• Jenni Lien

Restaurant review: The tasting menu at Spiga in Central, Hong Kong

This past Thursday, dinner service started again in Hong Kong. Hooray! I'd had a crazy week at work though so was planning on taking it easy. But then Friday afternoon rolled around and that itch to be out and about (now that we could be!) started. So I grabbed a girlfriend, and after spending some time trying to find a good restaurant that wasn't already booked up, we settled on Spiga.



I hadn't been to the Italian restaurant since it opened in 2017. Back then I'd tried the tasting menu with PR and enjoyed it. Still remember the delicious and super unique octopus and lime button pasta. So what if I'd heard some so-so reviews since? It was still backed by renowned chef Enrico Bartolini - who had recently opened Fiamma on The Peak? I'd tried Fiamma and quite liked that, too. And Spiga was still open, four years later, which for Hong Kong's crazy competitive dining scene had to mean something, right? So I convinced my friend to give it a go. (A short note on the atmosphere: the restaurant looks exactly the same as it did four years ago - vintage-y, industrial chic. For more details, see the original review below.)



We opted for the five-course Tasting Menu ($688 per person) plus an additional Margherita Pizza ($168) because Friday night.


The Tasting Menu



Ostrica, sedano e limone

The first course was a fin de claire oyster served with celery and lemon. These were alright, fresh and simply garnished.



Bue piemontese, mozzarella di bufala e uova di quaglia

When the second dish came out, I started to wonder about the rest of the meal. And also how Spiga is positioned. The tasting menu is priced at $688 or US$88 so I was hoping for nicer presentation than this. However the Piemontese beef tenderloin tartare with quail egg tasted lovely, super fresh with a clean beef-y taste. The buffalo mozzarella was also fresh and delicious.



Tortelli alla melanzana affumicata, pomodoro, limone e acciughe

Things picked up with the "tortelli" ravioli dish! Each little morsel was filled with a creamy and smokey eggplant filling. The sauce with tomato, lemon and anchovies was bright and vibrant, perfectly complementing the richness of the filling. And the ravioli itself was cooked to a perfect al dente texture. A winner.



Merluzzo, ceci, rosmarino e spugnole

The main course was a black cod. We did enjoy the puree, jus and morels but found the quality of the cod mediocre (thin with no gorgeously tender, juicy, flakiness).



Cioccolato

Our meal ended... on a high. Wow Spiga's pastry team are talented! This gorgeous dish contains a 62% chocolate mousse, hazelnut praline cream, lemon sable and came with a small jug of salted caramel sauce on the side. Everything about it worked - sounds sweet but was well balanced, the flavours complemented each other, the textures were great, and it was beautifully presented.


Verdict

Our bill came to just under $1k or US$130 each. Would I do the tasting menu again? Probably not. For better value, a la carte may be the way to go as the pizza, pasta, dessert and wine we tried were lovely and decently priced on their own.


[Original review from January 2017]


Two Michelin-starred Enrico Bartolini's new restaurant now open in Central


There are many Italian restaurants in Hong Kong. Most Hong Kongers will have their favourite spot, whether it’s an authentic hole in the wall with chequered tablecloths or a Japanese-Italian fusion diner. When we heard about Spiga, under Dining Concepts, we were intrigued to learn what the new restaurant would bring to the Italian dining scene here.

Our hopes were high as the restaurant is two-Michelin-starred chef Enrico Bartolini’s first restaurant outside Italy. When he was just 29, he became Italy’s youngest Michelin-starred chef, and his youthful, innovative approach to cuisine continues with Spiga, which he named after the ‘ear of wheat’ that is representative of cultural and nutritional wellness. His goal, we were told, is to serve modern interpretations of Italian dishes in an authentic ‘what Italian people are eating in Italy’ kind of way.


We visited on a quiet weekday evening and were blown away by the textured design of the restaurant, inspired by Italy in the 1950s. While the space is large with 132 seats, it’s skilfully split into different areas: a bar, booths, private dining rooms and a main dining room with communal tables. The lighting is warm and complements the cut glass, vintage chandeliers, velvet curtains, Lucite and muted, jewel-toned touches. An impressive first impression, perhaps unsurprising as it was designed by Joyce Wang.

As for the food, what did we tuck into?

We ordered a version of the tasting menu ($788 per person), which started with the patata uovo e uova. A magical bowl of potato cream topped with salmon roe and lemon zabaglione sauce was placed before us, and we scooped it up way too quickly. Rich and textured, we learned afterwards that this winner is one of the signature dishes served at the chef's restaurants in Italy.

Much has been written about the gambero mezzo fritto con salsa al tamarindo. A Sicilian red prawn had its head and tail fried, but its body was left raw. The prawn itself had such a rich flavour – the contrast of textures was a wonderful way to eat this treat. The tamarind sauce added some lovely umami-ness to the dish.

No Italian meal is complete without some pasta, and the bottoni di olio e lime con salsa cacciucco e polpo did not disappoint. Five little button-shaped pastas were filled with a creamy lime emulsion, topped with roasted octopus and poured over by a house-made cacciucco fish sauce. Simply put, there was not enough of this – we could have happily eaten double or triple the serving. The contrast of the lime with the fish sauce was unexpected and refreshing.

As per Italian tradition, our pasta dish was followed by a meat course. In our case, this was the guancia croccante con millefoglie di patate alla senape. The pieces of veal cheek were gloriously tender, with a crunchy layer of fat on top – absolutely melt in your mouth. The accompanying side of millefeuille potato was a unique way to include a starch. Call us greedy, but our only complaint here is that we would have liked a little more sauce to accompany our meat and potatoes.


For dessert, we tried the crema bruciata con ciliegie, meringhe e mirtilli ghiacciati (crème brûlée) and cioccolato soffice con gelato alla nocciola (chocolate foam). Most everyone knows what crème brûlée looks and tastes like, but most will be surprised by this interpretation. Instead of the ‘crack’ of the burned sugar layer leading to a thick custard, a tap on the crust of Spiga’s version revealed an airy, foamy custard sat atop cherries, pieces of meringue and iced blueberries. A light yet sinful way to end the meal, though – again – we could have polished off double the portion. The chocolate foam with hazelnut ice cream was also tasty.

Verdict

We’ll definitely be back! The food was delightful, definitely living up to our expectations, and the tasting menu was a wonderful treat. The lush main bar would be a great place for a more casual pizza and drinks night. We've also heard good things about their semi-buffet lunch and are especially eager to try the ossobuco with saffron risotto. And with interiors like these, we bet Spiga will soon be booked up for more celebratory dinners – they’ve already hosted an engagement party and have been booked for a wedding dinner.

3/F, LHT Tower, 31 Queen's Road Central, Central, 2871 0055

This post first appeared on Foodie.

#spiga #enricobartolini #hongkong #italianfood #michelin

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