Hong Kong is no stranger to fine Italian dining. So it really takes something extra special for an Italian eatery in the city to turn heads. Taking an innovative approach and using only the freshest Italian ingredients flown in daily, Spiga – the brainchild of Michelin-starred chef Enrico Bartolini – has certainly heralded its arrival among the city’s gourmands.
Stepping into Spiga is like stepping into a time portal, to a cinematic, romanticised version of 1950s Italy. Located in LHT Tower in the heart of Central, Spiga occupies 7,000 square feet and has a generous 128-person capacity. Designed by interior design team Joyce Wang Studio, the space is immaculately decorated with meticulously sourced antiques and treasures from 20th-century Italy.
Wide spaces, large windows and an emphasis on a variety of playful lighting means the restaurant feels both spacious and homely at the same time – thanks in large part to the comfortable mood lighting and soft brass and earth tones that permeate the décor.
Treated to a special menu consisting of the chef’s tasting selection with entrées from the à la carte menu, we began with a bell pepper and beetroot amuse bouche with tuna sauce. Sweet and crisp, with a lingering tang of tuna, the dish was unique enough to entice the tastebuds without overwhelming them.
“Stepping into Spiga is like stepping into a time portal, to a cinematic, romanticised version of 1950s Italy”
The first course was immaculately presented by the attentive and able staff. A whole Sicilian red prawn graced the plate in all its naked glory, save for a few drops of tamarind sauce. Where many chefs would have been tempted to batter fry or deep fry the crustacean, this prawn was only half fried to give it a crisp edible underbelly – shell and all – while maintaining the naturally sweet flavour of the prawn itself. An absolute delight of simple innovation.
Accompanying the prawn was one of chef Bartolini’s signature dishes: soft potato with capers, salmon roe and a lemon zabayan sauce. Resembling a creamy soup, but with the texture of an airy mousse, the dish was impressively light and extremely tasty at the same time. The salmon roe added a nice tang to the dish, which is also served in Bartolini’s eateries in Italy.
Next, we were treated to a plate of pure decadence: richly fried tuna belly at its most succulent, a dish that almost melted in the mouth. While the tuna was undeniably rich and heavy, the dish was nicely balanced by pairing the fish with more earthy flavours of apple, capers and the chef’s secret sauce.
On then to the highlight of the night: lime-stuffed bottoni with tenderly roasted octopus and a house-made cacciucco fish sauce. The dish is as unique as it is flavoursome. The homemade pasta is filled with a creamy lime-flavoured emulsion that perfectly complements the succulent and tender octopus and the light fish broth which has a deep bouillabaisse-style flavour. All in all, the dish perfectly encapsulates the fine balancing act between highlighting natural ingredients and taking an innovative approach to combining flavours, which that Spiga has clearly mastered.
Following the signature pasta dish was another creation where the ingredients were refreshingly allowed to speak for themselves. Served on a bed of soft, marinated cauliflower was half a Boston lobster. Again, where lesser chefs might be tempted to lather a rich cheesy sauce over the lobster, this crustacean was served in relative simplicity – combining perfectly with the dill and lemon-infused cauliflower.
For the final savoury course, we were treated to another of the chef’s signature creations: crunchy beef cheek with crispy roasted potatoes and a tangy Dijon mustard millefuille. The unique style of cooking rendered the beef cheek mouth-wateringly tender and bursting with natural flavour. Finally we arrived at dessert, a veritable potpourri of goodies that would satisfy anyone’s sweet tooth. Particularly impressive was the crème brûlée with a blueberry sorbet which left a pleasantly hot-and-cold sensation on the palette.
SPIGA by Enrico Bartolini
3/F, LHT Tower,
31 Queen’s Road,
Tel. 2871 0055
Text: Hans Schlaikier