17 February 2016

Eat like the Romans when in Hong Kong

Eat like the Romans when in Hong Kong

Beets, celery and fine herbs. Provided to China Daily

In the shiny new LHT Tower in Central, where the Queen's Theater used to stand, you'll find the new Lupa restaurant, which brings Roman-style Italian cuisine by New York celebrity chef Mario Batali to Hong Kong.

It's the first of three restaurants Batali is planning to open with business partner Joe Bastianich and the Dining Concepts group in Hong Kong.

Batali is now not only a chef and restaurateur, he is also an award-winning author and television personality (you may have seen him on Iron Chef America in his signature orange clogs).

It is Batali's first venture in the competitive dining scene in Hong Kong, and Lupa has been launched with a fair bit of fanfare with Italian singers serenading guests and showgirls leading them to the restaurant entrance.

The restaurant itself is modeled after the New York restaurant with the same name, utilizing a dark color palette with warm yellow lighting and decorative tile floor to create a very Manhattan-style vibe.

There are also two outdoor spaces including a 230 square meters terrace - a highly coveted feature in Hong Kong's current dining scene.

Start the evening with an aperitif on the terrace and move into the spacious indoor dining area for your meal, or dine first and then enjoy after-dinner drinks on the terrace.

As is de rigueur it seems in Hong Kong, the indoor temperature at Lupa is a bit chilly - possibly necessary with the soaring outdoor temperatures. So being able to enjoy the outdoor terrace space, or the al fresco dining area at the opposite end of the restaurant, is a pleasant change in the Central district.

Alternatively, you can enjoy a meal on La Terrazza, but there is a different menu for the terrace.

Batali and Lupa Hong Kong's executive chef Zach Allen have brought a few Lupa New York standards with them, including escarole (bitter lettuce), walnut, and pecorino salad; ricotta gnocchi with sweet fennel sausage; crispy duck with salsify and saba; and aprician-spiced dates with mascarpone.

Fresh ingredients are key to Roman cuisine, and Batali says that they will be using locally grown fresh produce, aside from some core ingredients that are brought in from Italy, to create the dishes served here.

Choose from the Italian "little bites" which include Verdure (vegetables), Carne (meat), Insalate (salad), Pesce (fish/seafood), and Fritti (fried), to start your meal.

Personally, I would not choose too many of the fried little bites as they weren't as interesting to me as the vegetables, salads and house-cured fish.

The house-made quill-shaped noodle with celery and orange oxtail ragu (garganelli with oxtail ragu), was rich and flavorful as the primi (first course).

Eat like the Romans when in Hong Kong
The red snapper al cartoccio (local snapper cooked in parchment) was tender and light as the secondi.

Both dishes complemented each other very well.
Lunch at Lupa starts at HK$168 ($22) which includes a buffet selection of vegetables, seafood, salami, breads, salads, and desserts.

Add soup, primi, pizza, or secondi for an additional HK$30-90. Dinner costs HK$500-800 per person.