|Al Fresco Tables - Cucina, Marco Polo Hongkong Hotel|
Cucina, Pure Italian, Marco Polo Hongkong Hotel
The glittery Victoria Harbour is all the décor that is needed at Marco Polo Hongkong Hotel’s Italian restaurant, Cucina. With glass walls the only things dividing diners from the stunning night scene, the rest of the elegant ambience is not given due inspection. Stylishly dressed tables, a shiny bar, intricate woodworks, and a line up of hams and products native to motherland Italia, are merely glanced over as eyes are drawn towards the Symphony of Lights, movement of ships and colourful reflections off the bay’s glossy surface.
Once the meal begins however, taste buds are quickly lured, and tummies seduced with “pure Italian” service, cuisine and liquid refreshment.
|Night View from Cucina|
|Day View from Cucina|
Chef de cuisine, Carmine Esposito, and restaurant manager, Dimitri Duca, describe the restaurant as bringing authentic Italian flavours and a genuine Italian experience to diners in Hong Kong. The two have paired up to create journeys of food and wine that elevate one another and inspire diners with an unadulterated exploration of various regions of their beloved homeland. We’re swept up by their by passion, so leave the selection of destinations for our culinary adventure in the hands of the experts.
|Chef Carmine Esposito|
A plate of warm breads arrives and we’re dazzled with choice before we even begin. There’s grissini, carte de musica (because when you bite in it creates a sound) – crispy flat bread, mini baguette, tomato focaccia, regular focaccia, brioche, sourdough roll and black olive scroll! All are baked in house. Impressive. My favourite is the olive roll. It’s light but moist and olive-oily.
Dipping is a “grand cru” olive oil – chosen as it’s reputed to be the best extra virgin olive oil in the world. Dimitri insists it’s served apart in its own bowl – not mixed with the balsamic – so that the flavours can truly be appreciated. The molecular structure is broken when the bread hits the surface and notes of green grass waft straight to our noses. “Very nice, very very nice,” confirms hubby.
Tartara di Fassona com Spuma al Tartufo Nero e Balsamico di Modena 25 Anni (simply beef tartare HK$268) showcases a breed of beef originally from India, but which has been raised in Italy for the last 2000 years. Producing especially lean meat, it’s highly suitable for this raw dish. The tenderloin is hand sliced very finely (so fine that it resembles ground beef), marinated with Tabasco, eggs and brandy, and served with quail egg and black truffle from Norcia on top. Mayonnaise, ketchup, mustard and aged balsamic vinegar stripe the side, encouraging diners to flavour the meat according to their own fancy. First and last thought is “wow.” The meat is wonderfully soft and the seasoning provides a fleck of tang.
|Tartara di Fassona com Spuma al Tartufo Nero e Balsamico di Modena 25 Anni|
The gently effervescent Otello Nero di Lambrusco, Emilia Romagna (HK$98) cleanses the palate between each bite but also collaborates in keeping the beginning light and fresh. It’s presented chilled, and dryer than I expected – quite a pleasant way to commence.
|Otello Nero di Lambrusco, Emilia Romagna|
Ravioli di Ventresca di Tono con Ripieno di Scampi Crudi e Vinaigrette allo Senzero (HK$288) presents an inventive interpretation of Italian pasta parcels with tuna loin carpaccio replacing the traditional dough casing. Stuffed with scampi, sprinkled with sweet and sour carrots, doused in an apple and ginger vinaigrette, drizzled with gran cru olive oil, and finally engulfed with basil and rucola foam – it’s a stunning dish. We just may insist on having “pasta” this way from now on.
|Ravioli di Ventresca di Tono con Ripieno di Scampi Crudi e Vinaigrette allo Senzero|
Valdo, Cuvee del Fondatore, Spumante from Veneto (HK$108), made from a blend of Glera and Chardonnay, hails from the best region for bubbly in Italy. The wine has a generous fizzy head, which mirrors the spume covering the tuna dish. It’s served in a wider rimmed glass (not a flute) to take advantage of the ambrosial aromas. Fruity notes balance the zip given by the ginger in the plate’s dressing, and following up from the red bubbly, we think it a vivacious progression.
|Valdo, Cuvee del Fondatore, Spumante from Veneto|
The divine perfume of white truffles arouses our nostrils before the next dish hits the table. Conversation stops mid sentence as we all pause to breathe in the magnificent aroma. Risotto Mantecato all Robiola con Torione de Fegato Graso e Tartufo Bianco (HK$688) is the most decadent dish in the line up. Rice that has been aged for nine years provides the al dente base for soaking up chicken stock and the high acidity of robiola cheese (from Alba made with cow, sheep and goat’s milk). A special preparation of goose liver terrine is hidden below the final ordainment of shaved white Alba truffles. A rich intensity is gifted in these toppings spreading flavour through the entire plate. The dish is no doubt first-class by itself: with the wine, however, the flavour grows encasing the mouth with the taste of the earth and a lovely nuttiness is brought to the forefront. It makes sense as this Cortese Gavi Di Gavi DOCG, Fontanafredda, Piemonte 2013 (HK$118) is from the same grounds as the Alba truffles.
|Risotto Mantecato all Robiola con Torione de Fegato Graso e Tartufo Bianco|
|Cortese Gavi Di Gavi DOCG, Fontanafredda, Piemonte 2013|
Pasta Sarda con Saliccia di Cinta Senese, Crema di Zucchini e Ricotta el Ginepro (HK$298) is a trio of colours. A green pond of zucchini skin cream bases petite rolls of Malloreddus pasta (similar in shape to gnocchetti), which is then topped with generous shreddings of white ricotta cheese just before serving. Pork is from the Senese hills, and cheese is something special too as it comes from a small producer in Italy with limited production (who we hear is quite particular about who he shares his craftsmanship with). A pairing with Chianti Classico DOCG, Casale dello Sparviero, Toscana (HK$98) Sangiovese sees all the ingredients, (except the ricotta), hailing from the same region.
|Pasta Sarda con Saliccia di Cinta Senese, Crema di Zucchini e Ricotta el Ginepro|
|Chianti Classico DOCG, Casale dello Sparviero, Toscana|
“This one is very simple,” declares chef as he delivers a beautiful thick white fillet of codfish, the Merluzzo all Anconetana con Latte di Cocco, Cintronella e Crescione di Limone (HK$398). Cooked sous vide, then pan-fried to crisp the skin, the fish is then seasoned with lemon grass and coconut milk. A confit of oil and chili, poached tomatoes and potato add some flavourful accompaniments. “Unique,” says chef, “a little fusion,” he informs with a smile. The menu has been declared as traditionally and unapologetically Italian, but this dish presents an Asian twist with the sauce. The fish falls apart in big white flakes, and the Thai influence receives overwhelming approval.
|Merluzzo all Anconetana con Latte di Cocco, Cintronella e Crescione di Limone|
The dishes keep coming and we can’t help but gasp with the first forkful of the Maialino da Latte con Purea di Patate Affumicate e Marmellata di Mele Verdi e Anice Stellato (HK$388). This suckling Iberico pig is incredible! The preparation sees a marination of garlic, rosemary and a dry pinot grigio for two days. It’s then cooked for 12 hours sous vide, bone is removed while still warm, the meat is then infused with cheek bacon, garlic and rosemary, rolled into a sausage shape, then again cooked for another 12 hours at 80 degrees sous vide. When cooled, it’s cut into medallions. The skin is dried for 12 hours, sealed and kept in the oven for 10 minutes at 220 degrees, turning it into an elegant paper thin brittle, which wraps the soft fleshy round, and deliquesces into a heavenly moment of pleasure on the tongue. Garnishes pair admirably with the pork - smoked potato puree, green apple marmalade cooked with star anise, and a black powder of edible ash.
|Maialino da Latte con Purea di Patate Affumicate e Marmellata di Mele Verdi e Anice Stellato|
An organic wine from chef’s hometown, 2012 Aglianico, Jungano IGP Paestum, San Salvatore, Campania ($HK128) is matched with the pork. Dimitri professes that this is, “One of the best red wines right now in Italy. This is one that I’m proud to propose as you can find a great wine at great value. It’s ideal for red meat, but excellent with white meat too.” Chef chimes in, “It will make you happy.” Dimitri jokes that, “Chef loves this wine. He’s always trying to get some of it from me, pretending to use it in a dish.” We get red fruits and blackberries, and a long finish with soft tannins. We have to agree that it’s a luscious drop, and see why both manager and chef have a deep proclivity for it.
|Aglianico, Jungano IGP Paestum, San Salvatore, Campania|
An iPad is whipped out when it’s time to decide on dessert, and a pretty display of photos and descriptions make decision making easy. It’s the Tartufo alla Gianduja (HK$98), one of chef’s signatures, that we settle on. A frozen honey core, is surrounded by gianduja parfait, dusted with powdered chocolate and adorned with a single Amarena cherry. It’s no ordinary cherry though. It’s a Fabbri Amarena cherry, purported to be from the most famous supplier in the world with over 100 years of history in the development. The dessert is dense and sweet, and a fabulous sour edge from the cherry breaks up the sweetness. A 2013 Moscato d’Asti, Castello del Poggio, from Piemonte (HK$98), light and aromatic, accommodates a sublime finish, bringing the meal to full completion, and 100% satisfaction.
|Moscato d’Asti, Castello del Poggio, Piemonte|
|Tartufo alla Gianduja|
Reasons to visit: stunning harbour views; superb service; “pure Italian” cuisine; expert wine pairing; don’t miss these dishes and wines: Ravioli di Ventresca di Tono con Ripieno di Scampi Crudi e Vinaigrette allo Senzero ; Maialino da Latte con Purea di Patate Affumicate e Marmellata di Mele Verdi e Anice Stellato; Aglianico, Jungano IGP Paestum, San Salvatore, Campania: Tartufo alla Gianduja.
Marco Polo Hong Kong Hotel
Tsim Sha Tsui
+ 852 2113 0088
+ 852 2113 0808