Date of review: January 13, 2014 | Reviewed by:
Set on the higher floors of the overtly opulent Regal Hong Kong Hotel, the restaurant’s royal purple and gold overtones, wall paintings depicting Italian countryside, mirrored ceiling and chandeliers pay homage to the restaurant’s 1939 beginnings in Genoa. Floor-to-ceiling windows, with views primarily over Victoria Park and eastern Hong Kong Island, provide a stark contrast to the classic, but slightly dated décor. Light operatic music plays in the background, setting the scene for well-dressed diners who converse in hushed tones, thanks chiefly to the extravagant setting and large, well-spaced tables. A piano hides in the corner, where the staff informs us that there are occasional live performances.
The menu focuses primarily on Italian cooking, with a focus on seafood and meat. The meal surprisingly kicks off with an amuse bouche of shrimp, which is sadly drowned in a thick cream and lacks any originality or flavour beyond the overwhelming sauce. Sadly, the theme of overpowering the ingredients interjects the meal too often, with the main of oven-baked turbot browned with pistachios in saffron sauce being an affront to the generally delicately-used saffron, and while the tiramisu wasn’t bad to taste, one couldn’t help but feel it could have done with a lot less mascarpone. However, when the restaurant gets it right, it delivers to a very high standard. The porcini mushroom soup with burrata cheese is creamy and rich, but portioned just right to be a light starting point; the starter of seafood antipasti is both fresh, and creatively presented in the shape of a lobster. The menu highlight is the signature grilled lamb chops in creamy black truffle sauce. Lightly-flavoured truffle sauce is always a winner - the thin sauce beautifully complements the well-cooked Australian lamb and its accompaniment of mint sauce.
The wine list is moderate and not intimidating; there are a range of prices, with bottles available in the HK$500 category, to prices in five figures. Although dominated by French and Italian vineyards, wines from Germany, Spain, Austria, as well from much of the more popular new world wine regions are available. This variety is also reflected in the small selection of wines available by the glass, featuring Italy, Argentina, South Africa and a merlot from the Maipo Valley in Chile, specially created for Regal Hotels.
While initially pleasant, as the evening wears down, staff can be tremendously hard to get the attention of and may come across as somewhat indifferent. When questioned, the staff are well-versed about the restaurant and its menu, though it couldn’t hurt to offer their knowledge up front without interrogation.
A meal for two with a glass of wine can come to HK$1,900. Considering the inconsistency of the food and service, this is rather expensive, especially if you opt to venture away from the signature dishes. However, the signature tasting menu providing a sampling of the restaurant’s forte, at HK$788 per person, provides better value.