Al Molo Ristorante Italiano

It was Restaurant Week in Hong Kong and many of the best restaurants participating were booked out fast. Luckily though, new Italian restaurant Al Molo was on the list and available and I quickly made the reservation. A good thing too since soon after, it too was booked out.

Al Molo is a collaboration by chef Michael White who is famous for his pastas. The Restaurant Week deal was $158 for a three course lunch which included an antipasti buffet board, a main dish of either pasta or pizza and a desert buffet with coffee or tea. Clearly, when you are famous for pastas, why would you pick a pizza, so it was a no-brainer that we picked two pastas instead.

Al Molo is a cozy restaurant and on a nice cool day, it would be wonderful to be able to just sit outside and enjoy a pasta with beer. Regarding service though, considering some of the comments I’ve heard, the service was surprisingly impeccable. The staff was very attentive and even made jokes with us. They also made sure that we were taken care of at all times. But perhaps it could have been because it was mainly the restaurant manager serving us? Who knows… it was excellent service though.

Al Molo - the exterior and interior

Antipasti Buffet Board – crisp salads . cured meats . vegetables . bread
While nothing special, the antipasti buffet board had a lot to pick from. Some of the things include olives, salami, parma ham, beetroot, fennel, artichoke and of course my favourite rocket/arugula. The olives and the parma ham were particularly good.

Antipasti Buffet Board - crisp salads . cured meats . vegetables . bread

Casarecci – semolina pasta, clams, squid, spicy tomato
Aside from the squid because I HATE squid, this was a great pasta dish. The homemade pasta was freshly made and you could feel it in the texture. The clams had lots of meat to them and were extremely juicy and the tomato based sauce had just the right amount of spice to it. Minus the squid, this would have been a good dish, but really the squid is not the fault of the restaurant.

Casarecci - semolina pasta, clams, squid, spicy tomato

Maccheroni – cured pancetta, carbonara sauce, black pepper
Oh my gawd! This was just one of the best pastas I have ever eaten. Its so simple yet perfect. Once again, the homemade fresh pasta shone through in its texture. Al dente and fresh… just perfect! The pancetta added to the taste of the dish and there was just the right amount of carbonara sauce so as not to soak the pasta. We were asked if we would like any additional freshly grated cheese and ground black pepper and I gladly accepted the offer. I can only highly recommend this dish.

Maccheroni - cured pancetta, carbonara sauce, black pepper

Dessert Buffet – lemon cream puff . brownie . almond cake . cinnamon roll
There was mini dessert buffet available with the lemon cream puff and almond cake being the highlights. The brownie was also pretty good but probably a bit too rich in taste for me.

Dessert Buffet - lemon cream puff . brownie . almond cake . cinnamon roll

Coffee
The coffee had a nice fragrance to it, tasted great and came with some nicely whipped warm milk

Coffee!!!

Overall, I got a great first impression with this restaurant. We only tried two pastas this time round, but they were at least on par if not better than Babbo in New York. If you are looking for good pasta in Hong Kong, then I would seriously consider Al Molo.

Recommended:

  • Maccheroni – cured pancetta, carbonara sauce, black pepper

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Al Molo Ristorante Italiano
Shop G63, G/F, Ocean Terminal, TST, Kowloon, Hong Kong
2730 7900

Sabatini Ristorante Italiano

This is my second time at Sabatini’s. The first time was a few years ago and it left a lasting impression such that I’ve been meaning to come back since. But as you know, Hong Kong’s vibrant food scene and new restaurant openings has left me trying new things for a while. Finally though, I have arrived back here with high expectations.

For the most part, the restaurant hasn’t changed much. Perhaps the front of the restaurant might have changed a bit, but truthfully, it was such a long time ago that I don’t remember. The Roman Antipasto Table is still there and looked good to try but with so many dishes to try, and so little space, I saved it for another day… again. In addition, the band is also still there and play at intervals during your meal. I don’t know if they are the same people that were there years ago, but if you really wanted to, you could request songs from them. Service from the staff was also excellent as we requested to share the food, and they automatically divided the food onto separate dishes for us before serving. But now back to the food.

Menu . Wine . Bread Basket
The normal menu has a good selection of food with something for everyone. There was also an additional menu that had some Italian southern comfort food as well as some specials that the waiter will probably recommend you as they weren’t on any of the menus.

After putting in our order, we were served with a warm bread basket a trio of spreads and butter. There was also the option of olive oil and vinegar, but I thought that the spreads, especially the pesto like one was sufficient.

For those that love wine, the wine list is huge and given to you in one thick folder book. It consists mainly of wines from all over Italy, but clearly my poor self was only able to go with a bottle of one of the three house whites. I don’t remember the name, but if you ask for the crispest of them, then that’s the one you will get.

Menu . Wine . Bread Basket

Langhirano Ham with Cantaloupe Melon
The ham was good. I’m not sure it was worth the price, but perhaps it’s also because I don’t know how to properly appreciate ham either. Good flavours in the ham and the cantaloupe melon was super sweet. Just a note though, there were actually many tables ordering the more expensive Cinta Senese Ham ($488) which was hand-cut.

Langhirano Ham with Cantaloupe Melon

Lobster Bisque with Croutons, Creme Fraiche and Chives
The lobster bisque was excellent and in my opinion, one of the best in Hong Kong. Full of bold flavours and a large succulent lobster tail. (Yes, the one at Lawry’s was just no good!)

Lobster Bisque with Croutons, Creme Fraiche and Chives

Dry Aged Black Angus Sirloin Tagliata with Rucola, Parmesan Cheese, Porcini Mushrooms in Lemon Garlic Parsley Gremolata Dressing and Summer Black Truffle
The black angus sirloin was damn juicy for sirloin. Medium-rare of course. Just the way I like it. The thin cheese slices went well with the beef and for someone who does not particularly like eating mushrooms, the porcini mushrooms slipped in between the sirloin were just absolutely exquisite.

Dry Aged Black Angus Sirloin Tagliata with Rucola, Parmesan Cheese, Porcini Mushrooms in Lemon Garlic Parsley Gremolata Dressing and Summer Black Truffle

Sole Fillet with Asparagus, Cherry Tomatoes and Mushrooms
The sole fillet was amazing. Normally I would not consider ordering sole because it is just such a dull fish. But this time, it was on the specials and well, why not. The portion was huge and so it should be considering it was more expensive than the angus sirloin. For a non-fatty fish, this was just super juicy and had lots of flavour to it and showed that a good chef can still use boring ingredients to make a great dish.

Sole Fillet with Asparagus, Cherry Tomatoes and Mushrooms

St. Honore Cake . Warm Chocolate Lava Cake with Vanilla Ice Cream
For desert, there was the Sabatini signature St. Honore Cake and the Warm Chocolate Lava Cake with Vanilla Ice Cream. I don’t remember the St. Honore Cake being on their desert menu, and we very nearly missed their signature cake. Luckily, as the desert cart stopped by, this interesting looking cake caught my eye. It was creamy and had a nice crunch to it which gave it great texture. The Warm Chocolate Lava Cake was rich, but I won’t comment much on this because I am generally not a chocolate person.

St. Honore Cake . Warm Chocolate Lava Cake with Vanilla Ice Cream

Coffee . Petits Fours
The coffee had a wonderful smell to it and tasted great. By the time the petits fours arrived though, I was already filled to the brim. They weren’t anything special, but they weren’t bad either.

Coffee

Petits Fours

Overall, this meal was thoroughly enjoyable and I look forward to the next time that I return. Hopefully it won’t be as long as the previous time!

Recommended:

  • Lobster Bisque with Croutons, Creme Fraiche and Chives
  • Dry Aged Black Angus Sirloin Tagliata with Rucola, Parmesan Cheese, Porcini Mushrooms in Lemon Garlic Parsley Gremolata Dressing and Summer Black Truffle
  • St. Honore Cake

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Sabatini Ristorante Italiano
3/F, 69 Mody Road, The Royal Garden Hotel, TST, Kowloon, Hong Kong
2733 2000

Amber

My first blog post ought to be my favourite restaurant in Hong Kong and so, here it is… Amber! I don’t know how many times I’ve been to Amber now, but each time, it made me want to go back again!

Menu . Bread . Wine Parings
This meal was the 6-course Weekend Wine Lunch Menu and basically consists of choosing a selection of one starter, one middle course and one main course as well as three tasting desserts. Along with the unlimited refill bread, three amuse bouches, coffee, petits fours and the four wine parings you will certainly be left filled and satisfied. If this is still not enough, you also have the option to try a selection of french farmer cheeses. Note that if you don’t like wine, you can change this to a juice paring or forgo it all together.

Amber . Menu

We were given a selection of four different breads to choose from (olive bread, crispy bread, whole-wheat roll and french baguette). Having tried them all before, I went straight for my favourite olive bread which tastes great even without butter due to my love of olives. The attentive staff will more than likely ask if you would like additional bread throughout your meal.

Olive Bread

If you chose the wine paring, for the summer season menu, you would be paired:
Amuse Bouches – rose sparkling wine
Starters – 2009 riesling . plantagenet, mount baker, australia
Middle Courses – 2008 chardonnay . wirra wirra ‘the 12th man’ adelaide hills, australia
Main Courses – 2008 shiraz and grenache . glaetzer ‘bishop’, barossa valley, australia

AMUSE BOUCHES
Foie Gras, Raspberry and Beetroot Lollipops . Pork Croquette with Kimchi Mustard . Tomato, Jello, Cheese
I always look forward to trying out the amuse bouches at Amber, but I have to say that I was a little disappointed that I had tried two of them before. Admittedly, they are excellent, but I do like to try new things. The new amuse bouche was a layered tomato on jello on a soft cheese. Although new, I personally did not think it matched up to the other two. But the cheese was excellent and did go well with the tomato.

The foie gras, raspberry and beetroot lollipop is a personal favourite of mine. As expected, the foie gras goes extremely well with the raspberry and beetroot and it is just a joy to taste.

I also enjoyed the pork croquette with kimchi mustard despite having tried it before. I know many others have commented that it is not that good, but personally I liked the explosion that happens in your mouth as you bite into the croquette. If I could, I would have named it ‘tonkatsu explosion’ since it reminded me of good tonkatsu as I bit into it.

Foie Gras, Raspberry and Beetroot Lollipops . Pork Croquette with Kimchi Mustard . Tomato, Jello, Cheese

STARTERS
Organic Aubergine – caviar layered with fresh goat cheese, bell pepper, micro basil and manni olive oil tossed toasted bread
I tasted a bite of this only as it wasn’t my dish, and it was ok. While it was a very colourful dish and its presentation was exquisite, there wasn’t anything too special about the taste that stuck out.

Organic Aubergine – caviar layered with fresh goat cheese, bell pepper, micro basil and manni olive oil tossed toasted bread

‘Maatjes’ Herring – served with new potatoes, beetroot, pickled pearl onions and crispy rye bread
I highly recommend this herring dish especially if you like fish. It has a slight fishy taste, but it completely went well with the potatoes, beetroot, onions and crispy bread. Yes, the dish looks a bit small, but the presentation is nice and believe me that it tastes excellent especially the herring and beetroots. Definitely wanted to try more and would order this again off the menu in a heartbeat.

‘Maatjes’ Herring – served with new potatoes, beetroot, pickled pearl onions and crispy rye bread

MIDDLE COURSES
Line Caught Pollock – oven roasted, spring vegetables and garden herbs prepared like a minestrone
The fish was perfectly cooked and the minestrone like base wasn’t bad, but if compared to the other two choices, then I would have to go with the others.

Line Caught Pollock - oven roasted, spring vegetables and garden herbs prepared like a minestrone

Tasmanian Winter Truffles – carnaroli rice and parmesan regiano prepared as a risotto ‘mantecato’
This risotto was an extra $148 on top of the original price of the set, but is well worth it if you enjoy a perfectly cooked but very rich, cheesy and creamy risotto.

Tasmanian Winter Truffles - carnaroli rice and parmesan regiano prepared as a risotto 'mantecato'

Green Garden Pea – veloute with organic egg and morel, ‘tartine’ of lardo and matured belotta ham
I remember that Bourdain once said on Top Chef, if you put a runny egg on anything, it will taste good. I absolutely agree with this assessment and this egg in green pea veloute was no exception. First trying the soup without breaking the yolk, it was fresh and tasty. Remember though that I don’t like eating peas! Then once I broke the yolk and lightly stirred it in, the veloute just became perfect. So good!! The ham… well this was just something extra to go with the soup.

Green Garden Pea - veloute with organic egg and morel, 'tartine' of lardo and matured belotta ham

MAIN COURSES
Challans Corn-fed Chicken – breast steamed with crispy chicken skin crusted langoustine, green asparagus, fava beans and morel mushrooms
This chicken was perfectly cooked and completely tender. Actually, I did not think that chicken could be cooked so soft. The langoustine was nothing special, but I would order this just for the chicken.

Challans Corn-fed Chicken – breast steamed with crispy chicken skin crusted langoustine, green asparagus, fava beans and morel mushrooms

Tasmanian Salmon – cooked on the skin, white asparagus and ham parsley sabayon topped with new potatoes
The salmon was presented nicely and cooked well. But perhaps I eat too much salmon normally and this means that to me, as a fish, salmon is too plain and it would have to be a super special dish for me to recommend it.

Tasmanian Salmon – cooked on the skin, white asparagus and ham parsley sabayon topped with new potatoes

Beef Oxtail – braised in red wine, with foie gras in fresh pasta, yoghurt, mango dice and cevennes onions emulsion
I had high hopes for the oxtail dish as I LOVE oxtail, but was honestly disappointed that the oxtail was quite tough. Everything else that supported the dish; the pasta, foie gras, yoghurt, mango etc… was excellent, but the main ingredient was a bit of a let down.

Beef Oxtail – braised in red wine, with foie gras in fresh pasta, yoghurt, mango dice and cevennes onions emulsion

TASTING DESSERTS
Malaga Strawberries – with fragrant green tea ice-cream and coconut milk panna cotta
The wonderful fresh sweet strawberries went well with the green tea ice-cream and panna cotta. I don’t see how you can really go wrong here.

Malaga Strawberries – with fragrant green tea ice-cream and coconut milk panna cotta

Pineapple – marinated with bourbon vanilla infused manni olive oil with a hint of sweet basil, rose petal and pink grapefruit sorbet
This dessert was pretty good but just not as good as the other two. Perhaps its just that sorbet will never quite match up to ice-cream.

Pineapple – marinated with bourbon vanilla infused manni olive oil with a hint of sweet basil, rose petal and pink grapefruit sorbet

Gianduja Chocolate – and hazelnut praline ‘marquise’ with gianduja sorbet
This chocolate dessert though was just amazing. I am not particularly fond of chocolate but this was different. The texture of the cake is just the way I like it with a surprising crunch mixed in. All the chocolate bits and pieces on the plate just fit together like a puzzle. Yummmm!

Gianduja Chocolate – and hazelnut praline ‘marquise’ with gianduja sorbet

Coffee . Petits Fours
As you would expect, great coffee and the petits fours were interesting. I particularly enjoyed the round yellow lemon tart like one and the macaroon.

Petits Fours

Overall, this is still my favourite restaurant in Hong Kong. The atmosphere is relaxing and the food is excellent. It goes without saying that this is definitely worth a revisit.

Recommended:

  • Foie Gras, Raspberry and Beetroot Lollipops
  • Pork Croquette with Kimchi Mustard
  • ‘Maatjes’ Herring – served with new potatoes, beetroot, pickled pearl onions and crispy rye bread
  • Green Garden Pea – veloute with organic egg and morel, ‘tartine’ of lardo and matured belotta ham
  • Challans Corn-fed Chicken – breast steamed with crispy chicken skin crusted langoustine, green asparagus, fava beans and morel mushrooms
  • Malaga Strawberries – with fragrant green tea ice-cream and coconut milk panna cotta
  • Gianduja Chocolate – and hazelnut praline ‘marquise’ with gianduja sorbet

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Amber
7/F, 15 Queens Road Central, The Landmark Mandarin Oriental, Central, Hong Kong
2132 0066

beer . travel . just life