October 31, 2015
Controversies swell whenever a Michelin Guide is launched in a new location, and Hong Kong is no exception. Many critics slam the guide, voicing issues such as a tendency to favor hotel operators, not understanding local palates, or not living up to internationally established benchmarks. A frequently cited example is why does L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon in Hong Kong receive three stars when almost identical operations in Paris, London and Tokyo fail to garner such acclaim?
In spite of the inconsistencies, the Hong Kong & Macau guide did introduce many firsts to the Michelin brand, including the first three-star Italian restaurant outside of Italy — 8 1/2 Otto e Mezzo Bombana. Founded by chef Umberto Bombana in 2010, the name of the restaurant is a reference to Federico Fellini’s classic.
The chef is well-known for his white truffle dishes, having received the honor of the Worldwide Ambassador of the White Truffle in 2006 by the Piedmontese regional Enoteca Cavour. With the calendar turning to November and into the heart of the truffle season, we visited 8 1/2 Otto e Mezzo Bombana to try out its white truffle offerings.
Impossibly fragrant but rather subtle in taste, the secret to a good white truffle dish is quite straightforward — ensure the key ingredient is fresh, then apply a generous amount of it on top of a simple hot dish such as scrambled eggs or linguine. Certainly these dishes were available, but I ordered something different — lobster and porcini mushroom salad with white truffle. The lobster was tender and fresh, but it didn’t compliment the other ingredients much. There is a reason why egg and pasta go well with truffle — these protein or carbohydrate rich ingredients won’t distract the white truffle’s delicateness.
Our first courses were spaghetti with tiger prawn and tagliatelle with porcini mushroom. The pasta was made from scratch, with firm texture and full of flavor of egg yolk. The toppings were well-prepared and maintained their ideal textures.
We both ordered meat for main course. The lamb chops were grilled perfectly to medium rare. The meat lacked the distinctive gamey flavor of lamb, but the texture was tender and juicy.
Iberico pork tenderloins were also well-timed on the grill. The red wine sauce added some much needed flavor to the meat. The meat was a little dry on the edge.
Dessert was ricotta tart with coconut ice cream — a very ordinary conclusion to our meal.
The bill was $2,800, including $850 for the white truffle lobster salad.
The dining hall was simple but well spaced. Service was attentive and careful. The food, while consistent and generally error-free, was unremarkable. A fine Italian restaurant but hardly worthy of three stars, my overall impression is 8 1/2 Otto e Mezzo Bombana is best for business occasions when the price to quality ratio is less of a concern.
Address: Shop 202, Landmark Alexandra, 18 Chater Road, Central, Hong Kong
Opening hours: 12:00 – 14:30, 18:30 – 22:30; Closed on Sundays