Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Otto e Mezzo Bombana, Hong Kong (Alissa and Don Eat Asia Day 3, Part 2)

When I was in art school, I used to proudly proclaim myself a maximalist. More is more. As such, when we decided that our 3-Star Michelin experience would be a degustation dinner at Caprice I couldn't help myself – we had to have lunch at another 3-Star restaurant too, and on the same day. In making the decision, we didn't want to do another French restaurant so L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon was ruled out. Additionally, as much as I would like to try Lung Kee Heen we already were going to be experiencing Tim Ho Wan and the cheapness of Tim Ho Wan was enough to convince us to go with the 1 Star dim sum experience instead (plus we had to have those buns). That left us with Otto e Mezzo Bombana, the only 3-Star Italian restaurant outside of Italy, and home to Umberto Bombana – a man so famous for his advocacy and use of the white truffle that he's even called 'The King of the White Truffle'. As luck would have it, we timed our honeymoon and trip to Hong Kong during what is white truffle season, meaning Chef Bombana's seasonal white truffle menu was available for our selection.

As we arrived at the restaurant we passed through the bar area and sat for a moment as they prepared our table. Next to us was a cool room containing cheese and a generous pile of white truffles, along with one of many temperature-controlled areas storing cellared wines. After a short wait we were ushered to our table near the window, with the dutiful staff giving us low stools for us to place our bags on. The surrounds were luxe while still maintaining a certain Italian casuallness – far less opulent than the d├ęcor of Caprice but still announcing itself as a high end dining experience.

Given the expense of the items on the white truffle menu (approximately $115AUD per dish) and seeing as she was not overly fussed about eating white truffles, Alissa opted for the set lunch with dessert, while I ordered a la carte with a set lunch dessert. The white truffle menu recommended a glass of Barolo “Carobric”, Paolo Scavino 2000 to accompany the meal, and as we've never had Nebbiolo before took up the somewhat pricey opportunity.

A friend of ours is a massive advocate for nebbiolo, calling it his favourite red wine – he even gave us a bottle as a wedding present. While Alissa and I live on a wine diet of mostly cool climate shiraz, pinot and reisling, we both very much enjoyed the wine. Alissa noted a certain tomatoey savouriness to the wine, which recalled what our friend has mentioned to us about the umami notes of nebbiolo. I could see how this wine was perfectly suited for Italian food and the esteem it is held in.

First up - the bread selection. The olive ciabbatta was amazingly soft in the middle while very crisp on the outside. However, we both agreed the tomato focaccia was easily the best of the lot with its soft, smooth texture.

Alissa's entree was the confit egg with mushrooms, iberico ham and a broccoli puree. The egg was cooked perfectly, and Alissa commented it tasted like a very delicious, very gourmet breakfast.

My entree was grilled octopus, which was definitely the most tender and perfectly cooked grilled octopus I've ever eaten.

Alissa went with the amberjack as her main, served with an olive tapenade and a sweet potato puree. Fish is one of those things that a lot of restaurants tend to overcook, but at this calibre of cuisine this was not a problem; this was fish cooked expertly and perfectly.

My main was the egg, ricotto cheese and spinach raviolo served with a very finely shaved white truffle and hazelnut butter. The serving of truffle was very generous, with the waiter using shavings from three different white truffles as he topped the plate at our table. This was definitely my highlight of the meal. 

The yolky middle of the raviolo was perfect, and the subtle flavours of the raviolo let the the white truffle impart its magic to the rest of the proceedings and be the real star of the dish. This was my first time eating white truffles and I was surprised at how different they were in flavour to the 'porcini on overdrive' quality of black truffles. Our friend the nebbiolo advocate had mentioned it was almost more like quality garlic which might sound like a bit like underselling it. He added though that what was important was how it magically elevated all the other flavours with its umami. While in some ways I think I prefer black truffles, I definitely see what he means. 

Alissa's dessert was a vanilla cheesecake with small meringues, strawberry and balsamic salsa and a strawberry sorbet. This definitely was the stronger of the two desserts – light, fruity and delicious.

My dessert, the Chocolate Trio, was less impressive – but then I much prefer fruity desserts to chocolate most of the time so a chocoholics mileage may vary. The warm chocolate tart was delicious but not necessarily mind-blowing for a non-chocoholic like myself, and the chocolate macchiato was just a very good shot of hot chocolate. The highlight was definitely the chocolate mousse served with a crunchy base - or was it ice cream? It was either a very airy, well whipped excellent chocolate ice cream or a very excellent chocolate mousse chilled to an ice cream-like temperature. Either way, it was excellent.

Our petit fours and coffee followed. All three were excellent, with the fruity jube-like jelly being my favourite of the lot. We ended up eating ours very fast, and they ended up giving us a second tray of petit fours! The coffee was okay - maybe a darker, stronger roast than we would choose to drink. Perhaps this was due to it being a more classically Italian style, however to our palette we've definitely had better.

The Verdict: Excellent +
Our meal at Otto e Mezzo was an excellent experience, however we both agreed that Caprice walked all over it in every way. Perhaps the more humble approach of a set lunch is not really a fair comparison to the Taste of Caprice degustation, and maybe if we'd had the 8 ½ degustation we'd have been equally impressed. Nevertheless, if you are in Hong Kong and looking for excellent Italian fine dining, Otto e Mezzo Bombana would be hard to top – if you can afford it.


  1. Oh my Buddh! My Buddh! Everything looks wonderful! I especially salivating over the look and sound of both your entrees!

  2. Terrific photos and commentary - sounding very objective. Maybe if we stayed at Chungking Mansions next time, we too might be able to afford a degustation at one of these places - LOL