance and wine selection of Involtini may not be top-notch, however the quality and execution of the dishes, particularly pastas, shows promise that matches the same calibre as some of the top fine-dining establishments.