Cruising the Mediterranean

There’s something magical about the Mediterranean coast, with its brightly colored architecture looking out on a blue sea and sky. And not to mention the cuisine, of course, which spans a variety of cultures and uses the freshest ingredients.

The newly opened Casa Cucina & Bar at Sai Ying Pun, led by former Amber chef Anthony Cheung, combines a Cicchetti-inspired menu with a welcoming Mediterranean vibe, created by the restaurant’s three floors of intimate dining space, all painted in azure and pink.

To start, the Cicchetti Platter (HK$188), comprising three starters from the region – each of which also can be ordered individually (from HK$65) – goes down nicely with a Bloody Mary Martini (HK$88) – a marriage of tequila, triple sec, tomato and red pepper juice. The burrata is served with a homemade fermented tomato coulis for a sweet and light savory aftertaste, while the bresaola ham rolls offer a flavorful punch.

Although its dense green presentation looks sticky, the mushroom risotto (HK$150) tastes earthy and fresh. This is achieved by cooking the rice with spinach puree, then topping it with sauteed shimeji mushroom and foam made with trumpet mushroom.

Another of Cheung’s creations is the duck ragu pappardelle (HK$178). He fell in love with handmade pasta when in charge of the pasta section at Amber. The al dente pappardelle is already delicious, but the addition of the duck breast – double seared and braised for around six hours – and the house-made chicken liver parfait takes the dish to another level.

For mains, the lamb rack (HK$255) is highly recommended. The meat is oven-roasted until slightly crisp, with a tempting aroma and tender texture that match perfectly with the brined green peppercorn and madeira wine sauce on the side.

Though the dessert menu only has two options, neither the tiramisu nor the tofu panna cotta (HK$58 each) should be missed. Inspired by Hong Kong’s favorite tofu fa, the latter is made with fresh tofu and topped with a syrup made with red sugar and light soy sauce, making it a dish you won’t be able to get enough of.

At Fiamma on The Peak, chef Paolo Olivieri has introduced a tantalizing five-course Tasting Menu (HK$588) in addition to a series of new a la carte additions to echo the restaurant’s homey vibe, with some inspired by his upbringing.

The meal begins with roasted Spanish octopus dressed in arrabbiata sauce, in which the shiny seafood is tender and bouncy with a natural, pleasing sweetness. Fiamma’s delectable version of the staple beef tartare is beautifully presented and topped with a garnish of edible spring flowers.

The house-made tortellini stuffed with nettle leaves is exceptionally flavorful, with the cheese puffs adding a playful texture.

Another stunning dish is the slow-braised pork cheek. Try to have everything in one bite – the mildness of the sauteed chicory spinach and soft polenta cuts through the greasiness of the meat.

The creamy vanilla rice pudding topped with roasted cherries, Sicilian pistachio pesto, caramel lemon and crushed amaretti biscuits is the perfect end to the delightfully balanced meal.

Wine pairings (HK$228) are on offer for guests who want a more complete and joyful experience in the vibrant dining room or the restaurant’s sun-kissed al fresco patio.

At LPM Restaurant & Bar in Central, new dishes inspired by spring offer a sense of rejuvenation.

Whet your appetite with the puntarella salad with fennel (HK$189) tossed in a white balsamic vinegar dressing and pecorino cheese for a tinge of acidity and nuttiness. The leaf and heart of the Italian greens have been thinly sliced to achieve a range of textures in a single bite.

Asparagus is sweetest in the spring, and the asparagus with goat cheese and shallots dressing (HK$218) is simple yet elegant. The stalks are blanched before being seasoned with aromatic confit shallots and the creamy goat cheese adds depth and a sense of tartness with earthy nuances.

The fusilli puttanesca with tuna (HK$218) is sure to fill you up. The noodles hold the spicy tomato sauce cooked with flavorsome capers and olives and are finished with yellowfin tuna in homemade confit style.

Last but not least, the vanilla panna cotta, rhubarb with ginger sorbet (HK$118) is also a favorite, in which the citrusy compote and peppery ginger make for a refreshingly sweet experience.

(This article was published at The Standard on May 14 2021: Weekend Glitz: Cruising the Mediterranean )

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