17 February 2016

It all started with a bang

It all started with a bang
The dining room and bar at AMMO. Provided to China Daily
It all started with a bang
Grilled scallops. Donna Mah/For China Daily

It all started with a bang
A former explosives magazine compound created by the British army in the mid-19th century is now the home of the restaurant and bar AMMO, an acronym for Asia, Modern, Museum and Original. Opened with "a bang" in May, it was an immediate hit with Hong Kong diners.

A treasure of historical, architectural and cultural significance, the building is also home to the Asia Society Hong Kong Center. The addition of sophisticated AMMO to its lush green surroundings is most definitely a welcome one.

The restaurant maintains the site's military heritage with fixtures and fittings that echo machine rooms and industrial settings.

Copper is used for the stunning mural of pipes on the feature wall, three staircases suspended from the bunker-like ceiling, and as accents on the furniture. The effect is both retro and futuristic.

With high floor-to-ceiling glass walls and large round hanging lamps, AMMO feels luxurious and modern while preserving its military bearing.

The design was brought to life by boutique designer Joyce Wang, who drew inspiration from the 1965 film-noir masterpiece, Alphaville.

The food is modern continental with Asian influences.

Signature starters include slow-cooked egg with taro, sea urchin and roman zucchini sauce and quail salad with grapes and pancetta.

A range of homemade pasta dishes include angel hair with sea urchin, gnocchi with braised Angus oxtail, Sorrento lemon zest, and cocoa powder, and homemade tagliolini with tomato sauce.

AMMO is the creation of local celebrity chef and restaurateur Tony Cheng and his mentor, chef Roland Schuller from The Drawing Room.

"AMMO is casual and elegant, like our food," says Cheng, adding that the furniture was custom-made for the restaurant but the tables don't require tablecloths, making the dining experience more casual and cozy.

The dishes I sampled were simple and beautifully presented. The grilled scallops with pureed Japanese pumpkin were large, meaty and delicately seasoned.

The grilled scampi with Sorrento lemon were tender and flavorful.

The penne alla puttanesca was salty, spicy and tangy, as it should be, and the burrata cheese ravioli with Peking duck ragout and orange julienne was creamy, rich and citrusy.

Dessert was panna cotta, served in a martini glass garnished with a strawberry, which was a light and not overly sweet way to end the meal.

Serving an all-day menu from 11:30 am until 9 pm, AMMO also offers three-course set lunches (HK$188 plus 10 percent service charge), tapas at cocktail hour, and dinner service.

An impressive wine list boasts over 300 varieties. Also look for a martini menu to make any enthusiast smile, and a bevy of cocktails.