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Life is a combination of magic and pasta – Federico Fellini

DiVino is a great place to hang out and have a few drinks, especially since it’s located on Wazzzhappenin’ Wyndham.  The staff are so genial, and make sure it’s never a dull night in this wine bar and resto.

The first time I had dinner here we were blown away by the quality of their homemade pasta.  The home-made black pepper tagliatelle with venison ragout and garnished with Pecorino, for example, excites me every time I see it on the menu.  Luxurious slow-cooked wild venision hind generously covers the peppery thick ribbons with flair and unparalleled richness.

For those that prefer only a hint of chili and spice, humble spaghetti is given an Italian suit of white wine clams, found in their ‘Newcomers’ section.  The spaghetti is always cooked perfectly al dente, and at the same time, is cooked with the white wine sauce long enough so the flavours stick.  Like the Maine lobster linguine, which has a heavier bisque-like flavour, the dish is appreciatively generous with the seafood.

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The signature here is the 500 grams of Burrata DOP with Italian cherry tomatoes and a red onion salad, which I unfortunately have not tried (currently searching for a fellow cheese lover to share this with me).  The beef carpaccio, served with arugula salad, Parmesan cheese shavings, and artichoke hearts, is more than fair recompense.  You might also be able to change to a Bresaola if you’re not too keen on raw meat.  Slightly sweet but aged, lean yet melting, the Bresaola (below) is a fitting appetiser to that big pasta main.

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Andrew also has a soft spot for the French fries with black truffle mayonnaise.  They use hefty chunks of black truffle so this is not for the faint hearted.  I’m not crazy for the fries themselves, as I prefer sizes closer to shoestring – these are rather chunky.

At the moment, the DiVino group is taking part in white truffle season, with their ALBA truffles specially imported from Italy.


Website | Openrice | Yelp

26/F, Stanley 11, Stanley Street, Central

Liberty Private Works sits on the top floor of the Stanley 11 Building, seating only a handful of diners at 7.30pm, then 8.30pm, every day.  When you make a commitment to LPW (because let’s be clear: it is a commitment, not simply a reservation), you sign yourself off to a whole evening at the culinary circus.  From 7.30 to close to midnight, you and only a few others are privy to the French technical theatrics of Chef Vicky Cheng’s carefully crafted menu, the broad strokes of edible genius that fly across the plate, the excruciating, painstaking details masterfully executed with almost contortionist flair, and hopefully, as time passes, a few memorable moments to be savoured on the palate.

However, like the circus, four hours watching chefs work the culinary acrobatics, juggling two sets of diners and making a show of it, can drag on a fair bit.. One scan around the private kitchen’s honestly rather bored-looking diners at 10pm made me feel like I wasn’t the only one simply lacking patience – that this occasion was protracted almost to the point of pompousness.  Chef Vicky Cheng is a star in HK, I don’t think anyone can deny this – his extensive Michelin-starred resume and tutelage under Daniel Boulud show in the food and presentation of LPW – so perhaps then the words ‘less is more’ might work in his favour.  We don’t need hours of proof – we get it!  You have fun now.

Plans to return?  Hmm, I’m sure I’d get more fidgety the second time around… but a tasting menu at $800 is incredibly reasonable, and LPW is a unique dining experience in Hong Kong that I don’t think should be passed up.  This might sound like sacrilege, but I really wish there was some kind of ‘Liberty Express’ where one could sit down for just an hour, say – maybe even two – to enjoy some of Chef Vicky’s creations from LPW.  I guess Liberty Exchange is meant to cut it close.

breadAs we were waiting for the late diners (who comes late to a group sitting?!), we tucked into some crispy bread ‘sticks’ and a roasted red pepper dip.

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1/F, 63 Wyndham Street, Central

IMG_1588[1]One step inside Restoration and you feel transported.  Scattering the space is the eclectic yet elegant touch of New Orleans decor, with rooms dimly lit yet still lovingly warm and inviting.  Bar stool diners had a better view of Chef Jack Carson and the team in the hot kitchen, but our table was cosy, humble and gave us enough privacy.  From the window-side, one could look down from the first floor to the seemingly distant Wyndham Street and grating pace of Hong Kong’s party district.

What looked like painted and restored vintage furniture pieces could be found in the corners of your eyes, in the small details but in a big way.  A few quaint gerber daisies at the center of our table was the clincher, bringing me somewhere I’ve surely never been.  But immediately, I felt at home, or at least somewhere familiar.  The service was similarly warm, as well as knowledgeable and attentive.

I was excited to taste what I already felt comforted by: The Big Easy.

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1/F Wo On Building, 8-13 Wo On Lane, Central

Common Room, Prive Group’s new gastropub venture, does exactly what it says on the tin:  ‘classic, contemporary and molecular cocktails’, paired with ‘world-inspired’ tapas.  I suppose with such a glorified menu of generalities, it’s not hard for whatever they produce to fit their rather abstract incarnation of a culinary bill.  Although the notion of ‘global cuisine’, ‘global food’, or ‘world-inspired’ might seem anathema to foodie purists or, on the flip side, like a backpedaling restaurant strategy to cop-out from any serious food philosophy, at the end of the day I don’t believe Common Room really cares, and I guess neither do I.  It is the Common Room of Lan Kwai Fong; anything goes after hours.

From my experience on a Friday night: drinks come first, food second, and when you’re situated smack bang just off the strait and narrow of Lan Kwai Fong – next to good ol’ grimey Baby Buddha, Oysters Bar with cheap, full-of-regret Long Island Ice Teas, and the amphitheater with artsy, hemp-hooved hippies who’d rather sit in the humidity drinking their Sols at whatever pace they please thank you very much – well, you’d be stupid not to.  And the food that was served complimented our libations particularly well, in that drunken “damn, this is good munch, and shit! Is that truffle?” kind of way.

In all, Common Room is just far too casual, far too fun and far too well priced for a Central joint, to pass any damning judgement.  I know: shock, horror! A chic new gastropub in Central that actually takes reservations, makes you full, and doesn’t turn your wallet skinny?!  Hong Kong, I think I heard the food cherubs singing hallelujah! OK, fine – I would have, if Common Room hadn’t killed my earbuds with the incessant, loud, drunken chatter and that sick Funktion One soundsystem.

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19 Hollywood Road, SOHO, Central

The origin of tapas is nothing short of cool for any history buff.  ‘Tapas’ means ‘lid’ or ‘cover’, and food at bars in Spain were, once upon a time, placed on little plates used to cover the glasses of wine or beer or whatever Spanish yuppies were drinking back then after a hard day of siesta.  Other variations include how it prevented the peasants or lower classes, who could not afford a full meal, from drinking on an empty stomach.  However, out of all these explanations for why the Spanish take little meals with their drink, I quite like the story of the once ill stricken King Alfonso X – also known as Alfonso the Wise, and wise he was indeed – who issued a decree that all wine must be served with a small meal.  If he had the reins over LKF, I’m sure we’d find much fewer underage kids throwing up in the public toilets next to Beijing Club.

I would’ve thought tapas would have more presence in HK.  For one, people of Guangdong province are notorious for talking about food way more than any of its neighbours (I’m not even going to give the Northern provinces a second thought), Hong Kong itself is a foodie heaven, and the drinking culture in the more Westernised districts of Hong Kong, like Lanks, could do way more to cater to this Hongkie love for food.  I suppose that’s what we’re seeing with Ronin HK and Three Monkeys in Sheung Wan, with delicate bites (albeit not ‘tapas’) paired with premium whiskies and elaborate cocktails, but with a price tag like 50 bucks for a single skewer of ox tongue, who  is really going to get even remotely full as fast as they get fucked?

This is where Tapeo comes in, and where tapas bars should make some headway in the Hong Kong dining scene.  With the incredibly reasonable prices for Soho and delicious, uncomplicated, authentic Spanish fare, I love this place and will be returning. From 5 to 7 they offer an early bird dinner special, and it is rather small, so booking is a must.  An unpretentious open kitchen greets you as you slide the simple glass doors and settle yourself on their plush, burgundy stools – surprisingly comfortable – and in true tapas bar style, we changed our seats around to talk to eachother as we munched through dishes and chugged our jug of refreshing red sangria.  A jug of sangria is a no-brainer here, by the way.

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