I was invited to the soft opening of the new Armani restaurant by Aqua on Monday evening and was utterly spoilt rotten.
As you approach the brand new restaurant, which officially opens today, you walk down a long red and black carpet-lined corridor sandwiched between two sets of sliding doors, giving the whole experience an edge of exclusivity and you truly feel like a celebrity.
Continuing with the exclusivity, although Armani/Aqua spans a 6,000 square foot space, it seats only 140 guests, avoiding any chance of the overcrowding we experience every day here in Hong Kong.
In the same way as the original Aqua restaurant in TST, Armani/Aqua offers a choice of Italian or Japanese cuisine, cooked in two separate kitchens, led by two very talented chefs. There is also a kaiten-sushi bar where you can watch the chefs preparing only the freshest and highest quality sushi before your very eyes.
Unable to decide what to choose from the never-ending, incredible menu, our very friendly waitress and the restaurant manager, Tony, said they would compose a delicious surprise menu for us, including dishes from both the Japanese and Italian sections of the menu. The only request we made was to avoid eggs and eel; the rest was in their hands.
A huge bowl of edamame and a basket of fresh bread were served while our excitement grew, preparing us for the epic platter of sushi and sashimi that was to follow: tuna, salmon and yellow fin sashimi that may as well have jumped straight from the sea onto our plates as it was so incredibly fresh; California rolls and fatty tuna rolls topped with seared tuna – little pieces of heaven.
I probably could have done with just the platter, but did not complain when a beautiful risotto milanese with bone marrow and an irresistible homemade gnocchi in a vanilla bean and scampi sauce were set before us. Two dishes with completely different textures and ingredients you would never think would work together but were a perfect marriage. Apparently the risotto is actually Giorgio’s favourite dish!
It wasn’t over just yet as this time we were presented with a selection of brandade di baccalà perched atop three varieties of polenta, and puy lentils with steamed salsiccia and scampi with a sea urchin foam. The baccalà (salt cod) is an acquired taste, so wasn’t to everyone’s liking but I certainly enjoyed it. Tony explained to us that the dishes he had selected ranged from Southern Italy, moving up to the north of Italy.
When asked if we had room for dessert, I carelessly responded that there is always room for dessert. We were brought not one, not two, but three desserts, each a very generous sized portion!
First to arrive was crema bavarese with fresh berries, a dish slightly similar to a panna cotta but a million times better. With a subtle hint of lemon and little dollops of berry compote, this went down a treat.
The mille foglie was spectacular. Certainly not something I would have thought to order but was very glad that Tony did.
Last but by no means least, just as I was wondering if Tony was not a chocolate fan, a platter arrived with four chocolate desserts, each a different texture and temperature: white chocolate ice cream, dark chocolate parfait, chocolate mousse with freeze-dried raspberries and, my all-time favourite, warm chocolate fondant. I ignored my stomach telling me it was full and allowed myself to be transported to chocolate heaven.
For after dinner drinks or for dancing into the early hours, Armani have also opened a fantastic nightclub. Armani/Privé comprises of a club downstairs with live DJs three nights a week, and an incredible 6000 square foot terrace upstairs with DJs twice a week playing lounge music. This terrace, open from 3pm until the early hours, is bound to rival that of Sevva. The perfect location for after-work drinks or even just a cup of peppermint tea to aid digestion of the incredible food you have just eaten at Armani/Aqua. I will most definitely be returning on a slightly less full stomach to try some of their signature cocktails.
Armani/Aqua & Armani/Privé
2/F Chater House
8 Connaught Road
Tel: +852 3583 2828
Date visited: Monday 22nd August 2011