After a few weeks off, here we are again to entertain you back from vacation.
These days, which are usually a bit drained in Europe, here are very intense, full of news, brainstorming, planning, accompanied by the sound of the incessant rain of South East Asia which, contrary to popular belief, does not refresh the atmosphere but unleashes all the humidity forcing us to take refuge in the first mall or bar to be able to take off our masks, breathe and freshen up.
A few weeks ago, tired and exhausted, we made a detour at Venedia Gran Caffe to have a coffee, a glass of water and say hello to Valentina [ed: Grilli, Venedia's restaurant manager] on her way back from Italy. While we were trying to recover talking about Italy and some of its cities which have changed massively, like Milan, an some which, despite the passing of the years, remain unchanged in their timeless beauty [see Rome, called, in fact, the Eternal City], Chef Roland Schuller arrived. After talking a bit about everything, starting from its roots, passing through the quality of bottled water, up to talking about financial investments suitable for this historical period, before leaving it gave us something to think about: is the fine dining an old concept?
The team at Venedia last year
We leave the restaurant refreshed but with one thought: is fine dining going through a period of crisis? Let's go in stages.
Here in Asia we have recently talked of Michelin Guide and starred restaurants; in this case, Hong Kong boasts 71 starred restaurants (52 with one star, 12 with two stars and 7 with three stars) including Tosca di Angelo [ed. Agliano'] with one star, Octavium by Chef Roland with two stars and 8 and ½ Bombana which is confirmed with three stars.
If we talk about fine dining and new openings, we cannot help but think of Estro, by Jia Group, which can boast of having the creativity and perfection of Chef Antimo in the kitchen (Read his interview by us HERE). Or, again, the brand new Mora in Cat Street, one of the most typical areas of Sheung Wan, created by acclaimed chef Vicky Lau.
Chef Antimo Maria Merone
And the others? Last year we saw countless restaurants and bars closing their doors but, likewise, there have been many new openings of new restaurants and concepts sought after both in the kitchen, the choice of materials, furnishings and staff (and many others are going to open but we don't reveal anything yet!). So can we talk about fine dining? Not really!
We are talking about “Testina” by ZS Group which has reproduced here in Hong Kong the concept of “Trippa” in Milan, Chef Diego Rossi's award-winning restaurant that offers traditional cuisine, genuine but refined, at the right price. Here Testina offers more or less the same menu where fried trippa is one of the strong points along with charcoal-grilled bone marrow. The atmosphere here is very simple and homemade, typical of those Italian trattorias, often family-run, that we love so much and where we can find special, uncommon dishes.
Testina's bone marrow
Even "Cantina", the new born of Aqua Group is a smart casual restaurant, perhaps a little more glossy thanks to the Tai Kwun setting where it is located, but certainly traditional in the menu with homemade pasta, risotto, panelle and other typical regional Italian dishes. Definitely evocative of the flavors of home.
Octavo Group, on the other hand, has given birth to two new creatures, Cannubi and Tuber, at K11 Musea, respectively on the second and first floor. We tried Cannubi which, despite the refinement in the decor, in the choice of glasses and serving dishes, has an accessible menu and an extensive and varied wine list. Tuber, on the other hand, is much more a fine dining but we are looking forward to the tuber season (truffles) to try it!
The same goes for The Blue House which opened at the Rosewood Hotel and which includes both a very family friendly Italian style gastronomy concept, and a fine dining.
The trend, therefore, could be to relaunch traditional and local cuisine but with a new look, a little more refined, which focuses on the right details and care for the environment but without leading to the luxury branded interior design of fine dining restaurants.
If these concepts are successful we will know in a while but, based on our experience, after years of silence, immobility and global economic crisis due to the pandemic, people want to have more and more choices where to go on holiday (and here we are still working on it), and on how to enjoy our evenings now that we are allowed to put our nose out the door, albeit cautious and breathing the stale air of the masks, but still looking for news, life, experiences.
Although the pandemic never seems to end, life continues despite Hong Kong having changed, despite the fact that tourists still cannot come, despite the fact that the quarantine has been shortened, giving us a fake appearance of greater freedom and the possibility of traveling.
There will be more changes but for now, let's focus on the short term! Stay tuned for more events like Tablo's 5th birthday in September. Stay tuned!