Date of review: January 20, 2017 | Reviewed by: Wilson Fok
Unlike the open, brightly-lit space of Lupa, which previously occupied this address, Spiga transports guests into a mysterious realm where time seems to stop. A standing pendulum chandelier splits the dining area in two, separating the bar from the rest of the dining room.
A large communal table is perfect for small parties, but guests are encouraged to opt for seats inside the main area, where tables are evenly spaced and felt less stuffy. Designed by Joyce Wang Studios, the restaurant is filled abundantly with copper and brass installations, matching the warm colours on the wall and plush seating that strengthens the sense of comfort throughout the space.
Dining Concepts’ latest Italian restaurant replaces Mario Batali’s Lupa. The tasting menu featuring dishes developed by chef Bartolini came highly recommended, but when it comes to a la carte selections, smart ordering is necessary.
The starters are relatively simple: deep-fried baby squid, beef carpaccio, or the restaurant’s own Caesar salad held no surprises, and the most interesting was the half-fried Sicilian red prawns with tamarind sauce, served with a rich chickpea soup. The prawns were carefully lifted and fried so that they stood on their legs, and the flesh was still tender and raw—a contrasting mix of textures, where its richness is offset by the tangy tamarind sauce served alongside.
The quality of handmade pasta is superb, although the supporting ingredients may be a let down. Housemade tagliatelle with white chicken ragout and black truffle features thin but wide eggy pasta; the noodles were al dente but the ragout was too soupy to dress them properly. Ravioli with buffalo mozzarella and roasted Italian tomato sauce are round dumplings snuggly filled with creamy buffalo mozzarella, but we feel that a heartier tomato sauce would be a better fit as opposed to a rich, uniform sauce instead.
Mains come in larger portions, and meat platters are popular at Spiga. The traditional Italian osso buco with saffron risotto is nicely executed. The fork-tender braised veal shank, juicily braised with vegetables, is perfect accompaniment to the floral saffron-specked risotto, golden and creamy in every bite.
Desserts are popular at Spiga. The standard, however, did not hold the same as preceding courses. The signature soft crème brulee with cherries meringues and iced blueberries was an iced zabaglione, cloyingly sweet with a sugar crust that has been slightly burnt. The berry layer underneath was also too sweet.
The wine menu at Spiga is a generous volume of worldly wine selections, predominantly Italian with a rich selection from around the world, particularly many that stand up alongside hearty main dishes. The cocktail selection may be short but there are some good finds here.
The Barrel-Aged Negroni is rich with an outstanding twist of orange from the zest while woody undertone brings depth and a fine balance of gin, Campari and vermouth to the classic cocktail. The Grapparita is more like a grownup version of lemon presse, with limoncello and grappa added to the tumbler filled with lime juice and an egg white foam on the top. The cocktail is zingy and refreshing, which can be stiff at first but palate-cleansing sipped between courses.
Service at Spiga is friendly, and most of the staff are knowledgeable over the menu selection, particularly when it comes to recommending the restaurant’s signatures, although less familiar with further description and details of ingredients. Portion control and beverage pairing suggestions are sound.
A full dinner at Spiga including one cocktail each amounts to slightly over HK$1,400, a sensible spending for reputable Italian in the Central district, although we suggest a larger party to sample the larger mains which are the restaurant’s strength in terms of execution and variety.