The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land; it is at last to set foot on one’s own country as a foreign land.” – G.K. Chesterton

Saturday, 18 May 2013

Solid Italian food @ Lupa by Mario Batali, Hong Kong

I've looked forward to writing up about this restaurant visit for almost two weeks already. For the past week, I had a taste of what it is like to work full-time and be mum to a preschooler. It was exhausting, and there was barely time to spend with my 4.5-year-old son, much less time for myself after I get home. A couple of weeks ago, we finally had a meal at Lupa by Mario Batali, almost a year after it opened its doors in Hong Kong. We are very fond of Lupa in New York City, which we got to try two times on separate trips to NYC. Needless to say, we were stoked to find out that Batali was opening his first restaurant in Hong Kong with Lupa. We made reservations and arrived early for lunch on a Sunday, keen to get some Italian food inside our bellies. However we were disappointed to learn that on Sunday during the daytime, only the Brunch Buffet was being served, and the a-la-carte menu would only be available in the evening. It must have been rather obvious on our faces that we'd really wanted to try the a-la-carte menu (where we could also make requests for our son's multiple allergies), that one of the girls at the front desk offered to ask the head chef if the kitchen could make an exception just for us. She came back saying that only certain dishes would be available for ordering, and we were grateful that the kitchen was flexible to cater to us. I'm not certain if the restaurant would entertain such requests in the future, so we will make sure to make a return visit on a time other than Sunday lunch time.

Dark wooden interior that is a sleeker and modern version of the NYC restaurant:

A semi-open kitchen where you can watch part of the hustle and bustle of what goes on behind the scenes:

The space that the restaurant occupies is gorgeous. There are two outdoor terraces, and the main dining room is a sprawling space of dark wood and floor-to-ceiling windows. I remarked to hubby that this Lupa didn't look at all similar to the original restaurant in NYC, which had an older and more rustic feel. He disagreed, and commented that the dark wooden interior in itself is reminiscent of Lupa Osteria Romana. Service was of course excellent, perhaps even a notch better than the NYC restaurant, and we were well-looked after. The buffet table looked good and was not too highly priced - if I recall correctly it was HK$388 per adult (HK$588 with free-flow drinks for 2-hours including alcohol) and HK$188 for kids - supplemented by a choice of a main dish. The a-la-carte menu was classically Italian, with a myriad of antipasti, pizzas, pastas, seafood and steak to choose from. Going a-la-carte didn't work out any cheaper than the buffet option, but we were much happier being able to choose specific dishes that were prepared to order, which we think is a better indication of the restaurant's food quality than the dishes that have been sitting out on the buffet table. We enjoyed a live jazz band which added a nice touch to the atmosphere.

A live jazz band to entertain the diners:

The central buffet table, which presented only part of the buffet spread - there were at least two other food stations located at the bar and near the live band:

Complimentary basket of fresh bread, to go with the olive oil and balsamic vinegar which our waitress poured into individual dipping plates for each of us:

Limoncello-Cured Gravlax with Avocado (HK$138) - house cured sea trout with fennel pollen. This was an excellent antipasto to start with, the gravlax was not too strongly flavoured nor overly salty, and avocado is a fantastic accompaniment to the sea trout. Perfect with the bread:

The boy wanted pizza, and he got the Margherita (HK$168) - tomato, buffalo mozzarella and basil. It was simply delightful:

Hubby ordered the Duck with Saba and Sunchokes (HK$208) - confit duck leg with grape vinaigrette and roasted Jerusalem artichokes. The duck had a beautiful flavour, and the vegetables were subtly seasoned so as not to overpower the duck:

I chose the Braised Pork Shoulder with Averna and Cucumber (HK$208), glazed in apple and Sicilian bitter liquor. The pork was succulent and meltingly tender, robustly flavoured with a sweet and slightly spicy dressing. The crunchy cucumber provided a refreshing contrast of texture and flavour to the pork. It was a fair hunk of meat, and I was glad I was splitting with hubby because I wouldn't have been able to finish the whole portion on my own:

Hubby wanted dessert, and selected the Pear Coppetta (HK$98), with ginger gelato, poached pears, spiced mascarpone and crushed biscotti. I must admit that I wasn't that impressed with the presentation, but the flavours and textures agreed very well with my tastebuds. The slightly spicy ginger gelato complemented the poached pears very well, the mascarpone lent a creamy but not overly rich texture, and the crushed biscotti was just a delight to crunch into (hubby had already taken a couple of spoons before I could take a photo of it):

We had an enjoyable lunch at Lupa. It is a solid choice for good rustic Italian food.

[Prices quoted above excludes 10% service charge.]

Lupa by Mario Batali
3/F, LHT Tower
31 Queens Road Central
Central, Hong Kong
Tel. +85 2 2796 6500

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